The death of Windows Media Center and the five stages of HTPC grief


Running Windows 8.1 so I can use Windows Media Center is totally fine, even if it’s 2018. Windows Media Center is the best way to watch TV on my terms. All I have to do is pay for cable, and I can record all the shows I want with my HDHomeRun Prime. I don’t have to mess around with any of that streaming nonsense or multiple subscriptions to network-specific content. If I wanted to, I could even run the hack that lets me use Windows Media Center in Windows 10. Besides, all my saved recordings are already in .wtv format. Everything is just fine.


Freaking Microsoft! I still can’t believe they dropped Windows Media Center after all this time. It’s all the Xbox’s fault! To top it all off, all the other options out there suck. I don’t want to change how I do things or fight with someone else’s so-called “solution.” Plus, what else will work with a cable card? Using a cable card makes me super awesome and nerdy. I can’t just give that up and be one of the normals.


Well, maybe I can cut cable and just use Windows Media Center to record over-the-air TV. That’s still sticking it to the man, right? If I stop paying for cable, I’ll save a lot of money each month, and I can use that cash to buy new seasons of the handful of shows I really want to watch. In fact, it’s probably better that way because I won’t have to watch commercials like I would if I streamed those shows from Hulu or something. It’ll be good to watch less TV.


This sucks. Every single show is a choice between spending money or watching commercials. It was so much easier when I could just pay one bill and do it all myself. My OTA channel selection is super limited, and the way things are going, Survivor is probably going to be spoiled before I get around to watching the new season. Everything was so much better before.


This HDHomeRun DVR software actually has some nice features, and it’s really nice that the app runs on all our tablets and phones. I don’t even really need my Windows 8.1 PC any more—all I was using it for was Windows Media Center. You know, I could probably get rid of the gaming PC hooked up to the TV if I moved the video card into my home server. Having just one computer in the living room instead of three is the kind of thing that will make leaving Windows Media Center behind sting a little less. I bet that if I document the whole process and write it up for TR, it’ll be exactly the kind of therapy I need to wrap this up and move on with life.

And so it begins

Now, I know the thought process above has to be similar to what at least some of you have gone through. I figure I’m on the tail end of converts from ye olde Windows Media Center, but I know there are diehards still out there lamenting their loss or maybe still fighting to get Windows Media Center working on Windows 10 in a post-April Update world. To those of you good people, take a deep breath and listen to my tale. Maybe it will help you find peace.

I’ve used Windows Media Center since leaving BeyondTV sometime around 2008, right around the time the first HDHomeRun came out. Around that time, I had my sights set on getting a Hauppauge HD PVR as soon as I could. Back then, my HTPC was built around a Core2 Duo E6600 and a passively cooled GeForce 8600 GTS. That hardware had a good run, but it’s history and not part of the equation today. Today’s story really begins with the details of the three different PCs that did everything and the one PC that brought them all together.


First built in late 2012, and running Windows 8 from day one, my HTPC’s foundation was an AMD A10-5700 and its Radeon HD 7660D IGP. I was a bit obsessed with APUs and mini-ITX at the time, but I won’t rehash old forums posts here. I should mention, though, that the motherboard, an ASRock FM2A75M-ITX, became infamous for VRM fires shortly after it was released. I never had a problem with it, though, perhaps because of the 65-W TDP of my APU. I paired those parts with 8 GB of DDR3-1866 memory. A 128-GB Samsung 830 SSD and a 2.5″ 750-GB spinner for recording storage rounded out the system.

I had a lot of fun with this build/mod back in the day.

That setup got the job done for a while, but the IGP was coming up short for even the light TV gaming it was asked to do. As a result, I moved the PC into a new case, switched to a 3.5″ 2-TB hard drive, and dropped in a Asus Radeon R9 270 in the summer of 2014. It hasn’t changed since—not because it didn’t need to, but because it was trapped by Windows Media Center and its dependence on Windows 8.1.

The home server

Built not long after the first incarnation of the HTPC above, my home server came together in early 2013. Originally conceived as a dedicated PC for storage and game servers, its hardware configuration has stood the test of time. For one, I haven’t outgrown its modest storage space, courtesy of three 2-TB Western Digital Reds in RAID 5. For another, the 16 GB of DDR3-1600 memory, picked for RAM drive experimentation, is still a respectable capacity even by today’s standards. The Intel i5-3450S sitting at the system’s heart is a bit of an odd duck, but it can turbo up to 3.5 GHz and does its job within 65 W. Everything resides in a Fractal Design Node 304 case, which I still have a strong attachment to.

I still do all my best projects on this workbench.

The gaming PC

When I replaced my main rig back in early 2017, my old system became available for redeployment. The venerable Intel i7-2600K that lived inside needs no introduction, but the system did need a new video card. My GeForce GTX 980 Ti had jumped ship to my Kaby Lake build, after all. Before the mining craze hit, I picked up an MSI Radeon RX 470 for a scant $175 to take its place. My old PC still rocked 16 GB of RAM and a 500-GB SSD, as well.

At the time, hooking this PC up to my TV solved a couple of problems. It was vastly superior at gaming compared to the HTPC I had before, and it could actually play 4K YouTube videos without looking like a fool (not to mention its ability to perform chop-free playback of 1080p video in funky broadcaster-specific players). As a Windows 10 box, though, it couldn’t run Windows Media Center.

Whoa… The same screwdriver is in every vintage image.


The fox, the chicken and the corn

As I’ve said, all three of these PCs performed their various duties in the living room. The HTPC handled recording and playing back TV with Windows Media Center, addressed light gaming needs like Minecraft or Stardew Valley, and ran Chrome for all the things Chrome does. The home server sat next to it, providing bulk storage for my collection of ripped movies and saved recordings of Good Eats and Mythbusters. It also drove the all-important baby-monitor screen, served up the weather on the side, and kept the Minecraft server running. Meanwhile, the dedicated gaming PC was off most of the time, its video card going to waste unless friends or family wanted to fire up Gang Beasts, Rocket League, Helldivers, or whatever for a few rounds. All in all, having three separate computers around my TV was a less-than-ideal situation.

With so many missions spread across so many systems, it was harder than I expected to decide what to do. First and foremost, I needed to get away from Windows Media Center, but nothing else played nice with the .wtv recordings I had saved. I really didn’t want to mess with moving my RAID array to a new PC. I also knew that a PC with dual monitors was going to get really annoying really fast when the primary monitor (the TV) was getting powered off all the time and making windows all jump around on the secondary screen. It was classic paralysis by analysis, and I couldn’t bring myself to move forward.

My white knight wore a black leather jacket. I’m due for my every-three-year, top-of-the-line-video-card-upgrade, and I’ve been saving my Amazon bucks since I last spent them on my Kaby Lake upgrade. Say what you will about the value proposition of a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, but I have the motivation and the means to pick up the latest and greatest once the stupid things are actually in stock at their suggested prices. Eventually, that card will free up my 980 Ti for a reunion with my 2600K and its destiny as a dedicated VR PC in the basement.

As I was piecing my plan together, though, the immediate fact was that the Radeon RX 470 in my old gaming PC could migrate into the home server to take over the duties of all three computers scattered around my entertainment center. Well, on the hardware side of things, anyway. Since my circuitous hardware-moving plan didn’t require any downtime for the current HTPC, I went ahead and yanked the RX 470 to put it into the home server, even though I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do with the software side quite yet.

Immediately, I ran into problems. Balls, where on earth are my Corsair modular PCIe power cables? Must have gotten tossed during the move or a spring cleaning since then. Dang, the EVGA ones I found don’t fit. Crap, I can’t use the PSU from the temporarily out-of-commission i7-2600K machine! It’s too long, and the modular cables collide with the top of the video card. Ah ha! I have that old 750-W non-modular Corsair PSU in the basement. Hope it still works.

The internal layout of the Node 304 hasn’t aged well, but I’m still a big fan of the exterior.

It did work, and two hours into my 20-minute project, with the most tragic cabling mess I’ve ever created in place, I hit the power button. The system came to life, but there was no signal from the video card. Terrific. I think we’ve all been down this road before. I removed the RX 470 and went hunting for a BIOS update. Thankfully, the Intel BOXDH77DF motherboard had loads of them. Turns out I was still running on the first release. Oops. Thanks to Meltdown and Spectre, there was even an update for it from this year that’d I’d been too lazy to apply until now. I installed the update, reinstalled the video card, and everything was right with the world. As a bonus feature, my retro mobo was now rocking the latest Intel visual BIOS. It felt like getting a whole new PC.

With that out of the way, I still needed to get the server upgraded to Windows 10. I popped in a spare Crucial MX100 256-GB SSD that I’d recently replaced in another PC and installed Microsoft’s latest onto that drive while leaving the Windows 8.1 installation intact on the RAID array. Sweet, things were finally all coming together. Now I just had to get the services it performed back up and running. Let’s just quickly defrag that RAID array first, seems like a good idea now that the OS is on its own drive, right?

Wait, what? Windows 10 thinks the RAID array is an SSD and won’t defrag it? A bit of Googling informed me that, left to its own device drivers, Windows 10 will assume drives are SSDs if they perform above a particular threshold. Installing the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver sorted that out, though. Finally, I could get to work.

Dusty silicon

I’ve mentioned that I first snagged an HDHomeRun device about 10 years ago. It worked great until it was destroyed by lightning, and I’ve stuck with SiliconDust’s product line ever since. I got a lot of mileage out of my HDHomeRun Prime after buying it in 2012, but I retired it when I dropped cable last year. That left me with a lone dual-tuner SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual from 2011. It was still going strong and I saw no reason to replace it—at least, at first.

As a fan of its hardware, it was a logical step for me to switch over to SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun DVR software. I’d been keeping an eye on it for a few years and liked what I saw, but just not enough to take the plunge until Windows Media Center became truly unsustainable. HDHomeRun DVR has a reasonable $35 annual subscription fee for access to program guide data, plus the full complement of application features with no limits on the number of devices that can use it. My HDHomeRun Dual played nice with the free version, so, I decided to pony up my $35 to unlock the rest of the features.

That’s funny, the program guide isn’t loading anything…

There’s not much to look at, so enjoy the box art too.

It turned out that even though my old tuner worked with the new software, it wasn’t supported by the new software. I found this out after contacting SiliconDust’s support. They got back to me quickly with the news and offered me a 30% discount code on a new tuner from their store. That was a better deal than any of my other options, and I soon took delivery of a shiny new quad-tuner HDHomeRun Connect Quatro.

The existing, and fully updated, HDHomeRun software I already had installed found the new tuner instantly. After a quick channel scan (using this antenna, we get NBC, Fox, CBS, and PBS just fine over the air), I was ready to pick up where I’d left off a week earlier when my old tuner hit the wall. The setup process—if you can even call it that—was insanely simple, a far cry from the various hoops I’ve had to jump through over the years. All I had to do was set where I wanted my recordings to be saved. The Quatro worked flawlessly and identically with the HDHomeRun app on Windows 10, Windows Phone 10, iOS, and on a Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet. With OTA TV suddenly available on so many new screens in the house, I was glad to have the two extra tuners afforded by the Quatro. Now, it was time for the combo to show me what it could do.

Thankfully, the HDHomeRun app plays nice with my configured-for-Windows-Media-Center Logitech Harmony remote. A couple buttons inherited slightly different functions, but I didn’t bother to reprogram them. I did have to reprogram the remote to implicitly leave the PC on when switching to other activities, though. Otherwise, the remote would put the PC to sleep if I toggled over to the PS4 for some Spiderman action. The most important button, fast forward for commercial skipping, worked perfectly and without any limitations.

As for using the app to watch and record TV, I’m pretty impressed. We haven’t had to deal with any technical problems or crashing whatsoever. The live program guide shows up on the right side of the live TV and you can scroll through it one channel at a time to see what’s coming up. I actually like this better than Windows Media Center’s transparent guide that blankets the entire screen.

The “Discover” tab could also be considered a program guide, but it presents shows as thumbnails and doesn’t concern itself with showing you what channel something is on. How very modern. I’d be annoyed by it, but chances are I’m not going to watch TV live anyway. I don’t really care when a show is on—I just want to see what programs are available. So, surprisingly enough, this interface works for me.

Recordings and tasks are what you’d expect to see if you’ve ever used a DVR before. A feature I’ve long been jealous of on other platforms is the option to record sporting events only when specific teams are playing. Thanks to the HDHomeRun app, I finally have this ability. Go Lions! I do miss having a summary of upcoming recordings, though. Playback of recordings is synced across all your devices, at least, so you can pick up whatever you left off watching on the big screen whether you go for the phone in your pocket or the tablet on your nightstand. The wife approval factor of this feature is extremely high in my household. At long last, I can put Windows Media Center to bed, forever.


Not so fast, buddy

Oh crud, all my saved recordings in .wtv format. What am I going to do with them? A couple programs can play them, but the recordings have crazy file names that aren’t based on the name of the episode. Only Windows Media Center can read and properly display the metadata that ultimately allows you to pick the show you want to watch. The files are big, too, since they’re not saved as the H.264 files we all know and love. They also don’t enjoy the near-universal hardware-acceleration support of H.264 videos. As a result, I needed to rename and transcode hundreds of files. I needed some help.

Enter my 14-year old nephew, who, in his words, has been:

int x = 8;

Console.WriteLine("programming since age {0}", x);

Nice. Anyway, there was no way I was going to manually rename each file. I calculated that it would take at least six hours of abject tedium—the worst kind of tedium. So, I farmed it out for a song instead. Here’s what he came up with.

public static void renameFile(object input)


FileInfo io = (FileInfo)input;

Shell sh = new Shell();

Folder dir = sh.NameSpace(Path.GetDirectoryName(io.FullName));

FolderItem item = dir.ParseName(Path.GetFileName(io.FullName));

String det = dir.GetDetailsOf(item, 274);

DetailedFileInfo oFileInfo = new DetailedFileInfo(274, det);

String fileName = io.Name.Replace("_", " ");

String dirName = io.FullName.Replace(io.Name, "");

String fullName = Path.Combine(dirName, fileName);

File.Move((fullName.Replace(fileType, "")) + targetFileType, Path.Combine(fullName.Replace(fileName, ""),

(oFileInfo.Value.Replace(":", "").Replace("?", "").Replace("*", "")) + targetFileType));


It worked! While I was fast asleep, this code and his efforts magically transformed my unparseable file names into files with names that matched the episode within. It was wonderful. By the way, Shell32.dll and System.IO are dependencies for that bit of code. Code monkeys and keen-eyed non-coders among our readers probably noticed that the code is reading data from one file and renaming a matching file. That’s because I transcoded all the files before my nephew got to work.

Even the simple task of batch-transcoding required an unexpected journey, though. Thanks to my amazing foresight, I’ll be running a lowly quad-core processor for at least another year or so. Even using the most powerful PC in my house, the idea of transcoding hundreds of hours of recorded TV was still daunting. Thankfully, Handbrake was at least up for the job, as it can work with .wtv files. After some benchmarking and experimentation with quality settings with the hardware on hand, though, I realized what I really needed was the untapped potential riding shotgun within my CPU. I needed to enable my IGP to get help from Quick Sync.

A trip to the BIOS, a driver installation, and a reboot later, I was staring at a Device Manager listing that I never expected to see. I quickly became very thankful for it, though. With my swanky new Intel HD Graphics 630 unlocked, Handbrake had a fancy “Intel QSV” option for encoding H.264 available from its Video Codec drop-down menu. Using QuickSync still hit my CPU hard, which was surprising, but it made a huge difference in performance. I observed the average FPS while encoding rise from about 60 to about 150. I figure that saved at least four days of round-the-clock CPU time. At last—and for real, this time—I could put Windows Media Center to bed, forever.

I was down to the last niggling item on my to do list for the project. I’d identified it early on, but the final piece of the puzzle took a couple weeks to put in place all the same. The problem was driving two monitors from one computer when one of the monitors (the TV) is frequently turned off while the other one is left on all the time. This arrangement causes Windows to haphazardly rearrange windows on the smaller screen any time the TV and receiver are powered down. As you can imagine, this is very annoying.

Yep, it’s a swivel adapter wrapped in electrical tape.

After scouring the internet for software-based solutions, driver settings, registry edits, and the like, all I found was other folks with the same problem and tales of things that sometimes worked or used to work. Eventually, I followed the rabbit hole deep enough to come across the Monitor Detect Killer. It sounded like exactly what I needed, and it turned out that it was. The MDK is an unassuming device that could easily be mistaken for a generic cable adapter in a drawer full of parts. However, it’s got some secret sauce inside that allows it to perform its proverbial “one job” of not letting your PC know when the monitor plugged into it is turned off. There’s really not much else to say about it—it just works.


With all of my problems finally solved, it was time to look upon my works. Were the dozen or so surprises along the way worth the hassle? Unequivocally, yes. Everything about our HTPC setup is vastly simplified and improved. It’s drawing less power, pumping out less heat, generating less noise, and using fewer input devices. As a bonus, not much money was spent in the process, and I got the satisfaction of breathing new life into aging hardware (though I was tempted to make this a story about building a shiny new Ryzen 2700 system for the job instead).

In a way, this article is the opposite of a long story short. You could easily sum it up with one sentence, but I think the history and specifics are what make it interesting and relatable. Maybe you even learned something new. Certainly, nothing I’ve shared was particularly difficult, but if you’ve made it this far, I suspect that you appreciate the finer details. The kind of details that lead most people that don’t “get” computers to just use a smart TV, game console, or a Roku-alike for media-duty, I suspect. Even so, I’ll bet some of you are already mentally drafting up a reply about how I should have gone n steps further. I’m fine with that.

It’s funny: people tell me I must really love computers, but the truth is that I have strong, sometimes irrational, preferences that require me to understand computers. Maybe that’s love, I’m not sure. What I do know is that, in this case, those preferences just didn’t jive with Microsoft’s roadmap for living room media consumption, and something had to give. I gave, and I’m in a better place now. It’s going to be ok.

…wait, you’re still running Windows 7? Oh boy, I am not qualified to tackle that. Seek professional help, friend.

Colton Westrate

I host BBQs, I tell stories, and I strive to keep folks happy.

Comments closed
    • Walkintarget
    • 4 years ago

    Still rocking a Win7 WMC SFF hooked up to the plasma in the den. I continue to toss big storage at it, with an 8TB WD Red storing well over 600 DVDs. That box also runs an Emby server so that both smart TVs in the house can connect to it and watch any of those DVDs.

    For backup purposes, I have a WHS 2011 box (the original MSS 470 EX with a LOT of upgrades !!) that houses over 17TB of storage (more WD 8TB Reds bought for $160 last year) and that backs up the HTPC plus 4 more PCs in the house every night.

    The latest Meltdown patch seems to have hosed my Blu-ray software tho .. I bought Totalmedia Theatre 5 years ago, and its always worked perfectly. Around Feb. of this year, it just stopped working entirely. Some googling seems to have turned up that this could be my issue, but if I look for the specific KB # for the Meltdown or Spectre patch, my AMD based rig (AM3+ board, FX6300 CPU) does not show that either patch is currently installed ?!?

    Its a damn shame that so many MS products that I really found useful have died a whimpering death at their hands (WHS, WMC, Windows Phone – I bought em all and loved em) but if you know anything about buying into MS hardware, you will eventually be completely left to wither and die on the vine, replaced with …. who knows !?!? For how long has MS issued their yearly decree that this is the year we focus on gaming … HAHAHAA !!! It must be a calendar reminder in Outlook for them. Rant over .. I’ll keep running what I have until it no longer works.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t used Windows Media Center in a long time, as decent as it once was.

    I ended up splitting the tasks. I went with a TiVo lifetime subscription and six tuners; I don’t have to pay an HD fee, cable tuner box fee (CableCARD is free), or a DVR rental fee this way.

    Kodi became my go-to for everything else. I built an HTPC that went through a variety of low voltage parts. From an i3-3225 (back then, it wasXBMC) to a quad-core Braswell, to an i5-4590S, then a Kaby i5-7500T.

    I just switched to a Coffee Lake NUC running an i5-8259U which is pretty much the coolest box I’ve ever used for the task. It does everything I want and more, with an inexpensive WMC remote, a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard/trackpad, and Win10. It’s whisper quiet and the Iris Plus 655 graphics handle any video playback I could think of. They’re really not that expensive and with the built-in CIR and CEC standard, it can even control your TV power-on/power-off with your WMC remote. The i3 version is plenty powerful and a little cheaper, if you don’t intend on tasks other than multimedia. I’m now running Kodi “Leia” 18b5 and it’s smooth at every task.

    I wish Microsoft had kept a modernized WMC platform, but I’m happy there are really good open source alternatives. Kodi is definitely one of them.

    • just brew it!
    • 4 years ago

    Even though I’ve never used WMC myself, this was an interesting read.

    • drwho
    • 4 years ago

    I just trialled a quick re-code of a hd film (king kong, so quite long) it was going to take a very long time, even on a 6core iNtel.. thought it would save a bit of space… but then again not every thing plays h.265 (VLC app on SONY TV ?? ) .
    I’ve just ditched WMC on W10 for Hauppage Tuner + software . Good article .

    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    Thanks again for the links to the DIY options.

    • kt3946
    • 4 years ago

    I sent an email to Colton, but I wanted to post here.

    MDK isn’t some hugely engineered device that has a special chip. It’s a 100 ohm resistor soldered between pins 18 & 19 on the HDMI connector (hence the crappy electrical tape on the modified swivel adapter).

    Pin 19 is the hotplug detection pin. When a device is online, it sends 5v back to the video card on that pin. All you need to do is wire a resistor from pin 18 (which already gets 5v from the card) and redirect it to pin 19. That bypasses the hot-plug detection, and prevents the monitor from being lost when it’s turned to a different input or turned off.

    It’s been around for years.

    [url<][/url<] (pin 19 is in black, pin 18 is the +5v in red) [url<][/url<] This can also be done on the DVI and VGA ports. In theory this can also be done with Displayport as it also has a HotPlugDetect pin, but some drivers ignore it, as it looks for the EDID information coming off the data-channel instead. So it can be hit-or-miss. Edit: Surprisingly DataPro (cable makers), actually has a nice web-page showing the pins on all the connectors - [url<][/url<]

    • farmpuma
    • 4 years ago

    Thank you for an excellent project article! I have bookmarked it and plan to bookmark it on several other machines. Soon I plan to build a HTPC/DVR that will be a throwback to the before times related to this article. It will involve a never installed version of Vista Ultimate, a never installed PCI TV tuner card, and a lot of dusty old hardware. Thanks again for very enjoyable read.

    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    Plex was on my shortlist, but you guessed right, MCE was just for TV. I’m perfectly content to start up a movie through Windows Explorer instead of a fancy GUI. None of the other features seemed necessary for our usage. If we stream content from any of the regulars, we just use their app or Chrome, consolidation wasn’t sufficiently appealing to merit additional effort.

    • mightymightyme
    • 4 years ago

    I’m surprised you didn’t go with Plex given today’s changes. I’m curious the author looked into it, or if he was really just using MCE for just a TV solution.

    I used to run a Windows MCE and a Windows Home Server back in the day. When Plex finally matured, it replaced Windows MCE for me. I already had a script running to convert all my MCE recordings to h264. Plex also allowed me to use a Roku for the watching all my recordings and movies and made them accessible when I was traveling. It also allowed me to condense my media center and server into one unit. I’ve been a big fan of Plex, and I’m very happy with their new DVR solution as well.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    I don’t mind paying for the Plex pass. Someone needs to set up the service and infrastructure to deliver the guide data. I think it’s a fair price.

    • kvndoom
    • 4 years ago

    The awesomeness of your saving grace being a device named MDK makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    That’s why when we bought a new TV, we bought a Roku TV. Everybody makes Roku channels. It doesn’t have the DVR stuff that MCE has obviously, but for streaming it just works.

    • swkerr
    • 4 years ago

    My HTPC journey started before BeyondTV and I ended up with SageTV instead of Media Center although I used MCE for a time. Over the years I have put a lot of time and effort into what is really probably more of a hobby at this point.

    I am currently kind of using the HDHomerun prime with Emby. The setup works well but the problem is that it does not work as well as YouTube TV. I have the HDHR setup cause I have a unRAID server with 10TB of space and 8 HDHR tuners laying around. But…if I am honest YouTube TV just works better. Not sure how much longer it will be before I finally admit defeat and shut it all down.

    • steelcity_ballin
    • 4 years ago

    Stale meme. Anyhow, Amazon won’t let you cast to Chromecast, for example . As more of these casting solutions close off their content or content providers blacklist the casting solutions, you’ll be stuck buying up more and more of them to access your subscriptions.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    Agreed. I have no idea if the Internet at large reads these things, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me donating to the site.

    • joselillo_25
    • 4 years ago

    this demostrates there is nothing better than a pc with win or linux plugged to the tv and use a keyboard or mouse from the couch or bed. I stll can watch my 1996 digitalized stuff with zero problems while use new codecs and gpu aceleration. also now you can use voice commands in Cortana.

    all of you that use android stuff or roku, kodi etc.. will one day have the same problems.

    • atcrank
    • 4 years ago

    Great writeup – I’ve been doing the same sort of thing this year, and all those trade-offs between machines and jobs and old hardware is my constant concern.
    MythTV on the back end is well worth a look: it does a pretty good job recording, ad-skipping, serving show information to clients. Also plenty of options for defining rules so you never miss Upstream Color (unless the EPG lists it as Upsteam Color, which happens). I ought to get a new quad tuner because my daisy-chained PCI cards arent quite cutting it. But the gripes about learning curves are legit; I once again had to go find config.xml, change the passwords on the database and the client…
    Ad-marking in MythTV could be better for the commercial stations around me, but it works well enough 90% of the time, and the UI for manually adjusting the cuts makes it about as painless as possible if something worth preserving comes up (Teen Titans Go say,or hard to find films). If I had a J3455 board for this machine, I’d have nothing left to fret about.
    Kodi on a Raspberry Pi2 works pretty well in the living room for playback. If Kodi had a Netflix app for the Pi.

    • prb123
    • 4 years ago

    Need a Plex Pass:
    [url<][/url<] SiliconDust is supported (some models). Planning on setting up soon.

    • CampinCarl
    • 4 years ago

    I got really excited.

    Then I realized that my tuner isn’t supported 🙁

    And yes, yes I still am running Windows 7.

    • UrCorrado
    • 4 years ago

    I think it was more that they were LOUD and sucked a lot of power and put off a lot of heat, plus you had to buy a proper remote for it separately which was another $15-20. It certainly wasn’t BAD. I had 3 of them myself back in the day. But it wasn’t an ideal solution, either. I’m sure if someone wanted to today they could make a Raspberry PI distro that would work with it maybe? Or come up with something similar for a boatload cheaper. I also was dumb and got that internal Ceton card instead of an HDHomeRun, so I couldn’t even use it outside of MCE.

    • Timoty
    • 4 years ago

    We watch some shows live (kind of) that we don’t want to have ruined by getting spoilers on social media. My daughter and I like to watch Survivor together. Although I am not as much of a fan as I used to be, I still like that it is something that my teenage daughter still likes to do with me.

    We both hate commercials. So we wait until 20 after the hour, and then start to watch the show while it finishes recording. We skip the commercials and by the time we catch up, the show is done. We do the same with a few other programs. Other than that, it just allows me to watch most of the mainline shows when I want to without having to login to 20 different sites.

    Luckily for me, I get every major network from the US and Canada OTA.

    • Wrakkenruan
    • 4 years ago

    Wow… Just… wow 🙂


    • Usacomp2k3
    • 4 years ago

    Sports, yes.

    The other benefit that I used it for (back in the day) is I could record every episode of certain shows and keep them forever. Then you’re not at the whim at whatever licensing deals make shows go in and out. For example, shows like Good Eats are never available for streaming anywhere, or even for sale on DVD is hit-or-miss.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 4 years ago

    Uggh. I guess you never saw a properly setup MCE. It just worked.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 4 years ago

    At that point, you could pick up used 360’s for around $100. There wasn’t really any other cheap STB’s with DVD players, so not a bad price at all.
    I agree that CableCard was just luck of the provider. I had no problem with Brighthouse in my area though.

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    [url=<]Five Stages?[/url<] Bob Foss has a pretty good take on those in [url=<]All That Jazz[/url<].

    • tsk
    • 4 years ago

    It’s time to let go.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    I do use Plex, as stated in other posts. But not having the two of the most popular streaming boxes natively support your app is really a drag for SiliconDust.

    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    Brah, I would sooner remove the TV from my house completely than not have it hooked up to a PC.

    • tsk
    • 4 years ago

    Cable TV, HTPC, TV tuner, all old and supbar solutions.

    My broda, you do not know de wae.

    Replace all that with a chromecast.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    True dat. I had such a hard time with ComCrap back in the day when I went that same route. Charter, though, knew exactly what to do. To be fair, it was three years later so maybe they had enough experience to write a KB on it by then.

    • cynan
    • 4 years ago

    People still watch TV? For sports fans, I can see the value of OTA. Otherwise…?

    Sure, the fact that I have access to basically nothing worthwhile over OTA may be a factor in my lack of interest. But I have to say, I find it hard to see what all this effort gets you (other than for sports).

    • Redocbew
    • 4 years ago

    I wasn’t using media center. This was on an Ubuntu box running Plex. My motivation for the project was more about learning Python since that script was the first thing I wrote using it, and the encoding options necessary to take the timestamps from comskip as inputs for the segmenting then stitching the files back together. Once I got to the point where only the tuning of comskip remained I just wasn’t very interested in jumping down that particular rabbit hole.

    • UrCorrado
    • 4 years ago

    I don’t think enough people used it, plus using the XBox360 as the cable box required one on every TV. There was some company that made a dedicated STB for MCE, but it cost more than an Xbox360. That + fighting with cable companies about CableCARD use despite them being ‘required’ by the gov to support them probably lead them to determine it wasn’t worth the effort. I’m guessing they got lots of support calls too, for things outside of their control, like cable company telling them ‘you’re on your own, call MSFT’

    • UrCorrado
    • 4 years ago

    You can do live TV on an AppleTV and Roku, but you have to go through something like Plex or Channels to do so.
    Plex will also work as a DVR with commercial removal/etc, but you do need a paid PlexPass to use LiveTV/DVR functions for about $40/year. It works very well and does all metadata for you and organization.
    Channels works well also but I believe is a $10 1-time fee to buy the app.

    • Timoty
    • 4 years ago

    This article showed up in my Google News Feed this morning. No doubt because I have just spent the past two weeks dusting off my three Windows 7 Media Center PCs to try to revive them. I have enjoyed Tivo for the past two years, but at $115 dollars a month, I couldn’t stomach it any longer…not even for the convenience.

    I pulled the last of my hair out trying new options outside of Windows 7. I live in Canada, on the border of the United States, so that creates an even bigger mess. Half the stations I want are from Canada and half are from the US. And even though I can pick up over 115 channels OTA, getting the guide for all of them to work in any software is a headache.

    So I tried all of the alternatives out there. For all of them, you either had to subscribe to a third party guide site or be a NASA programmer to get the guide data downloaded, converted, and pulled into the program. I did manage to get one or two working a bit, …but forget it.

    So then I tried the Win 10 media center hack. That was another wasted night. I got everything to work…except for the guide data ….again.

    In the end, I just reverted back to Windows 7. Easy installation, a couple minor hacks to get data from both countries, and WMC instantly downloaded all of my guide data. I simply shared the recording folders and I can watch anything recorded on one PC on the others.

    I then installed Kodi, imported the Netflix Repository so I can watch Netflix through Kodi, and added a Kodi shortcut in Windows Media Center. I added Media browser to link to my movies on a NAS….and that was it. I was back up and running again.

    If I want live or recorded TV, I use Windows 7 Media Center. If I want to watch my movies, I use media browser within WMC. If I want Netflix or other basic Kodi stuff I use Kodi. I can easily flip back and forth from my couch with my Media Center Remote.

    At least until they stop supporting Windows 7 and the guide stops working…..again.

    I’m still in denial.

    Thanks for this article. I very much enjoyed it.

    • frumper15
    • 4 years ago

    I’m only using the free version and for the one or two shows a week the wife wants to watch (and now that using the NBC app to watch This Is Us apparently requires me to either pay or have a TV subscription service) it does the job and seems to remove commercials pretty well with the free version of comskip too.

    Remote potato was awesome. I actually paid – TWICE when iOS updates broke it – for the app to use on my iPad. It was pretty much full MCE functionality with streaming to my tablets and any PC. Since MCE died, so did remote potato, unfortunately. I still have an Xbox 360 in my living room exclusively to connect to my HTPC that sits downstairs doing multi-duty. I would probably have an XboxOne if it actually included the MCE piece, but instead I get to buy cheap 360s as they keep dying off. I think I’m on my 4th now. Now that my boys have discovered Fortnite on the PC the 360 is almost never used for games.

    If you haven’t already discovered on youtube I think you would love it – he does a lot of things with stuff like this – he’s even the guy on the SiliconDust DVR page so I suspect you might already know him. [url<][/url<]

    • liquidsquid
    • 4 years ago

    We gave up on the whole thing a while ago, and went and purchased an OTA TiVO. Love it! Serves all our needs and haven’t had to dink with it… ever. We don’t have the option of cable being in the boonies, but live on a hill so we “see” lots of OTA channels.

    WMC only pretty much gave us channel listings, and then that broke and it was game over, man.

    • liquidsquid
    • 4 years ago

    Yeah, and then Fortnite will kick in. You n o longer will have access to the TV when/if you actually have time to yourself.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 4 years ago

    What a nostalgia trip. MCE+Xbox360+WHS+Zune was the shiz-nit back in the day. I miss the simplicity. It just worked. Why did Microsoft go stupid and kill it.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    The fact you can get OTA TV on just about any device (aside from a Roku or AppleTV) for around $100 USD is pretty awesome. It’s easy to set up, too. I’ve suggested it to a bunch of people at work who are not very tech savvy and they seem to be doing just fine.

    The limitation to the AppleTV is Apple (going from memory on this one, been a while since I looked it up) doesn’t expose the libraries for HTML apps. Silicon Dust has a very common experience among all apps, including Windows 10, and they would need a lot of custom work to get it working on the Apple TV. iOS was only a last-few-years feature. Again, I think it was a similar story.

    Roku’s issue is just the MPEG2 license. They don’t do MPEG2. Because of that, even my version HD HomeRun (The Extend?) that converts into H.264, doesn’t get the app. Because of that I went down the Plex route. The cool thing is Plex works wonderfully with these little devices. But that, too, was a fairly recent development. Before that you needed a custom plug in to watch and there was no DVR. I had to use the “other” DVR software from HD HomeRun and run it on my BSD-based FreeNAS.

    Long story short, it’s been rough for a few years. The death of media center looming I think has pushed a lot of the last two years of development. It’s a lot easier now than it was three years ago.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    You lost me on that one. Why accept it if you know that MCEBuddy works?

    The only reason I stopped using it was because it’s on a NAS and I’m not wired. If I had a space Windows license laying around I’d probably have a VM running it on the NAS server. It saves a ton of space when you realize that of a 30 minute show almost 1/3 of that is advertisements.

    • Redocbew
    • 4 years ago

    That’s the only reasonable way to use comskip. Without something like MCEBuddy driving it you’ve got to spend hours tuning a bazillion obscure options by hand. That’s when I moved from Depression to Acceptance.

    • DrCR
    • 4 years ago

    Wow, HDHomeRun is the product I need/want but never bothered to seek out.

    • p3ngwin
    • 4 years ago

    I’m using a Hauppauge dual TV PCIe tuner for free OTA, plugged into a full-fat media center PC.

    Running NextPVR , with Kodi as the front-end, and MCbuddy and paid Comskip. Works a treat for recording shows (DVR) and removing Ads 🙂

    • BIF
    • 4 years ago

    I fixed my TV problem a few years ago by canceling DirecTV. What a blessing that was. And I started saving another $150 per month!

    That’s it. Now I pay $60 for U-Verse Internet-only and whatever Amazon Prime costs each year. All that other stuff is just too much bother. Hook up stuff? Build a PC to watch what, old episodes of “My Mother the Car”? Install drivers? What, for Cagney and Lacey? Oh, sheesh, you’re killing me. Okay, I did like Peter Gunn and The Saint. But they came from a different era, back when storytelling was actually valued and at least attempted.

    I already have Amazon Prime, so between that and sales on boxed DVD sets, I can see old stuff. Or new stuff if I’m willing to pay more (which I’m not usually). The original animated episodes of Aeon Flux are awful. She jumps like a cricket! I would have wanted my money back if the DVD was more than $2.00 in the cutout bin at Walmart (or wherever). Hah, The Dukes of Hazzard is genius by comparison; at least they let Daisy Duke drive the car once in awhile.

    Maybe if the source material coming from Hollywood were better, I’d go to the trouble to buy a bigger TV or actually wire up something. But formula TV is boring to me and I hate most sitcoms, especially those with a couch. They think they’re so clever, but I’m over here yawning and ready to be put out of my misery.

    So color me “meh!”

    • BIF
    • 4 years ago

    That’s okay, just upthumb yourself instead. Oh, I see you did already, nice. 😉

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    I had good luck with mcbuddy and comskip back when I was still using Media Center

    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    Mostly confidence that I can play them back on any random piece of hardware I scrounge up in the future. Space wasn’t a huge concern, since I was already saving a lot, and quality wasn’t either, since they were just recorded from cable.

    • Dposcorp
    • 4 years ago

    Excellent article, although I gave up on WMC a few years ago, and gave up on cable tv like 9 months ago. My current solution is to pay only for internet and then pick what services to use.

    DirecTVnow had a deal going for while where you paid up front for a few months of service and got a free Apple TV 4K. ended up doing this 3 times in 6 months, and got 3 Apple TVs. for free.

    I use them with DirectTVnow since I can get the right amount of live channels I want in HD, with the beta Cloud DVR service. When GoT returns, I’ll pick up HBO for a few bucks a month.
    I also pay for Netflix and Prime.

    I am probably saving $75 a month like this with the same content, and not paying to rent any TV boxes, and can sell the boxes I got for free if I want.

    I am very happy with this setup.

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 years ago


    I saved myself all that effort by having kids and marrying a shift worker, it’s so busy I haven’t watched tv in 2 years.

    Think I watched 2 movies on netflix in that same time span.

    Speaking of which, time to put the 3rd load of laundry in, wash pots and pans, help my son with his homework, pick up my daughter from dance, then get them to bed, get clothes and lunches made for the morning so everything and everyone is ready for work and daycare in the morning.


    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    I looked at MCE Buddy, worth it? I decided that, for my purposes, getting my nephew to help was the better option.

    Remote Potato… That’s old school. IIRC, I used it to remotely schedule recordings and stream to my Windows Mobile 6/Black Jack II back in the day before [i<]any[/i<] TV was online. Would have mentioned that in the article, but that was well before 2012, for sure. Good times. [i<]Edit: Hmm, it must have been my Samsung Focus and Windows Phone 7.[/i<]

    • frumper15
    • 4 years ago

    This was an article after my own heart. I’m still rocking an HTPC running W8.1 with media center tuning a Silicondust dual tuner. I almost went the Plex route after testing their DVR solution, but I didn’t make that leap just yet. I did start using MCE Buddy to transcode and commercial skip shows I want to be able to watch on the iPad since RemotePotato is no longer being supported/developed. Side note – How is it that my home DVR solution has actually gotten worse in the last 5 years – maybe even 10? Windows MCE 2005 is still my favorite version of windows (I probably wouldn’t be able to stand using it anymore, but it did everything I wanted it to). Oh, and I’m still rocking WHS2011 running as a virtual machine on the HTPC which also doubles as my son’s gaming machine. I should probably stop falling in love with Microsoft’s weird niche OS’s as they inevitably kill them and I’m left holding the pieces (just found out Windows Server essentials is done after the current version too – I can’t even escape at the office!)

    Great article.

    • 4 years ago

    Nice read………..
    Any reason you choose H264 over HEVC/H265?????

    • davidbowser
    • 4 years ago

    Great article. Love to see the journey.

    I started down this path, but instead stuck with cable and switched from WMC to Plex + HDHomerun Prime + AppleTV. Plex has the guide content and DVR capabilities I need as well as being an easy place to dump all my DVD and BD backups.

    • hiki
    • 4 years ago

    Do NEVER depend on M$ bundled software.

    The carpet will be removed under your feet without notice.

    • not_a_gerbil
    • 4 years ago

    Many channels aren’t drm’d so those are no problem for conversion. For DRM’d your only solution for more TV’s is to buy old Xbox360’s and use them as media extenders.

    For non drm’d the quick and dirty is a batch file like this:

    for %%x in (“*.wtv”) do (
    ffmpeg.exe -y -noaccurate_seek -ss 00:00:06 -i “%%x” -vcodec copy -acodec copy -f dvd “%%~nx.mpg”

    If you want to edit out commercials or do better conversion I use the power shell script below, load the .avs in virtualdub, load the .avs in notepad for editing while previewing in virtualdub, then when done use megui to batch process the avs to mp4’s. BTW, this script also batch renames the wtv files like in the article. The script below is much more complicated but works 100% of the time where simpler conversions often create corrupted mp4 files.


    # set the vars below to fit your situation

    # this loop gets the Title, Subtitle, and Description from each wtv file and renames it
    foreach ($file in gci “$source\*.wtv”) {
    $wtv = New-Object Toub.Mediacenter.Dvrms.Metadata.DvrmsMetadataEditor($file)
    $attrlist = $wtv.GetAttributes()

    # you can add or remove other metadata as you see fit
    $t = $attrlist[“Title”].value -replace(“:”,”-“)
    $s = $attrlist[“WM/SubTitle”].value -replace(“:”,”-“)
    # $d = $attrlist[“WM/SubTitleDescription”].value -replace(“:”,”-“)

    # the multiple moves below handle cases of duplicates and long descriptions, only one will actually work.
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s.wtv”
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s-2.wtv”
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s-3.wtv”
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s.wtv”
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s-2.wtv”
    move “$file” “$target\$t-$s-3.wtv”

    $inProcessPath = “C:\wtv\*”

    $oldVideos = Get-ChildItem -Include @(“*.wtv”) -Path $inProcessPath;

    Set-Location -Path ‘c:\wtv\’;

    # This loop converts the wtv file to an mpg file.
    # It skips the first 10 seconds because the first frames of a wtv are frequently corrupt

    foreach ($oldVideo in $oldVideos) {
    $newVideo = [io.path]::ChangeExtension($oldVideo.FullName, ‘.mpg’)

    # Declare the command line arguments for ffmpeg.exe
    $ArgumentList = ‘-y -noaccurate_seek -ss 00:00:10 -i “{0}” -vcodec copy -acodec copy -f dvd “{1}”‘ -f $oldVideo, $newVideo;

    # Kick off ffmpeg
    Start-Process -FilePath c:\wtv\ffmpeg.exe -ArgumentList $ArgumentList -Wait -NoNewWindow;

    # This loop creates a d2v index file for the mpg, creates the wav file, and makes an avs script
    gci *.mpg | %{
    [string]$name = $_.Name
    Start-Process -FilePath C:\wtv\DGIndex.exe -ArgumentList “-AP=80 -IA=5 -FO=0 -YR=2 -OM=3 -AT=[c:\wtv\template.avs]] -AIF=[c:\wtv\$($] -OF=[c:\wtv\$($] -exit” -Wait

    # Debugging code
    #Write-Host “Press any key to continue …”
    #$x = $host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey(“NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown”)
    #Write-Host $name
    #Write-Host $newvid

    • K-L-Waster
    • 4 years ago

    While my setup doesn’t resemble this in any way, it was an engaging read. Since we don’t have an upthumb for articles, have a


    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    That’s the dream isn’t it? And also a nightmare…

    • drfish
    • 4 years ago

    I was fortunate enough not to have any DRM’d files to deal with. Good luck!

    • toastie
    • 4 years ago

    Exactly the same here, but I’m done with it now. Paying too much for cable. I can replace it with Hulu Live and an antenna for the one station that Hulu doesn’t have. And I’ll probably save $50/month

    • sweatshopking
    • 4 years ago

    Having been a longtime htpc user, the plex app finally did it for me. Now my box is down stairs and my smart tv does all the lifting.

    • haakon_k
    • 4 years ago

    Epic NerdCore !! Whatttaterrific writeup.
    Thank you mr Westrate, you just made my week :-)))

    • Wrakkenruan
    • 4 years ago

    Still using Win 7 on an old AMD CPU in the living room; it doesn’t do games, just Media Center recording and playback through an HDHomerunPrime and cable card, and online videos. We’ve got roughly 20TB of attached storage (wife and daughter like to keep shows; my problem is recording stuff and not watching it, so I contribute lots to the pile of electrons needed).

    How do you handle converting/transcoding of copy-once files? We’ve got many movies through the years that can’t be copied or watched on other computers…

    But thanks; this was interesting and gives me some hope of moving off Win 7 and WMC *some* day 🙂

    Edit the 2nd: I see the HDHomeRun DVR software does not currently support DRM stuff… Probably not an option here just yet.

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    This was a very informative read. Please do more like this. My own setup is very primitive. I don’t have a DVR although I do have a large DVD/BluRay collection. I never tried cable, preferring Netflix via a WDTV, Mediasonic digital tuner for TV and a bluRay player. If I want to watch something on youtube or a news website, I patch in the laptop via HDMI.

    • Redocbew
    • 4 years ago

    I even went so far as to try snipping out commercials myself using a python script and various command line utilities. It [i<]almost[/i<] worked, but minor differences between networks eventually led me to despair. I'm not sure if that falls under Bargaining, or if I just refused to move on from step 1, but in the end I ditched cable and haven't missed it since.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    I went through a similar experience. My problem was the lack of HDHomeRun support on Roku. We have a wall-mounted Roku TV that I didn’t want to have anything hanging from behind it (I routed power behind the TV). The solution was a Plex server. I still use HDHomeRun on my Xbox One S, though. Also, I have the transcoding OTA tuner, the Extend. I find the quality good enough for my uses.

    • freebird
    • 4 years ago

    Still running Win7 for my HTPC for WMC, it uses a USB Ceton cableCARD 4-tuner device. [url<][/url<]

    • DancinJack
    • 4 years ago

    Well here in the good ol’ USA we don’t have the EU to keep Comcast/Charter/Verizon from screwing people in nearly every way they can. Gotta make them benjamins!

    There are quite a few decent VOD/Internet TV services popping up these days, but half of them are run by the cable providers so they’re very meh, but there are a couple good options. It’s stll a mess here, sadly.

    • faugusztin
    • 4 years ago

    Windows Media Center is a holdout only in one region – USA. Simply because of the CableCard support, where WMC was really the only software supporting it well.

    Here in Europe, one can buy a DVB-T/DVB-S/DVB-C (depending if the signal is terrestrial, satellite or cable) tuner with CI slot, put his CA card in it and use MediaPortal/MythTV. The output from the tuner is .ts with MPEG2 or MPEG4 content which is not DRM protected.
    The only reason i killed my HTPC was that i really didn’t record much anymore, as the cable tv started providing 7 day archive accessible via web from anywhere, so i had no reason to record random american sports events which start at 2AM.

    • DancinJack
    • 4 years ago

    I just want to say that this is the type of extra content we (read: I) want. The routers and Nintendo controller etc are nice and fun sometimes, but this article and the photography one from a few months ago are both really great.

    More like this.

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