Extender for windows media center

Windows Media Center Extender

Windows Media Center Extenders (officially "Extender for Windows Media Center") are set-top boxes that are configured to connect via a Network link to a computer running Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition or Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate to stream the computer's media center functions to the Extender device. This allows someone to be able to use the Media Center and its features (such as view photos, videos, listen to music, watch live television and use DVR functions, watch recorded TV, etc.) on their television or other display device.

The advantage with these devices is that the household's primary computer (hosting Media Center) can be physically setup in a location more appropriate for its role, instead of being in the living room. Additionally, with an Extender, the Media Center can be accessed at the same time by several users. The Xbox 360 gaming console is a very popular example of a Media Center Extender.


Media Center Extenders (MCX) can either be dedicated hardware devices, such as set top boxes or televisions, or software based implementations such as the Xbox 360. First generation hardware based devices were based on the Windows CE operating system whereas the second generation devices can use other embedded OSs such as Linux as well. The Extender creates its own user account on the host PC(MCX1, MCX2, etc.) and then uses a version of Fast User Switching to enable the use of the host computer and Extenders at the same time.

Version 1 Extenders only support Media Center versions up to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2 - they cannot support the version of Media Center incorporated in Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate Edition.

The server software, which runs on the host PC and streams the media, is built into Windows Media Center. An MCX device must be paired with the MCE software before use; this is done by pairing the MCE software with an identifying number generated by the MCX device. The MCE software makes the user interface available via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP, which is also used by Remote Desktop client). All processing done by the MCE software and plug-ins happen at the computer, its only the user interface that is streamed to the MCX devices. As such, the device can render the interface even though the Media Center-specific software (or the plug-ins) might not be installed there. However, the media files are streamed over a different protocol. To render the media, the Extender needs to have an implementation of the codec used to package the media locally installed on the Extender; having the codec on the host computer is not enough.

Version 1 Extenders

  • HP x5400
  • Linksys WMCE54AG
  • Xbox with Media Center Extender Add-On

All Version 1 Extenders have been discontinued and are not supported in Windows Vista.

Version 2 Extenders

For quite a period of time, the Xbox 360 was the only Version 2 Extender available that could work with Windows Vista. When connecting an Xbox 360 to a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC, a free download is required to connect for the first time. When connecting an Xbox 360 to a Windows Vista PC, no download is necessary as all required components are built into Windows Vista.

Microsoft eventually announced the v2 Media Center Extenders from partners (Linksys, D-Link and Niveus Media) on 5th September, 2007. Version 2 capable Extenders boast animated transitions between screens and additional capabilities of Windows Vista to handle newer video formats, notably, DivX, Xvid, Windows Media Video HD and H.264. They can stream HDTV (including 1080p) through HDMI like the Xbox 360, can stream protected content and many incorporate draft 802.11n wireless connectivity.

In addition to these updates, Extender manufacturers will be able to integrate Extender technology into other popular consumer electronics devices. Examples include DVD players, HDTVs, HD DVD players, Blu-ray players, etc. However, a major hindrance is that the V2 Media Center Extenders only work with the Windows Vista Media Center version. Windows Media Connect and Windows Media Player Network Sharing are able to connect to them on Windows XP, however they do not work with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 as extenders. Xbox 360 is the only device that can work as an extender with both Windows XP Media Center as well as Windows Vista.

  • HP MediaSmart Connect - x280n
  • Xbox 360 (Works in MCE 2005 and Vista)
  • Linksys DMA2100
  • Linksys DMA2200 (Integrated DVD Player)
  • D-Link DSM-750
  • Niveus Media Extender - EDGE
  • HP MediaSmart HDTV (With software update from April 2008)


External links

See also

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