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Add an Xbox 360 : Configure the Windows Vista–Based PC

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10/21/2011 5:33:33 PM

Opt for the Xbox

Although several types of media extenders exist, the Xbox 360 and its successors are my favorite. Of course, you can use the Xbox 360 to play games, but it’s also capable of displaying media on high-end home-theater equipment, big-screen HDTVs, and similar home-theater hardware. Because you can use the Xbox 360 to access media stored on your Windows Vista–based PC, the media you access will look and feel just the way it does when you’re sitting in front of your PC. There’s nothing new to learn and no new skills to acquire. Just connect it, and enjoy!

With a media extender such as an Xbox 360 and a PC with the Windows Vista operating system, you can watch media stored on your PC anywhere in your home by incorporating your wired or wireless network connection.


To use the Xbox 360 as a media extender, you’ll need to connect the console to a PC powered by Windows Media Center. Windows Media Center comes installed only on Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.

Meet Network Requirements

A fast—100 megabits per second (Mbps) or faster—wired network is the best kind of network to use when connecting an Xbox to use as a media extender. A high-speed wired network provides only slight interference, provides maximum speed, and is often more reliable than a wireless network.

If you can’t or don’t want to run a wired connection to your Xbox 360, wireless is your second option. The problem with wireless networks and the Xbox 360 is that cordless phones and microwave ovens can interfere with the wireless signals needed by your network and may cause connections to fail or become sluggish. If you must use wireless, though, and can choose from the wireless standards, 802.11a is recommended not only because it is faster than 802.11b but also because it operates on a separate frequency from cell phones and the like.

Connect the Xbox 360 to the Network

You must connect your Xbox 360 to your network. If you have a wired network, just about all you have to do to connect it is to plug in the Ethernet cable that connects the Xbox 360 to your home network and plug the Xbox 360’s power cord into a wall outlet. To be thorough, though, it’s best to follow the step-by-step instructions included with the Xbox 360 if you aren’t sure.

If you are connecting to a wireless network, you may need to configure wireless security and other settings on the Xbox 360 first. You’ll be prompted regarding what you need to input, which may include Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) keys and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) passphrases. A red light indicates it’s ready to connect. Once you have the green light, the adapter is on and is connected to a wireless access point. If you need help, refer to the documentation included with your Xbox or go to www.xbox.com.

Configure the Xbox 360

After you have connected the Xbox 360 to the home network, turn it on. Then, work from the Media tab in the menu that’s offered:

On the Media tab, select Media Center.

When prompted to connect the Xbox 360 to a PC with Media Center on your network, select A to continue. Note that if the Xbox 360 is connected to an 802.11b or 802.11g wireless network, you may be warned that poor performance can result. You should switch to a higher-performance wireless network (such as 802.11a) if your wireless router supports it. Be careful, though, because other devices on your network may not support 802.11a. Select Continue, and press A (Select) to continue.

Once connected, write down the Media Center setup key displayed on the screen. This code ensures that the Xbox 360 connects only with your Windows Vista–based PC, not any other on the network.

Press A to continue.

Configure the Windows Vista–Based PC

With the Xbox 360 connected to the network and with a Media Center setup key in hand, return to your Windows Vista–based PC. Click Start, and click Media Center. If you’re prompted that the Xbox has been found on the network, click Yes, and skip to step 3.

To add an extender by using Windows Media Center, follow these steps:

Click Start, All Programs, Media Center.

Scroll down to Tasks, and then scroll right to Add Extender. Click Next to continue.

Type the eight-digit setup key displayed by the Xbox 360.

Click Next to continue.

Click Yes to see the media folders on your extender. Click Next.

Wait while the setup completes.

If prompted, click Yes (Recommended) to run the network performance tuner. Click Next. (If you aren’t prompted or do not want to tune the network now and you want to return to the option later from Media Center, click Tasks, click Settings, click Extender, select the extender, and click Tune Network.)

Select Bar View or Graph View. Click Next.

Make adjustments to create the best signal possible. If you cannot get a good wireless signal, connect with Ethernet.

Click Finish.

Media sharing must be turned on under Network and Sharing, and the network must be private for media sharing to work. When media sharing is on, people and devices on the network can access shared music, pictures, and video on the computer, and the computer can also find and access these types of media on the network. The network must also be private to protect your personal data from being shared with others who you do not want to have access. If you’re unsure about any of this, click Start, click Network, and open the Network and Sharing Center. Verify that the Media Sharing option is set to On and that the network is set to Private, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Make sure your network is private and media sharing is on.

Turn on Media Sharing in Windows Media Player 11

You can turn on media sharing in Media Player 11. To configure media sharing in this manner on the Windows Vista–based PC, follow these steps:

Click Start, All Programs, Windows Media Player.

Click the arrow under the Library button, and then click Media Sharing. Windows Media Player 11 lists all devices that have been allowed or denied access to your media library.

To access your media library from the Xbox 360, click it, and then click Allow. A green check mark appears after you allow the device to access your media library. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. If you see this exclamation point in the yellow triangle, click the icon, and select Allow.

Understand What Media Can Be Shared

You can share just about any media you have stored on your PC with others on your network and the media extender. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Protected Windows Media files downloaded from online stores.

  • Music files, such as Windows Media Audio, MP3, and WAV files. You cannot share audio CDs inserted into the PC.

  • Video files, such as Windows Media Video, AVI, MPEG-1, and MPEG-2. You cannot share DVD-Video discs inserted into the PC.

  • Picture files, including JPEG and PNG.

  • Playlists, such as Windows Media playlists and MP3 playlists.

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