Tip 1 – Additional Software

Make sure your Media Center has the ability to connect to the components you plan to connect to. Even if the Media Center has a particular outside connector it may not have the software to interface with the connector.

AVToolBox Home Theater Components

Tip 2 – Online Spotlight

When you are first setting up your Media Center for the living room it is a good idea to download the following 3rd party software while you have a mouse hooked up to your Media Center:


Java Runtime Engine from

Flash Player from

If you want to avoid using a mouse with the Media Center you can download the Add-In software for the following online spot light programs:


AOL on demand for the Media Center (click on AOL icon)

MSN remote record (Remote Record)



KMS software


Discover Games

Tip 3 – Be prepared

Before you start setting up the Media Center be sure to have the following items handy so that your setup will go easier and smoother:

1. The manual for your audio receiver and digital cable box/satellite box
2. All necessary cables.
3. A DVD with the ability to play back audio in the format you’d like. For example if you have a DTS 6.1 audio configuration using an optical digital audio out make sure you have DVD handy with DTS 6.1 play back capabilities. This will be the only way you’ll know if your setup works correctly.

Keep it Silent

Tip 1. – Location

Most Windows XP Media Center Editions (MCE) have some kind of CPU fan inside them. By default the BIOS of the MCE will monitor how hot your MCE is getting and will adjust the CPU fan speed accordingly. Simply placing your MCE away from your Home Theater Receiver will help keep it cool. Make sure your MCE’s vents are not covered or blocked so that they can easily circulate air.

Tip 2. – Power helps

The more the MCE has to work the hotter the CPU will get. This excess heat will cause the fan to spin faster and, hence, get louder. When buying or building a MCE make sure you don’t skimp on memory or CPU speed. Try to stay away from the low end performance CPUs and get at least 512 of MB.

Tip 3 – DVD Drive

When the DVD starts up the spinning of the DVD can cause a lot of noise. Many times this noise is so loud that it can ruin the DVD viewing experience. Here are two good rules to follow to help reduce the noise.


Look for a DVD drive that claims to be ‘silent’.

The more cache the DVD has the quieter it tends to be. If the manufacturer of the Media Center you wish to buy does not mention this information you should ask.

Trouble Shooting tips

Tip 1 – USB Drive causes problems.

Sometimes plugging in a Removable USB Storage device can cause your Media Center to hang when it boots up. This can be a MP3 player, such as an IPOD, or a USB thumb drive. If you are experiencing this problem it is best to contact your Media Center Manufacturer for an exchange.

Surround Sound Audio

Tip 1 – Surround Sound Basics

Digital Surround sound comes from two major companies (for the most part), Dolby and DTS. Your MCE must be able to send a Digital Audio Stream from the DVD to your receiver, or decode this stream into separate channels. Right now Dolby has only 5.1 channels, DTS has 6.1. To enjoy these types of Surround sound on your MCE make sure the DVD decoder has the ability to decode these channels to the individual audio channels OR pass through capabilities using a SPDIF optical or coaxial cable. If your decoder does not have these capabilities then you won’t be able to enjoy 5.1 or 6.1 surround sound.

Tip 2 – is 7.1 for real?

Yes 7.1 is real, Movie Theaters use this same principal on a much larger scale. BlueRay and HD-DVD also plan to make it standard, and the current HDTV specifications do allow for 7.1 surround sound as well. With this in mind it’s important to keep in mind your Media Center will probably be out dated before Dolby or DTS provide the ability for TV Stations to mix in 7.1. By the time HD-DVD and BluRay DVD are here and stable for the Media Center your current Media Center will be long out of date. Save the money and focus on DTS 6.1 or Dolby 5.1 features for your MCE.

Tip 3 – Recording Surround Sound

Hooking up that digital cable box to MCE requires you to take the output of the digital cable box and use it as the input into the MCE. Hopefully, your MCE has S-Video in so you have the highest quality picture. But what about the audio? If you are using Digital cable and watching movies with 5.1 surround sound make sure your MCE has digital audio in. This will allow you to record 5.1 surround sound and play back the movies the way you like. Not even Tivo can do that! If the MCE you are considering does not have digital audio in you might want to look for one that does.


Tip 1 – Save some $$ with no HDTV

If you currently have a HDTV service provider and are enjoying more than over the air HDTV programming, then it is recommended that you don’t get an MCE with HDTV capabilities. This is because the MCE can only view over the air HDTV signals. There are also no Video Capture Cards that will capture an HDTV signal in real time that are designed for the MCE. Therefore, you can’t take the DVI, HDMI, or HDTV Component out from your HDTV service provider and plug the signal into an MCE. This is a big disappointment if you were hoping to record something on a non over the air HDTV channel, and was hoping an MCE company figured out how.

The Remote Control

Tip 1 – The remote control can learn functions.

The TV ON button and the PC ON button can be programmed. You can program these two buttons to turn on the TV and turn on the media center pc, respectively, but did you know you can program these two buttons to other signals? For example, the remote control that came with your set-top box has an on-demand button that the MCE remote does not have. Instead of using the TV ON button to turn on the TV, you can program it to display the digital cable on-demand schedule. The procedure for this is identical to the steps followed when your remote learns.

Tip 2 – Programming your Microsoft Media Center Remote

Specific Steps for programming your TV ON button to display the ON DEMAND menu.

1. Place your MCE remote head on with the set-top box remote.

2. On the MCE remote, press and hold DVD MENU and OK at the same time until the light turns off.

3. Press and hold the TV ON button on the MCE remote until the light turns off.

4. Press and hold the ON DEMAND button on the set-top box until the MCE remote flashes twice.

5. Your MCE remote will now display the on-demand menu when you press the TV ON button.

General Steps for programming your MCE remote.

1. Place your MCE remote head on with another remote (i.e. tv remote, set-top box remote), so that the IR on both remotes are two inches apart.

2. On the MCE remote, press and hold the DVD MENU and OK buttons at the same time until the light on the MCE remote turns off.

3. Press and hold the TV ON button on the MCE remote until the light on the MCE remote turns off.

4. Press and hold a specific button on the other remote until the MCE remote flashes twice.

5. Your MCE remote has now learned the function/signal