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Syncing Windows Home Server, Zune and Windows Media Center – by Joel Burt


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Over at the official Windows Home Server blog, my good friend Joel Burt has just published an article entitled Syncing Windows Home Server, Zune and Windows Media Center!

I was putting the initial workings together for a similar article after seeing what Tim had at CES but now that Joel has done such a good job I figured the best thing to do was to just repost Joel’s article.

Nice work buddy!

Joel writes…..

Windows Home Server was a large part of CES this year. I was pleasantly embraced by all you fellow Windows Home Server users and I joyfully shared the new features sets that Power Pack 3 empowered your home server with. The beautiful thing about our booth is the ability to walk everyone step by step, on how to take advantage of these new features. For those of you who were not at CES, I’d like to take the time to share with you those steps that I shared with CES attendees. One of the key scenarios that got a lot of interest at the show was how a Zune music player can benefit from having a Windows Home Server around as well. This post goes into more detail about why and how it all works together.

As most of you probably know, Power Pack 3 is a free update for Windows Home Server that comes down from Windows Update. You can find install procedures within our blog, so please, if you have not updated your Windows Home Server yet, do so! For the rest of this post, I will assume you already have your Windows Media Center, Windows Home Server + Power Pack 3 and your Zune setup.

Before we get going in the details, let’s start by talking about why I’m so jazzed about our Zune + Home Server scenario. The key benefit in my mind is in how the Zune player can be a great way of transporting all of your recorded TV from a Media Center PC on the go. But I’m getting ahead of myself…Let’s paint a picture for you:

Before I left for CES earlier this month, I set several recordings of my favorite TV show to be recorded and then compressed to Zune format. I am not sure if you have ever used a Zune HD but I was extremely surprised with how long the battery lasts playing video. WOW! I consistently played 6 hours of content on the trip -no charging. My laptop wouldn’t have made it through my first connection flight let alone the whole trip. Yes, I had a connection because I bought my plane ticket a little late and had to arrive very early in the morning for setup. At least I was well prepared with my media!

So here’s the details of how I managed to stay completely entertained during my flight(s):

1. Open Windows Media Center and verify that you have your TV shows set to be recorded. Next, , go back to the main Windows Media Center menu and scroll up to your Home Server tiles. Select TV Archiving to begin.

2. TV Archiving will display <Series>, <Programs> and <Settings>. “Series” will display the series you have selected to be recorded. Series are multiple shows or multiple episodes. Programs display individual recordings and will only apply to that one episode/recording. It is up to you to decide which one you would like to use or use both. I’ll be selecting Series recordings because I’m excited to watch a few seasons of my shows on my next trip. In order to continue, you will need to select at least program or series.

3. Now that I have one selected, I can scroll over to settings to decide what I would like to do with these recordings. I personally like to Archive all recordings automatically, but this is another optional feature for you. I also have 6TBs of space on my home server… not that I’m bragging. 🙂 *cough*

4. “Create a compressed copy” is the feature we’re going to enable here. In order to take advantage of this feature, you have to move or archive your content to your Windows Home Server or you cannot select this. Since we’re working with a sweet Zune HD, set the format to Zune. Finally, scroll down a little further and set the saved folder to “Home Server Videos folder” (or one of your choice). To make things easier for this step by step, please select “Home Server Video folder” and click Save.

Now what we’ve done here is set Windows Media Center to record our shows and then make two copies of the show on our Windows Home Server; one in its original full quality format and the other in a smaller Zune format to preserve our space on our Zune. After all, we have lots of play time to take advantage of, let’s make the most of it.

I do want to call out a little secret that you can take advantage of. Some TV shows – especially those that are transmitted in HD – use AC3 audio and because of that, your shows might not compress. In order to fix that, you’ll need to download and install an AC3 codec. I know it sounds complicated, but it’s not and most importantly – it’s free. I personally downloaded mine from but you can get yours from wherever you like. [Note that the below process is not supported by Microsoft, and users should proceed with caution. This is presented merely as an option for users.]

Let’s take a quick sidebar to walk you through a quick step-by-step for installing the one codec that I’ve used on my own, AC3Filter:

1. After running the file you just downloaded click Next

2. Leave all options default and click Next

3. Then click Install

4. With the codec installed, now we can move on to setting up the Zune! Your Windows Media Center is well on its way to creating your giant TV show collection in Zune compatible form. Let’s tell the Zune to look at that folder and to sync with it.

Since you’ve already installed Power Pack 3, your Windows Home Server’s Video shared folder has already been added to your libraries. Zune software is setup! That was easy. You didn’t have to do anything!

Here I have “X-Men” ready and converted. It does take a while (maybe overnight) to convert. I already had this one completed, so you might want to be a little patient.

5. Finally, I can sync this video to my Zune by right clicking and selecting, “Sync with Zune HD”. Repeat this for all of the videos you would like to have on your Zune HD and enjoy your next flight to where ever you go!

As an added bonus, you can even watch this newly created WMV file through your Zune software. How cool is that?!


Andrew Edney
Andrew Edney
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.

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