Getting Windows Media Center to stream DivX/XviD to an Xbox 360 from Vista x64

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I’ve been spending the past couple weeks playing with a brand new machine I made for Windows Vista, and it’s been great. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most is Windows Media Center. Aside from the fun I can have developing WMC addons, I’ve been meaning to try out the Windows Media Extender functionality of my Xbox 360. Hooking up my laptop to my TV every time I want to watch things just doesn’t cut it. Unfortunately, I have one problem - most of what I watch is already encoded in XviD format, which the Xbox 360 lacks a codec for.

But that’s not my only roadblock. Being a sucker for the bleeding edge, I decided that my shiny new Core 2 Duo, being a 64-bit processor, should run Windows Vista Ultimate x64. Right off the bat this presented a problem - after installing DivX and XviD, Windows Media Center would complain that any file I threw at it was unreadable. This didn’t make any sense, since those same videos played just fine in Windows Media Player. Perplexed, I happened upon Task Manager, where I noted that Windows Media Center was running in native (64-bit) mode, while Windows Media Player was running in 32-bit mode. The problem was that I only had 32-bit video codecs, and Windows Media Center couldn’t use them from its 64-bit ivory tower.

However, no problem is a problem for very long. Both of my issues can be resolved with freely available software, and here’s how it works. First, you need to install the ffdshow Vista Codec Package. This will put video codecs for just about every known video format onto your machine. No worrying about downloading this codec and that codec - they’re all here. Next, install the ffdshow x64 components. This makes all those codecs usable from 64-bit programs, as well as giving you a handy shortcut that will set Windows Media Player to always run as 64-bit, too!

Now all your videos work in Media Center. To close the gap with the Xbox, you need Transcode360. This app will transcode your videos, on the fly, into a format the Xbox 360 can understand. It takes a hefty machine, but you’ve got a 64-bit processor anyway, right? Once this is installed, just fire up Media Center from your Xbox, navigate to a movie, hit “Info” on your remote, select “More…”, and select “Transcode 360”. It’ll pause for a while as it crunches through the first few minutes of your video, then it’ll start. Voila!

I'm Benjamin Hollis, a software developer in Seattle. Check out my website.