Windows Media Center Extenders: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about using a Windows Media Center Extender.

To learn how to set up and use an Extender, see Set up a Windows Media Center Extender and Use a Windows Media Center Extender.

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What are Extenders?

A Media Center Extender is a standalone 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 Media Center PC.

With a Media Center Extender, you can:

  • Listen to music. Browse through and play the 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.

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). One popular Extender solution is the Xbox 360, which includes built-in Media Center Extender functionality.

Note

  • If you want to watch and record live TV using an Extender, you must have a TV tuner connected to or installed in your computer. If your computer didn't come with a TV tuner, you might be able to add one. For more information, see Get help for your TV tuner or contact your computer manufacturer.

I already have an Extender device. Will it work with Windows 7?

If you have an Extender that worked with Windows Vista, it should work with Windows 7. For example, the Xbox 360, which includes built-in Media Center Extender functionality, will work with Windows 7.

Older Extender models that were developed for use with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will not work with Windows 7. Be sure to read the fine print on the Extender box before making a purchase.

What if my Extender won't connect to my computer during or after setup?

Connection problems can occur while you're setting up an Extender, or after the Extender was successfully set up. Here are some possible solutions to Extender connection problems:

  • If you're having connection problems when using an Xbox 360 as an Extender, see the Connection Issues article on the Microsoft website.

  • Try restarting your computer, your Extender, and your network hub, router, or switch.

  • If the only firewall running on your computer is Windows Firewall, make sure that the Media Center Extenders check box is selected in the Windows Firewall settings. To learn how to change Windows Firewall settings, see Allow a program to communicate through Windows Firewall.

  • If you're using a firewall other than Windows Firewall, you might need to manually configure the firewall's settings for your Extender to work properly. To learn how to do this, see Tips for solving setup problems with Windows Media Center Extenders.

  • You might be prompted for a user name and password. Make sure that you know the user name and password for an account that has administrative privileges on your computer.

  • Make sure that both your Extender and your computer are turned on. Also, make sure that the computer is not in Hibernate or Sleep mode.

  • If you're using a wired connection, make sure that the Ethernet cable is plugged into the Ethernet port on your Extender.

    Try connecting your Extender directly to your computer using a regular Ethernet cable. If the Extender can connect to your computer, then the problem might be with the router, hub, or switch, and the settings on them. If your Extender and your computer still can't connect, the problem might still be associated with a setting on your router, hub, or switch, but in conjunction with a firewall setting on your computer. For more information about changing router and firewall settings to work with your Extender, see Tips for solving setup problems with Windows Media Center Extenders.

  • If your computer is joined to a domain, some network domain policies might be set that prevent Extenders from connecting to your computer. If your computer is connected to a domain, you can try removing the computer from the domain, and then go through Extender Setup again. For more information about domains, search Windows Help and Support for "domain."

  • Make sure that both your computer and your Extender are connected to the same router. This ensures that they're connected to the same network.

  • If your Extender is connected to the network using a wireless connection, make sure that it's within range of the wireless access point or router with as few obstructions as possible between the Extender and the access point. For more information about troubleshooting low wireless signal problems, see Why is my wireless signal strength so low?

    If your wireless network uses a security key, verify that you have the correct network security key for the type of wireless network security method that your network uses. For more information about the different wireless network security methods, see What are the different wireless network security methods?

Why won't certain albums, video files, or TV programs play on my Extender?

Here are some reasons why a file might not play on your Extender:

  • Your Extender doesn't have the right codec. Media Center in Windows 7 is compatible with most audio and video file types, but different Extender devices have different capabilities in regards to what types of files they support. For example, if you installed a codec so you could play certain file on your Windows 7 computer, that doesn't mean the file will play on your Extender.

    Depending on which model of Extender you have, there might be an update available from the device manufacturer that allows you to play some newer file formats. For more information, visit the device manufacturer's website.

    If you're using an Xbox 360 as an Extender, you'll need to do two things to play some of the newer file formats (such as the AAC file format):

    1. Install the most recent system updates for your Xbox 360. To learn how to do this, see Get Updates for Your Xbox 360 Console on the Xbox.com website.

    2. Install the Optional Media Update for your Xbox 360. To learn how, see the Optional Media Update article on Xbox.com website.

    For general information about supported file types in Media Center, see File types supported by Windows Media Center and Playing videos in Windows Media Center: frequently asked questions.

  • The media you're trying to play is protected using digital rights management (DRM). If your Extender is too far from your computer, playback of media that's protected using DRM might fail. This is because certain types of DRM are set to block playback if the data is streamed too far from the host computer.

    Extenders will play most types of protected content. However, they will not be able to play media downloaded from iTunes. For more information about DRM, see Windows Media Player DRM: frequently asked questions.

Why does a Network Issue notification often appear when I use my Extender?

If you're using a wireless network, verify that there's enough network bandwidth. You can test your wired or wireless network bandwidth by using the Network Tuner in Media Center.

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 is enough available bandwidth on your home network to run your Extender.

If the available bandwidth on your wireless network is low, consider the following solutions:

  • Use a wired network connection to connect your Extender to your computer. Using a wired connection usually results in a faster connection speed compared to using a wireless network connection.

    If you are using a wireless network and using a wired network connection isn't a viable option for you, consider upgrading your wireless network to use a faster wireless network connection. For a list of different wireless networks, as well as pros and cons of the different types of wireless networks, see What you need to set up a home network.

  • If your Extender is connected to the network using a wireless connection, make sure that it's within range of the wireless access point or router with as few obstructions as possible between the Extender and the access point. For more information about troubleshooting low wireless signal problems, see Why is my wireless signal strength so low?

For more information about improving your network connection when using an Extender, see Optimize your home network for Windows Media Center Extenders.

Why does my Extender perform slowly?

It might be because you don't have enough available network bandwidth to run the Extender. For possible solutions, see the "Why does the Network Issue notification often appear when I use my Extender?" section in this article.

It might also be because your computer is running low on available system resources. To determine if your computer has enough available system resources, see See details about your computer's performance using Task Manager.

When using an Extender, try to avoid performing tasks on the computer that use a lot of computer system resources. For example, avoid running a backup on your computer or editing and watching video when using an Extender.

What happens if I lose the connection between my Extender and my computer?

An Extender can lose its connection to the computer for a variety of reasons. Here are some reasons why this happens and some possible solutions for the problem:

  • The Extender might not be able to connect because your computer is either turned off, in Sleep mode, or in Hibernate mode. For more information, see Sleep and hibernation: frequently asked questions.

  • The Extender might be having trouble connecting to the network. Make sure your network and computer are running properly. If you're still having trouble, try restarting the Windows Media Center computer, the Media Center Extender, and your network hub, router, or switch.

  • If your Extender is connected to the network using a wireless connection, make sure that it's within range of the wireless access point or router with as few obstructions as possible between the Extender and the access point. For more information about troubleshooting low wireless signal problems, see Why is my wireless signal strength so low?

  • If you see a message saying that a valid IP address was not found, it means that your Extender couldn't acquire a valid Internet Protocol (IP) address and that the connection with your computer failed. To correct this problem, check your network settings and your network router, hub, or switch. Also, you can try restarting your Extender and your computer.

What Media Center features aren't available when using an Extender?

The following table highlights some of the Media Center experiences that aren't available when using an Extender.

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender These features are not available
When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

Pictures

These features are not available
  • Printing

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

Music

These features are not available
  • Visualizations

  • Fast forward or Rewind

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

TV

These features are not available
  • Set Up TV Signal

  • Adjust Display Settings

  • Slow motion

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

CDs or DVDs

These features are not available
  • Burn to CD

  • Burn to DVD

  • Watch DVDs that are inserted in a DVD drive on the Windows Media Center computer

  • Listen to audio CDs that are in the CD-ROM drive on the Windows Media Center computer

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

Extras

These features are not available
  • Some games (for example, Hearts, Chess Titans, and Freckle)

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

Tasks

These features are not available
  • Sync to device

  • Media-only mode

  • Add Extender

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

Settings

These features are not available
  • Music

  • DVD

  • Color Scheme

  • Automatic Download Options

  • Set Up TV Signal

  • Set Up Your Speakers

  • Test Digital TV antenna strength

  • Configure Your TV or Monitor

  • Run Setup Again

  • Remote Control Set Up

  • Teletext

  • Marquee Scrolling

  • Pop-ups

When in this section of the Media Center interface on an Extender

General and Privacy Settings/Privacy Statement

These features are not available

Retrieve media information for CDs and DVDS from the Internet

Where else can I find help for my Extender?

Here are some links to other resources that might help you find solutions to problems with your Extender.

  • Go to the Microsoft Help and Support site and search for "Media Center Extender."

  • Go to the Windows Media Center page on the Microsoft website. This article provides additional information about Media Center and Extenders.

  • If you encounter errors when using an Extender, you can go open the Event Viewer in Windows and look for errors associated with Windows Media Center and your Extender. After locating the error in Event Viewer, double-click it to get more information about why it occurred.

    For more information about opening and using Event Viewer, see Open Event Viewer.

  • Check out the The Green Button, a Media Center community site with a lot of information about Extenders.