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How to easily change your Windows Media Center 7 background and menus

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Windows Media Center 7, the whole PC entertainment system embedded within Windows 7, give us the ability to listen to music, check out pictures, watch movies, and even watch, pause, and record HDTV all from one central location.  If you throw a Windows Home Server into the mix you will be able to stream that content to any PC in the Home!  As powerful as WMC 7 is, there are not really many built-in options for tweaking the interface to change what it looks like.  Without some help, you are pretty much stuck with the default theme which looks something like this:

Windows-media-center-theme

I’ve had a couple people ask me how I was able to change the way my Windows Media Center looks when they noticed some included screenshots of my setup in various articles, so I thought I’d do a fast and easy tutorial so everyone can add a little bit of personality to their Media Center experience!

Luckily for us, there is a great little utility called Media Center Studio that can cure our bland Media Center woes in just a few steps!  Media Center Studio gives you the ability to not only change the background you see on Windows Media Center, but also give you the ability to tweak the various menus in WMC 7 to suit your needs.  You can download this program here for free, but if it’s something you like and will use on your various computers, then please consider donating to the developers so they can keep providing support and updates!

Once downloaded and installed, you’ll be greeted by this screen when you run the executable:

Media-center-studio

For those creative types out there, you can click the green “New” button to get started on creating your new Windows Media Center interface from scratch.  With controls for color, fonts, images, and more, you can create your own theme that reflects on your style and personality or perhaps something that is in tune with the overall theme of your Home Theater / Man Cave.

Media-center-studio-theme-creation

Luckily, for those of us who either don’t have a creative bone in our body or lack the time or patience to create our own themes, there are some themes out there created by some pretty talented people!  You can find some of better themes on the web at sites like Hacking Windows 7 Media Center, who specialize in this sort of thing.

After  you’ve found some themes you’d like to try out and have downloaded the Zip files, extract the files to a common folder location that all of your computers have access to.  You can now import the new themes into Media Center Studio as shown:

Media-center-studio-theme-import

From here, all you need to do is click on a theme you like on the right and click the green “Apply” button on the left.  Once Media Center Studio applies the theme, you can launch Windows Media Center 7 from the Home tab within the program or simply launch WM7 via it’s normal icon.

Voila!  You now have a cool looking Windows Media Center that adds some personality to the rather bland standard Media Center look!

Windows-7-mce

Hopefully this short tutorial on personalizing your Windows Home Theater PC’s Media Center 7 screen with the help of Media Center Studio helps you enjoy your Media Center PC (HTPC) more!  If you haven’t messed with Windows Media Center because you think that Windows Media Player does everything  you need, take some time and get to know that program!  By simply storing your media in a central location at home, you can stream that content to any of your home computers.  We will be covering how to do this in an upcoming article as together we take one step at a time towards Home System Integration!

Stay tuned!

Tom

About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

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Setup & Integration of Home Technology: Home Theater - Home Server - HTPC - Home Networks