Your pics on the big screen: Create slide shows in Windows Media Center

Every party needs a little background music to set the mood, but have you ever considered background photos? With Windows Media Center, you can have both.

For those unfamiliar with Media Center, it's a feature in Windows Vista that serves as a center for your digital media collection, including photos, music, TV shows, and home movies. With the right setup, you can use Media Center to completely change the dynamic of your living room by playing a slide show of your favorite photos—along with background music—on your TV. The best way to experience slide shows is on an HDTV, using a Media Center remote to control the action.

Picture of a PC connected to an LCD TV and a Windows Media Center remote.
A PC connected to a TV, and a Windows Media Center remote.

To learn more about what you can do with Media Center, see Using Windows Media Center: recommended links.

For more information about connecting a Media Center PC to a TV, see Connect your computer to a TV and Use a Windows Media Center Extender device.

One giant photo album

Chances are you own a digital camera, and you already have a collection of digital photos on your computer. The nice thing about using Windows Media Center to organize those photos is that it does most of the work for you. If your digital photos are in the Pictures folder on your computer's hard disk, for instance, Media Center will automatically find them the moment you fire it up. To view your picture library in Media Center, scroll to Pictures + Videos from the start screen, and then select picture library.

Picture of the Windows Media Center picture library
The picture library in Windows Media Center

You can also tell Media Center to watch other folders for newly added media and then add them to your picture library: From the Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, select settings, then select Library Setup and follow the instructions.

Windows Media Center can even detect if a digital camera or flash memory card is connected to your PC, and give you the option to import new pictures directly into Media Center. Once all your photos are available, you can browse through them and perform common editing tasks on each, such as rotating, cropping, and removing red eye. For more information, see Edit pictures in Windows Media Center.

21st-century slide shows

Once your photo collection is in Media Center, it’s time to show it off to friends and family by using slide shows. To play a slide show of your entire collection of photos, scroll to Pictures + Videos from the Media Center start screen, and then select play all. But what if you don’t want grandma to see that snapshot of you feeding the dog table scraps, or your brother to see photos from that New Year’s party you forgot to invite him to? One way you can control who sees what is by playing a slide show of a specific folder rather than your entire collection: from the start screen, scroll to Pictures + Videos, select picture library, select the desired folder, and then select play slide show.

You can also tag your photos by using Windows Photo Gallery and then view slide shows based on tags in Windows Media Center. To learn more about this method, see Tag pictures so they’re easier to find.

No slide show is complete without some background tunes. Adding music to a slide show can greatly enhance the vibe no matter the occasion. From the Media Center start screen, scroll to Music, and then select music library. Pick the music you’d like to play, then navigate back to your picture library and play your slide show—it’s as easy as that! To learn more about playing music, see Listen to music in Windows Media Center.

When playing a slide show, you’ll notice that a set amount of time passes between each transition, and that the song information occasionally shows up in the bottom-left corner. These and other slide show features can be customized to your liking: from the Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, select settings, and then select Pictures to browse a variety of options related to slide shows.

Slide show scenarios

Have an upcoming birthday party? Are the relatives visiting soon? There are many occasions when a slide show of your digital photos can come in handy. And if you have a digital video camera, you can play your home videos in Windows Media Center as well. For more information, see Play video and watch pictures in Windows Media Center.