Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Using a Windows Laptop as a Media Center

Here are some tips when using a Windows laptop connected to a large-screen HDTV. 

I have a Windows 7 laptop connected to a 50-inch HDTV in my living room and office, and it serves as the media center.  Movie files and TV shows are played from this laptop, and I can stream video from Amazon or Netflix.  The laptop even serves as a DVR using a program called Windows Media Center (WMC).  

1.  How do I turn off my laptops display when plugged into my television?
I prefer to have my laptop closed when connected to my 50" plasma HDTV.  I have long been able to do this with my Mac, but until last week, never figured out how to do this with a Windows 7 laptop.  Here's the solution, from a forum:

"Another way (if you use a separate keyboard and mouse) is go to power options and change closing the lid action from "sleep" to "do nothing", that way you can simply close the lid and carry on watching on the TV. It's also useful for extending battery life when just listening to music (just flip the lid down and you've got the screen off but the music still plays)."

Here's a screengrab of how to do this -- thanks for the website:

2.  My Windows 7 laptop is the computer that connects to the TV in my office and living room.  I often will have a file on my Mac that I'd like to transfer to my w7 laptop.  Here's how to do it:

This web page describes the process:

From the above page:
Set up sharing on a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer

To share a folder, right-click the folder’s icon, then choose Share with. Choose “Specific people,” then follow the onscreen instructions.

You may need to disable the Internet Connection Firewall in the Advanced pane of the device’s properties. If you can’t disable the Internet Connection Firewall, make sure TCP port 445 is open. For more information, refer to the manual and onscreen help that came with the Windows computer.

You may need to restart the Windows computer after setting it up.

If you have never set up the Windows computer for sharing, open Network and Sharing Center, then follow the onscreen instructions to set up a new network.

3.  I run a free Microsoft program called Windows Media Center (WMC) which is included with Windows 7 machines.  I have had WMC on my Windows laptops for several years.  A Windows 7 laptop thus serves as a DVR.  It records shows flawlessly from over-the-air (OTA) using an antenna, and from Comcast's unencrypted basic cable stations.  I use SiliconDust HDHomerun tuners.  The tuners take a TV signal from cable or antenna, convert it to a digital IP signal, then WMC in a Windows laptop is able to tune into specific stations.  Great TV guide listings.  It's basically a Tivo or a Comcast DVR that I don't have to pay monthly fees for. 

With a Windows laptop with WMC, I can view live TV wirelessly, or view the programs recorded on a DVR via wifi. Xbox 360s serve as "extenders" so you can see WMC content (live TV, recorded shows) on other TVs in the house.

Unfortunately, with Windows 10, WMC is no longer included in Windows.  I believe that you can download it for free and install it, however. 

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