Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is Cool!

Anyone out there thinking about setting up a DVR or some sort of digital recording system for their home entertainment, I would strongly suggest taking a look at Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

For less than $300 I managed to turn my 2.8GHz Pentium 4 into a media center PC and can now watch/record live TV, listen to my MP3 music collection, watch home movies from my camcorder and watch downloaded video from the Internet – all from the comfort of my living room with a TV and remote.

The first purchase was a capture card. I am using the WinTV-PVR 150 from Hauppage. This card is supported by MCE 2005 and provides a single tuner input using S-Video or Coaxial connection. I intend to replace this card at a later date by the PVR-500, which boasts dual tuner so I can watch live TV while recording.

The PVR-150 comes shipped with a remote control, unless you purchase the MCE version, which does not. I went for the remote option, hoping I could shortcut the need for a dedicated MCE controller, only getting it to work correctly is proving to be troublesome. I would advice a purchase of the MCE card and dedicated remote from Microsoft.

The expensive bit was the purchase of a new 4x AGP card – the NVidia GeForce FX 5700. My PC was only installed with an integrated graphics card and I needed S-Video out and some power to handle real-time decoding of MPEG2. The FX 5700 provided me with exactly what I needed.

What they don’t tell you when you install MCE 2005 (unless you know where to look) is that you need a decoder driver so that MCE knows how to decode live TV from the capture card. Without it you’ll receive a “decoder error“ when attempting to watch live TV. My NVidia did not come with decoder software, so I had to purchase NVidia’s decoder for an additional $20. My understanding is that any MPEG2 decoder should work with whichever card you’re using (can someone confirm this?), however, when I used the decoder from WinDVD I could not skip forward and backward through live TV without the picture hanging. After installing the NVidia decoder everything worked great.

Setting up MCE 2005 was a breeze, it detected my card (make sure you install the MCE 2005 driver first), downloaded the channel guide for my area, and adjusted the resolution for my TV. I managed to show MCE all my MP3 files that were setting on a server in my basement as well as my downloaded TV. Best of all, I can now play home movies of my 13 month old for the in-laws, when they come over, without having to put them on DVD first.

I’ve not had too much time to play with MCE 2005 (I installed it last night), but from what I’ve seen I’m real excited about it. I’m planning on playing some more 🙂

Addendum: I found a new decoder driver on Hauppage’s web site. I have no idea if it’s as good as the NVidia decoder but it appears to be free.

15 thoughts on “Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is Cool!

  1. Chris Hynes

    Sounds awesome. I’m thinking about building one a couple months down the road.
    <br>
    <br>One question about MCE: Does all of the content have to come from a local drive, or can you point at a network location?

  2. Rob Garrett

    Nope, most of my music and video storage is on another server in my basement. The only stuff that has to be local is recorded TV (which can later be saved to DVD).
    <br>
    <br>R.

  3. http://

    I’ve also just set up a MCE system with the Hauppauge pvr-150 card and the NVidia decoder but have noticed sync problems between audio and video when watching live tv. I’m running a 3MHz P4 with 512 meg of RAM and GeForce FX 5200 8x AGP. Have you noticed similar problems or do you have any ideas to solve this?
    <br>
    <br>Thanks,
    <br>
    <br>Steve UK

  4. Rob Garrett

    Hmmm, I had this problem once, so I reinstalled the drivers for the hauppage card and also the latest NVidia driver, and the problem went away.
    <br>
    <br>I’m now using the pvr-550 dual tuner – it rocks, can record two channels or watch a channel whilst recording another.

  5. http://

    I also have a PVR150, and I can’t seem to get it installed in MCE. In fact, MCE requirements don’t even say the PVR150 is compatible, only the PVR150MCE. You are the first one I have found that says it works. Did you just use the MCE drivers? I also hope to join the PVR500 crew sometime soon, this sounds like a good time.

  6. Rob Garrett

    Yes, I used the drivers from Hauppage for the MCE card and it just worked. The PVR150MCE and PVR150 are the same card, only one is shipped with a remote, and the other is not.
    <br>
    <br>Did you install the driver and test the software shipped with the card before running the MCE client? I wanted to be sure that my card was working before I had MCE detect it.
    <br>
    <br>What problems are you experiencing?
    <br>
    <br>I have since moved to a PVR500MCE. The upgrade was painless because the drivers are the same. I plopped in the new card and asked MCE to detect the new card with dual tuner.
    <br>

  7. http://

    Hi there,
    <br>
    <br>If any of you guys can help me that would be great, i have just put together a pc for use with windows media centre. Its an
    <br>
    <br>AMD 3.4 64bit chip
    <br>1Ghz DDR Memory
    <br>Gigabyte Nvidea 6600 256MB VGA
    <br>And The PVR 150
    <br>
    <br>I have tried allsorts but i cant seem to get my tv card to play live tv smoothly in Windows Media Centre. It works fine within its own software (win2000) but as soon as i load media centre the image is delayed as if memory is low but it cant be that the image is all glitchy but the sound is fine. I have removed the software and retried it but no luck.
    <br>
    <br>Anyone had similar problems or got any ideas?
    <br>
    <br>PLEASE HELP ME!!!!

  8. http://

    Simon, I have the same problem. I turn on the live tv in MCE and it plays for a second or two and then freezes and gives me a green screen. It works in own software (win2000).
    <br>
    <br>I formated my computer and then installed MCE drivers for pvr 150. After a point it says its missing some files and so I installed some form the regular pvr 150 driver stuff.
    <br>
    <br>Rob, could you please tell us specifically which files you used in which order so that I could try and replicate that order of installs?

  9. Rob Garrett

    Shahid,
    <br> From what I remember, I needed to resinstall the Hauppage drivers a few times to get the card to work with MCE. In the end, I ditched the 150 and purchased 500, with a dual tuner (you’ll want it). Check out the drivers at the link in my post.
    <br>
    <br>R.

  10. http://

    I actually got mine to work, well, sort of. When I turn on my MCE, it plays Live Tv for 20 seconds and then freezes both sound and picture, perhaps even giving me a green screen. I don’t think its the codec because I can watch DVD or other video files. I then tried (while the live tv was frozen) to record something. It did but it was also frozen, but if I fast forward it, you can see that it recorded but then hit play still frozen. I’m using Intervideo 7. I have a 2.8 pentium system with 512 ram. I am using built in video card. Motherboard is Intel&#174; Desktop Board D845GERG2.
    <br>
    <br>I only installed 150 MCE drivers from your link. Thats how it worked, but only for a could of seconds. Hauppauge told me to get video in MCE working first before installing WIN TV 2000. Before I reformated the computer, wintv 2000 would work just fine even though MCE didn’t even play a few seconds of tv. Unfortunatly I bought the pvr 150 about 4 months ago and its too late to return.
    <br>
    <br>Thanks for your help.

  11. Rob Garrett

    Have you tried getting the latest NVIDIA decoder codec for MPEG2 playback? I had the same problems with freezing on live TV, and it turned out that I was using a codec from WinDVD, which was not good enough. So I ended up purchasing the codec from NVIDIA for $20.

  12. http://

    I reformated the computer, installed MCE 2002, at the boot up I pointed it to the mce 150 driver directory. Next I installed the nvidia Purevideo decoder (trial version for now). Restarted and still gives me a green screen. I then tried (while the live tv was frozen) to record something. It did but it was also frozen, but if I fast forward it, you can see that it recorded but then hit play still frozen.
    <br>
    <br>Using the windows xp decoder utility, it shows green arrows on nividia and it being set as perfered. The only other one is the sonic (which comes preinstalled). Windows is all patched with service pack 2.
    <br>
    <br>I have yet to install the PVR file (which includes the pvr 150 drivers). I have tried before the reformat but was of no help. I have also not installed wintv2000, which by the way always works flawlessly.
    <br>
    <br>I appreciate your help, I’m sure you’re busy.

  13. Rob Garrett

    hmm, try a different decoder, failing that, call both NVidia and Hauppage and ask for support. You shouldn’t have to juggle installation of drivers.
    <br>
    <br>BTW, what type is your output graphics card? It is unlikely that your capture card is at fault, but more likely your output graphics card is not performing well. Check with the vendor to see if they supply updated drivers for MCE, or if they support MCE 2005 at all.
    <br>
    <br>I heard a rumour that ATI cards do not work very well with MCE because of some dispute between the two companies.
    <br>
    <br>Hope this helps.

  14. http://

    You were right, it was the graphics card. I bought a geforce 5500 card and everything was up and running. I didn’t need nvidia but I got it anyways.
    <br>
    <br>Thanks for all your help.

  15. http://

    The &quot;decoder driver&quot; from Hauppauge will only work with their own wintv2000 software, in my experience.
    <br>
    <br>I have an ATI x800 passively cooled – does anyone have it working with an ATI card?
    <br>
    <br>Rob, do you have a link to details of this dispute?
    <br>
    <br>Does anyone know if the NVidia decoder will work with an ATI card?
    <br>
    <br>
    <br>specs:
    <br>nForce4 SLI mboard
    <br>pvr150
    <br>ATI X800

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