Yes, you read that title correctly. As detailed earlier this week, Media Center users will find that their favorite home theater PC software no longer comes bundled with Windows. It's been there since the XP days but now Media Center has been relegated to add-on status (not entirely a bad thing) and you'll need to grab yourself a product key and get it added to Windows before you can use it.
Getting Your Key
If you've decided to go with Windows 8 Pro on your HTPC (and you should) you can actually get Media Center for free until the end of January 2013. After that, the add-on will cost you $9.99. Not a bad price for something that can control entertainment for your entire home, but we might as well grab it while it's free.
To get your key, head to this site, enter your email address and wait. The site will tell you that it can take up to 24 hours to receive your key and that's about how long it took for me to receive one. Once you get your email from Microsoft, you're ready to install Media Center.
Installing Media Center
Since Media Center is now an add-on, you don't install it like a regular program. Media Center is actually built into Windows 8 but Microsoft wants you to pay for it so you need to unlock it. This isn't a difficult proposition and you should be up and running in no time.
First, move you mouse to the upper right hand corner of the screen and open the charms bar. From there, click "Search" and type "Add Features". You'll find two selections under settings. You want to choose "Add Features to Windows".
Once you've clicked through, you'll be presented with a simple window asking if you want to add features to Windows. Since you already have a product key you won't need to buy one and should click "I already have a key". Click through and you'll enter the key you received in the email in the box presented. Once you do, Windows will do its thing including reboot. This process took several minutes for me so you can probably walk away from the PC for awhile during the upgrade.
Once the process has run through and your PC has rebooted, you're ready to begin using Media Center 8. Be sure and hold on to your Media Center key (as well as the key for Windows 8 Pro) in case you ever need to do a reinstall of your HTPC. If you misplace it, you can bet that you'll be paying the $9.99 after January of next year.
Should You Pay?
The Media Center community was all in a tizzy earlier this year when MS announced that Media Center would be a paid add-on for Windows 8. Some said that this was the end of Media Center. Others, like myself, said about time. With MS charging for Media Center they may find that there's enough money in it to actually support the feature.
Really this could go either way at this point. Only time will tell if Microsoft will continue to support Media Center development. I know that I certainly hope so but hope won't make it happen. This tells me that we as users should pay for the software. Oh, don't misunderstand, I took my free key but that doesn't mean I won't pay for a copy once January 2013 has come and gone.