Thursday, November 09, 2006

Media Center TV Tuners

As many of you Media Center users may already know, there is a finite number of tv tuners that you can have in one system. With Media Center 2002 and 2004, you were limited to one tv tuner. With Media Center 2005 with Update Rollup 2, there was support for either two ATSC tuner cards and two NTSC tuner cards or 2 PAL or 2 DVB-T tuners. These same limits remain in place for Vista's Media Center.

It was soon discovered that while Media Center was designed to deal with multiple tuners, artificial limits were placed upon the number of tuners that would be exposed to Media Center for various reasons including:

  1. I/O considerations (i.e. hard drive bandwidth, system bus bandwidth, CPU utilization, etc)
  2. UI presentation of tuners (i.e. setup considerations, conflict resolution, etc)
  3. Testing (i.e. to make sure all scenarios work and scale well with x-number of tuners)

Over the last year or so, many Media Center enthusiasts (i.e. those on have found registry hacks that will allow Media Center to use more than the supported number of tv tuners. However, such solutions were not for the faint of heart, as it required quite a bit of manipulation in the registry, since the functionality was not exposed in the Media Center UI.

This is set to change with a new application that a friend of mine pointed me towards. Ramon Van Bruggen has written an application called the MCE Tuner Extender. This application is aimed at presenting a user with a nice graphical interface to implement the registry hacks needed to enable support for more tv tuners in Media Center for either Media Center 2005 or Vista's Media Center.

Here is a picture of the application itself.

There are two caveats to this program:

  1. It is a .Net 2.0 application, so you need to have the Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0 installed
  2. You have to have run through Media Center's TV Signal setup once prior to running this application

My only suggestion to Ramon would be to allow users to download this application directly without having to register. Aside from that, things are looking great.

For more information about how Media Center 2005 has been designed to deal with x-number of tuners, including the registry bits required to enable more tuners than what Media Center officially supports, please see Peter Rosser's blog posting on Tuners and TuningSpaces.

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Anonymous said...

By the way I have tested this on the Vista Ultimate and it works like a charm. This was the easiest way of activating a total of 4 TV Tuner Cards. 2 X Happaugge 150 and 1 x 250.

I had it working on MCE 2005 for a few months without a problem and hoped it would work in my test Vista box with the same TV Tuner Setup. It works perfectly.


Jason said...

Glad it helped you. I myself run a 3 NTSC tuner setup on my main machine (in either MCE2005 or Vista).

Anonymous said...

To the first comment--by "this" do you mean the MCE Tuner Extender? Does it also work with Vista? I hope so--it's slick!

Jason said...

It should work in Vista. The registry keys for this have not changed between MCE2005 and Vista.

Anonymous said...

Currently the website of Ramon is down and I haven't been able to find an alternative location to download the MCE Tuner Extender tool. Any ideas on where to get it?


Anonymous said...

Im using Vista Media centerand I have a WinTV Nova-S card which is a DVB-S (pretending to be DVB-T) and also has an svideo input.. is it possible to use both of these simultainiously in media center using this app? - the app sees it as 2 digitial tuners, but i cant get it to work!


Milind said...

yes it works on vista.I found that the registry is changed.Tv Tuners