Note: This process was contributed by a community member and we have no reason to believe it doesn't work if followed to the letter. However, we haven't verified the process lately so it is possible it is out of date. Please let us know of your experience if you attempt this.
Getting MKV and other media files to play directly on your Xbox 360 with Media Browser 3, and Media Browser Classic, can be a frustrating experience. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I have spent many hours banging my head trying to figure out how to get it to work. Seemingly at times I thought I had everything setup correctly, but Media Browser would end up transcoding the file, or unable to play it all. It was a mystery for a while to me, and the behavior was hard to track down.
I’ve read countless forums, some even suggesting that this simply won’t work. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Through many efforts I discovered how to get this to work fairly easily, as long as you know what you need to do, and the exact steps to do it!
With Xbox 360s going for under $99 now, more and more people are going to take the plunge. I figured I would write this tutorial to save everyone time and their sanity. You can finally start enjoying your Windows Media Center experience like you should. Simply stated having this work under Media Browser Classic is an awesome experience! The interface is unmatched to anything else that is out there.
Setting up the server backend correctly:
1. You’ll of course want to have Media Browser 3 installed on a server already. In my setup I have Windows Media Center separated from my NAS. My NAS is simply a Windows 7 machine, with Media Browser installed on it, and all my media files are located on the same server.
2. Setup your Media Browser libraries. Ensure that Media Browser is pointed to your libraries by using UNC Shares and NOT local drives. Even if Media Browser is on the same system as your media files like mine, DO NOT use local drive paths (D:\Movies), instead type in the UNC path \\MEDIASERVER\Movies for example.
3. DO NOT use the Path Substitution option in Media Browser. If you use UNC paths, this should be more than sufficient. I’ve had strange behaviors when using this instead to translate local drive paths.
4. Create a user with Administrator rights to your Media Libraries. In my setup it is called mcuser. Create the same user on both your Media Center server, and your NAS. (If they are separate machines.)
5. Ensure you setup your media libraries in Windows Media Center as well, providing the credentials for mcuser.
6. Use this tool, to give the MCX#-SERVERNAME Administrator access to your media libraries by using the above wmcuser account. http://tobias-tobin....-access-to.html
Note: If your Media Browser server, and Windows Media Center machine are on the same server, step 5 and 6 may not be necessary, but I am unable to verify this at this time. In addition you'll need to have a separate account that has full Administrator rights to your libraries. More information on how the tool works is available on the website.
7. Load a CODEC pack on your Windows Media Center server. I prefer Shark007, but others may work with some tweaking. Get it here: http://shark007.net. Use Shark's recommended settings on both 32-bit and 64-bit CODECs, and says yes to the Live TV, Xbox 360 question. In addition under MKV, I choose to use Alternative Extender support.
8. If you have not already done so install Media Browser Classic on your Windows Media Center machine and make sure it launches.
9. Launch the Media Browser Classic Configuration program, and go to the extender+iso tab. Ensure that Enable Transcode 360 is UNCHECKED. Transcoding is bad, we do not want it!
10. While in the extender+iso tab under extender formats, ensure you put the media extensions you want to play natively, such as .MKV or .MP4 .
Setting up your Xbox360:
Here is where it got weird and this is key. It took me a while to figure these exact steps out. However, first, a little background: it’s a little known fact that Microsoft has released a new version of the Optional Media Update that will play MKVs and other media files natively. Originally Microsoft has had several versions of this program, but not all of them will play MKVs. This coincides with the update they have released for the Xbox ONE.
However, the trick is getting the right version to download, which isn’t as obvious as you would think. From my experience, without having an Xbox LIVE membership it’s not possible to download the necessary update. In addition, I was NOT able to get the right version by downloading it manually (searching the app store).
Like I said In order to get the proper version, it will be necessary to have an Xbox LIVE membership. As far as I can tell, the correct version is only available for XBOX Live members. If you are not already a member you will need to create an account and sign up for a membership.
Note: The first month is free, so you can sign-up temporarily and cancel if you so desire once you get the update. The update should remain on the Xbox 360 even if you no longer have a membership.
In order to get the correct update, perform the following steps:
1. If you do not already have an Xbox LIVE membership go to live.xbox.com and either create a new user, or setup an existing one that you will use on all your extenders with a subscription (this will unfortunately require a Credit Card).
Note: You cannot just create an account. Simply, having an account will NOT be enough to download the correct Optional Media Update.
2. Now power on your Xbox 360 extender and navigate to the Xbox Dashboard. If your extender launches immediately to Windows Media Center, exit and go back to the Xbox Dashboard.
3. We first need to check to see if you have the older version of Optional Media Update first by going to Settings > System > Storage > Hard Drive > System Items. If it’s there delete it. If we do not remove it, the Xbox will not update the current version we have.
4. If you created a new account you will need to download the profile to your Xbox 360 Extender you just made from Xbox LIVE. Here is a link that explains how to do it:
5. Once your profile is downloaded, ensure that you login to that profile by choosing it under the Social dashboard. You can also enable automatic login to this profile, by going to Settings > Profile > Sign-in Preferences > Profile Auto Sign-In > On which is preferable for a Windows Media Center extender. If you just added a subscription to an existing account, I found that I add to delete the profile on the Xbox, and download it again as described above to get it to recognize the new subscription. The key to this whole thing is to have an active connection to Xbox LIVE. If you don’t it won’t download the Optional Media Update that you need.
6. Now launch Windows Media Center on your Xbox 360.
7. In order to get the proper update, you’ll need to make sure that you have your movie or TV show media libraries available natively in Windows Media Center, WITHOUT using Media Browser Classic. Clicking on a movie or TV Show from the regular Windows Media Center interface, will allow the Xbox 360 to come up with a screen that will prompt you to download the new version of the Optional Media Update. For some reason if you use Media Browser Classic it will block the download from occurring even when though the screen comes up initially. However, the dialog box to download the update disappears. Using the regular Windows Media Center interface will allow you to do this. In addition DO NOT use Recorded TV, it will never prompt you because Windows Media Center sees these as native media files, which should be .WTV. The media file has to be an MKV or MP4 to have the Xbox 360 initiate a download for the Optional Media Update.
8. Reboot your Xbox 360 extender, and re-launch Windows Media Center.
9. Now go into Media Browser Classic, and navigate to your libraries. Choose your favorite movie or TV Show and enjoy direct playback without Media Browser transcoding them! Yay quality! You’ll also be able to tell if the program is being transcoded or direct played by going to the Media Browser dashboard. Under Server > Active Devices > hover your mouse on the device that is streaming and it will tell you if it is Direct Play or Transcoding the file.
Note: You’ll need to do this on every Xbox 360 Extender you have.
Hope this guide serves you guys and gals well. Enjoy!