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Supported Media Types for Windows Media Center

The following media types are natively supported on all Windows Media Center platforms, which include all Media Center Extender devices. Additional media types may be supported on the PC only by installing a third-party codec. File formats not listed below may not work on Media Center Extenders and thus when designing for Windows Media Center, we highly recommend using only the following media formats:

Media Types Supported by all Windows Media Center Platforms


  • Windows Media Video (WMV) 9
    • Maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p) at 30 frames per second
    • Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) support up to level 2000
  • MPEG-1
    • MPEG-1 layer I and II audio
  • MPEG-2
    • Maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080i)
    • MPEG-1 layer I and II or AC-3 audio


  • Windows Media Audio (WMA) 7, 8, and 9, WMA Professional
    • Windows Media DRM support up to Level 2000
  • WMA Lossless
  • MP3

Additional Media Types Supported by certain Media Center Extenders

Additionally, some Media Center Extender devices such as the Xbox 360 may also support the following media:


  • WMV 7 & 8
  • WMV Image 1 & 2
    • Maximum resolution of 800 x 600


  • WMA Lossless with DRM support
    • Windows Media DRM support up to Level 2000


  • Limited ASX playlist support. Extender devices support Windows Media Player playlists (ASX playlists) only for basic playing of files.

    Of the elements available for Windows Media metafiles, only ASX, ENTRY, and REF are supported. Elements that specify additional ASX functionality, such as DURATION, EVENT, ENDMARKER, or PARAM, are ignored in the Extender session. If you create your playlists to include ignored elements, the files specified in your REF elements should still play in order, but you might lose some functionality. If you try to nest a metafile using the ENTRYREF element, this may result in a video or audio error on the Extender device.

If your application provides content that is not listed above, it may not be playable on a Media Center Extender device and the application should inform the user that the content can be played only on the host computer. The application can inform the user by displaying a message when the user starts a downloading or streaming operation from a Media Center Extender session, or by providing UI tags for each content file. To detect whether the user is in a Media Center Extender session or on the host computer, see Identifying a Media Center Extender Session.

Supporting Digital Rights Management

Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a proven platform that protects content for playback on a computer, portable device, or network device. A license, which is required to play protected content, is issued separately and contains the terms for playback, such as an expiration date. Windows Media DRM supports a range of business models from single downloads to subscription services for audio and video content.

Windows Media Center supports playback of protected Windows Media-based content. If the user acquires protected content, Windows Media Center can decrypt the content if a license is present, and then plays the content according to the terms of the license. If a license is not present, Windows Media Center attempts to acquire a license by opening the license acquisition URL that is specified in the content header.

Windows Media Center does not provide a way for you to protect your own content using DRM. For information about protecting content and issuing licenses, see the following topics on the Microsoft web site:

We recommend that you have your license provider issue licenses silently whenever possible to avoid displaying any user interface to the end user.

Working with Playlists

The Windows Media Center SDK does not provide any methods for creating playlists. However, you can create playlists outside of Windows Media Center and play them. For example, you can create a Windows Media Player playlist file in .ASX or .WPL format, and your application can play the playlist within Windows Media Center.

You can play audio and video playlists, although Windows Media Center cannot play nested playlists (a playlist in which one or more entries is another playlist). For a playlist to work, each entry in that playlist must be a media file. Furthermore, we strongly recommend against the use of server-side playlists because server-side playlists are not supported on Media Center Extender devices.

DirectShow Filters

Windows Media Center supports the same codecs that are supported by Windows Media Player. Windows Media Center relies on Microsoft DirectShow filters to render audio and video content, and includes a set of default filters that support a wide variety of audio and video formats.

If your application's audio or video format is not supported by the default filters, you can add support by installing and registering a custom DirectShow source filter on the Windows Media Center PC, thereby allowing the MediaCenterEnvironment.PlayMedia method to play the media without the need for you to write any additional code.

By adding a custom filter, your application automatically receives the following support from Windows Media Center:

  • An on-screen seek bar that appears when the user pauses or rewinds the content.
  • Full integration with the remote control (transport controls, navigation, and so on).
  • Seamless playback in the Windows Media Center shared view port (as when viewing a TV show in Windows Media Center) when the user navigates to another place in Windows Media Center.
  • On-screen transport controls for mouse users.
  • Improved performance for playback.
  • Use of the Now Playing page for audio content (album art, song lists, and so on).

For more information about DirectShow filters, see the following topics on the MSDN web site:

Sample Explorer

  • MediaCenterEnvironment > PlayMedia - Audio
  • MediaCenterEnvironment > PlayMedia - Video

See Also