How to install Media Center from CDs

I have seen questions from fellow Microsoft employees regarding how to install Windows XP Media Center edition on a brand new computer using the OS installation CDs. This question has very rarely been asked by customers outside of Microsoft because Media Center is typically only available via an OEM reseller and comes pre-installed on the computer. There are some cases where customers can buy machines with the installation CDs but do not have the OS installed, or the OEM provides recovery media on CD instead of on DVD. This process is a little bit tricky so I decided to list the steps to install Media Center on a clean partition from CD.

The process to install Media Center is different from the process to install XP Home/Pro because Media Center spans 2 CDs whereas the standard Windows XP Home/Pro product fits on a single CD. It requires the following 2 steps that are different from standard XP Home/Pro OS setup:

Launch OS setup with a special command line switch

The following command lines can be used to launch Media Center setup from CD:

  • If you are launching OS setup from within Windows: <cd drive>\i386\winnt32.exe /makelocalsource:all
  • If you are launching OS setup from a boot floppy: <cd drive>\i386\winnt.exe /2

The /makelocalsource:all and /2 command line parameters cause winnt32.exe and winnt.exe to copy the contents of CD1 and CD2 to the local hard drive at the beginning of OS setup. If you fail to do this you will receive disk swap prompts during Media Center (or Tablet PC) OS installation.

Enter a valid product key that matches the OS type you want to install

After launching setup with one of the above command line parameters, the other step required to install Media Center instead of the standard XP Home/Pro OS is to enter a valid Media Center product key when prompted during OS setup. Doing so will cause OS setup to install the .NET Framework 1.0 and Media Center components in addition to the standard XP Home/Pro components. It will also cause your OS to be branded appropriately (for example - the left side of the start menu if you have your desktop configured for Windows Classic view will display "Media Center" instead of "Windows XP").

Also, if you enter a Home/Pro product key, OS setup will not end up installing the .NET Framework 1.0 or the Media Center components, and you cannot use Media Center on the Home/Pro OS that you have just installed.

Why the extra steps?!?

Media Center setup ships with the core OS components on CD1 and the Media Center-specific OS components on CD2. If you take a look at Media Center CD1 and compare it to XP Home/Pro CD1, you will see that the contents are nearly identical (with the exception of the EULA file and a couple other small things). CD2 contains Media Center, Tablet PC and .NET Framework bits. The decision about which bits to actually install happens at OS setup time and is controlled by the product key that you enter during OS setup.

Note that even though I only mentioned Media Center, the above OS setup behaviors apply equally to Tablet PC. Both Media Center and Tablet PC share the same underlying OS setup design and both require the extra command line switches and specific product key to be entered during setup to install the correct bits.