Windows MCE 2005 - First impressions

I said I’d write about it yesterday. Well I was so busy actually using it that I forgot :P

The first thing I should point out is that Microsoft do not officially support home users installing MCE themselves and as such I have an OEM copy. Despite that the installation was painless although it does have it’s oddities. Most notable is that the installation makes no mention of MCE, it just says “Windows XP Professional”. Also unlike other versions of Windows this comes on two disks, the second disk containing the media center stuff as well as some tablet PC stuff. One final comment about installing is the disks are labeled (system-wise) incorrectly). It will ask you to install “Windows XP Service Pack 2 disk” when it really means “Put disk 1 back in”.

Since I don’t yet have a TV card I can’t use much of the really cool functionality of media center, but I did try playing a DVD and immediately hit problems. My DVD drive came with PowerDVD which is not supported by media center. Or to be more precise PowerDVD 5, the version I have, isn’t compatible. If you plan to build an MCE PC it is vital you have a compatible MPEG 2.0 decoder (All the options I’ve seen have been software but I would assume older machines with hardware decoder cards will work). So I downloaded a trial of PowerDVD 6 (which uninstalled my OEM version 5) and everything worked. Unfortunately version 6 isn’t free.