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Windows 7 - Media Centre issues, tips and advice

PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:20 pm
by vincer
[EDIT - this thread is ONLY for discussions about Media Centre under Windows 7. We have a seperate thread for general Windows 7 stuff. Thanks! Gordon]

I've started this as a new topic, since I think the Windows 7 sticky is too general.

I have an old Media Centre based on an ASUS A8N-VM CSM motherboard, 2GB memory, with an Athlon 3200+, and running the XP version of MediaCenter.

I've just upgraded it to Windows 7. Here are some of my observations.

The upgrade was mostly straightforward, but with a few a few oddities.

I used a brand new hard drive, so that if it all went pear shaped I could simply plug in the old drive and revert back to XP.

1. First oddity was before I even started - my board has an on board graphics chip - but I've recently added an NVidia 9400GT graphics card to cope with BluRay. Running the Windows 7 Upgrade advisor produced ambiguous reports.

a. I had a warning that my current graphics adapter wouldn't support the Aero interface.

b. Further down the list it said the 9400GT was compatible.

Looking on the internet I found a couple of reports where it seemed that Windows 7 refused to recognise the 9400GT - would I have the same problem?

2. I followed the instructions, downloaded Windows Easy Transfer, and ran it. Next oddity - the progress bar for the copying of my Media Centre files went OK, but the second progress bar - for the copying of common files (or something similar) didn't move, and the estimated copy time kept increasing and increasing. However something was obviously happening, so I let it run, and it completed in far less than the pessimistic time posted by Easy Transfer. In the event I haven't used Easy Transfer to re-instate the files on my Windows 7 system, preferring to simply copy backup copies of my Media Files across.

3. The installation of Windows 7 went very smoothly. It recognised my 9400GT and downloaded the drivers from the internet via Windows Update without any problems. It also recognised my SPDIF audio connection - I'd had to set it up deliberately on XP.

4. The Windows 7 Advisor had warned me that drivers would have to be downloaded for my Terratec Cinergy 2400i TV Tuner card. Did that. Instructions tell you to go to the Device Manager, select the 2400i, and upgrade the drivers. However the Device Manager didn't show the Cinergy card. There were two warnings - one against the Matrix Orbital display (more later), and one against an unspecified Audio/Visual device (or some similar words), Was this the Cinergy card? I wasn't sure whether it was or whether it was the graphics adapter that the Upgrade Advisor had picked up on. Deep breath, select the Audio/Visual device, and point the upgrade driver instruction at the newly downloaded 2400i drivers. It worked, and the Cinergy 2400i appeared on the Device Manager list.

5. Then into the MediaCenter programme to set up the TV. Again a slight wobbly. There is now an early option to allow it to detect your TV signal. It couldn't - was there still a problem with the Cinergy drivers? However there is an option to let it carry on regardless, even if it can't find the TV signal. Selected that option and everything went smoothly - 90 something channels detected, guide set up OK, so why couldn't it find the TV signal earlier?

6. Then on to the Matrix Orbital display - this is one of the PLED types that Gordon recommended in PCW a few years ago. Downloaded the driver software, updated the drivers. This was partly achieved - the display was now shown as OK, but the USB driver was not. I updated the USB driver by pointing it at the original CD which came with the display. I might have been able to do the same thing by re-pointing it at the downloaded drivers - I don't know.

7. Then I tried to install the FrontView software to get something on the display. Appears to install OK, but doesn't seem to work with Windows 7. My Matrix Orbital display shows their words and Logo, but nothing more. Looking at the web seems to confirm that this is a problem.

So, other than FrontView, I'm just about there. I've copied my pictures, videos and music across from a backup disc, and they run OK. Everything feels a little tighter and slicker - response to changing channels is faster, you get the impression that the codecs are a bit better. The volume control is more linear (previously everything seemed to happen in the top few notches). The old XP MediaCenter remote and keyboard work fine.

And the icing on the cake - my case fans shut off in sleep mode. I could never get the S3 suspend mode to work under XP, but everything is off and silent now. That alone was probably worth the update.

And I can confirm that Windows 7 does not support BluRay.


PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:36 pm
by Gordon Laing
Hi vincer, thanks for your informative post. I'm in a similar boat with a perfectly operational Windows XP-based Media Center system. Once again it works fine, but the enthusiast in me just can't leave it alone, so Windows 7 beckons. The hardware is described in the DIY Media PC article in the Computer Hardware section. I'll be adding to this post if or when I 'upgrade' this system to Windows 7.

In the meantime, we've all confirmed Blu Ray playback under any version of Windows requires third party software, just like DVD did a while back. PowerDVD and TMT are the usual solution, but we'd like to hear from anyone who's using these or anything else to watch Blu Ray movies on their Windows 7 systems.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:58 pm
by vincer
More problems have come to light as I've delved a little deeper.

I mentioned that Windows 7 had found my audio SPDIF connection. But that was all it found. I couldn't use the analogue speakers because the audio utility - SoundMax in my case - hedn't loaded. Looking on the internet this seems to be a common problem.

I found the utilities disc which came with my motherboard, tried it, only to be informed that it wasn't compatible with the operating system. This also means I can't load the Cool 'n Quiet utility, or the PC Probe utilty which monitors temperatures and fan speeds.

These can possibly be downloaded from the internet, but I haven't been able to try this because the system has now crashed in a big way.

I was pleased with the upgrade. Then today I put it into sleep mode, and it wouldn't come back.

It wouldn't boot either - fans would start, disc and DVD drive powered up, but no BIOS POST. It just sat there. Removed the Video and DVB Tuner - both PCI Express. Still no success.

Finally I cleared the Real Time Clock RAM to erase date, time and system setup parameters - there's a jumper on the motherboard to do this.

That got me going again with an error message to the effect that it couldn't restart from sleep mode because some file or other hadn't been stored - or was corrupt. I don't know if this is a one off or a sign that the board (ASUS A8N-VM CSM) isn't reliably compatible with the Windows 7 sleep mode.

I've sort of got it going again, but it will now not recognise the NVidia graphics card, and the TV doesn't work too well either. Both are PCI Express, so I'm beginning to wonder if there is something wrong in that area. I'm back to running on the on board graphics chip.

More IDC if I manage to pin this down.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 2:58 pm
by thelostswede
Wow, that really is an "old" system :D
Ok, sorry, but let's see what we can do to help.
First of all, are you using the latest BIOS version?
On Asus' website there's an update that fixes some issues with the sleep mode for 64-bit operating systems. The latest BIOS is over two years old and there's no official driver support for Windows 7, but there are some Vista drivers that might work.
You can get the AMD Cool 'n Quiet utility from AMD afaik as it's not specific to the motherboard, but rather the CPU.
No idea about PC Probe, but have a look at Speedfan which in my opinion is a far superior utility.
The S/PDIF connection found is most likely that of your graphics card, as it supports S/PIDF pass through if you use a DVI to HDMI dongle.
You might want to try these SoundMAX drivers from Asus, although they are for Vista, but they should still work with Windows 7.
Funny thing, seems like I did a review of the A8N-VM CSM a few years ago :D ... erboard/p1

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:38 pm
by Bob Andersson
Hi Vincer,

I've loaded W7 x64 onto my main machine (an ASUS P6T Deleuxe) and I've been unable to get the utilities that talk directly to the motherboard to work either, despite Asus marking them as W7 compatible. :evil:

It's for that reason that I'm holding off upgrading to W7 on my Media PC (also an Asus motherboard) but you've just given me another one, namely FrontView not working. It's a real shame because, for me, the W7 Media Center program has one killer new feature, namely the ability to sort DVDs by Genre. Hopefully the fixes will be forthcoming before long as more and more users load, or contemplate, W7.


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 11:34 am
by Bob Andersson
Hi Vincer,

I may have misunderstood your original post. You mention that you
tried to install the FrontView software to get something on the display. Appears to install OK, but doesn't seem to work with Windows 7

Can you confirm that this is the FrontView for MCE application by Media Center Magic you are talking about and not the FrontView that ships as part of SoundGraph's iMON/iMEDIAN HD. SoundGraph offer support for Windows 7 (x86 and x64) while the fairy dust appears to have run out at Media Center Magic.

Have you tried iMon? There's a SoundGraph forum section specifically devoted to using it with W7. But I see from this Google search that there might be issues with some USB displays.



PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:24 pm
by vincer
I can confirm that it is the Media Centre Magic version of Frontview that I'm talking about.

It's frustrating. One of the first things you do is tell the programme which display you are using - in my case one of the Matrix Orbital displays. Alongside the selection box there is a test button to test the display with a scrolling alphabet. This works, and the display scrolls - so the drivers are obviously installed correctly. It's just that Frontview doesn't display anything - not even the default wording that it should display when Media Centre is not running.

As you'll see from my next post - I'm giving up for now - and will try again in the new year.

Media Centre - signing off for now

PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:42 pm
by vincer
You will see from above that my Media Centre died shortly after installing Windows 7. Whether this was a coincidence or not I will probably never know.

Since then I've reflashed the BIOS to bring it up to the latest version, and I've udated the TV Card drivers. But to no avail. The motherboard will not recognise a graphics card plugged into the PCI Express slot (I've tried my NVidia and a friend's ATI which was known to be OK), and the TV tuner card - also PCI Express - is performing intermittently.

And this is with the old XP system disc, not Windows 7. So I've concluded I have a motherboard problem and have given up for now. I can still listen to music or look at pictures or videos, or TV recordings made on another computer, so I'll live with that for now and think about a new motherboard (and processor and memory) in the New Year.

In passing I mentioned my friend's ATI card. This friend has a satellite card in his Media Centre and is watching HD TV - but there is apparently a known problem with ATI cards and Media Center HD at the moment, and he gets picture breakup. No such problem with NVidia cards, and no problem using a non-Media Center codec and the ATI card.

So that's all for now. I'll re-engage in the New Year, and hope that you will all have sorted out the problems for me by then.


PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:53 pm
by Bob Andersson
Hi Vincer,

That's extremely disappointing news from you. I'd be lost these days without my Media PC.

My own setup is a lot simpler so I've described my successful Media PC upgrade to W7 in the regular "Windows 7 - requirements, compatibility and performance!" thread.

You can read how it went here.


PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2009 4:49 pm
by thelostswede
This might be something to look into for your next media center build ... media-pc/1

PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:36 pm
by R0Y.1
I have a satellite TV connection, with the STB having only video out ports. So there is no way to control it from the computer. Media center needs you to have the remote for this crappy app to watch digital tv, so it's not working in either vista or 7. On the tuner card, there are i/p ports for s-video and composite as well as analogue, and mc does detect the video correctly, but won't let me proceed with the setup without the crappy ms remote. In this regard, even ubuntu is miles ahead, with the video looking even better.

Media Center Upgrade - part 2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:18 am
by vincer
First, the good news. I was wrong. The Frontview software does work with Windows 7 Media Center. My Matrix Orbital PLED display is now behaving as it should. Must have been finger trouble last time around.

My previous posts recorded that I was having problems with my old Asus A8N-VM CSM motherboard. I have now replaced this with an ASUS M4A78-HTPC board, the processor is now an 2.8Mhz AMD M3, with 2GB of 1066 Mhz DDR2 RAM. The CPU cooler is a Scythe Shuriken. I've installed 32 bit Windows 7.

Two potential problems - there is no firewire interface, and there's a passive on board heatsink which is directly in line with one of the two PCI-E x 1 slots. My Terratec tuner card will not fit into this slot because it hits the heatsink. Only cards with a cut out or a high bottom edge are going to fit this slot.

Other than that I am very pleased with the board. Cool 'n Quite works, helping to keep the processor cool. The BIOS includes a "Tranquil Mode" which automatically reduces the speed of the two case fans and the CPU fan to an acceptable minimum value. The case is now very quite in normal operation. There are plenty of audio output options, and VGA, DVI and HDMI video outputs.

The onboard graphics is provide by an ATI HD3200 GPU which seems to be all you need - Blu Ray play back is fine.

I mentioned that the Terratec Tuner didn't fit into one of the slots. At the moment I'm running without a tuner, preferring to record TV programmes on a different computer. With Windows 7 you can designate your Media Libraries, and I've included the folder on this computer into my Media Centre library. Playback on the Media Centre of TV programmes recorded on the remote computer is seamless.

I'm thinking of installing a Satellite tuner card in due course, but that's the next project.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:39 pm
by Gordon Laing
Hi vincer, thanks for the update - do you know what fixed the display problem? What changed?

Also, could I ask what software you're using for Blu Ray playback under Windows 7? (sorry if this was mentioned earlier).

Media Centre upgrade

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 11:01 pm
by vincer
Re. Blu Ray - at the moment I'm using the 30 day trial version of PowerDVD9 - I just wanted to test Blu Ray playback to see if it was acceptable. I'm still looking for alternatives for the long term - PowerDVD has already locked up once, so I'm interested other options.

Re Frontview and the PLED display. I don't think I installed it properly the first time.

Installation is somewhat unusual in that the loader window appears, the progress bar progresses across the display, but then halts before the end. Another window opens up and various options have to be selected before the loader window can complete and close down.

The problem is the second window pops up behind the loader window, and it is easy to miss. I think I may have used Task Manager the first time around to close the Loader window, thinking that it was stuck. Enough of Frontview worked to make me think it had loaded - but obviously it hadn't.

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:22 pm
by Gordon Laing
Thanks vincer.

I think your other main option for Blu Ray playback is Total Media Theater, which also has the advantage of maintaining compatibility with HD-DVD for those who invested in this format before it died (like me!).

I've not tried it with Windows 7 though, so if you give it a shot, let us know how you get on.

PS - glad you got frontview working!