Turn Your PC Into a Media Center With XBMC

DVD’s are things of the past and not just on PC’s.  The DVD disks are too fragile and a pain to maintain.

With hard drives being sold at throwaway prices, people started moving away from DVD drives and looking at their PC’s as an convenient alternative. Today, I’m going to show how to turn your PC into a media center.

What is XBMC?

XBMC is an open source, cross platform Media center application. It was formerly named as Xbox media center and it was originally developed as a media center for Xbox consoles.

But it became a native app for PC two years back and has evolved into one of the most popular media center application since then.

Getting Started

People often tend to assume that a media center PC requires a lot of power. But in reality it’s quite the opposite.

All you need is a decent PC with some ability to render frames without any struggle(especially while decoding). I’ve set up my media center in my 6 year old Intel Core2Duo PC and I haven’t seen any issues.

XBMC doesn’t require any fancy hardware. It’ll work smoothly even in your grandma’s old PC, but for decoding your files, you’re gonna need a bit more power. You’d be surprised to see the number of formats being supported by XBMC.

Adding Media

Add your files

Once the installation is complete, you will need to add your media files. You can add Pictures, Music, Movies and TV shows. Just add your source and watch XBMC working its magic. Based on the way you’ve organized your media files, you might wanna choose the crawler carefully.

This just takes a few seconds to complete and your media files are organised neatly.

Scraping Metadata

Scrape Metadata

Scrape Metadata

Wouldn’t it be a better idea to see the movie information before actually watching it? That’s exactly scrapers lets you do. It gathers all the movie information from the web and displays it in the media manager.

While adding your media files, you can choose your favorite scraper- the place from where you can scrape all the details. Pretty cool, ain’t it?

Customizability

Why XBMC is so popular today is much due to its flexibility. You can customize it till the last inch. There are loads of third party skins, add-ons available at your disposal.

Skins

Customization

If you like to change the default looks, then this one is for you. XBMC has loads of designs available. Confluence,by far, has the most stunning interface, so does Aeon.

Add-ons

Power-up my shield

If you feel XBMC is chaotic, then you haven’t configured it properly. All you need is a few add-ons to enhance its power. Add-ons are third-party apps/ plugins for XBMC, to make improve your experience. HuLu, NetFlix add-ons are excellent to start with.

Interface

If you’ve used XBMC before, it’d be hard to miss its gigantic UI. The text is easily readable even from a few feet away, the buttons are so accessible.

Yes, you guessed right. XBMC sports a 10 foot interface, i.e. you can read anything on the screen even from a 10 ft distance. Of Course, it’s designed for TV’s or huge monitors, but it’s still accessible from my 15″ XPS as well.

Overall, the interface looks great and everything is easily accessible. As shown above, you get a lot of options to customize your stuff. But then again, given the complexity of the application it takes some time to get used to.

Wrapping Up

I’ve been using XBMC for quite a while now and surprisingly, I don’t have many complaints. The scrapers refused to work until I precisely followed the naming conventions. But it’s a one time effort and shouldn’t cause any problems. Apart from that, it’s a pretty good service.

Due to its open source nature, there are many third party forks for XBMC like Plex, or Boxee. If you’re a power user and find yourself in need of more powerful features, I’d encourage you to check out Plex. But for average users like me, XBMC should do wonders.


Summary

XBMC is a free, open source Media center application.

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