How To Set Up a Networked Home Theater with an Xbox 360

How To Set Up a Networked Home Theater with an Xbox 360

Range Govindan
Feb 9, 2010

Home theaters can get quite complicated, but for most of us, it doesn't have to be. There are all sorts of gizmos to better a home theater, but most of them aren't needed (unless you really want them). This home theater setup is simple, it does quite a few things, plus you'll be surprised by the key element -- an Xbox 360!

This setup implies that you've already got an HDTV, some decent speakers, maybe a tuner, a Blu-ray player, and other devices. Everyone has different peripherals that create slightly different results, but the key elements here are an HDTV, home network, computer, and an Xbox 360. We know, your kids will be thrilled!

First things first, you'll need your home network to be set-up for WiFi. We're not going to get into the specifics here, but you'll need to purchase a wireless router and set-up your network to be wireless.

What You Need

Xbox 360
Xbox 360 wireless adaptor
WiFi home network
Broadband internet connection

Before You Start

1. We've found that setting this type of home theater up is very simple using an Xbox. You can also use a PS3, but Microsoft built the Xbox 360 to work with networks and this is where the console shines.

2. We recommend you purchase a wireless adapter for your new Xbox. This will cut down on wires and keep things neat and tidy.

3. Once you've got your hardware all plugged in and setup, you're ready to start Windows Media Extender. This app lets your Xbox access video files, photos, and music from any computer that's on your home network.


1. You'll start by installing Windows Media Center on your PC. Depending on which version of Windows your computer is running, you'll have to do different things, but if you're running the latest versions, WMC is already included and you can skip this step.

2. Find the setup key for your Xbox 360 by pressing the Media Center Star button on the Xbox 360 remote or by going to My Xbox, then selecting Windows Media Center. The setup key is an 8-digit ID that you'll need to write down.

3. On your computer, select Window Media Center > Select Tasks > Add Extender. You'll be prompted to add the 8-digit key. Complete the setup.

4. Voila! You've turned your home theater into a media hub, thanks to the Xbox 360. Almost everything on your computer can now be accessed via your gaming console.

Up to five Extenders can stream content from one Windows 7 computer. However, your Extender's performance is dependent on your home network capability and your computer's hardware and configuration. For example, if you plan to regularly stream high-definition content to more than one Extender, you should consider increasing processor speed and memory as well as implement a wired, gigabit network. As a general guideline, you should have one CPU core and one gigabyte of memory per Extender. For example, if you plan to stream content to two Extenders, your PC should have dual-core processors with two gigabytes (2GB) of memory.

Additional Notes:
This setup works with Windows computer. It might be possible to use a virtual machine like VMWare on Macs to do the same thing, but we haven't tried this. If you run into trouble, check out David McGrath's post on how to do this without any problems. If you want to do more, check out Jason Cypret's site on how to do even more with this type of home theater.

Want more smart tutorials for getting things done around the home?
Click to see all of this month's Home Hacks tutorials.

(Images: David McGrath and Jason Cypret)

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