Media Center - pro or con ?

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Media Center PC's ... I've read folks here complaining that it's not a
"real PC".  I looked at a few the other day to see if remote connection
capability ( as in XP pro vs XP Home) and they do have it, so it seems
like XP pro without ability to join a domain - is that right ? If so,
what "wrong with Media Center" ?
Anyone out there with 2005  version - feedback ? Everything else being
equal, I'd like it for viewing cd/dvd without booting .

Re: Media Center - pro or con ?

Not clear if you are talking about the operating system or about a
specific Media Center computer.

Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) is XP Pro with a lot of additions
and one major capability removed (the removed capability is domain based
networking ... although even that is not totally removed).  If you
really need domain based networking, there are well publicized hacks to
fully restore it, but some media center capabilities will then be lost.
  [You actually can join one single static domain in MCE even without
the hacks, but you only get one chance to do it and it's during system

MCE has TWO interfaces, Media Center and the normal Windows XP Pro
Desktop.  Either can be selected as the bootup default user interface,
so if you buy a PC that comes with MCE and it is set up to use the Media
Center interface by default (as it probably will be), all it takes is a
setting mouse click to switch it back to the normal XP desktop as the
default startup interface.

You can switch back and forth between the two interfaces as often as you
want, instantly.  A restart is not required.  Also, the Media Center
interface can run in the background while you are using the XP Pro desktop.

When you are using the desktop (with Media Center not running in the
background), the Media center stuff does not use system resources
(except for taking up some space on the hard drive) and does not get in
the way.  Ignoring the hard drive space that the media center stuff
takes up, there is no "downside" to having MCE if you don't use the
media center and don't need domain networking.

Because MCE has all of XP Pro's features except domain networking (e.g.
it has remote control, full NTFS security, etc.), it is unconditionally
better than XP Home (which also doesn't have domain networking).  And
because it has the "extra" Media facilities, it's really better than XP
Pro if you don't need domain networking.

Additionally, most of "Vista Upgrade Programs" are treating MCE like XP
Pro in terms of your eligibility for a Vista upgrade.  So unlike XP
Home, where you have to pay for the Vista upgrade, most of the Vista
upgrades from MCE are free.

Bottom line, not only should you not reject a computer with MCE, in fact
you should look for and prefer MCE to XP Home.  It's like getting a Home
to Pro upgrade free, in almost all cases.

- Bobb - wrote:
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Re: Media Center - pro or con ?

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And where do you switch between the two? Under Programs, Control Panel,
or where? I have one machine here on the home network that has Windows
XP Media Center on it and it looks just like Windows XP to me.


Re: Media Center - pro or con ?

To switch from the Windows desktop to media center, there is a media
center item/icon in the start menu.  You can drag a shortcut of this to
the desktop or quicklaunch (or any other) toolbar if desired.  Once
started, Media center will appear in the task bar until closed.  And of
course if you have the remote control, there is the "green button" media
center button on the remote.

To switch from Media Center to desktop, there is an icon (it's the
"power switch" icon, a vertical bar inside a circle) in the upper left
corner of the top-level Media Center screen.  This can be used to just
exit media center or to shut down the computer (when you click it, you
get 4 or 5 choices, I don't remember what all of them are, but I think
that three of them are exit (close) media center, minimize media center
(keeps it running) and power down the computer (directly from Media

Also, once media center is running, it's treated as an application, and
I'm pretty sure that "Alt-tab" can be used to switch between it and any
other running applications.

If your MCE machine looks like XP, then Media Center isn't running.  To
start it, go to the start menu, start / programs / media center.  There
are a few other ways as well, you can even run the executable (I think
it's ehome.exe, but I may be slighly off) from the start menu's "run"

The option to make Media Center the default interface (or to make the XP
desktop the default interface) is in the Media Center "settings" window,
I believe (been a while since I used it).

If you are going to use Media Center very much, you really need the
genuine Microsoft Media Center remote control (about $40), and a Media
Center compatible TV tuner ($50 to $150).  Note that most TV tuners
(both internal cards and USB) are not media center compatible.  To be
compatible, the card must have hardware MPEG encoding and Media Center
drivers.  A few cards claim to be MCE compatible using a driver with
software encoding.  Avoid these like the plague.  The most widely used
line of compatible and supported cards is by Hauppauge, but they make
some products that are not MCE compatible as well, so check the specs.
Most of the ATI tuner products are not compatible (ATI is one of the
firms that has tried to "sleeze by" with a software encoder on a product
that doesn't meet the MCE specs requiring a hardware MPEG encoder).

MCE will look just like Windows XP when Media Center isn't running ....
that was the whole point of my post.  With Media Center not running, MCE
is XP Pro for almost all purposes.  Yet, if you look, you will see
people who bought computers with MCE pre-installed who are desperate to
remove MCE and install XP (Home or Pro) because the Media Center
interface is the default and they don't realize that they can change it,
or even that the computer has the XP desktop at all.

BillW50 wrote:

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Re: Media Center - pro or con ?


Thanks for the feedback - that's how I felt too - but saw a lot of bad
press on it (here).  I don't need domains on a non-business laptop so
MCE looks like the way to go.

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The ones I saw on sale were from HP and came with the remote (fits into
PCMCIA slot when not in use) for $750. I went online and saw that I
could order it with tuner card - but didn't see it in the stores
packaged  that way.

( I have a Hauppauge card in my tower ( this PC ) and use it all the
time rather than a TV in the room)

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Re: Media Center - pro or con ?

The remote control is carried by Newegg at about $40, you may find it on
E-Bay for less.

There are lots of tuner cards ... both PC Card and USB.  Not all of them
are compatible with MCE (in fact, most are not).  The MCE specs require
a hardware MPEG encoder and of course an MCE driver (note that an MCE
driver is not the same as a Windows XP driver, in this case, although
some products do have a single driver that is compatible with both OS').
  Tuner cards are generally $50 to $150.  I'd recommend a USB external
tuner for a laptop.  One that is definitely compatible is the Hauppauge
"WinTV PVR USB2".  Note, however, that the similar Hauppauge "WinTV
USB2" is not compatible.  It must have the "PVR" in the name.

- Bobb - wrote:

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Re: Media Center

Got it - thanks.

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