Hacking Windows 7 Media Center

Create Custom Themes and Start Menus with Media Center Studio

by @ 11:45 am on September 16th, 2009 in themes with 34 Comments

logo A new program we’ve all been waiting for quite some time to get our hands on, Media Center Studio, has finally arrived allowing even the most novice users the ability to create their own custom Media Center themes and Start Menu arrangements. Media Center Studio, created by Advent of the Australian Media Center Community the author of Media Center Menu Mender, gives users the ability to do what could formerly only be done with heavy editing of system files and registry settings. All this has now been packed into one handy program that’s reasonably easy to use by comparison.

To get started just head over to the Media Center Studio website and click the Download link to get the latest version of the program. There is also a sticky thread for the app on the Aus Media Center Community Forums you can check out should you have any troubles getting started. The software is still very early beta and as a result there are still a number of bugs to be found.

Once the program has been installed launch it from the programs menu and you’ll find a well styled interface allowing you to create new themes and edit the Media Center start menu. Let’s start by creating a new theme. To do this make sure you are on the themes tab and press the New button. This will create a new tab with all the theme editing options available including changing fonts colors, fonts, and images for each theme.

new theme

Just select the item you’d like to modify on the left and use the settings on the right to change that item’s appearance. You can change font colors using a series of sliders allowing for any RGB color allow with an alpha setting. A color selector would have honestly been preferable to this system as it can take quite a bit of play to get the color you are looking for. A point and click color wheel or similar system would be much simpler. Also, under the fonts section a crash occurred whenever attempting to bring up the dropdown box to select a new font, likely due to it’s just released beta status and will likely be fixed soon.

font color editor

Though the font color selector is somewhat tricky to master it is still a huge improvement over not being able to edit the colors at all. Modifying the font colors using Media Center Studio allow for successful font color changes for the first time which should open up a large number of possibilities for Media Center background images that would have previously conflicted with the bluish font colors that are default.

font colors

Changing images was also a snap. Just select the image that you’d like to alter and hit the browse button to select it’s replacement. However, after modifying the images another small bug was noticed as the option to save the theme wasn’t available until the font color was changed. There seems to be a bug in the detection of altered images and the save function.

theme editor

Themes aside, Media Center Studio also provides an excellent Start Menu editor. Selecting the Start Menu tab will bring up an editor similar to the Media Center Menu Mender that was popular with Vista Media Center users. Selecting the Start Menu option at the top also allows you to create custom entry points. The editor made it fairly easy to create a new strip and add an all new application to it.

Start by creating a new strip, press the Menu Strip button at the top and a new strip will be added to the lower viewport. Edit the name and location by pressing the small notepad icon next to the name then dragging the strip to the location you’d like it to appear. Next create a new entry point by pressing either the Application or Game button at the top. This will bring up a pane allowing you to select the application and then edit the icon and details of the program.

program options

The program options allow for some very advanced configuration of just what actions to perform before launching the program and how to exit the program and return to Media Center. There do seem to be some remaining bugs in the plugin that launches the programs however causing some Extensibility Host errors though they are being looked into and will hopefully be cleared up soon.

To add the program to your new start menu strip return to the Start Menu tab and expand the Entry Points pane at the bottom of the application. This will bring up a listing of all the available entry point which you can then drag and drop onto your new start menu strips. It should be noted that due to restrictions put in place by Microsoft you are still unable to add new tiles to the default strips.

add entry point

Once finished be sure to apply any theme changes you’ve made by returning to the original Themes tab and pressing the Apply button. You’ll notice there are also options to export and import themes from other Media Center Studio users. Expect to see plenty of new themes popping up over the course of the next few weeks available for download. We’ll be bringing Theme7MC over to integrate more with the current Hack7MC setup and updating software to make submitting and download themes much easier than the current system so look for that as well.

new background applied

That’s all there is to it! Relaunch Windows Media Center and bask in the glory of your newly customized interface. Be sure to stick around here on Hack7MC in the near future as we relaunch Theme7MC and bring it up to be the resource we know you’ll be needing now that it’s so easy to create and distribute your own custom themes. We’ll also be bringing you even more guides and updates on Media Center Studio so stick around and subscribe to Hack7MC!


Comment #3288 from Conor [Reply]

Great program,thanks

Comment left September 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm Permanent Link
Comment #3290 from Alessandro [Reply]

Great job!
Notice: since the ehres.dll is sometimes overwritten by windows updated, it would be good if the Media Center Studio could save the project file and reapply all the modification via command parameter (or similar) so it would be possibile to build a simple service that monitors ehres.dll to see if it has changed and in such a case reapply the modification.
Any thought?

Comment left September 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm Permanent Link
@Reply #3295 from Michael Healy [Reply]

Perhaps, though I would be worried about changes to the ehres file made by windows update being automatically changed by MC Studio potentially causing instability.

Comment left September 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm Permanent Link
Comment #3292 from Robert Wilson [Reply]

What a great tool!

I had some isses when launching games once added to the Extras strip with the Media Center Launcher Configurator. They would try to start, MCE would minimise and then a few seconds later – MCE would pop back up – seemingly overriding the applications attempt to launch.

Now however – I have added my own custom Games strip and they all work flawlessly!
Fantastic! I highly reccommend.

Not seen any bugs myself yet, but that’s all I’ve done. when I mess with it more I will see what happens!

Comment left September 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm Permanent Link

Comment #3304 from Mirko [Reply]

The last screenshot shows a weather forecast on the lower right. What kind of weather plugin is this?

Comment left September 17, 2009 at 4:08 am Permanent Link

Comment #3306 from Jasafo [Reply]

great app
but i have a little trouble with it

anytime i`d like to save or apply a theme this program Crashes

any idea why?

Comment left September 17, 2009 at 7:33 am Permanent Link

@Reply #3308 from Jasafo [Reply]

so ive found the bug its my german win7 RC it only works with english versions so far

damn hopefully advent will get this to work on other machines as well

Comment left September 17, 2009 at 7:40 am Permanent Link

@Reply #10189 from Frank [Reply]

I have the same problem. The program crashes anytime I try to do something with it.

Comment left April 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm Permanent Link

Comment #3349 from movnup [Reply]

Very cool, I tried five different images / font colors so far …. from a very high tech look to abtract light images and also MS blue on steroids. I haven’t been able to get the menu mender piece moving things up or down so far (they move/save in the program but don’t implement the changes). It also added a new strip and programs pretty easily. Getting close but not quite there yet but for an alpha / early beta this rocks !!!

Comment left September 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm Permanent Link
Comment #3550 from Jason Saggers [Reply]

What a buggy program, Also I can’t stand the ribbon menu setup like office 2007, drives me crazy.
Is there a web site that has pre built themes?

Comment left September 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm Permanent Link

Comment #4066 from RYO [Reply]

I have a little problem. I can’t insert and run a game or a program beacouse it says: Unable to lunch xy game.

Comment left October 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm Permanent Link
@Reply #4074 from Michael Healy [Reply]

MC Studio uses a custom application launcher to run programs and games. Be sure to make a post about your issue with plenty of details in the Aus. Media Center Community thread here so that if it’s a bug it can be fixed.

Comment left October 19, 2009 at 8:09 am Permanent Link

Comment #7988 from Chris [Reply]

Everyone else also getting the problem of that theme7mc.com doesn’t come up at all.. just getting:

Not Found
The requested URL / was not found on this server.

Comment left February 22, 2010 at 9:49 am Permanent Link

A Goosa
@Reply #8044 from A Goosa [Reply]

@ Chris:

Yeah man, I haven’t been able to get on there either.

@ Internet:

I have two major problems with MCStudio

1. Fonts drop down menu is BLANK when creating a new theme!! haha
2. Crashes every time that I try to import, .mct’s have been the only extensions I’ve been trying though FYI.

Anyone know a fix for this or do we just wait?

Comment left February 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm Permanent Link

Comment #8164 from Chris [Reply]

Yeah, kinda makes the whole area of the website worthless if they are promoting all these “themes” to download and yet, the website theme7mc.com doesn’t even come up anywhere.. just get a dead page.

Comment left February 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm Permanent Link

Comment #11870 from George [Reply]

[insert rant about unintuitive software hear]

Terrible application with no explanation of what anything does, no documentation and a forum where it’s all praise and everyone just seems to know how to use the application.

I know it’s only a beta but a simple step 1 to whatever to create a basic theme would go along way towards making this application useable

Comment left May 30, 2010 at 11:52 am Permanent Link

Comment #13082 from Matt [Reply]

Worst app I’ve used for Media center. It totally dicked everything up and all I wanted to do was just rearrange the programs thats it and now I have to reinstall windows just to fix all the issues this piece of shit caused.

Comment left June 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm Permanent Link

Comment #14786 from Anonymous [Reply]

Piece of shit software fuck all works

Comment left August 6, 2010 at 1:04 pm Permanent Link

Comment #14787 from Anonymous [Reply]

This software is shite, to do a simple thing like rearange items its a fucking nightmare.use something simple like WMCCC Wizard.

Comment left August 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm Permanent Link
Comment #14796 from Mattias Magnusson [Reply]

Not working for me whats the prob? :S

Comment left August 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm Permanent Link

Comment #15009 from Anonymous [Reply]

app crashes as soon as i try to apply a theme….Win 7 x64

Comment left August 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm Permanent Link

Angry Old Man
Comment #15201 from Angry Old Man [Reply]

Agree with most of the above posts. It is a bad application. The author should invest some time in error handling.

Comment left August 14, 2010 at 5:38 am Permanent Link
Comment #16573 from sdmix [Reply]

This app used to be very good and worked wonderfully. However due to a behind the scenes update from mcupdate it has broken this programs ability to create custom strips and themes.

Changing the permissions of the startupresources.dll file (which was changed during the update) for media center can help fix the problem, but I have found this to only be a temp fix, rather than long term. I can also cause media center to become very unstable.

Does anyone know of any other programs like this studio out there?

Comment left September 2, 2010 at 11:13 am Permanent Link

Comment #16907 from Anonymous [Reply]

not found anything similar, im guessing sky dont like having there icon removed or sumthin, real shame, and another example of microsoft turning windows into mac os :/

i got one theme loaded and then microsoft arsed it up, only reason i still use it is GB-PVR doesnt get on well with my tv card, as soon as it does im changing,,unless MS decide to put there customers above the advertising income,,,which is unlikely, once again fu ms, and thanks for the support for my years of loyalty and expensive upgrades, no wonder xp is twice the price of vista atm

Comment left September 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm Permanent Link

Comment #45951 from Joel [Reply]

Anybody know what the Weather plugin in the last screenshot on the bottom right is? It’showing the Day and weather. I would love it.

Comment left August 2, 2011 at 8:37 am Permanent Link
@Reply #53547 from Susy [Reply]

THX that\’s a great awnesr!

Comment left December 8, 2011 at 3:41 am Permanent Link

Comment #45952 from Joel [Reply]

Sorry, just realised someone has already answered this question. It’s called Vista4cast

Comment left August 2, 2011 at 8:44 am Permanent Link

Comment #47927 from softhacker [Reply]

Not bad… but this shit need to be a translated to an another languages!


Comment left September 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm Permanent Link

Karl Sturm
Comment #49256 from Karl Sturm [Reply]

The link to Media Center Studio dosn’t work. The website is down! Where can I get the software? Is there an alternative?

Comment left October 20, 2011 at 3:56 am Permanent Link

Comment #49469 from Steve [Reply]

PLEASE fix the links. Where do you find the software??

Comment left October 26, 2011 at 5:37 am Permanent Link

Comment #49498 from Anonymous [Reply]

Media Center Studio no longer works and is no longer supported by it’s creator.

The information on this article is no longer significant and the links no longer work.

Please take this content down so people do not think this is still possible..

Comment left October 26, 2011 at 9:38 am Permanent Link

Evil E
Comment #50354 from Evil E [Reply]

The download link doesnt work anymore, How can I download it. The main website has expired.

Comment left November 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm Permanent Link

Comment #86074 from Slothie [Reply]

Download link is here


Also the program still works fine as well.

Comment left October 21, 2012 at 4:45 am Permanent Link

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