Windows 7 Media Center HTPC

I have been using some of my home PC’s as Media Centers for a long time. Watching recording, scheduling and converting live TV for some time.[since 1998 actually].
To this end I have, for the most part, relied on third party software to do this.

You do need to have a TV Tuner Card to watch live TV.  There are many available but I am partial to Hauppauge and ATI. Both seem to have no issues if the correct Operating System drivers are used. And you will need a Video card with an output that can connect to your TV [HDMI is preferable] if you wish to watch your shows on your television and not just your PC. There are plenty reasonable priced options available.
I have used ATI’s Media Center(included with the ALL-In-Wonder and TV Cards), Hauppauge’s WinTV(included with their TV cards), Beyond TV (a great software solution), GBPVR, and I’ve tried many others.
However with the advent of Microsoft’s Vista Media Center Microsoft really improved the ability to do this ‘natively’ within Windows.
With Windows 7, Microsoft has really hit it out of the park for anyone wishing to create an HTPC (Home Theater PC). The integration, ease of use, available plug-ins and native functionality are amazing! Nearly anyone can install a TV card and be recording and watching TV through their PC very quickly and just as easily using their PC as a PVR for the TV shows, watching them on their TV. There is so much that can be done with  the media center including; streaming movies and music to other machines on your local network (or even the internet!), copying or moving your recorded movies or music to other devices and more.

I have sent out a number of Windows Media Center how to’s in the past and helped many others to build their system. Many of the tips and instructions including information I put together from various sites and my own experiences and insights. Trouble is most people will not take the time to do any research and to learn something new and will instead contact someone else to ‘set it up for them’. Granted I have and sometimes still do earn some decent money from these people but usually it is family and close friends who insist on not learning for themselves. If you take the time and learn you will be far ahead of the game and have a great deal more enjoyment from your technology.

What I am going to do here is try and put together one of the most complete set of links to information on how to setup, configure and tweak a Windows 7 Media Center.

The 1st place to start is Microsoft’s site. Microsoft has what I believe to be some of the best tutorials and how to’s available anywhere! There loads of videos on how to do just about everything.
Start with the ‘Do I have it?’ video
and work your way through the whole batch of videos. VERY well done.

In my very long history in supporting Microsoft Products I have watched as their training/tutorials for end users has become nothing less than spectacular.

Next stop would be the folks at the How To Geek site. They have put together some very good tutorials and walkthroughs. Many much like the ones I have sent out myself in the past only some of theirs are a little more thorough.

From the HowToGeek site:
Stream Music and Video Over the Internet with Windows Media Player 12
Share and Stream Digital Media Between Windows 7 Machines On Your Home Network
Learning Windows 7: Setup Live TV in Windows Media Center.
Automatically Start Windows 7 Media Center in Live TV Mode.
How To Skip Commercials in Windows 7 Media Center.
Increase Live TV Pause Buffer in Windows 7 Media Center.
Increase Skip and Replay Intervals in Windows 7 Media Center.
Learning Windows 7: Manage Your Music with Windows Media Player.
Share Digital Media With Other Computers on a Home Network with Windows 7.
View Weather Conditions in Windows 7 Media Center.

Some other plug-ins:
Media Center Plug-Ins you should get.
Copy TV to iPod or other Media player:
You will need:
My Movies

Use Media Center To Watch TV

With the improvements in Windows Media Center, starting with Vista and fully realized with Windows 7, it is easier than ever to watch ‘live’ TV (from antennae, cable or satellite) and also watch ‘on demand’ Internet TV.

You can also very easily use Media Center as a PVR (personal video recorder) much like TiVo or your cable company’s PVR. If you already have a PVR or cable on your main television you can always use Media Center to add another viewing room. Or you can go all the way and create a complete Media Center PC to replace your PVR, output to your high def TV and to an audio receiver for a full home entertainment system.

I have been using ‘TV Cards’ in my systems since 1997 to watch and record live TV from my PCs. I actually still do. I utilize dual monitors for increased productivity and when I am able, I’ll watch TV up in one corner of one monitor while working. Sort of like a ‘white noise’ or radio while I work. Or, since I have my systems in my bedroom I can watch TV full screen on my larger monitor from my bed.

With Windows 7 it is now SO EASY to set up, watch, and record if you desire, television that it seems silly not to.

To watch ‘live’ television you have to have some sort of TV tuner card. I recommend the Hauppauge line of tuners. Or the ATI TV Cards or their All-In-Wonder Combo cards. I have at least two versions of each card in 4 different machines and I can tell you they are great. If you system is new and has a high powered graphics card already you may want to go with a TV card only. Most new TV cards also come with remote controls! If your system is older, you may wish to use a ‘combo’ card (like the ATI). For Internet TV you do not have to have a TV card.

I was going to put up some detailed walkthroughs but there are already so many great ones available I thought I’d just post up the links. All of them have great simple explanations, some have good video tutorials and other very good screen captures and descriptions.
Everyone is excellent and worth fully investigating if you have even the slightest desire to use Media Center to it’s full potential. I like to help people utilize technology to be more productive, have more enjoyment and use it to it’s full potential. I hope this helps some who are always asking me about this.

So here are some great links, take them for what they’re worth:

The HowToGeek site has some great ones too!:

Exernal Media Player

I was recently looking for another way to view my saved movie files.
I have loads of movies saved on one of my PC’s that I actually used as a TV and work machine for many years.
They are actaully high quality mpegs from a high-quality TV card in my PC.
I have since copied most of them off to a seperate hard drive and converted most of them to DVD via DVD Flick
You can of course go full out and for a few hundred bucks make a great home DVR out of an old PC with little work. Especially if it has Windows XP Media Center or Vista with Media Center.
Or you can follow this guys great tutorial here:
Free TiVo/DVR out of old PC
But back to the story.
I had this drive sitting around with all these movies on it. 500GB Seagate SATA loaded with mpeg’s and AVI’s and thought it would be cool to just ‘hook it up’ to the tv and watch the movies and shows.
So I happened on this really cool device.
The SATA HDD Multi-media player adapter allows you to connect any 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA Harddisk to your computer via USB. It a powerful tool for data transfer, backup and cloning.
The kicker:
It functions as a Multi-Media player as well. You can play the media files via SATA HDD, SD(HC) card or external USB storage on TV without using a computer!
I can now take my external drive anywhere and share my stuff.
I ordered this thing from these guys on the 24th of June and it was delivered – all the way from Hong Kong – by the 1st of July!
I plugged in my external USB drive to the device and then plugged in the AV cables to TV and with very little setup (adjusting for NTSC Video and TV playback in the setup menu of the device) my stuff played awesomely!
Just thought I’d share a cool technology device that is very inexpensive, easy to use and seems to work great too.


Windows Media Center How To’s

Some have asked me how to work with the fantastic Media Center in Vista and its ‘father’ WinXP Media Center Edition.
There are other ‘open source or freeware’ apps and plenty of quality ones to purchase available to do what Media Center does, but I have used most of them and they don’t compare with the Vista (or WinXP) Media Center.
Some example of the other application Myth TV, Media Portal, Beyond TV, Sage TV, and XBMC to name a few of the quality ones I’ve used (use).
If you don’t have Vista, or WindowsXP Media edition some of the freeware applications can do a very good job and some of the retail applications will too.
You can even use a media center PC to save money by kissing cable or satallite goodbye! (see below)
Well, anyways here are some great links that will help more than I can with a a simple email response.

some other good stuff:

And even more great resources:
42 keboard shortcuts for Media Center:

Review of media center apps:

Saying goodby to cable and satallite tv using online services:

Some of my favorite sites: