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Windows 7: Can you run Windows Media Center in the background?

26 Feb 2012   #1

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
Can you run Windows Media Center in the background?

I was wondering, if I run an HDMI cable from my computer to the TV, can I run Windows Media Center over on my TV in the background? If so, would I be able to say play a game on my computer while my parents are watching something with media center? (without audio of course) Would I be able to use a remote with the media center running in the background, and still use my mouse and keyboard at the same time(while the remote is being used)?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Feb 2012   #2

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

I'm not entirely sure what you're asking, but maybe your understanding of what Windows Media Center is needs to be clarified a bit.

WMC is just DVR software that runs on your PC (call it an HTPC if you want). Armed with a proper 1 or more TV tuners via hardware (either internal, USB-attached, or network-attached) it can both (a) record programs to hard drive per your scheduling just like a real DVR, (b) play live or previously recorded programs to your PC monitor or locally attached HDTV screen as supported by your video card and drivers, and (c) deliver live or previously recorded programs to other TV's around your house via your home network.

Depending on the copy-freely vs. copy-once nature of the content of the live/recorded programs, delivery of those live/recorded programs to other TV's around your house typically is handled by a network-attached "media center extender" at that TV location, which then has its own HDMI output to feed the HDTV at that location. WMC feeds the extender via ethernet, which in turn feeds the HDTV via HDMI.

The "media center extender" can be a true extender device (e.g. Linksys DMA2100) or it can be an xBox. The Ceton company (manufacturer of internal/USB TV cablecard-enabled tuner cards to feed cable system coax to WMC for live/recorded use) has announced their own upcoming "media center extender" device, so that's one further device which will work.

Otherwise, WMC operating on your PC/HTPC is simply one more program that runs on the computer. It is ALWAYS RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND, in support of scheduled recordings. It also supports up to five media center extenders simultaneously, which actually connect to the PC/HTPC using "remote desktop connection" technology. So again, all of the extender/HDTV locations around your house are handled by WMC ALWAYS RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND.

The only FOREGROUND use of the WMC interface is (a) if you want to watch something in a window on your PC's monitor or secondary attached HDTV (from your video card), or if you want to get into the DVR interface to browse the Guide, or schedule a recording, or do something else through the WMC interrface.

But all of these foreground uses of WMC have nothing at all to do with what is simultaneously occurring in the background... in terms of quietly handling up to five connected extender/HDTVs where other people in your home are watching TV delivered through your LAN from WMC running on your PC/HTPC (think "client/server"), along with doing any scheduled recordings.

You are free to simultaneously use your PC for whatever else you want to do, including playing games. The WMC software is just another program that runs on your PC at the same time, certainly in the background always and often also in the foreground... all happening simultaneously along with whatever else you might be doing yourself at that PC.

NOTE: WMC actually does much more than handle TV recording tasks, although I thought that's what you were really asking about. It can also play videos and DVDs, present pictures, etc. Lots of capability other than just TV.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Mar 2012   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Since I'm about to go through this same thing, here's a suggestion...

Through your display configuration utility, set your primary monitor as the TV, and secondary as your PC monitor.

I think Media Center is designed to run from the primary monitor only.

Every other program should launch just fine on your secondary. Some video drivers only support overlay on the primary.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

15 Mar 2012   #4

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

As far as running the remote simultaneously with KB/mouse, not sure if that will work since a remote command is simply a Ctrl+Key combination. Those commands might interfere with your gameplay/surfing on the secondary monitor. That's one for the gurus.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Mar 2012   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

The biggest problem I can see in your description (running WMC and a game at the same time on two different screens) is you are using two programs that will want to grab focus of your machine. Media Center running full screen locks the mouse cursor to that program alone, and while you can Alt+Tab out to the desktop, as soon as you press a button in WMC it will grab focus again. Media Center could run in windowed mode on one screen, but then you have the problem of the game you are using requiring focus. Most games will do the same thing as WMC, locking the cursor in and requiring you to Tab out to get to the desktop.

If you ran WMC in a window and were playing a game in a window at the same time it could work, but you would probably be fighting over control of the mouse cursor/keyboard depending on how the remote addresses the media player.

All in all it sound like a big mess, but that's no reason not to experiment.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Mar 2012   #6

Windows 8 64 bit PRO

Another issue is sound, TWO programs will now be sharing and going at same time. You will have both audio working if you manage to get the WMC on screen 1 and your game on screen 2 running.

It's a real mess, i suggest you to use some old desktop install a TV Tuner and set it up as a HTPC, a lot of people retire their old machines and turn them into a HTPC.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Apr 2012   #7

Windows 7 Home 64 bit

I am trying to do something similar to what the OP is asking. What the last two posters said is not completely true because I cant run XBMC and use a remote and controller xbmc and at the same time on my other monitor i could be doing other thing. So I am wonder if there is a work around for WMC to do what xbmc does.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Apr 2012   #8

Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit & Windows Consumers Preview

Jim, nw thats a lil complicated question. i did that once to ma pc n Crashed it later :P
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Oct 2012   #9

Win 7 Pro x64

The way you can do this simple
You must have dual display video card - one to tv and one to your gaming computer
you must have dual sound card - one for tv and one for laptop
(usually if you use HDMI for TV and have another video output the sound shouldn't be a problem)

Now you need to manually switch your default sound output for WMC to go with HDMI output
and make sure all other sound from other program is coming out of your computer speaker

Setup video display as an extender and move WMC to run on your TV screen. There are going to be a few glitches here and there but generally speaking it will work perfectly. You might have a problem with remote in terms of volume control but if you use TV remote to control volume it should be fine.
I've done something like this before with out a problem (not WMC though) but I had an i7 liquid cooled overclocked cpu with 16gb of ram
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Can you run Windows Media Center in the background?

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