Microsoft has decided to separate Windows Media Center from its latest operating system, making it a paid add-on to Windows 8 Pro. This has the consequence of making users wanting to upgrade their home theater PCs to Windows 8 have to pay not only for the more expensive Pro version but the add-on pack with WMC as well. Needless to say, I was less than pleased to hear that news. Especially, since CableCard users are stuck with WMC if they want to watch or record any shows flagged with anything more restrictive than copy freely (copy once, copy never).
Fortunately, Microsoft has backed away ever so slightly from that position by giving away free WMC keys to users until January 31, 2013. You will still need to pony up for the Pro version of Windows 8, but at least you will not have to pay for the add-on pack to get what is essentially the same media center that is available in Windows 7.
You can obtain a key by heading over to this Microsoft web page and entering your email address. The company is offering up a single key per email address. Even if you do not currently have Windows 8, it might be prudent to grab a key just in case. Note that you will need to activate the key by January 2013 or it will expire, however.
Once you have Windows 8 Pro installed, to add Windows Media Center, open up the Start Screen and search for “add features.” Click on “Settings” and then “Add features to Windows 8.” You will then be prompted for a product key, and once you input the key Microsoft emailed to you, follow the remaining prompts to install it. A restart will be required (and is automatic, so save any open documents!), and then you can get your WMC fix.
The promotion will end on January 2013 so grab the free keys while they last!
Read more about Windows 8 at PC Perspective.