During the shift from Windows 7 to Windows 8, there were lots of things that changed – not only its design but lots of other things too! More prominently, in latest version, Microsoft removed some other elements, which did actually come built-in with Windows 7. Although it was good in some aspects, we lost an ultra-useful tool — Windows Media Center.
Windows Media Center, often called WMC, was a media hub for your PC, letting you watch movie & music files from various sources such as files and DVDs for example, record TV etc. All these tasks are interconnected in a way that you can access it in any other Windows-based device in your home network.
Quite sadly, Windows Media Center has been discontinued; you need to look for some alternatives be it Windows 8 or Windows 10. Likewise, if you are using Linux or Macintosh and want a Windows Media Center-like solution to use as a media hub, you too need to check out alternatives.
In this post, we’ve created a list of 7 best Windows Media Center alternatives that would definitely help you in the long run.
When you’re looking for a Home Theater software, Kodi should be the first option you’ve to go for! This Free & Open Source software was earlier known as XBMC and was popular since its launch. Kodi can let you do a lot of things such as playing local storage files, streaming web media content from services like YouTube, Spotify and Pandora Internet Radio etc. It also comes with PVR — recording TV Programmes using corresponding hardware which makes Kodi a superb and adequate alternative for Windows Media Center. Another factor that attracts users is that you can make use of Kodi for playing Python-based mini games.
Apart from media hub-based features, Kodi is quite customizable in terms of looks and productivity. Availability of its skins can help you make Kodi look like you wish, the large collection of Kodi add-ons and plugins make management of your media quite easier. For instance, you can stream content from other services by installing suitable add-ons & other stuff. It has to be noted that Kodi requires a PC with efficient graphics-based configuration to give you the best media experience. As of now, Kodi is available for Windows, Linux, Android, Macintosh and iOS as native applications that you can use quite safely. Altogether, Kodi is an awesome Windows Media Center alternative.
- Price: Free
Simply put, Plex is a Media Center solution with some limitations — you can’t record TV or watch it live! In spite of these two limitations, Plex is an awesome software to keep your media organized while having support for a wide range of media formats. One of the prominent features of Plex is networking, which lets you access content in almost every device you have, regardless the platform. Plex also comes with sharing options, including a community for those media-lovers. Thus, Plex is a sense-making choice when your requirement is a Home Theatre PC which can be expanded to other devices of yours.
Simply put, Plex can be used as a typical media player in the front-end while the back-end works as a solution to get an easy-to-access collection of your media files. Also, when it comes to online media streaming, Plex offers a sort of integrated approach, with support for YouTube, Vimeo, CNN, TedTalks etc. Plex is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, along with streaming-oriented applications for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8. Hence, if you’re looking for a Windows Media Center alternative with easier organization methods, Plex makes sense, we believe. It’s to be noted that Plex also comes with an impressive User Interface that is at the same time usable.
- Price: Free, Premium Subscription available
MediaPortal is yet another HTPC (Home Theatre PC) Media Center that can be a superb alternative to Windows Media Center. MediaPortal lets you do a lot of things such as watching and recording Live TV, playing normal kind of media files from storage as well as DVDs & Blu-rays, listening to music files as well as radio, stream media files to PCs or HTPC devices that re in your network. When these features are combined with the superb User Interface and the easy-to-access organization method of MediaPortal, the tool proves to be an adequate WMC alternative. Talking of the online streaming section, you can install corresponding plug-ins to stream content from popular services.
It has to be noted that MediaPortal is based on Kodi, despite the fact that you won’t judge so by looks! Eminent one among the features of MediaPortal is the ability to control the software using a multitude of methods like PC remote and Kinect. Nevertheless, MediaPortal is available to Windows only, though open-source and free! However, in your Windows PC, MediaPortal can do just magic, with all its user-friendly features. Altogether, MediaPortal is a typical & impressive WMC alternative, given that you need it just for your windows PC.
- Price: Free
Emby is called the open media software and we will have to iterate the saying if we are to check out superb features, offered by the free Windows Media Center alternative. With native apps and supported-apps for popular platforms, Emby is a reliable solution when you need to store and organize your media as well as to access it from a multitude of devices. Emby was formerly known as Media Browser and it had limited features and capabilities back then. Now, after the update, Emby has received a lot of features like Cloud Sync and Folder Sync, features that enhance viewing experience, playback improvements etc.
Other features of Emby include availability of parental controls, feature to detect DLNA-based devices and a variety of dedicated apps that can let you take media anywhere. Availability of Emby can be classified into three — its Emby Server, TV Apps and Mobile apps. Emby server is available for Windows, Linux and Mac whereas the TV Apps offer a wide range of support including Android TV, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV etc. Talking of mobile apps, you can find apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. In the end, we would say Emby is rather a sleek Windows Media Center alternative you can find.
- Price: Free
5.Universal Media Server
Universal Media Server is a great software to keep your media contents well-organized in a manner that you can have access to your movies, music or anything else from various devices such as TV! Thus, Universal Media Server will be a great alternative when the prominent intention of yours is to stream your media to different kinds of devices you have. UMS offers support for any DLNA-compatible device out there; on the other hand, if there is no DLNA support, you can use the web-based interface to move on.
Talking about extension of productivity, Universal Media Player offers a lot of plugins to choose from! For instance, it is possible for you to use an extension for external services such as Google Play Music. Also, there’s a plugin that lets you find information from IMDB when you are watching media content. Universal Media server supports plethora of devices such as xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku 3, etc.
- Price: Free
OpenELEC is the popular short form for Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center. It is an operating system that turns your computer into a fully-fledged Home Theatre (powered by Kodi). If you have a PC with lower configuration, you can install OpenELEC Operating System in it and just start organizing and watching your favorite media, like never before. In addition, if you have a Raspberry Pi or Apple TV, you can have separate builds of OpenELEC.
OpenELEC can do a lot of thing such as movie organization, TV show management, music player, picture browser and the ability to record TV programmes and other stuff. When combined with the large collection of add-ons, it’s really Christmas with OpenELEC. And, yes, OpenELEC is actually a more developer-oriented alternative, only for the people who have a PC to spare for media management — setting up OpenELEC is a task of 15 minutes, by the way.
- Price: Free
We are actually glad to make this list an Open-Source list and here comes the last member of list. OSMC believes in the minimalistic approach towards design and it’s just awesome to be with OSMC when you have TV Shows, Videos, Music and other kinds of media to play. Another thing that we loved about OSMC is the availability of an App Store that lets you customize OSMC as per your needs, by installing required plugins and all. Also, there is a wide range of support for media files, meaning that you would be able to play almost every kind of popular media formats you come across.
In addition, OSMC comes with a flagship device that can extend media experience to a new level — Vero, it’s called! OSMC is now available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux; and it has support for Raspberry Pi, Apple TV and Vero. In short, we just loved OSMC — though last in list, it’s top in our favorite-list. And, what we loved most in OSMC is the minimal yet classy User Interface design that makes sense in the end. So, you need a clean alternative — just go for OSMC.
- Price: Free
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Video Players For Windows
Well, do you think any other Windows Media Center alternative deserves space in this list? If so, do let us know! We are waiting for your comments.