Theme Media Center: Changing the Background

Everyone wants to stand apart from the crowd, unfortunately Media Center doesn’t allow you to easily change the appearance of your setup. Windows 7 may have added better support for themes but Media Center has still ended up stuck with "boring blue.” There is hope though, it may not be easy but you can alter the look of your Media Center interface.

Media Center New Background Start Menu

Step One: Backup Your Files!!

The first thing you should do is go to “C:\Windows\ehome\” and and make two copies of the file “ehres.dll”. Save one to a folder for editing and save the other somewhere safe just in case you want to undo your changes.

You also need to apply this registry file. Download the file to your machine and double-click to apply the fix to your machine. Once you’ve done that right-click the original file and select “Take Ownership”. This allows the file to be replaced later on.

Step Two: Get an Image

You need an image to use for the background. The default is 500 pixels wide by 300 pixels high (500x300) but you can use images of varying height. This allows for high definition 1080p and 720p files to replace that boring low-res blue. For this guide lets use this image which can be downloaded from the author below:

HomeWorld by Phil2001

(“Homeworld” - Made by phil2001 of DeviantArt)

Step Three: Insert into the ”ehres.dll” file

To edit the ehres.dll file a resource editor is required. For this guide you should download Restorator. The program isn’t free but does have a 30 trial availalbe for download. This editor allows you to view png files inside the dll file and works on x86 and x64 machines.

Once inside Restorator open the ehres.dll file you have copied to be edited. Expand the “RCData” section and scroll down until you find “Common.Animated.Background.png”. Right-click the file and select “assign > assign to” from the menu. Then browse to and select the background file you want to use.

Edit ehres.dll in Restorator

Once that is complete save the file.

Step Four: Replace the original “ehres.dll”

Once you have your edited file (and your backup!) copy the edited file from where you have it saved and paste it into the “C:\Windows\ehome\” directory replacing the old one. Remember you must have the “Take Ownership” registry fix applied to this file to allow it to be replaced.

Step Five: Launch Media Center

Now you should be able to launch Media Center and see your new background in place. The animated portions of the background will not have been changed, however. To change these you must replace “common.background.layer1.png”, “common.background.layer2.png” and “common.background.layer3.png”. These are the files that are loaded onto the screen to make it appear animated.

Media Center New Background

That’s all there is to changing your Media Center background! Keep in touch with Hack7MC for future theme guides for Windows 7 Media Center. Hopefully, this article will be the first of many to come.

Want to get even deeper? Look at this guide on creating an entire theme for Media Center! Be sure to follow along on the RSS Feed or Twitter as well to get all the latest information.

8 comments:

Josh Pollard said...

i would think someone ought to be able to write an application to make this process is a whole lot easier. thanks for the post though! its a cool idea!

MHealy said...

That would be wonderful to have an app to design custon Media Center themes with. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to code one myself. This method isn't too difficult I was just disappointed I couldn't find a better resource editor that supported pngs (something free would have been nice!).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this! Just had a quick trial and very simple to follow.

Unfortunately my artistic skills are limited, so its a case of the better half firing up PhotoShop to do some funky graphics :-)

MHealy said...

No problem! I try to keep the guides as simple as possible for those times when I need to go back and read them myself, lol.

Anonymous said...

That screen shot looks like the result of hitting the green button while playing a video (with the video commands at the bottom).

Do you have a screen shot that is not like a pause shot? This is similar to the swimming fish VMC always showed.

MHealy said...

Yep, I added it as the last image in the article or you can get the larger view here: large background preview

Anonymous said...

The takeown reg tweak doesn't work.

MHealy said...

I'm not sure why the reg fix wouldn't be working for you. What version of Windows are you running?

In the mean time, open an elevated cmd prompt (start, type cmd, press ctrl+shift+enter) and type "takeown /f C:\Windows\ehome\ehres.dll". Change the Windows directory if you have it install somewhere other than the default.

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