Vista Media Center cannot consume Media Sharing

After a rebuild of my desktop PC to Windows Vista and a shuffle of my hard drives to give more capacity to my Windows Home Server, all the content for my Vista Media Center had moved. This required a rebuild of my Media Center library but this time I wanted to be smarter about it so that I would not have this same issue later. Windows Home Server has the well promoted Windows Home Server Media Sharing feature which states,

Windows® Home Server Media Sharing enables you to view, listen, and watch your
favorite media stored on your home server by using digital media receivers and playback
devices, such as the Microsoft® Xbox 360™.

After you have enabled Media Sharing in Windows Home Server, you can simultaneously
share photos, music, and videos to your home computers and various devices that
support Windows Media Connect.

Before I enabled it on my Home Server, due to the potential file copy performance issues that can be aggravated, I decided to test it first hosting from my main desktop PC. Enabling Media Sharing is very easy. Under the library menu of Windows Media Player is Media Sharing…

On the Media Center under Networking in Explorer the Media Sharing from desktop is shown as a network device. Clicking on this opens up media player and the shared media library is available as a separate library and works just like the local library.

The nice advantage of this is that the you only need to maintain your library is one place and all the updates are immediately available on by the media consuming machine or devices. Opening up Media Center however, the picture was not so bright. Since the shared media is attached in Media Player as another library, the fact the Media Center and Media Player use the same library is void, and the shared media does not come through to Media Center. I found this thread on The Green Button which covers the issue and Noah Spitzer-Williams, Program Manager for Media Center, entered the discussion and cleared things up,

Just to set the story straight:
– No, Media Center in Vista does not look for shared libraries even though they appear in WMP.
– Yes, this is something we are seriously considering for our next release.  Stay tuned.
– The best workaround today is to share your music out on a network share and have WMP grovel it.  However, like others have said, the groveling process can be slow over a network and the best method is to manually add the shared music to your library.

Hope that helps!


Ok, so no Media Sharing consuming for Media Center. At least they are aware of the issue. Looking closer at the Windows Home Server Media Sharing documentation there is a section on Streaming Music to devices and Media Center is included. The recommendation is to enable the Home Server guest account and add the shared folders to the folder watch list. I already have the Media Center user a user in the Home Server, so I do not need to activate the Guest account. I am cautious that if the user has write access to anything, which is useful to update media information, the current home server corruption bug may appear.

Disappointed with Media Center, I then went for a last ditch effort to make use of this Media Sharing. My wife uses exclusively my old laptop. It is running Windows XP Professional with Media Player 11. Immediately the Media Sharing menus did not work the way they did in Vista so I was suspicious. Very quickly I found the Media Sharing FAQ which nicely told me XP could share the media library, but not consume one! What good is that? I can see the usefulness of Media Sharing, but unfortunately at the moment it can only be used if you have an Xbox 360, which if you have a Media Center alternately could be used as a Media Center extender anyway.