How to screw up your MCE?

Well on one  lovely weekend when there were clear blue skies (big deal here in London), I thought what better way to spend the day then mess up the MCE and stay indoors all day to fix it. And how does one go about doing that? Well here is what I did and lessons learned (hopefully) :).

Firstly, just because there is a new update for the BIOS don’t be compelled to update it (as I did), remember the age old advice, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken. So, when I update the BIOS, which of course was not required, Windows for some reason did not like that and it stopped booting up – I would get a blue screen. Could not even boot up in safe mode, and the recovery console did not help, so all in all the machine was hosed if I may say.

Now that the computer was effectively dead I was glad that the data was on a different drive than the OS itself, so when I reformatted and reinstalled Windows, I would not lose the data. But installing it and getting it to work was a pain in itself. I upgraded the OS on Sat morning and by the time this got up and running it was Sunday afternoon – and in between that time was three complete reinstalls!

So, what was the problem? Well, the OS was installed OK, but when I tried to configure my Tuner card for the TV, it just won’t work. Every time I got a decoder error. But I knew that the TV feed was OK. After the first time it did not work I wanted to roll back the BIOS update, and just the sound of that makes you cringe – assuming it was even possible. In my case it was, but it was quite tricky. Another thing to point out, I don’t think this was an issue just with my TV Tuner card (I have the Hauppage PVR-500 MCE), but I think its with other cards too and is probably more of a OS thing.

First thing I had to do was download the old BIOS and per their instructions boot up using a floppy, run the update and voila I am done. The only problem my computer does not have a floppy drive. After a lot of googling, the answer I came up with was downloading a boot image from Bootdisk, where I could also get a ISO for a floppy image called FlashCD that then I can burn to an CD and boot from that. But, then how do I add the bios updates to the ISO, so when in DOS mode I could update to the older version of the BIOS? The answer again was provided by Bootdisk and it was to use a program called UltraISO which did the amazing job as recommended. Finally I was able to boot in DOS and flash the BIOS to the older version.

Now, that the BIOS was in the old state, I was back to where I had started, but now I had to reinstall the OS a second time. After going to that, and fingers crossed, I was back to square one, I was still getting the Decoder error. By this time it was quite frustrating, and each install was more than the OS, it was also all the drivers (which was about 7-10 different CD’s for the various devices), patches, anti virus and more updates – all of this while sitting on the floor using the TV as the monitor since I was too lazy to unplug everything and move the MCE to the study and hook it up to the KVM switch.

To cut a long story short, after more googling and trawling through newsgroups, the third time I hit up the solution and got it back up and running OK. And the key difference was, once the base OS was installed, install all the device drivers to get all the devices up and running, but don’t install any of the updates and patches, instead configure Media Center and after checking your signal install the relevant patches and updates.

Here is the sequence I finally followed the third time (and by then it was the next day – remember started on Sat and already into Sunday – and I did not want to experiment more and see what else could happen) the advice that I found on this Australian site.

  1. Install the OS
  2. Install all the drivers
  3. For the TV Tuner card make sure you use the right version. E.g. for Hauppage they also make non-MCE compatible cards, make sure you install the MCE drivers for the card.
  4. In my case I got the nVidia display, so I made sure I got the MCE version of the drivers too.
  5. I got a nVidia DVD Decoder as well.
  6. Uninstalled any other DVD software such as Power DVD, etc.
  7. Rebooted (of course)
  8. Voila, we are back in business.

Here are some pictures from the ordeal:


Installing MCE


Tired after going through the painful process – this I think was the second time


This is what the MCE looks like – my earlier post did not show the finished case.


Very tired, to get this to work – looks like in the middle of installing from the looks of the screen.


That is surely a painful smile. 🙂


This was I think the third time.


Stack of driver CD’s and I was also eating there – no food breaks – had to get this back up.

All in all, the moral of the story was, one, keep your data on a different drive than the OS and don’t install updates for the heck of it. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Was an interesting weekend for sure. 😉

Published by

Amit Bahree

This blog is my personal blog and while it does reflect my experiences in my professional life, this is just my thoughts. Most of the entries are technical though sometimes they can vary from the wacky to even political – however that is quite rare. Quite often, I have been asked what’s up with the “gibberish” and the funny title of the blog? Some people even going the extra step to say that, this is a virus that infected their system (ahem) well. [:D] It actually is quite simple, and if you have still not figured out then check out this link – whats in a name?

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