Windows 7 Makes Home Theater PC Consumer Friendly (Finally!)

The girls have been out for the last couple weeks and I’ve taken advantage of the time to restructure my entire home entertainment system. It’s been a real advantage to not have to do it while either Little or Mrs. NH are here and would like to do something like oh, I don’t know, actually watch TV?

I started on Tuesday night after I had picked up my new HP Slimline from the post office. I again used the incredible Windows Easy Transfer to transfer all of my TV and video files to an external drive and then to my new machine. It worked without the slightest hiccup and combined with Ninite, I was able to get the majority of the configuration done the first night.

On night two came the hard part. I actually had to tear down the mess of wiring behind the living room entertainment center. Needless to say, the scene back there looked like something out of Terminator Salvation – a mess of dusty cables from aborted home theater experiments. But I did manage to cull the mess and even vacuumed up behind there all the while labeling each of the cords with masking tape to try to avoid a similar mess in the future.

Then, it was time for the moment of truth. I plugged the new box, all the hard drives, IR blasters and USB dongles in and let ‘er rip. Setup in its final form was astonishingly simple. By the end of the night I had digital audio, Slingbox, and even Zune integration all configured and humming.

The next morning, with 10 minutes, a cup of coffee and 2 chocolate chip cookies (I’m a bachelor, remember?) I had over 200 DVD’s complete with 5.1 surround sound and cover art imported, all thanks to My Moves 3. Boom, I was done.  On Saturday night I was watching high-def movies in 5.1 and loving every second of it – I’m not sure if the neighbors agreed.

The bottom line is this – Windows 7 has finally made the consumer-grade media center ready for prime time. Setup was friendly, straightforward and if you don’t require a bunch of bells and whistles like me, it could be done in under a couple hours. Coming from someone who spent the better part of a year wrestling with a Windows Vista installation and configuration, that’s high praise.

So if you’re on the fence, this might be the time to go for it. The OS is there. Just make sure you account for some growth. Everything is going to be HD soon so keep that in mind when looking at those bargain basement, no-graphics-card “mini” PC’s. Having lived with an underpowered machine running a bloated OS for about 3 years, that’s a scenario I would wish on no one.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Scampwalker says:

    You have me jonesing for my copy! My Vista machine must know that it was getting upgraded, because for no apparent reason, it corrupted Media Player so I couldn’t play DVDs or MP3s. I spent the better part of a week fixing it. So how has Media Center changed?

    1. NotHemingway says:

      It’s slicker and faster. The “now playing” screen is like the Zune background – album covers in your collection. The whole thing is just more responsive and less of a RAM hog. You’ll love it. Oh, and watching the new KOL DVD on it right now. Review coming faster than you can say “bucket.”

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