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Windows 7

Windows Media Center

Windows 7 Beta was released to the general public this past weekend and I decided to take the plunge (thanks in part to easy backups with my Windows Home Server).

In this post I wanted to discuss what I had to do to get everything working.  I’m hoping this will help others have an easier path if they choose to try Windows 7.  In my next post I will give my impressions and hopefully get another video up.

First Thing First: Before you do anything make sure you backup and can easily restore your system.  I use my Home Server to create a restore point that allows me to bring my computer back to the exact state it was in before I installed Windows 7.  If you don’t have a Home Server then use a program like Acronis.

Upgrade or Clean Install:  In my case I really had no choice, but after going through both options I highly recommend doing an upgrade if at all possible.

My driving factor for doing an upgrade was to preserve my Cable Card DRM shows.  A clean install would have severed my ties to my Cable Card recorded content and I would have lost the ability to watch those shows.

It also saved me a lot of time from reinstalling software and eliminated some potential driver hell.  If you are installing on a Vista SP1 system I definitely recommend the upgrade.  As opposed to previous versions of Windows, it just works.  Of course if you have a Windows XP system you have no choice but to do a clean install.

ATI Digital Cable Card Tuners: My only reason for installing Windows 7 is to play with and test the next iteration of Media Center.  So it was definitely crucial for me to get the ATI DCT tuners working.

Thanks to those that had come before me and an easy upgrade path it was not the difficult.  After you get Windows 7 installed and BEFORE you even open Media Center for the first time I recommend doing 3 things to make the experience as smooth as possible:

  1. Install the DVR-MS/MP3 Corruption/TV Tuner fix for Windows 7 Beta.  You can find the x86 version here and the x64 version here.
  2. Install PlayReady software.  Windows Media Center would do this during setup if you don’t do it ahead of time, but it makes the experience smoother.  Download x86 version here and x64 version here.
  3. Update ATI Video Drivers.  This may or may not apply to you.  If you have a Dell XPS 420, definitely get the latest Vista Catalyst driver from ATI and install it.  Do not use the ATI Windows 7 Preview driver.

HDHomerun QAM Tuner: In addition to my Cable Card tuners I have an HDHomerun QAM tuner to get all the unencrypted channels broadcast by my cable provider.  Everyone at the very least should have the local broadcast stations available to them in standard definition and high definition.

Windows 7 Media Center (7MC for short) has much better support for QAM digital tuners built right in.  To get this to work I again had to do three things.  I would do all these before running the TV tuner setup in Media Center.

  1. Install latest HDHomerun software.  This will also update the firmware on the HDHomerun so you do not need to download both.
  2. Make sure that the following registry value is correct so HDHomerun will use the new Windows 7 driver and not the Vista driver:

Run Regedit and browse to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center

Check the Ident value… it should read "6.0". If it reads "5.0" please change it to "6.0".

  1. Update NIC driver. You may or may not need to do this. Also this is only to fix any issue with playback on extenders so you can worry about this after you setup the TV tuners in Media Center.  See this thread on the Green Button.

The only other thing that you may need to worry about is manually adding the channels that Media Center did not find during it’s scan during the TV Tuner setup.  That’s a whole other post.

Well that’s all I have after one day with Windows 7.  More this week.

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5 Responses

  1. Hey Andres…nice post. I was considering installing this on my XPS 420 as well but I’m fearful of that August 1st date that the beta expires. I have a lot of movies recorded in HD that I’d prefer to keep so what are you planning on doing after August 1st? The only way to keep those recordings is to go the upgrade route but I don’t believe you could upgrade from one beta release to the next so that is my main sticking point with not installing it on my XPS 420.

  2. Right now with the positive press that Microsoft is getting with the Beta and trying to keep, I would be REALLY surprised and shocked if you could not go from the Beta to a full retail release copy.If I stick with Windows 7 long term then that is what I will be planning on doing. I don’t have any content in the new WTV format that I am worried about losing if I go back to Vista.

  3. Question, why did you go with the ATi Vista driver over the ATi Windows 7 Preview Driver? Have you read any comments about this, and if so can you link them?

  4. David: I used the Vista driver because the ATI Preview driver would not allow me to view Cable Card TV content (recorded or live tv).When I installed the driver I just installed the driver. I did not do the whole setup. Just download the driver and run the EXE that you download. It explodes/unzips into C:\ATI folder. Cancel the install.Go to device manger, right click on the ATI card and choose update driver. Then navigate to that folder, find the driver and install.I was getting an error trying to do the full install but just updating the driver worked.

  5. Nice blog. I added to my twitter. Your topic Windows 7 very good. i post it to my forum http://bit.ly/4Tnwzn

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