Optimising Vista for Media Centre

I like Media Center and Ive done a few posts on it now. I am running Vista's Media Centre version now and I do several things to it to make sure it runs fit for purpose as a Media Centre.

Heres my assumptions:

1. I want to watch DVB-T (digital TV) on it

2. I want to watch DivX shows on it

3. I may every now and then download stuff to it from the internet

4. I dont want to type documents on it, print stuff from it or scan/fax anything or generally use it as a desktop PC.


Heres what I uninstall:

  • DFS-Replication

  • Remote Differential Compression

  • Tablet PC Components

  • Windows Meeting Space

  • Windows Fax and Scan

Im unlikely to use any of these on it and they can be found under "Programs and Features" and then under "Turn Windows Features on or off"


Heres what I disable in services:

  • Computer Browser

  • Distributed Link Tracking Client

  • Offline Files

  • Print Spooler

  • ReadyBoost

  • SuperFetch

  • Remote Registry

  • Windows Image Acquisition

  • Windows Search

  • WLAN Autoconfig

Once these are all done it drops the memory right down - to about 400-500 MB. I then set MCE to start straight away. Certainly makes it snappier and removes stuff that doesnt need to be there for an MCE box. The other things Ive done are:

Other stuff:

  • The most up to date drivers you can get for everything!

  • Recommend the use of ATI video cards - I find their drivers are always good

  • Recommend the use of AMD procs - cheaper than I can find comparable Intel's for and do really run cool and quiet

  • Make sure your power supply is around 400W and features low noise

  • Make sure you have a SATA drive as big as you can get it. More smaller drives sometimes = more noise depending on age of the drive

  • Optimise the DVB-T card in the BIOS using these settings if youre getting picture breakup

  • Use an external antenna pointed in the right direction!

  • Use DivX 5.2.1 otherwise if you use the new one it crashes MCE

  • Use a recent K-Lite codec pack to get some other codecs but make sure you dont use its ffdshow or other DivX codecs


Hope this helps - any other suggestions for what might help?

Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can you explain a few decisions like turning off ReadyBoost and SuperFetch. My understanding is that those would give you a benefit by making sure unused physical memory is utilized by stuff in the swap file likely to be swapped in.

  2. Brant – I also turn off paging as I have enough RAM to run everything in memory and dont need to page out to disk. Thus I dont need SuperFetch and I dont use a USB memory stick in the MCE box so I dont need ReadyBoost either.

    Ryan – I tried ffdshow though I found it had very grainy performance on my 42" screen. I have found out that ffdshow was a very mixed bag depending on which version you got and who modified it as its an open source project. So I now use DivX 5.2.1 hence why I say if youre going to use that then to turn off ffdshow in the K-Lite pack as it will screw up what you intended.

  3. Ryan O'Dwyer says:

    using ffdshow codecs negates the need for divx and any other divx/xvid style codec(ffdshow-tryout.sourceforge.net) and digitalnow tv cards(dual hybrid pci-express and usb tuners) are bulletproof, and super fast channel switching(and all supported by vista out of the box), using epgstream.net for the tvguide too, all too easy with these 3 things. I’m using Vista media centre and recommending with confidence using these 3 items.

    its basically use an asus motherboard, digitalnow tv card, and 1gb ram min, and i’ve done about 6 so far, and all have been up and watching dtv in less than 30mins.

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