Top alternatives for Windows Media Center

Martin Brinkmann
May 5, 2015
Music and Video

Now that Microsoft confirmed that Windows Media Center won't be part of Windows 10, it is time to look at suitable alternatives for the build in program.

Microsoft called Windows Media Center an "entertainment system" for the whole PC. It supported the recording of HDTV (with the correct equipment), playback of media, music playback, photo streams and online streaming.

The program was only available in some versions of Windows and should not be confused with Windows Media Player which Windows 10 will still ship with.

Windows 8 did not ship with Windows Media Center by default but Microsoft made it available in form of a Media Center Pack that Windows 8 Pro users could purchase.

Windows Media Center alternatives

KODI (formerly XBMC)

KODI is a long-standing cross-platform media center which allows you to play media contents from local, network storage or Internet locations.

It was designed originally for Microsoft's first XBOX to add playback capabilities to it but has evolved since then and is now available for various operating systems and devices.

The program supports recording TV from within its interface provided you have a TV capture card connected to the PC for that.

It supports add-ons that extend the player's functionality. Add-ons may support for Internet services so that you can watch them in KODI, may add informational tools such as weather information, subtitle add-ons to retrieve them for media you want to play or games for entertainment.

Most media that you want to play in KODI is supported right away and there is usually a bunch of extra features integrated into every component of the software to make the experience even better.

The music player for instance supports tags, cue sheets and integrates with MusicBrainz while the mobie player imports posters, fan art, trailers and extras among other things.

It is easy to add media to your library in KODI. Point the program to the folder that contains the media, select its type, e.g. TV or Music, and let the program handle the rest. This is well integrated into the general application flow.



MediaPortal is a free open source media center that ships with everything you'd expect it to. It can play media (digital files and from disc), stream and record Internet radio or be used to watch and record TV.

Setup is not as streamlined as it is in KODI as you handle most settings in a separate configuration GUI that is not integrated well in the main media center application.

MediaPortal supports plugins that extend the program's functionality further. Plugins are managed via the Extensions Manager, a program that you need to run separately from the main media center application unless you install the Extensions plugin which adds them to it.



Plex is a cross-platform player that is available for Windows, Mac, FreeBSD and Linux systems as well as mobile devices, smart TVs and NAS devices.

Setup consists of two components that you need to install. First the Plex server which handles media distribution and streaming, and the the player component which you use to play media offered by the server.

This makes sense in many scenarios but if you want to run a media center on a single device that stores the media as well, then Plex is not the best choice because of this.

Another difference to most media center alternatives is the integration with Plex Online. You are asked to connect your setup to the online service on first run of the player component which you can skip. It adds sharing, remote queuing and other functionality to Plex.

First thing you do is add media folders to the server component. Just add a folder and select the type of media, and Plex will handle the rest. It adds thumbnails and media information automatically if they are not available which improves the experience when using the player component significantly.

Plex Premium is available that adds features such as cloud synchronization, camera uploads, trailer and interview contents, and mobile synchronization of media to the system.

Closing Words

All three media center alternatives work well and support major media formats out of the box. When it comes to selecting one, I suggest you start with KODI as it is the easiest to set up and use. That is, unless you plan to use a NAS or server to distribute media to other devices. If that is the case, Plex should be your first choice as it has been designed specifically for that purpose.

Now you: Are you using a media center application?

Top alternatives for Windows Media Center
Article Name
Top alternatives for Windows Media Center
The article lists the three best alternatives for Windows Media Center that Microsoft discontinued in Windows 10.

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Anonymous said on August 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Why not make use of the mplayer.conf?

  2. Mike J said on August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Huh, I have never even seen this “font cache” pane; videos play at once for me, using VLC & XP SP3.

    1. Martin said on August 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Mike, in theory this should have only been displayed once to you, at the very first video that you played with VLC. The time this window is displayed depends largely on the number of fonts in your font directory.

      1. Mike J said on August 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

        huh, I lucked out for a change?? Amazing!!
        Apparently VLC keeps this info through version updates, but I didn’t see this message after a fresh OS install about 8 weeks ago, & a new VLC.

  3. myo said on August 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    yes, yes, i have the same problem. sometimes, VLC crashes when it is playing .mov file.

  4. Kishore said on August 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Buidling font Cache pop-up


    Open VLC player.

    On Menu Bar:


    (at bottom – left side)
    Show settings — ALL

    Open: Video
    Click: Subtitles/OSD (This is now highlited, not opened)
    Text rendering module – change this to “Dummy font renderer function”


    Re-open – done.
    Progam will no longer look outside self for fonts

    Source –

    1. Martin said on August 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      Great tip, thanks a lot Kishore.

  5. javier said on August 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    @Kishore, I’ll try your tips, but does this mean it will no longer show subtitles either?
    I do use subtitles, but the fontcache dialog box pops up (almost) everytime I play a file.

    Could this be related to the fonts I have installed? Or if I add/remove fonts to my system?

    I’ll try to do a fresh install also, if your tips does no work. I’ll post back here later…


  6. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,

  7. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,Dont worry, VLC is currently sorting out this issue and the next version will be out soon.

    No probs @ Martin !! Its my pleasure

  8. Ted said on October 22, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Try running LC with administrator privileges. That seemed to fix it for me

  9. Evan said on December 8, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I am using SMplayer 0.8.6 (64-bit) (Portable Edition) on Windows 7 x64. Even with the -nofontconfig parameter in place SMplayer still scans the fonts. Also, I have enabled normal subtitles and it is still scanning fonts before playing a video. Also, it does this every time the player opens a video after a system restart (only the fist video played).

  10. Mike Williams said on September 6, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    Does that mean that only instrumental versions of songs will be available for non-paying users?

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.