Building WMCE w/HDTV

Here's primer on building a new Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 box with high defintion TV capability.

Briefly, it's pretty basic to install WMCE on a new box because WMCE is Windows XP with Microsoft's Media Center shell. Also, installing an analog standard defintion TV tuner is rather basic as well.

However, many build-it-yourself users have had some difficulty with adding a high definition TV tuner. The only HD tuner that has received the Windows logo for Media Center Edition 2005 is ATI's HDTV Wonder. So, we'll only be talking about the ATI product but the procedure below should work for other HDTV tuners as well (FusionHDTV by Dvico and MyHD by Macro Image Technology are examples).

Currently, an HDTV tuner card will not work in WMCE without the presence of an analog TV tuner card. WMCE must detect the analog TV tuner before it will setup the channels for standard and high definition. However, someone has hacked the ATI catalyst drivers to make the ATI HDTV Wonder work in WMCE without an analog tuner (search for "Kram drivers").

A few caveats: (1) the procedure assumes a new installation of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 on a clean hard drive, (2) the procedure does not apply to a plain Windows XP installation, although I see not reason why it won't work, (3) you will use the latest applicable Windows Updates and drivers, and (4) it is essential that you install a DVD decoder like Nvidia's DVD decoder.

Also, I strongly recommend that you properly analyze your antenna requirements before hand. See and

1. Install Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 without the tv tuner cards. Do the Windows Update. Don't do WMCE TV channel setup yet.
2. Install the HDTV Rollup update from Microsoft, if not previously installed
3. Install the analog TV tuner drivers. Shutdown.
4. Physically install the analog TV tuner in the PCI slot. Restart. Check Device Manager
5. Install the HDTV Wonder driver from ATI. Shutdown.
6. Physically install the ATI HDTV Wonder card in a PCI slot
5. ReStart. The card gets detected and sets up automatically. Check Device Manager.
6. Launch MCE and setup TV channels; you need an internet connection for downloading the latest channel guide.

Notes: you can get away with physically installing the analog TV tuner card as you are installing Windows. It shouldn't cause an issue, but check the Device Manager. Again, it is essential that you install a DVD decoder like Nvidia's decoders.

Lastly, I recommend that you design your WMCE pc system as if it was a high performance computer. Trying to do this on the cheap, with spare, or marginal pc parts will increase your risk of getting a poorly performing system or of outright failure. After all, you will be processing video. MS's and ATI's recommended (not minimum) system requirements are good starts.

Also, along these lines, if you should decide to use Windows Media Center Extenders to add other TVs and XBoxes, then your central WMCE box will need enough power to push media files to these other systems over wired and wireless networks. As you can see, the main WMCE box could become a server of huge media files.

I do not guarantee that the above procedure will work for you or with all system configurations. I am volunteering this information, am not paid by anyone, and have no connection with Microsoft, ATI, or any other company. To the extent copyright laws are applicable, I grant a non-exclusive right to all individuals for private copying and use. There are no warranties of any kind, and where an express or implied warranty may apply, total damages shall be limited to one cent USA. In other words, use the above at your own risk.
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  1. You install the drivers BEFORE putting the actual cards onto the computers motherboards ? Wont the drivers simply state something such as '""nothing to install""? Or were you simply noting to have the driver programs onboard the hardrive for instalation when the cards where inserted ?

    Also Here:""....

    5. Install the HDTV Wonder driver from ATI

    ATI catalyst drivers to make the ATI HDTV Wonder work in WMCE without an analog tuner (search for "Kram drivers"). ""

    Someone installing the HDTV 'SHOULD consider having BOTH the HDTV card AND the Analog TV card as told within your instalation sequence. ?


    One more.,..
    Some persons have had problems installing dual tuners from ATI (same proprietor),but have stated that different brands from separate vendors will install quantly.? Any comment on this as to doing so from separate vendors,or comment of using same vendor for both graphics card(s) and tuners .
  2. Yes, install the drivers before actually putting the card in the PCI slot. No one has reported Windows terminating the driver installation due to the absence of the card in the slot.

    If you were to physically install the cards in the PCI slots before installing the respective drivers, you will get those yellow question marks in the Device Manager. But, preinstalling the drivers, as you do many USB devices, will make them available to Windows when it boots up and discovers something in the PCI slots.

    Anyway, that's the way it has been going.

    Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will not setup TV unless there is at least one analog TV tuner present in the system. Furthermore, WMCE does not recognize the analog tuner in the ATI HDTV Wonder tuner. I think it has something to do with whether an hardware encoder is required.

    You're right. ATI HDTV Wonder can tune analog TV and digital HD TV channels in a regular Windows XP environment. But, for WMCE, it won't work.

    See and its FAQs.

    WMCE 2005 does support dual TV tuners. Presently, WMCE will support two analog tuners and one digital HD TV tuner. The ATI HDTV Wonder is the only HDTV tuner certified for WMCE.

    Unofficially, I've read that WMCE will work with two digital HD TV tuners, but MS says it will not support it. In other words, you will get no help from MS.

    Nvidia and Hauppauge have products that are single cards with dual TV tuners, and these dual tuners do work in WMCE.
  3. Lucky you!
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