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Extending Your Media Center PC with Your Xbox

You might want to think again before you junk your old Xbox in favor of your new Xbox 360. In this article, Kulvir Bhogal will show you how you can use the Xbox Media Center Extender Kit to transform your old Xbox into a Media Center Extender that can interact with the content on your Media Center PC. With the ability to play back any recorded TV shows, movies, music, and photos you have stored on your Windows Media Center PC, the Xbox Media Extender is worth a second look. Step away from the trashcan.
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When I look at my old Microsoft Xbox I wonder whether my old Xbox is destined to collect dust in my attic. With the release of the Microsoft Xbox 360, will my old Xbox join the ostracized fraternity of electronics—a club that already includes my Atari 2600 and Intellivision?

Luckily, that doesn't have to be your Xbox's fate. In this article, I'll shed light on how you can put your old Xbox to use as a Microsoft Window Media Center Extender, saving your Xbox from becoming obsolete and breathing some new found functionality into your Xbox.

Old Electronics Reborn?

In case you don't already know, Windows Media Center Extender devices let you play back the recorded TV shows, movies, music, and photos stored on your Windows Media Center PC. (The new Microsoft Xbox 360 has the ability to act as a Media Center Extender out of the box, but we're talking about the older model here.)

You'll learn how to use your Xbox to access your Windows Media Center content, using an interface quite similar to the one provided by Windows XP Media Center 2005. You'll also learn how to move the content stored on your Windows Media Center PC beyond the confines of your main PC, using your old Xbox gaming system as a satellite extension.

Before we start, I am going to assume that you have a PC running Microsoft Windows XP Media Center 2005 and that your PC is connected to your home LAN using a router. I am going to also assume that you have an Xbox that is already networked to your home LAN. A wired connection is preferred over a wireless connection, but I have heard reports that a wireless connection can also pull off the task at hand. (If you want to experiment with this, be warned—I have not tried it myself)

In addition to your XP Media Center 2005 PC and your Xbox, you'll also need to get your hands on the Xbox Media Center Extender Kit. The kit is no longer sold by Microsoft, but you can usually get the kit from Ebay. Both the Extender Kit and its contents are shown below.

To transform your Xbox into a Media Center Extender, you'll need to plug the infrared receiver into one of the controller ports on the front of the Xbox console, as shown in the picture below.

Next, find the DVD from your kit that says "Insert this DVD in the Xbox console" on the front and insert it into your Xbox drive. Next, start up your Xbox, and you should be presented with a screen welcoming you to the Media Center Extender Setup. From this screen, write down your Setup Key, as you will need this in a few minutes.

At this point we need to switch to working with our Media Center PC and teach it how to talk to our Media Center Extender. Insert the Setup CD into your Media Center PC's CD/DVD drive and then run the setup.exe program. You should be presented with a welcome screen like the one below:

Windows Media Center will now visually inform you that any recording during the set up phase will be stopped. Go ahead and click Next. You will then be asked to accept the license agreement. After doing so, the installation process will start.

Next, you will be asked to accept an Extender Activation Policy. Read through the policy and click Next to accept it.

At this point, you will need to specify the product key for your Media Center Extender and click Next. Of course, your product key is specific to your own copy of Media Center Extender.

The setup program will then try to activate your Media Center Extender software over the Internet, as shown below.

After product activation is complete, you will be asked to enter the display key that was displayed on the TV connected to your Xbox. Remember the number I told you to write down earlier? Here's where you need to type it in.

Next, you may be told that the Media Center Extender set up program needs to change some of your Media Center PC's settings in order to enable the extender. Take a minute to review the changes and if you agree to them, click Next.

Now you'll need to choose whether or not you want to grant the Media Center Extender access to content stored in the My Documents folders belonging to user accounts other than the one running the setup program. If you agree to this, check the "Make all My Documents folders available" checkbox and then click Next.

Now you'll be asked if you want the Media Center Extender to search for media in the same Music Discovery, Picture Discovery, and Video Discovery folders you specified by the user ID you used to run the setup. If you agree to this, check the checkbox and then click Next.

The setup wizard will now move on to ask whether you want to report Media Center Extender errors to Microsoft. If you agree to this, check the Enable error reporting checkbox and then click Next.

At this point the setup program will try to connect to your Media Center Extender, as shown in the screenshot below:

After your Media Center PC has connected to the Media Center Extender, you'll be informed that you can now use your Media Center Extender. This means that you can now click Finish, as you are done with the steps you needed to perform on you Media Center PC.

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