Set up a Windows Media Center Extender

With a Windows Media Center Extender and the right setup, you can stream the 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 your home network. For general information about home networks, see Setting up a home network.

For more information about Extenders, see Use a Windows Media Center Extender and Windows Media Center Extenders: frequently asked questions.

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.

Up to five Extenders can stream content from one Windows 7 computer. However, your Extender's performance is dependent on your home network capability and your computer's hardware and configuration. For example, if you plan to regularly stream high-definition content to more than one Extender, you should consider increasing processor speed and memory as well as implement a wired, gigabit network. As a general guideline, you should have one CPU core and one gigabyte of memory per Extender. For example, if you plan to stream content to two Extenders, your PC should have dual-core processors with two gigabytes (2GB) of memory.

This topic explains how to connect an Extender—either wirelessly or wired (through an Ethernet connection)—to your home network, and then how to set up and configure the Extender in Media Center.

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Connect an Extender to a wired network

You can connect your Media Center Extender to your home network using an Ethernet cable. This type of connection is called a wired network, and it's recommended over a wireless connection because it's generally faster and more reliable. For more information about setting up a home network and the pros and cons of the different types of network connections, see What you need to set up a home network.

  1. Plug one end of an Ethernet cable into an Ethernet port on your router, hub, or switch.

  2. Plug the other end of the Ethernet cable into the Ethernet port on your Extender.

  3. Plug the power cord of the Extender in.

  4. Make sure the network activity light for the Ethernet cable that is plugged into the Extender is on.

Connect an Extender to a wireless network

You can connect an Extender to your home network using a wireless connection. This type of connection allows you to connect your Extender to your home network without running Ethernet cables throughout your home. For more information about setting up a home network and the pros and cons of the different types of network connections, see What you need to set up a home network.

When connecting to a wireless network, the Extender tries to connect automatically without any action on your part. However, if the wireless network has security protocols enabled, such as a Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) key or a Wi‑Fi Protected Access (WPA) password, you'll need to enter this information manually when setting up the Extender. The three most common security features are:

  • A network name (also known as an SSID)

  • A WEP key

  • A WPA password

When connecting an Extender, only two of these items are required: the network name and either the WEP key or the WPA password.

Each wireless network hardware manufacturer has configuration software where the network name and other security features are defined. For more information about the different types of wireless network security methods, see What are the different wireless network security methods?

You can also check the documentation that came with your network or contact the network hardware manufacturer for more information.

  1. If necessary, disconnect your Extender from the wired network by removing the Ethernet cable from the network port on the back of the Extender, and then turn off the Extender.

  2. Restart the Media Center Extender device.

  3. After the Extender restarts, it will connect to the wireless network.

  4. Follow the instructions on the screen or consult the manual that came with your Extender to enter any necessary wireless security settings.

Set up an Xbox 360 (or another device) as an Extender

If you have an Xbox 360 connected to a home network, you can use it as a Media Center Extender. This is an easy way to stream your pictures, music, videos, and other media from your PC running Windows 7 to your TV. For more information, search for "Extender" on Xbox 360 online.

If you have an Extender device other than the Xbox 360, you can connect that to your home network much in the same way. There are a handful of Extender devices available today that are compatible with Windows 7. For example, some DVD players have Extender functionality built in. These devices generally come packaged with a remote control that has a Media Center green start button Green Start button on the remote control .
  1. Turn on your computer and log on to Windows. Verify that it's connected to your home network. (An easy way to do this is to open your web browser and navigate to a webpage.)

  2. Turn on your Extender device (such as your Xbox 360) and verify that it's connected to your home network.

  3. On your computer, open Windows Media Center by clicking the Start button Start button, clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Media Center.
  4. On Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Add extender, and then follow the instructions.

    Add extender option on the Windows Media Center start screen
    The Add extender option on the Windows Media Center start screen
  5. Do one of the following:

    • If you're using an Xbox 360, use your Xbox 360 controller to scroll to My Xbox, and then select Windows Media Center.

    • If you're using a different type of Extender, press the green start button Green Start button on the remote control that appears on your Extender remote control.
  6. On your TV, follow the instructions on the screen to obtain an 8-digit Windows Media Center Setup Key. Write down this 8-digit setup key. This is the key that you will use to affiliate your Extender with your computer that has Windows Media Center.

    You do not need to download any additional software because the Extender functionality is built into Windows Media Center.

  7. On your computer, on the Enter the Setup Key screen in Media Center, enter the 8-digit setup key displayed by your Extender, and then continue following the instructions.

    Several changes are automatically made to your computer's settings during the Extender Setup, including changes to the Windows Firewall settings. For more information about Windows Firewall, see Windows Firewall: recommended links.

    If you have a firewall running on your computer that isn't the Windows Firewall, make sure that the firewall software is set up to allow an Extender to connect to your computer. Some firewalls are configured this way by default. However, other firewalls will require you to make changes to how the firewall software is set up. For more information about which firewalls are already set up to allow a Media Center Extender connection, as well as information about how to set up other firewalls to work with an Extender, go to the Firewalls and Media Center Extender article on the Microsoft website.

  8. After setup process in Media Center has finished, click Finish.

    On the TV that your Extender is connected to, the Media Center user interface appears. You can use your Xbox 360 controller or your Media Center remote control to access live TV, recorded TV, pictures, music, videos, and other digital media on your TV. To learn more about the specific features of Windows Media Center that are not available on your Extender, see Windows Media Center Extenders: frequently asked questions.