In the good old days, Microsoft had its own media software that you could hook up using a PC in your living room beneath your TV and have a great time. Now, with Windows 10, you can't do that as easily, and while there are ways to access Media Center, it's not going to be supported into the future.
Luckily, there are Windows-friendly alternatives, some very good alternatives at that. If you need a DVR solution that works with your Windows PC, take a look at some of these.
Plex's DVR requires Plex Pass, a subscription that can be paid for monthly, yearly or for a lifetime pass for $120. It works with the most popular tuners on the market, is incredibly easy to set up and at the time of writing, is in the middle of a live TV rollout.
One of the strong points for the Plex DVR is that it has an integrated TV guide and rich metadata built in, so all you do is set it up, tell it where you are and it will do the rest.
You can run Plex on a wide range of hardware, too, not just PCs. It's possible to run the Plex Media Server, which is the backbone of everything it does, on a network attached storage (NAS), a Wi-Fi router, or even the NVIDIA Shield TV. There's a lot of flexibility and it has client apps for basically every platform you could imagine, so you're never far away from your favorite recorded shows.
As an all-rounder for the home media center, Emby is a great alternative to Plex. It does many of the same things, mixing your own media with live TV and DVR. You'll have to be an Emby Premiere subscriber to use the DVR, but it's reasonably priced at $99 for a lifetime license, with options to pay monthly or yearly. The Emby Server is available for Windows, Mac, some NAS boxes and other platforms, too.
Setup is easy, and if you're using a compatible tuner it takes only a few moments. The only drawback here is that Emby asks you to provide a source of TV guide data. Without it, you just have a list of channels with no idea what's actually showing on them.
This could bring an extra cost if you're using something like Schedules Direct, but there are free options out there depending on your location. Once you have Emby, you have a great DVR setup with client apps to use on a number of platforms and one that hooks into the popular service Kodi really well.
If you're using an HDHomeRun tuner for your TV and you just want an easy way to record content, SiliconDust's own DVR might be the solution for you. It's currently still a work in progress, but you're able to get early access for a reduced $35 a year right now.
With that, you get a product with almost no setup that is super simple to use. You just download an updated version of the installer program to your PC and point it at a storage location, and that's it. The HDHomeRun client apps you're using automatically detect the DVR, and you're up and running.
What you can't do is integrate as easily with your home media library. But if you just want a slick, simple to use DVR, this is one of the best.
Tablo is a little different in that its latest product, the Tablo Dual, is both a tuner and a DVR that you can access through Windows applications. It doesn't connect directly to a TV, it still uses your home network, but its biggest convenience is having a built-in hard drive.
That means using the Tablo apps, you can both watch and schedule recordings of live TV. The built-in storage isn't massive, but you can also attach an external hard drive to give you more space.
Unlike something such as Plex or Emby, Tablo is purely for TV and DVR, it's not a home media center. But if all you want is something fairly straightforward that lets you watch TV and record it across devices on your network, this little box might be the next great thing.
NextPVR is free to use and while it has its own apps for Windows and mobile devices, it's perhaps a better shout for folks hooking into something like Kodi or Emby.
It supports all the major TV tuner types and has an interface designed to be enjoyed on the big screen. You can use it to watch and record live TV, and it has a full TV guide and a web scheduler for setting up recordings.
It feels a little like Kodi, and if you're not keen on the default interface you can switch it out for something new. It's not too difficult to get set up, and it has great support from its developer.
MediaPortal is a free, open-source media center, often described as an alternative to Kodi. It's designed for Windows and has a server aspect at its core that allows you to set up live TV and DVR capabilities.
It supports a bunch of plugins, but more importantly for TV use, it supports a lot of TV remote controls. The server setup is fairly straightforward, and there's no limit to the number of supported tuners you can hook into it.
As is usually the case with open-source software like this, you can really make it your own. Plugins and skins are readily available to tweak its appearance and function to just your liking.
If you're using something that's not on this list but probably should be, be sure to share it with us in the comments.
Updated June 26 2016: We added the HDHomeRun DVR to the list.
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