Make Your Own 7MC Themes

Expanding on the article detailing how to change your Media Center background let’s take a look at building a more complete theme. The basic tools will stay the same. You will need a copy of Restorator, a paint program like and Windows 7 Media Center.

Media Center Original Background

Once you’ve got the necessary tools open Windows Explorer and locate “Windows\ehome\ehres.dll”. Make two copies of this file, one as a backup and one to edit with Restorator. Be certain your backup is in a safe place, there is no reason to have to reinstall because you lost your original ehres.dll file.

Next, open up your ehres.dll file for editing in Restorator. You’ll see an explorer type tree on the left listing a handful of folders. These contain the various files stored inside the ehres.dll. For this guide we’ll only be looking at the basic image files used in the theme. The image files are contained under “RCData”.

Original Background in Restorator

The easiest way to work with these files is to extract them to your hard drive. Create a folder in the same location as the ehres.dll file you will be editing named “extracted”. From Restorator right-click on RCData and select “Extract all of type RCData” and save them in the “extracted” directory. Now there should be some 2,100+ png images in that directory. The easiest way to view them will be to set them to be displayed as Thumbnails.

PNG Files Extracted

Locating the particular image you want to change can be somewhat tricky. You’ll need to use a combination of the thumbnails and the general description in the image names. Many of them will be quite obvious from the thumbnail exactly where they belong in Media Center, others not so much. The images marked “HC1” and “HC2” for instance are only used when users have the High Contrast settings enabled.

Opening these files in an image editing program such as you will notice that many of them have areas of transparency. These areas will be displayed as a grey/white checkerboard on the image. You will also soon realize that many of these images are a very low resolution (about 500x300). When you consider that these are being displayed on 720p and 1080p monitors it is easy to understand why the default theme seems so bland.

PNG Opened in

Fortunately, Media Center will scale any images to the correct size. This makes skinning for multiple resolutions a non-issue as all images will be scaled properly. This also means we can use high resolution images in our themes as a large resolution image scaled down will always look better than a low resolution scaled up!

We won’t cover using or any of the other image editing programs you can use to edit these files here as there are plenty of resources around the web for that sort of thing. You can find some especially good guides at’s Tutorials forum.

Once you’ve got the new image you want to use adding it to your file couldn’t get much easier. Open up Restorator and locate the file that you’ve edited under RCData. Then simply drag your file onto the proper name in Restorator. Alternatively, it is also possible to right-click and select “Assign > Assign to..” and select the replacement image to be used.

New Background in Restorator

When all the images you wish to change have been replaced in Restorator simply save the file (ctrl+s). Next, the “Take Ownership” registry fix must be installed to enable the ehres.dll in the “Windows\ehome” directory to be renamed or replaced. Once the fix has been installed to the registry, right-click the ehres.dll file in “Windows\ehome” and select “Take Ownership”. Now replace the default ehres.dll with the edited version.

New Background in Media Center

Once that’s been done restart Media Center and bask in your hard work! It will almost certainly take some experimentation before the new theme is just right but you can be pushing out new themes in no time.

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Anonymous said...

I love this site! I was wondering if you could do a guide on having caller id in MCE?

MHealy said...

Sure thing, I'll put it on the list. I've been wanting to add caller id to my Media Center setup as well.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the site could host a theme gallery for 7 MC or at least the 10 best or something?

Love it...:)

MHealy said...

Something similiar is already in the works ;)

Anonymous said...


MHealy said...

You can use any images you wish, widescreen or not. Media Center will scale the image to your screen resolution automatically. If you aren't using a widescreen monitor I would suggest using an image in your native aspect ratio.

Anonymous said...

Were you ever successful at changing the font colors globally in MC? I noticed you were having issues on your twitter.

Per my conversation over at "Black is back!" on, I tried:

HTML \ COLORS.MCML & FONTS.MCML & tvoverrides.colors.mcml, but nothing seems to change the font color globally in MC. They all remain in the blue tones.

Any ideas?

MHealy said...

I've tried editing color entries in the mui file and the ehres and shell dlls with no luck so far as editing the main colors. I did manage to change the text color in some of the options menus but it was so random I'm not sure what value it was reading. I'll be taking another look at it in the coming week or so. I'll make another guide if I manage to find anything.

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