How to re-enable Windows Media Center in the Default Programs control panel on Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate

Yesterday, I posted some information about a Group Policy setting that can prevent Windows Media Center from launching on a Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate system.  Since then, I have heard from a couple of people who have been receiving the same error message but who did not have this Group Policy setting enabled on their systems.  After some further investigation, I found another possible cause of this type of error that I wanted to describe here as well.

Description of the issue

To summarize some information from my previous post, it is possible that launching Windows Vista Media Center will fail and will instead display the following error message:

  • Title: Windows Media Center
  • Text: Windows cannot open this program because it has been prevented by a software restriction policy. For more information contact your system administrator.

The dialog looks like this:

I looked at the startup code for Windows Media Center, and found that in addition to the Group Policy setting that I previously described, it is also possible for this error dialog to appear if Windows Media Center is marked as disabled in the Set Program Access and Computer Defaults control panel on Windows Vista.

How to work around the issue

You can use the following steps to enable Windows Media Center in the Set Program Access and Computer Defaults control panel if it is currently disabled:

  1. Click on the Start menu and choose Default Programs
  2. Click on the item named Set Program Access and Computer Defaults
  3. Choose the Custom configuration
  4. Under the Choose a default media player item, make sure that the box to the right of the Windows Media Center item that is labeled Enable access to this program is checked

Note - you do not have to select the radio button to the left of the Windows Media Center to make it the default media player if you don't want to, but the Enable check box must be checked or Windows Media Center will refuse to launch on your system.

What is happening behind the scenes

The Enable access to this program check box for the Windows Media Center Item in the Set Program Access and Computer Defaults control panel will result in the following value being changed in the registry on Windows Vista:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Clients\Media\Windows Media Center\InstallInfo]

If the IconsVisible value is set to 0, then Windows Media Center will not run on a Windows Vista system.

<update date="10/7/2011"> Fixed broken link to image embedded in this post. </update>


Comments (11)
  1. Dutchman37 says:

    In Windows 7 Pro. can you follow these same steps?

  2. Hi Dutchman37 – Yes, it looks like the same steps apply equally to both Windows Vista and Windows 7.

  3. yuan says:

    apakah bisa langkah ini di gunakan di windows 8.1 pro?

  4. Hi yuan – Yes, the information in this blog post should still apply to the version of Windows Media Center in Windows 8.1.

  5. Braden says:

    I've been trying this over and over again and I can't get it to work. There is one box that is greyed out.

  6. Hi Braden – What version of Windows do you have on your PC, and what exact box is grayed out?  Can you post a screenshot so I can try to take a closer look?

  7. Mike Flanagan says:

    It also works in W8.1. Media Center stopped recording or opening 01/25/2015 inexplicably and when I spoke to Microsoft they wanted $$$ to help find the problem that I had to pay $$$ for. I've tried several other "solutions", and this is the first one that quickly solved the problem! Thanks So Much!!!

  8. Jeff says:

    Did not work for me, the computer keeps going back to windows media player.

  9. Hi Jeff – I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your comment.  This blog post is about Windows Media Center, not media player.  Can you describe the exact behavior that you're seeing and what steps you tried, and I'll see if it is something I can help with?

  10. Freddie says:

    still telling me the same eror message.. A checkbox is greyed out.

  11. Hi Freddie – What version of Windows are you running on your PC?  What is the exact error that you're seeing?  Can you upload a screenshot of the dialog that has the greyed out check box?

Comments are closed.

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