Bring on the Media Center

My Media Center is old. Very old in fact. It pre-dates Media Center 2005 and was supplied as part of a company scheme (even mentioned on the Carrera web page). Let’s just say that, from the outset, the hardware wasn’t great. It was noisy and smelly and you wouldn’t want it in your house. So Carrera accepted this and did some mods and we ended up with something just about acceptable. Things didn’t really work out for them in the long-run though and they ceased trading (I think they were taken over by Watford Electronics).

I’ve kind of struggled on with it and tried to upgrade to Vista Ultimate (something wasn’t happy – seemed like a driver as the machine would be okay for a day or two and then start to struggle despite there being very little CPU activity evident). I even threw Windows 7 at it just in case but no dice.

What did strike me though was how incredibly easy is it to install Windows 7 even compared to Vista. And how ridiculously easy it is to install Vista compared to Media Center 2005 (or any flavour of XP Media Center). Installing XP Media Center is a fate comparable to a trip to the dentist – you find yourself doing whatever you can to try and get out of it.

I spent literally 12 hours re-installing Media Center 2005 on that machine. Granted that’s partly my fault as I didn’t have every single driver to hand but it simply wanted rebooting about a thousand times and can find almost none of the drivers without help. Then, having done all that it flatly refused to find any TV channels and I was ready to throw it out the window. I did get it working the next day (without, to my knowledge, changing anything) but I’d had enough. And, to be honest, my wife had had enough about 6 months ago (and only tolerated this latest exercise in futility because she was in another continent).

So I was ready to throw in the Media Center towel until Scott mentioned that he had an old barebones machine that he’d used as a Media Center that he no longer needed. A deal was done and next day I was staring at an Asus P1-AH2 barebones. £37 bought me a CPU, £17 added 2GB of memory and I was set to go.

Installation of Vista Ultimate was a breeze aside from the sound driver (which is missing from the Asus website). I also found that the onboard NVidia graphics card and HDMI didn’t get on too well with my TV but I used the VGA output previously and it works very well with this machine too.

It did make an almighty whining noise which I hoped would be dramatically reduced when I put the case on. It wasn’t. And my wife wouldn’t stop complaining that it sounded like a dog whistle. Only next day did I realise it was down to me re-using an old HDD which had been side-lined for the very reason that it attracted all manner of canine attentions. A quick Vista full machine backup and restore onto the “old” Media Center HDD (how I love that feature) and we had a beautiful, silent Media Center.

I think even my wife has had to accept that it’s really rather good. Now that’s progress.

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