Aaron Stebner's WebLog

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How to install Media Center from CDs

How to install Media Center from CDs

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I have seen questions from fellow Microsoft employees regarding how to install Windows XP Media Center edition on a brand new computer using the OS installation CDs.  This question has very rarely been asked by customers outside of Microsoft because Media Center is typically only available via an OEM reseller and comes pre-installed on the computer.  There are some cases where customers can buy machines with the installation CDs but do not have the OS installed, or the OEM provides recovery media on CD instead of on DVD.  This process is a little bit tricky so I decided to list the steps to install Media Center on a clean partition from CD.

The process to install Media Center is different from the process to install XP Home/Pro because Media Center spans 2 CDs whereas the standard Windows XP Home/Pro product fits on a single CD.  It requires the following 2 steps that are different from standard XP Home/Pro OS setup:

Launch OS setup with a special command line switch

The following command lines can be used to launch Media Center setup from CD:

  • If you are launching OS setup from within Windows: <cd drive>\i386\winnt32.exe /makelocalsource:all
  • If you are launching OS setup from a boot floppy: <cd drive>\i386\winnt.exe /2

The /makelocalsource:all and /2 command line parameters cause winnt32.exe and winnt.exe to copy the contents of CD1 and CD2 to the local hard drive at the beginning of OS setup.  If you fail to do this you will receive disk swap prompts during Media Center (or Tablet PC) OS installation.

Enter a valid product key that matches the OS type you want to install

After launching setup with one of the above command line parameters, the other step required to install Media Center instead of the standard XP Home/Pro OS is to enter a valid Media Center product key when prompted during OS setup.  Doing so will cause OS setup to install the .NET Framework 1.0 and Media Center components in addition to the standard XP Home/Pro components.  It will also cause your OS to be branded appropriately (for example - the left side of the start menu if you have your desktop configured for Windows Classic view will display "Media Center" instead of "Windows XP").

Also, if you enter a Home/Pro product key, OS setup will not end up installing the .NET Framework 1.0 or the Media Center components, and you cannot use Media Center on the Home/Pro OS that you have just installed.

Why the extra steps?!?

Media Center setup ships with the core OS components on CD1 and the Media Center-specific OS components on CD2.  If you take a look at Media Center CD1 and compare it to XP Home/Pro CD1, you will see that the contents are nearly identical (with the exception of the EULA file and a couple other small things).  CD2 contains Media Center, Tablet PC and .NET Framework bits.  The decision about which bits to actually install happens at OS setup time and is controlled by the product key that you enter during OS setup.

Note that even though I only mentioned Media Center, the above OS setup behaviors apply equally to Tablet PC.  Both Media Center and Tablet PC share the same underlying OS setup design and both require the extra command line switches and specific product key to be entered during setup to install the correct bits.


  • Aaron, thanks for the nice post!

    The "extra steps" that you mention seem like something that should be changed soon.

    The design for this sort of installation definately doesn't have Toby, the kid, in mind.

    Honestly, I'm a little bit offended that Microsoft would ask me to jump through so many hoops to use their product.

    Keep doing your best!
  • Huh, is this David J. Smith guy a troll/spam? No offensive if he's not but Microsoft *isn't* asking him or anyone else to jump through these hoops. In fact they are trying to politely tp tell David to not install it himself, hence why it's really only available to OEM's. Vista may change this but getting upset by said hoops completely ignores the fact that if he is installing it in the first place something has gone wrong or he's a developer, to which said "hoop" is pretty big and low to ground and feels pretty much like just walking on forward.

    I've reinstalled MCE about 5 times (software developer) and didn't even realize it felt all that different than a normal XP install.
  • After I posted these instructions for how to correctly install Media Center from CD, I got a mail from...
  • Shawn - no worries, it looks like David was an intern at Microsoft this summer (and represented my parents alma mater MSU for that matter) - http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=103183.

    David - Shawn is right, these really aren't extra hoops we put up to purposely make it harder to install Media Center. This version of Windows has always been available only in the OEM channel for pre-installs on new computers. There is a growing hobbyist market for Media Center, and they're the only ones likely to hit this kind of install issue. Also, there is a much better set of setup docs for Media Center linked in my more recent post (http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2005/09/15/467973.aspx). As you can see in those docs, getting the OS installed is only the first step in getting Media Center up and running and is probably the least difficult part of the overall process....

  • Well, it looks different from a normal XP install to me. I'm mostly hardware oriented and this is my first experience with an OEM install. None of the services start, IE and Media Player are there but inaccessable, and hibernate is not available. I understand that IE and Media Player are customizable and OEMs like to tweak that stuff before it goes out, but I don't know how to turn them and everything else on. I only went the OEM route because that was the only way to get MCE.
  • Hi Almart - without knowing exactly which OEM machine you have, it is a little difficult to know exactly how to resolve the issues that you are seeing. You may be able to enable IE and Media Player by using Set Program Access and Defaults (SPAD). You can find the SPAD applet by launching the Add or Remove Programs control panel applet and then clicking on the Set Program Access and Defaults item on the left side of the applet. Then you can expand the Custom configuration and make sure that IE and Media Player are marked as enabled.

    Hibernation requires specific hardware support, so if it is not available, it is likely due to lack of hardware support for that OS feature.

    Hopefully this helps....
  • There is a small mis-leading message from the installer of Media Center 2005. Check the following blog entry for more info:

  • Hi Aaron, thanks for the tip.

    Well, I just spent 4 days (yep, days) trying to become one of the MCE Hobbyists.  Longest. Install. Ever.  Net result: no MCE.

    I tried to do the upgrade, had the bits and the MCE product key.  Tried to do makelocalsource (felt like I was at mass, up and down, up and down).  The install would slow down (but not hang) at 'Installing Devices' (2+ hours?), and never get past 'Installing Network' (let it go overnight; no joy).  Eventually get a black screen and my mouse cursor.

    Any thoughts?  I have a Dell 5150/2.8 Dual core/1Gb/DVD RW+.  I don't have any of the hardware (tuner/remote); just trying to check it out.  The XP Pro/SP2 upgrade works fine (using it now), and I was upgrading from the Dell XP Home image.

  • More Info:

    I'm upgrading from XP Home to using the MSDN XP Pro/SP2/MCE 2005 bits. Cruising around your blog some more, I found the troubleshooting guide, and the location of the MedCtrOC.log, which had the following:

    Current install is a slipstream upgrade
    RegOpenKeyEx on SYSTEM\WPA\MediaCenter returned 0x80070002
    Failed to read Registry entry 'SYSTEM\WPA\MediaCenter','Installed', this might not be a Media Center machine
    OnQueueFileOps:  Writing entry 'SYSTEM\WPA\MedCtrUpg', 'IsLegacyMCE' = 0x00000000.
    RegSetValueEx SYSTEM\WPA\MedCtrUpg\IsLegacyMCE failed.  Returning 5
    OnQueueFileOps:  Failed to write entry 'SYSTEM\WPA\MedCtrUpg', 'IsLegacyMCE' = 0x00000000.  Returning 5
    OnQueueFileOps, error writing legacy entry.
    OnQueueFileOps, detected attempt to upgrade from a non-eHome system, returning NO_ERROR early

  • Hi Kevin - Although setup does not block you from trying, it is not supported to upgrade from XP Home to XP Media Center Edition.  You will need to do a clean install instead of an upgrade to avoid the issues that you are seeing.  I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
  • As I've read through all of these, I'm wondering if I've make the right decision to use my computer as a media center.  Maybe I should have bought a DVR.  Hmm.  So, I can't just install the media control center over my XP, I first have to uninstall it...is that what you are saying?  I think so.  Now, what if I have two separate HD's.  Can I just install it on the 2nd drive that doesn't have XP on it?  Please let me know and again thanks for all the insite on this new center.
  • Hi David - You cannot perform an upgrade from XP Home/Pro to XP Media Center.  But you can perform a clean install of the OS.  There isn't a way to uninstall an OS other than to reformat your hard drive.

    You can also setup separate partitions and dual-boot your system.  That is how I have one of my office test machines configured - I have a test OS partition on C and then I have Media Center 2005 installed on D.  That way I can reformat C and install a new test OS whenever I want without touching my fully functional Media Center OS on D.
  • Hey I am wondering I bought a Dell laptop and they sent me a installation disc.  I would like to know if that installation disk would work if I tried to use it to wipe out the laptop and can I use it to install Windows Media Center on a desktop?
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