Optimize your home network for Windows Media Center Extenders

With a Windows Media Center Extender and the right setup, you can stream media stored on your Windows 7 computer to another room in your home. To do this, your computer and your Extender must be connected to a home network. For more information, see Set up a Windows Media Center Extender.

A diagram of a home network with one computer and three Extenders
Extenders in different rooms, connected to a home network to access music, photos, and more from one Windows 7 computer

The way your network is configured plays a crucial role in the overall Extender experience. This article provides information to help you get the best performance out of your Extender by choosing the right network technology, equipment, and setup. For more information on optimizing Windows 7 performance, see Optimize Windows 7 for better performance.

Choosing the right network technology and equipment

There are two main types of home network technologies:

  • Wired (Ethernet) networks. In general, a wired network will work best. Wired networks are reliable and provide the best experience streaming high-definition content to Extenders. If possible, you should connect both your Windows 7 computer and your Extender to your home network using Ethernet. The only disadvantage of an Ethernet network is that you might need to run Ethernet cables from your router or network device to different rooms of your house, depending on how your home network is set up.

  • Wireless (Wi‑Fi) networks. It’s possible to use Extenders on some wireless home networks, but the performance is dependent on your network environment and equipment. There are various types of wireless network devices available today, and some can operate at different frequencies depending on the capability of your device. For example, Wi‑Fi at 2.4 GHz is typically more susceptible to interference from microwaves and phones than Wi‑Fi at 5 GHz, which offers more channels for your router to use.

If you need to buy a new router, make sure it's listed on the Windows Logo’d Products List website. The following table provides an overview of the different types of wireless routers you can use:

Type of router
Wireless (Wi‑Fi) speed
Recommendation

Concurrent dual band 802.11n

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Highly recommended for all types of media.

This setup works well with everything, including high-definition media.

Non-concurrent dual band 802.11n (or single band 802.11n at 5 GHz)

5 GHz

Highly recommended for all types of media.

This setup provides non-overlapping channels for your device to choose from, which can further reduce interference from neighboring Wi‑Fi networks.

Single band 802.11n

2.4 GHz

Recommended for TV and video streaming.

While this setup provides fast streaming at 802.11n speeds, the 2.4 GHz Wi‑Fi band can experience interference from neighboring Wi‑Fi networks, microwaves, and cordless phones.

802.11g

Any

Not recommended for TV and video streaming.

802.11g network speeds are typically much slower than 802.11n and might not be able to sustain TV and video streaming to Extenders.

802.11b

Any

Not recommended for use with Extenders.

Choosing the right network setup

To stream media from your Windows 7 computer to your Extender, both must be connected to your home network, either wired (using an Ethernet cable) or wirelessly (using Wi‑Fi). The following table provides an overview of the different setups you can use, in recommended order:

Computer's connection to your network
Extender's connection to your network
Recommendation

Wired

Wired

Highly recommended.

Wired

Wireless

Highly recommended (if a wireless connection must be used).

Wireless

Wired

Recommended (if a wireless connection must be used).

Wireless

Wireless

Not recommended, especially for streaming TV and video.

Checking your network bandwidth

Once your Extender is set up on your home network, you can test your network bandwidth by using the Network Tuner in Media Center. This can be useful if you're experiencing performance problems such as low video quality or choppy playback.

The Network Tuner screen in Media Center
The Network Tuner for your Media Center Extender

To use the Network Tuner

  1. Turn on your Extender.

  2. On the start screen on your Extender, scroll to Tasks, and then select Tune network.

  3. On the Network Tuner screen, follow the instructions to determine if there's enough available bandwidth on your home network to run your Extender.

Troubleshooting problems with network bandwidth

If the Network Tuner indicates that the available bandwidth on your network is low, you might need to make some changes to your network configuration using the recommendations in the previous sections. Here are some additional things you can also try:

If you have wireless components in your home network

  • Make sure that there are as few obstructions as possible between your Extender and your router. Any object that's blocking the wireless path can affect the performance of your Extender, but metal objects can have a particularly negative effect on the signal.

  • Change the position of your wireless components. Small tweaks to the location or orientation of your wireless components can sometimes result in significant changes to performance. Try adjusting the antenna, moving your components to higher or lower elevations, or rotating the components.

  • Change wireless networking channels on your router. Some wireless routers are preconfigured to use a specific channel. If your neighbor is using the same channel, it can cause both of your wireless networks to slow down. Whether you can change the channel, as well as how to do it, will vary depending on your router. Check the documentation that came with your router for more information.

  • Record TV shows at a lower quality. Another option that can affect performance on your Extender is the quality of recorded TV shows. You can try lowering the quality level in Media Center. To learn how, see Managing recorded TV shows in Windows Media Center: frequently asked questions.

  • Upgrade the firmware on your wireless router. The software that runs inside your router is called firmware. If your firmware is outdated, it might be causing performance problems or unexplained disconnections. Check your manufacturer's website for any firmware updates, as well as information about how to install them. You'll likely need to download the update to your computer, and then access your router's settings in a web browser.

If you're using a wired network with a gigabit Ethernet switch

If you're using a gigabit Ethernet switch device in your home network configuration and you're experiencing low video quality or choppy playback, try changing the flow control setting for your network adapter (also known as a network interface card (NIC)).

To enable flow control for your network adapter

  1. On your computer, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click Control Panel, type view network connections in the search box, and then click View network connections.
  2. Right-click your network connection, and then click Properties.

  3. On the Networking tab, click Configure.

  4. Click the Advanced tab, and in the list under Property, click Flow Control.

  5. Under Value, choose an option to enable flow control (choose the Rx & Tx Enabled option if it's available), and then click OK.

If enabling flow control doesn't help, you can also try changing the link speed for your network adapter (also known as a network interface card (NIC)).

To change the link speed for your network adapter

  1. On your computer, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click Control Panel, type view network connections in the search box, and then click View network connections.
  2. Right-click your network connection, and then click Properties.

  3. On the Networking tab, click Configure.

  4. Click the Advanced tab, and in the list under Property, click Link Speed & Duplex.

  5. Under Value, choose the 100 Mbps Full Duplex option, and then click OK.

Notes