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Windows 7 : The WMC Hardware (part 2) - Can I Upgrade My Non-WMC PC to a WMC PC?

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2/14/2014 12:27:07 AM

Can I Upgrade My Non-WMC PC to a WMC PC?

You might be wondering, “Can I install WMC on my own PC if I have the right hardware?”

You can if you have the right hardware and purchase a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate. Each of these versions includes WMC and supports a wide range of hardware. You can purchase any of these versions as upgrades for previous Windows MCE computers; however, you do not need a WMC computer to use these products. You can also purchase a standard version and replace your current OS. Some compatible video/TV cards are as follows:

  • AVerMedia AVerTV Combo ATSC/NTSC/QAM Tuner Card

  • LEADTEK WinFast HDTV200

  • HAUPPAUGE WinTV-HVR-2250 TV Tuner Card

  • ASUS My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid

  • Diamond ATI TV Wonder HD 650 Combo Card

  • DViCO FusionHDTV7 Dual Express DUAL HDTV/Analog TV Tuner Card

Tip

You’ll find a lot of WMC hardware information at the Microsoft Partner Directory at www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/mediacenter/partners/default.mspx.


Microsoft makes a remote control for WMC machines, which I suggest picking up. It has useful keys along the top edge to control movies, skip commercials, and adjust the system volume. Figure 3 shows a typical remote.

Figure 3. Example of an IR remote control designed for WMC.


If you want to research how to upgrade to WMC or create a homebrew WMC box, you might want to do some web surfing. One such site available at the time of this writing is www.tomshardware.com/reviews/windows-7-htpc,2159.html.

Basic WMC PC Hookup

If you’ve had the joy (or job) of setting up a home-entertainment system or home theater, you know how convoluted the wiring can become. Assuming you have mastered the typical scenario with a TV or projector, an A/V switch, multiple video input devices, Dolby 5.1 (or 7.1) sound, and consolidating your remote controls, installing a WMC computer into your A/V arsenal is a relative no-brainer. Figure 4 displays a sample of the potpourri of gear you can integrate into a WMC setup.

Figure 4. A Windows 7 WMC PC can serve as a creativity and entertainment center, integrating a mess of equipment.

Leaving out the Cray computer, five digital HD video dishes on the roof, and the four subwoofers you’re likely to have accumulated over time if you’re a home theater nut, Figure 5 shows a typical basic WMC hookup.

Figure 5. A typical WMC wiring diagram.

Notice in Figure 5 that a relationship exists between the cable or satellite box and the infrared blaster that connects to the IR receiver for the WMC remote control. This allows the single remote control to also control the cable/satellite box.

Also note that, depending on your computer’s video card, you have more or fewer options for output to external display hardware (projectors, TV, and computer video displays). Most WMC computers have at least a composite video output with which to drive your TV or projection unit. For the cleanest image, though (especially if you are using a projector), you need a higher-resolution video connection. The next step up is an S-Video output. Obviously, your TV/projector must have an S-Video input for this to work. Moving up from there, many projectors have a VGA input, just like on the back of a computer monitor. I run a long VGA extension cable from my WMC machine to my projector using such a cable. I can run the projector in 1024×768 mode with a nice resolution and even do word processing or web surfing on my 10-foot screen, sitting in an easy chair with a wireless mouse and keyboard.

My TV Tuner Is Not Working

If you have a Media Center tuner that either is not supported by Windows 7 or does not work under Windows 7, you can often resolve the problem by going to your manufacturer’s website, downloading the latest Windows 7 driver, and installing it. This worked for me on my Toshiba Satellite with an external USB TV Tuner. If you have supported hardware, but the driver fails to load, you need to determine why.


For the ultimate in clarity, you have to use the DVI as your conduit to the projector. My projector (Sanyo Z2) has a DVI connector, as does my PC. The catch here is that DVI cables are expensive, whereas VGA cables are not, and S-Video and composite video cables are super cheap. Some sites online will sell you DVI cables at a fraction of what they charge at computer stores, though. (An excellent cable source is www.csccable.com.) Keep in mind when considering your connection type that clarity will go from best to worst, in this order: DVI, VGA, component, S-Video, composite.

Media Center Extender

After folks catch on to the idea of WMC computers, they will not want to be trapped in the one entertainment room the computer is directly tethered to. A series of gadgets called the Media Center Extender lets you gain access to PC-based content for any connected (wired or wireless) TV or monitor within the house. To this aim, Microsoft is focusing on a new generation of products that will allow access to digital entertainment, such as live and recorded TV, photos, movies, and music that resides on a Windows 7 Media Center PC from any room in the home.

Since the release of the first version of Media Center in 2004, a variety of hardware makers have released products with Media Center Extender technology embedded in them. This includes many new TVs, set-top boxes, and the Microsoft Xbox 360. Set-top boxes ship with remote controls. These products typically range in price from $100 to $250.

Tip

Here’s a video about how to set up an Xbox 360 as an extender: www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/videos/Xbox360connection.asx.

Here’s a good FAQ on Media Center Extenders: www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/mediacenter/extenderfaq.mspx.


Other manufacturers, incidentally, are working on their own implementations of this grand idea, independently of Microsoft. Onkyo, Sony, InterVideo, Linksys, and HP are some of the manufacturers releasing similar hardware devices and systems, some of which will work with WMC and some of which will be for their own platforms. We’re beginning to see many (mostly wireless) schemes for integrating more and more of the home with the computer-based entertainment system.

 
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