Handy Tips for Windows Media Center and More

By Rick Broida, PC World |  Windows, Windows 7, Windows Media Center

Now that Microsoft's release of Windows 7 is just around the corner, everyone's falling over themselves with reviews and how-tos. I'm no different... this week I've got tips on tweaking Windows Media Center (which comes in Vista and Windows 7), plus some general Windows tips that make using the OS a little less frustrating.

Stop Windows Media Center from Using Your Entire Hard Drive

I'm a big fan of the Windows Media Center software that comes baked into most versions of Vista and Windows 7.

Specifically, I use it in conjunction with a TV tuner (four of them, actually) to turn my PC into a DVR--one that rivals TiVo, in my humble opinion.

Just one problem: If you use Windows Media Center to record TV shows, it can consume almost your entire hard drive.

For example, suppose you configure it to record 30 Rock, The Office, Mad Men, and your other favorite shows. By default, WMC records an unlimited number of episodes, and if a few weeks go before you're able to sit down and watch (that's what a DVR is for, right?), you may end up with a hard drive that's filled to the brim with TV--leaving you little or no room for anything else.

The solution is to limit the amount of space WMC can claim for TV recording. Here's how:

Start Windows Media Center. Scroll down to Tasks, then over to Settings and click it (or press Enter). Choose Recorder, and then Recorder Storage. (Note that these options appear only if you have a TV tuner installed and configured.) Use the Minus arrow next to Maximum TV limit to decrease the storage (in 25GB increments) to the amount you want to allow WMC. Click Save to finish the operation.

Make Documents and Media Open in the Proper Programs

My wife's computer came with a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007, but I installed IBM Lotus Symphony instead--in part because it's free, and in part because I think it's easier to use.

However, when the missus tries to open certain file types, like Docx and RTF, up pops Office 2007--the trial for which has long since expired. Why don't these files open in Symphony instead?

For whatever reason, certain file types remain "associated" with Office, meaning Windows doesn't know it's supposed to direct them to Symphony. Fortunately, that's an easy thing to fix.

In Vista and Windows 7, you can click Start, type Default, and then hit Enter to load Windows' Default Programs menu. You can then click "Associate a file type or protocol with a program," choose the file type in question, click Change Program, and go from there.

Whew! That's a lengthy process. My preference is simply to right-click any file that's incorrectly associated (like, say, one of the aformentioned RTFs), mouse over Open With, and then click Choose Default Program.

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