Windows Media Center is a media player application which comes bundled with Windows operating system. It allows you to pause, record HDTV, watch DVDs, listen music, show off photos and much more.
Windows Media Center comes with Windows XP MCE, Windows Vista Ultimate and Home Premium and all editions of Windows 7 except Home Basic and Starter.
If you have a Windows edition which doesn't come with Windows Media Center, you can try various free alternatives which also provide similar features:
MediaPortal is a free open source media center software, ideal for turning your PC into a very advanced multimedia center, or Home Theater PC, to view all your digital media in your living room. The user interface is a snap to learn and use. Standard menus, layouts and views let you choose your style of display. Most remotes are supported and you can configure the keys however you want.
MediaPortal was designed to be extended. There are hundreds of amazing plugins available to do almost anything you can imagine, even stream web TV, Apple Trailers, Youtube videos or internet radio.
XBMC is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media. XBMC is available for Linux, OSX, and Windows.
XBMC has been designed to be the perfect companion for your HTPC. Supporting an almost endless range of remote controls, and combined with its beautiful interface and powerful skinning engine, XBMC feels very natural to use from the couch and is the ideal solution for your home theater.
XBMC can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. It was designed for network playback, so you can stream your multimedia from anywhere in the house or directly from the internet using practically any protocol available.
MythTV is a great Digital Video Recorder and home media center hub. With its plugin architecture, it has been transformed from a mere TV viewing application into a full home media center suite, capable of managing your personal photo, video, and music collections, as well as keep you up to date with the weather, a ZoneMinder home security system, and much, much more.
JRiver Media Center:
JRiver Media Center is an excellent media player software. It's also a Media Network, a whole house music, movie, TV, and photo solution. It can play connected media from Last.fm, Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube. And it can send to Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. It powers the Home Theater PC that will entertain your family. It Plays audio and video in different zones.
It can record TV in high definition, providing an alternative to cable TV. It has a Theater View interface, controllable by a Media Center Remote, an iPad, iPhone, Android, a Windows netbook or Touchscreen. It's a DirectShow player, so it can play almost anything.
PS: Its a 30 days trial version. Thanks to our reader "soldier" for mentioning it...
Freevo is an open source HTPC media centre. It integrates PVR / DVR functionality along with music, video, gaming, home automation and more. It is written in python and uses existing popular software such as mplayer, xine, vlc and skype. Freevo also provides access to popular services such as YouTube, Flickr, Apple trailers, IMDB, Hulu Desktop and more through integrated plugins.
It can be controlled via keyboard and mouse, IR remote, network app or through it's web interface. Freevo can record and display TV from multiple sources. You can pause or rewind live TV and schedule recordings via the on screen EPG or remotely via a web interface.
Moovida is your one stop for multimedia needs, organizing and reproducing all your media from one intuitive application. Moovida supports ALL media formats - it's the only software you'll ever need to play avi, mkv, mp3, mp4, and many more.
Moovida has two interfaces – one optimized for managing your files on the PC and the other optimized for finding and playing your media files on the TV or PC. Connect your PC to your TV using a simple HDMI, a VGA or a S-Video cable and an audio cable. Launch Moovida's 3D interface to quickly find and enjoy your media.
Plex is a flexible Media Center made up by two major components - the Plex Media Server and numerous Plex Clients. This lets you create a true server-based Media Center where information about all your media is stored in one single location. Plex also gathers information or metadata about your media and displays it in the Client making choosing which show to watch a rich and pleasant experience.
Please let us know your opinion about these free alternatives to Windows Media Center. Which one do you like the most and why?
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