Windows 10 giveth, but it also taketh away.
Microsoft's new OS has a lot of good features, but Windows Media Center isn't one of them. That's a problem for people who want to play DVDs, use their PCs as a DVR, or catalog collections of music without using iTunes, an app that seems to get worse every time Apple upgrades it.
If you're using Windows 10 and miss Media Center, you can still get some -- but not all -- of its features via Microsoft's app store and the new Windows DVD Player. Depending on how you got your hands on Windows 10, it's either free or a $15 download. (There are also other ways to get much of the same functionality, and I'll get to that in a bit.)
How to get Windows DVD Player
If your computer had Media Center before the upgrade, you can get a free copy of Windows DVD Player. Most versions of Windows 7 had it, but some versions of Windows 8 didn't, in which case you have to pay $15. You also have to pay the fee if you bought a new computer with Windows 10 already installed, or you purchased a full version of the software at a retail store.
Of course, there's a catch: Microsoft said the free download is only available for a limited time, but it wasn't specific about when the clock runs out on the offer. Windows 10 upgrades will be free until next July.
If you opt for the upgrade, you won't get a new version of Media Center; instead, you get the DVD player app. Streaming video has become the way many, if not most, consumers watch movies on their PCs, but Netflix and other similar services reserve some of the best movies for the get-it-in-the-mailbox crowd.
I haven't tried the new Windows 10 player yet, but I see 19 user reviews on the download page, and they are not good. The complaints suggest the player doesn't support various DVD formats and doesn't work very well.
Alternatives to Windows DVD Player
As mentioned, Windows 10 lacks a number of other important capabilities, including the ability to play Blu-ray discs and serve as a DVR. So even if you can get Microsoft's Windows DVD Player for free, you're probably better off with a third-party alternative.
VLC Media Player, a free open-source player that plays most multimedia files, as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols, is one of the most popular options. If you want to use your PC as a DVR, TechHive has a good rundown on the necessary software and hardware.
Microsoft also removed more venerable features from Windows 10, including a trio of popular games: Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts. For some reason, they call these omissions "feature depreciation," and you can read all about it on the company's site.
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