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Turn your PC into a home entertainment centre in 6 steps with MediaPortal

If you use the Home Premium or Ultimate editions of Windows Vista then you will have access to a feature called Media Center. It’s a simplified menu system from where you can manage the different types of digital media stored on your PC.

You can also use it to watch video files and DVDs along with scheduling and recording live TV, or to stream media files to another part of your home. Indeed a Media Center PC can become the digital hub of your home. Now, if you are running Windows XP you might feel you are missing out? Fortunately, there’s a free program available that brings Media Center-like capabilities to your Windows XP computer (works in Vista too). It’s called Media Portal & here’s how to download and run this fine piece of software.


(1) Launch your Browser & visit THIS LINK and click on Download Media Portal in the ‘Quicklinks’ column. Go down to the Latest Release then click on Download. Save the file to the Windows Desktop and once the transfer is complete double-click on the file to begin installation. Make you’re still connected to the Internet. Select English language then click on Next. Make sure the option ‘Start with the installation now’ is selected then click on Next. The subsequent steps will ask you how you are going to use the program. This will ensure that the configuration of the program is personalized for you.

(2) The first part of the installation process asks if you are going to watch TV with Media Portal. Only answer Yes to this question if you have a TV tuner card installed in you PC. Otherwise select No then click on Next to continue. Make sure that ‘One Click Installation’ is selected and then click on Next, All the necessary components required for the program will be listed. Click on Install to continue. You’ll need to wait while the program components are downloaded and installed on your PC. At the end of the installation click Exit.

(3) Now that Media Portal is installed on your PC it needs to be configured so that your existing media can be displayed within its menus. Click on Start, go to all Programs and select Team Media Portal. Click on Media Portal and choose Media Portal Configuration. When prompted leave the configuration in ‘Normal Mode’ and click on Continue. First go to Videos and select Video folder. Make sure the location of the folder containing your videos is displayed; if not then click Add. Under the Visual name heading enter a title then click on the button in Local folder and locate the appropriate folder.

(4) Repeat this process with the other categories such as Music & Pictures. If the folder location is not already listed, click on Add and browse to the location of the files. Another category you can configure is Weather. This provides an up to date weather report in Media Portal. Click on Add and choose your geographical location. Other categories can be configured but start using the program first to get a feel for it. You can return to the configuration at any time to fine tune settings. Click on OK in the Configuration program when you’ve finished.

(5) Click on Start then go to Team Media Portal on the All Programs menu and select Media Portal then Media Portal again to launch the program. The Media Portal interface will be displayed. Use the mouse or the keyboard cursor (arrow) keys to navigate between the different menu items. Click the mouse or press Enter to select an item. For example, go to Music and you can view your entire MP3 collection. Sort through your tracks, change views and play your favorite songs. You can do exactly the same with your digital photo collection. Select My Pictures to browse through your images or create a slideshow.

(6) And from here, I recommend that you just explore and see all that Media Portal has to offer. What you get out of a program like this really depends on the type of media you have stored on your PC, as well as the way you’d like to use them. For example, if your PC has a ‘TV Out’ connection, you can use this to connect your computer to your TV.

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