Windows 7: How to manage photos, videos & media

Get more from Windows' new multimedia features

Activate Windows Media Player lightweight playback mode

I often leave Windows Media Player running in the background while I work or surf the web. But jumping to that app when I want to change a music track, check the name of a file that's playing, or otherwise interact takes a few extra steps.

Here's how to proceed: With Windows 7, begin playing a file, and click the icon at the lower right. The Media Player window will shrink, and you can move it into a corner of your display while it continues to run. That way, you'll have all of the controls and information nearby.

Alternatively, you can interact with media from within the Taskbar. Just hover the mouse over the Media Player icon. You'll instantly preview the current file and gain control through simple playback buttons.

Push media to network devices

If you sometimes stream media to networked devices, you may be able to push media directly to your speakers, TV screen, or both.

For this purpose, Windows 7 includes a new Play To function that instantly broadcasts media without your having to dig through any menus on those devices.

This feature works with recent DLNA-enabled streaming devices, though you should check with your specific hardware company to ascertain compatibility. For example, even though the Xbox 360 isn't DLNA-certified, you can still reach it with Play To.

You can activate the Play To feature on HomeGroup PCs from within Windows Media Player. The process is handy if you have a PC hooked up to a TV or stereo, or if you want to push media on a networked computer in some other way. Here's how to enable Play To.

On the host PC, open Windows Media Player, pick Stream, Allow remote control of my Player, and click Allow remote control on this network.

Henceforth, on the remote system that shares the HomeNetwork, you'll be able to right-click a playlist or file, select Play to, and choose the name of the remote system or media streaming hardware.

You can even select Play to by right-clicking within the desktop, instantly starting a file running without additional setup.

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Zack Stern

PC Advisor (UK)
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