Play your digital media anywhere in the home using Windows Media Center

Let's say you recorded your favorite TV show on your computer using Windows Media Center, but when you returned to watch it, a family member was using the computer for something else. Did you know that it's possible to watch that show in another room without purchasing a second computer? Using a Windows Media Center Extender, you can access your TV shows—even your pictures, music, and videos—in the upstairs bedroom, the den, the living room, or anywhere else you happen to have a TV.

What are Windows Media Center Extenders?

A Windows Media Center Extender is a stand-alone device that you can purchase at many consumer electronics stores and online retailers. By connecting an Extender to a wired or wireless home network, you can stream media from your main computer to your Extender.

A diagram of a home network with one computer and three Extenders
Up to five Extenders can access music, photos, and more from one Windows Media Center PC

There are a wide variety of Extenders available for purchase today. Some are simply Extenders, while others combine Extender functionality with familiar devices such as DVD players or even LCD TVs. One popular Extender solution is the Xbox 360, which includes built-in Windows Media Center Extender functionality. For more information, see From PC to TV, Part 1: Stream digital media to any room with Windows Media Center and an Xbox 360 .

What can I do with a Windows Media Center Extender?

If you have Windows Media Center—a feature included with both Windows Vista Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate—you can connect up to five Extenders to your wired or wireless home network, and stream content from your PC to other rooms in the house. With a Windows Media Center Extender, you can:

  • Listen to music. Browse through and play the digital music stored on your computer.

  • Look at photos. Play a dynamic slide show of your favorite photos, and add some background music to set the mood.

  • Watch videos. Play home videos that you've recorded with your digital video (DV) camera, or downloaded from the web.

  • Watch or record live TV. You can watch live TV, automatically record your favorite TV shows, and much more. Although you can access your recorded TV shows on a Windows Media Center Extender, the recorded TV files are still stored on the Windows Media Center computer.

For more information about how to use a Windows Media Center Extender, see Use a Windows Media Center Extender device.

What gear do I need to get started?

To use a Windows Media Center Extender, you need the following hardware and software:

  • A wired or wireless home network. You'll need a home network for your computer to communicate with an Extender. For details about setting up a home network, see Setting up a home network.

  • A Windows Media Center Extender. Whether you're using an Xbox 360 or another device, you'll need a Windows Vista–compatible Extender connected to a display to view your Windows Media Center content in another room.

  • A Windows Media Center computer. If your computer is running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate, then you have Windows Media Center. Many Windows Media Center computers also have a built-in TV tuner card to access a TV signal.

For information about how to set up a Windows Media Center Extender, see Set up a Windows Media Center Extender device.


  • An analog or digital TV tuner is required to play and record live TV in Windows Media Center. If your computer did not come with a TV tuner, you might be able to add one. For more information about obtaining a TV tuner, see Get help for your TV tuner card or contact your computer manufacturer.