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.

Lightning Review: Windows 7 x64 – 24 Hours After Install

“I think I’m in love but it makes me kinda nervous to say so…” – Beck

That’s the way I feel after just 24 hours of Windows 7 on my computer.  After a long period of hemming and hawing, I decided to take the plunge and install the new OS last night contrary to the wishes of my wife given her facial expressions when I told her what I was about to do.  It’s not that she doesn’t believe in my technical skill, it’s just that she knows how I get when something doesn’t work.  In a word: Obsessed.

Luckily, most of the Windows 7 64-bit install worked like a charm on my dual core, 4GB HP.  I credit this smooth transition mostly to MS’s “Windows Easy Transfer” software.  This software installs on your old setup, ferrets out most of the stuff you’ll probably want to keep, and shepherds it safely to an external drive.  Once you’ve done the (25 minute for me) Windows 7 install, Easy Transfer puts all of stuff back where it needs to be.  Stuff you didn’t even know you needed ends up safe and sound in the loving arms of Windows 7.

I had only one problem with the install and that was a Creative sound card whose drivers remained incredibly elusive.  After a few lucky breaks this evening, I found the drivers and Creative update did the rest.  Now, I’m sitting here with a sweet, new-feeling machine.

And oh, what a feeling.  The new taskbar is really intuitive and is almost impossible to explain in a blog post.  The speed of the system is faster than I have ever witnessed on a computer.  I was downloading and installing programs like a madman last night (using Ninite, another recommended program) and there wasn’t one hiccup.  Even the sound card that gave me fits did so politely.

Now, at nearly 11:00 on a Monday night, I sit satisfied with my new OS.  However, I’ve had these kinds of love affairs with technology before and I know that you’re only one software update away from falling out of love.

But for now, I’ll hope for the best.