Restoring Media Streaming Functionality in Essentials 2016+


Hi all, I’ve been a long time lurker in the various WHS/Essentials forums for many years, and have been an avid user since the V1 days.

I just thought I’d ask whether anyone (especially Mike) has ever tried restoring theĀ  media streaming functionality back into Essentials that we had in 2012 R2 and prior versions.

2012 R2 required the installation of the media pack, and the feauture was baked in with the prior versions. Although there are plenty of robust alternatives (Emby, Plex, etc.) it’s a feature that was unfortunately overlooked with 2016 Essentials (not surprising considering they killed off the product and shafted the Homeserver/SBS community)

There seem to be remnants of the feature in 2016 essentials, namely “Windows Server Essentials Media Streaming Service” as well as the “MediaAdmin$” service account. There also appears to be entries under “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\Media Streaming” “Folders” which lists the shared folders & “WinSAT” for detecting cpu transcode performance. There could be other bits I’m unaware of or overlooked.

I’m not sure if anyone has dove deep enough into this to have a definitive answer, or even attempted to test this by analyzing what changes the media pack makes on 2012R2, but it’s an interesting concept that I’ve wondered about since Microsoft left us hanging without a media pack and killed the product.

This last bit is particularly for you Mike. If it’s something that you haven’t already looked into, would you be willing to look into it? I can imagine how busy you must be as is, but it would be pretty neat to have the media bits restored given the fantastic work you’ve done with the WSS installer for 2019/2022. I understand that such a package would possibly be venturing into highly unsupported territory, but I figured I’d ask since you’re probably one of the most knowledgable people on the inner workings of Essentials, short of the original Devs themselves.

Thanks Mike for keeping WHS/Essentials alive, and writing awesome software!



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I did indeed look into porting the media streaming functionality from Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 over to Windows Server 2016 Essentials, and while it probably could be done, there’s quite literally hundreds of codecs in the package that would need to be updated (by Microsoft) in order to make the package work properly under the newer 2016 platform. At the time, I didn’t feel that the enormous effort it would take me to perform the port would be utilized by enough people to justify the amount of work that would be required (which is probably the same reason why Microsoft didn’t port it over themselves). As you’ve mentioned, there are much better (actively supported) supported streaming solutions out there that can be used instead.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a better answer for you on this one.

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I appreciate the response regardless! I’m playing around with it in a couple of test vm’s. Even with the appropriate roles/services installed on 2022 and inputting the registry key to show the media pack as installed so it shows in the registry, it says that the windows media player sharing service is not available because desktop experience or windows search service is not enabled. I might poke around a little more, but i don’t have much hope of getting it to work. I really only used the Media stuff through RWA for pictures as the audio/video support was ok at best.

On another note, I’ve been trying to change the color scheme on the dashboard and am not having much luck. Mainly just trying to implement a psuedo dark mode that’s easier on the eyes. Is the official documentation from Microsoft still relevent(link below) If so can you provide some guidance on what I may be doing wrong? I’ve created the registry key and xml file, but no changes to the colors, even after a reboot. I remember getting it working on 2012 ages ago, just cant remember exactly what i did.

Sorry for the random questions, I appreciate your time


Change the Color Scheme of the Dashboard and Launchpad | Microsoft Docs

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Now that you’ve mentioned it… I do recall that there was an issue with the Windows Media Player stuff (it’s been many years since I last looked it). More than likely, Microsoft removed WMP from Windows Server 2016 and that’s why they abandoned their media streaming pack in Essentials 2016. You’ll probably need to chase down all of the files, etc. required by the Windows Media Player sharing service (etc.) and add it to 2016 in order to get things working. Probably not a trivial task to accomplish I would imagine.

As for changing the Dashboard color scheme… I’ve never messed around with doing any of that stuff before, but it appears that there are a couple of goofs within the XML file example that Microsoft lists on their documentation page that are preventing it from working properly. I was able to get it working by doing the following to their XML example:

Change “https” to “http” within the DashboardTheme line.

Rename “ClientSignInButtonBackColor” to “ClientSignInButtonNormalBackColor”.

I then named the resulting XML file as “CustomColors.xml“, placed it within the “C:\Program Files\Windows Server\Bin\OEM” folder of the server, and set the value of the “CustomColorScheme” Registry key to (without using any quotes):

C:\Program Files\Windows Server\Bin\OEM\CustomColors.xml

After performing those changes, the XML file should be properly loaded by the server Dashboard when it starts. You can confirm this by looking at the Dashboard.log file that’s found within the following folder of the server:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Logs

It should show something like this if everything went okay (otherwise it’ll show you the error that’s preventing the color scheme from being loaded properly):

[6124] 220824.073346.0991: General: Color branding started
[6124] 220824.073346.0991: General: Processing Microsoft default SKU branding colors XML
[6124] 220824.073346.1056: General: Branding colors XML parsing started
[6124] 220824.073346.1056: General: Branding colors XML parsing ended
[6124] 220824.073346.1056: General: Looking for OEM branding colors XML
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: OEMBranding: Found no value for (CustomColorScheme) in language (en-US), return default value (C:\Program Files\Windows Server\Bin\OEM\CustomColors.xml)
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: General: OEM informations available
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: General: OEM branding color scheme found: C:\Program Files\Windows Server\Bin\OEM\CustomColors.xml
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: General: Branding colors XML parsing started
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: General: Branding colors XML parsing ended
[6124] 220824.073346.1213: General: Color branding complete

From there you should be able to adjust the colors accordingly (you can get the HEX colors codes that you need from here: Just be sure to restart the server Dashboard each time you edit the XML file so that it reflects the changes that you’ve made to the color scheme (and look in Dashboard.log if something goes wrong for an idea of what happened).

Best of luck, and be sure to share your finished dark color scheme for the server Dashboard (and/or Launchpad) so others can enjoy it as well.

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I really appreciate it Mike! I got the Dashboard to load the xml. I’ll be working on tweaking the UI to my liking for a bit, but I’ll be sure to post the finished theme.

That would actually be a neat add-in (theming and OEM branding configuration)

I don’t have much experience with coding, but it’s something I’ve been curious about for a long time (specifically essentials add-ins) The amount of functionality you could get out of Home server v1 was mind blowing with all the various add-ins. It’s a shame there weren’t more for the 2011/essentials platforms as I can think of quite a few features that would be pretty useful. Any tips/resources you can provide for add-in development?

As for the media streaming stuff, at least under 2022 with media foundation installed, windows media player is there, as is the network service, etc. When you go to change advanced sharing settings, all networks, then click on choose media streaming options, the page fails to load. I’ll either figure this one out, or I won’t. Curiousity as to whether I can has seemed to gotten the better of me for the time being. lol


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Yes, a theming and OEM branding add-in would indeed be really nice. That’s probably a great idea for you to run with if you’d like to start developing your own Essentials add-in.

A great place for you to start would be the Windows Server Essentials SDK… It walks you through the basics of creating Windows Server Solutions add-ins for the server Dashboard, Launchpad, Remote Web Access, etc.

Using the Windows Server Essentials SDK

Windows Server Essentials API Reference

There’s also a Windows Installer package file for installing the Windows Server (2012 R2) Essentials SDK, which has the pre-configured Visual Studio projects, offline documentation, etc. in it, but apparently it’s no longer available for download directly from Microsoft any longer (which is sad). However, if you would like it, then please feel free to send me a message (via our email support form), and I’ll be more than happy to share a copy of it with you.

Lastly, you might also want to familiarize yourself with a good .NET assembly browser and decompiler program, such as ILSpy, so that you can explore the source code behind Microsoft’s existing Windows Server Essentials assemblies (seeing as there’s a HUGE wealth of information to be gleamed from those files).

Good luck!

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