I have been a happy user of Windows Media Center since (even) XP. I have found it reasonably stable and more importantly it has a nice user interface compared to most pvr/set-top boxes I have owned. So as my Windows 7 based system has been stable for just over a year (since a move to HD tuners prompted by a motherboard failure) I thought it high time to destabilise it with an upgrade to Windows 8. What actually prompted this was Robert had upgraded his Media Center which is also based on similar Acer Revo (Intel Atom) hardware to mine and he had found the general performance much improved. The Atom CPU is only just up to the job, but I do like the Revo as it is a nice low wattage package for Media Center
The main issue with this upgrade is Microsoft have chosen to put Media Center in an add-in pack for Windows 8 not part of the base package; however, this pack is currently free. Armed with this information this was my upgrade process:
- Applied for my Windows 8 Media Center product code. It says this can take up to 72 hours, mine took nearer 150. Looking at the comments this seems not uncommon. Note that you don’t need to apply for the code on the same PC you wish to use it on. But as the comments mention it is one code per email address used, and the code has to be activated before February.
- Downloaded the Windows 8 Professional ISO from MSDN, I got the EN-GB specific version. Just make sure it is the retail version not the volume license as people have commented that the the Media Center product code does not work for VL editions.
- So now ready to start the upgrade…..
- I first removed my external RAID disk array that stores pictures, music, recordings etc.
- I backed up my Windows 7 boot disk (using imagex off a Windows 8 PE boot USB) to an external USB disk (just in case I wanted to go back)
- Booted my PC in Windows 7, inserted the Windows 8 Professional USB media and did an in-place upgrade (frankly it moved over so little I might as well have wiped the disk, see what I had to reinstall below). After entering my MDSN sourced product key the upgrade found all the hardware without issue except my PCTV 290e tuners, but a check for new drivers got these from Windows update without any other intervention.
- I now used the add feature option on the control panel to enter my Media Center product key. It accepted this, and said it was downloading the new feature and it might take a while. In my case this was best part of two hours, so be prepared to wait…..
- Once complete (and a good few automatic reboots later) I could run the Media Center wizard,but before I did this I re-attached my RAID disk
So eventually I had a Windows 8 install with Media Center, but what had a lost in the process?
- All my Media Center configuration
- Monitor preferences
- My series recording settings
- Interestingly I did not need to re-enter my settings to point to my RAID disk for libraries
- Had to re-join the PC to my home group (of which it was the creator, I would have it expected to remember more than just it’s name)
- Had to re-install the Windows desktop Skydrive application, which I use to provide a backup from my RAID drive for photos. I do need to see if I can think of an easier solution under Windows 8. I also had to re-create the scheduled batch file that copies the files I wish to backup to this folder. Due to the coping all the time stamps meant the files had to re-sync to SkyDrive.
- Had to re-authorise my Roku Soundbridge media as an audio client.
So it is any faster? Only time will tell. However, I do think that pining browser windows to the Windows 8 home page for IPlayer and other web streaming services will make life a bit bit easier until they provide Windows 8 Apps to do the job.