No matter which edition of Windows 8 operating system you are using, Windows Media Center isn’t part of Windows 8. Media Center is available as a paid add-on for Windows 8 Pro edition only (see Windows 8 vs Windows 8 Pro) and one needs to shell out $9.99 to purchase Media Center Pack.
Windows 8 users who can’t install Media Center or Windows 8 Pro users who don’t like to purchase the add-on can try out MediaPortal software, one of the best Windows Media Center alternatives around.
MediaPortal is a free, open-source media center software for Windows. The developers behind MediaPortal have just released the final version of MediaPortal 1.3 with a host of new features and changes. And the best thing is MediaPortal 1.3.0 officially supports Windows 8 as well.
MediaPortal 1.3.0 comes with a new skin that lets access almost all MediaPortal settings without leaving MediaPortal. Several improvements have been made to video playback and MediaPortal can now play unencrypted Blu-ray discs without the help of third-party video player. Another cool thing is that the default settings of the installer installs LAV Filters so that you can play most audio and video file formats out of the box.
MediaPortal grants you access to a host of audio, video and picture file formats. Even though the interface of the program is pretty good and easy to navigate, first time users and PC users who’re used to Windows Media Center program may need some time to get used to this interface.
Besides, you can read latest news and articles within MediaPortal, search Wikipedia, and you can also play Sudoku and Tetris games. Users can add new features to MediaPortal by installing new plugins.
If you’re using MediaPortal 1.2.x or 1.3 Beta/RC you can upgrade to 1.3.0 final version without losing your settings. However, please note that some old plugins might not be compatible with this version of MediaPortal.
Available in over 30 languages, MediaPortal is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. XBMC is also another good Windows Media Center alternative.