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Build Your Own Media Center PC, Part 2
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Installing the Operating System

Traditionally, the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system only came preinstalled on new computers sold by PC manufacturers. And that means that you were forced to buy the entire system, without the ability to build your own custom media center. However, now you are able to buy the OS itself from OEM vendors. Here is a list of vendors selling the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system.

Alternatively, if you are a MSDN subscriber, you can download the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 from Microsoft's MSDN site (via the Subscriber's Download area).

Installing the OS is the same as installing Windows XP--all the steps are the same. Depending on the TV tuner cards you use, upon successful installation of the OS, you will be prompted to install the drivers for the TV tuner card. In this case, simply install the drivers provided by the TV card manufacturer.

Also, depending on the type of motherboard, you may need to install drivers for the:

  • Built-in networking card
  • Built-in audio
  • Graphics card

For the both casings, you need to install the VFD application that came with the casings. Doing so will allow the VFD display located at the front of the casing to display useful system information when the media center is in use (see Figure 37 for the VFD display on the Antec Fusion).

Figure 37
Figure 37. The VFD display on the Antec Fusion case

Launching Media Center

To launch the Media Center, you can either:

  • Click on the Start button and select Media Center (see Figure 38)
  • Press the green button on the remote control

Figure 38
Figure 38. Ways to launch Media Center

Configuring the Media Center

The first time you launch Media Center, you will be brought through a series of steps to set it up (see Figure 39). To start the Media Center setup wizard, click Next.

Figure 39
Figure 39. Setting up Media Center

In the next step, you will be:

  • Briefed on the various steps of the setup process
  • Asked to review the Media Center privacy policy
  • Asked about your type of internet connection
  • Allowed to optimize the look of Media Center on your display (see Figure 40)
  • Asked to set up your speakers

Figure 40
Figure 40. Configuring your display

When the setup is complete, you will be brought back to the main menu (see Figure 41). You are now ready to use Media Center!

Figure 41
Figure 41. Main menu of Media Center

You can now use your remote control to navigate the menus in the Media Center. To select the highlighted menu item, press the OK button on the remote control.

Playing DVDs

One of the most common problems people have with Media Center occurs when they try to play a DVD on the computer. You will see the error as shown in Figure 42.

Figure 42
Figure 42. Decoder error message is displayed when you do not have an MPEG-2 video decoder installed

This is because, by default, the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 does not come with a MPEG-2 video decoder (also known as a DVD decoder). To verify if there is in fact a video decoder installed on your system, use the Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility provided by Microsoft.

If there isn't any video decoder installed on your system, you need to purchase one. Sometimes when you buy a DVD drive, it may come with a free version of CyberLink PowerDVD. In this case, install the PowerDVD application and it should do the trick.

Alternatively, you can also purchase the NVIDIA PureVideo Decoder (a plugin for Microsoft Windows Media Player and Media Center Edition that enables smooth and vibrant videos). You can download a 30-day free trial ($19.95 to purchase).

Once the video decoder is installed, you can verify it by running the Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility again (see Figure 43).

Figure 43
Figure 43. Using the Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility

With that, you can now pop in a DVD into your DVD drive and navigate to the Play DVD menu item (see Figure 44), press the OK button on the remote control, and start watching (see Figure 45).

Figure 44
Figure 44. Selecting the Play DVD menu item

Figure 45
Figure 45. Playing a DVD movie

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