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Windows 7 - How to Make a Dedicated Windows Media Center PC

Windows Media Center is a multimedia player included in all versions of Windows 7, except for the Starter and Home Basic editions. It is primarily optimized for remote control operation and its interface is rather similar to the style you would expect with a standalone home entertainment system. If you have a computer as a primary home entertainment system, complete with a large monitor or plasma screen, a TV card and a set of home theatre speakers, you can configure Windows to only load Windows Media Center rather than the default Windows Explorer interface.

The default user interface (also known as a "Shell") in Windows 7 is the Explorer. This includes the Windows Explorer file browser, the start menu and the taskbar. If you want your computer to load Windows Media Center straight away when you log in, all you need to do is change a registry setting. This way, you'll be able to start operating your computer with a remote control within Windows Media Center as soon as you log in, making it just like a dedicated home entertainment system.

1 – Setting Windows 7 to Bypass the Welcome (Logon) Screen
For a dedicated media centre PC, you're probably going to want Windows to go straight to Windows Media Center when it starts up. This way, you won't have to enter your password or click on a user name. If you want to make your computer into a true home entertainment system, you're probably not even going to have a keyboard or mouse attached to it, so you're not going to be able to use the logon screen anyway.
To bypass the welcome screen, open your start menu and type "netplwiz" into the search box. Press Enter. The "User Accounts" window will appear. By default, the box beside "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer" will be checked. Uncheck this box and click "OK." From now on, the welcome screen will no longer appear.

2 – Setting Windows 7 to Use Windows Media Center as the Default Interface
For your dedicated Windows Media Center PC, you're going to want to get rid of anything that makes it look like a regular computer. This way, you'll be able to use every feature that you want to use with the remote control as soon as the PC starts up.
Open the start menu and type "regedit" into the search box and press Enter to open the Registry Editor. Navigate to this directory: "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon."
In the column, scroll down the list until you find "Shell." Double-click on it. In the text box under "Value data," type "C:\Windows\ehome\ehshell.exe." Click "OK" and exit the registry editor.

3 – Configuring Windows Media Center
You'll also want to have Windows Media Center starting up in full-screen mode automatically. To do this, open your start menu and find the shortcut to Windows Media Center. If you can't find it, type it into the search box. Right-click on the shortcut and click "Properties." In the text box beside "Target," add "/directmedia:general," without the quotes, after the existing text. The text box should now read "%windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /directmedia:general." Click "OK."

4 – Other Things to Consider
Windows Media Center basically runs as an alternative interface on top of Windows Media Player. This means that anything you add to your Windows Media Player library will appear in Windows Media Center as well. Any add-ons selected to run with Windows Media Player, including visualizations, will also run in Windows Media Center, since Windows Media Player will always be running in the background at the same time. Although you can update the library and search for new files in Windows Media Center, you cannot add and configure add-ons and visualizations. Before you start using your computer as a dedicated Windows Media Center PC, it's a good idea to configure all of these things in Windows Media Player beforehand.
At times, you'll need to be able to access other programs on your computer to fix problems, install updates and carry out various other tasks. You can do this at any time by plugging a USB keyboard and mouse into the computer and pressing the Windows Key and "R" on your keyboard. You don't need to restart the computer. This will bring up the "Run" command. Typing in "Explorer" and pressing "Enter" will return the taskbar and start menu until you reboot. This way, you can continue using your computer as normal at any time.


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