Could Dell Be Part of CableCARD Instability?

No doubt that CableCARD has turned out to be a less than stellar
technology from a stability point of view, but could Dell be a big reason why
CableCARD seems so unstable?  As a part
of Microsoft’s
investigation into “Restricted Content” errors
on CableCARD PCs we have
learned a lot, specifically about Dell.

First of all, Dell has 10x as many CableCARD PCs out then
any other OEM.  That’s not incredibly
shocking given the price they have been pushing them out at, but interesting nonetheless.  Second, it seems users are targeting their
own issues with Dell’s CableCARD PCs, and their issues revolve
around Dell’s Support Center software
Several users have commented that removing the software fixed (at least
part of) their problem.

Considering the large amount of Dell XPS 420 with CableCARD,
is Dell’s Support Center software (or other pre-loaded software) contributing
to the constant instability of CableCARD in Media Center? 

Update: The Dell
issue has been confirmed
by both Dell
and Microsoft

15 thoughts on “Could Dell Be Part of CableCARD Instability?

  1. Yet another reason not to buy a big box OEM cablecard system or at the very least do a clean install on the machine and don’t restore any of their software in the process. These OEMS (dell,hp,sony) just aren’t doing the testing they need to with all of their junk software and the impact it’ll have on Media Center.

    Just my 2 cents. : )

  2. I think Dell’s software in general causes instabilities in general and bloat. This past weekend I finally wiped and reinstalled Vista on a Vostro 1500 laptop that I bought from Dell over the holidays. Symptoms included random crashes of windows explorer throughout the day.

    There still seem to be problems (random BSOD), even after the reinstall. However, with Dell’s software completely off of the machine now, it’s a lot easier to trouble shoot.

    Regarding instabilities associated with CableCARD…I can certainly see Dell’s software as a potential source of the problem.

  3. Can you even do a clean install with a CableCARD machine? I thought I had heard that you can’t (and still preserve the CableCARD functionality) but I could be wrong.

  4. Aaron: You can do a clean install, any Vista Home Premium/Ultimate disk will do fine. You of course still need the OCUR key that shipped with the machine and it must have the correct BIOS. Other than the OCUR COA there is nothing “special” about the version of Windows.

  5. In my experience, a clean install can be avoided. Just uninstalling all the crapware as soon as you get the machine will usually keep you out of trouble. I avoided this whole restricted content debacle, because I uninstalled the dell support center along with all the other crap when I got the machine. I used to do clean installs before Windows had a good enough uninstall feature. I’ve so far avoided major issues with all my Dell machines and I’ve purchased Dells for many years.

  6. Actually, my Dell cablecard-based Media Center was working great until this Dell Support Center problem kicked in. I didn’t consider it unstable at all.

  7. Melissa: I’m sure there are plenty of good Dell (and other OEM CableCARD PC) out their, but there are also a lot of people having problems. That thread on The Green Button is just about a week old and already has 110+ replies. That’s a signal that something isn’t right (and 98% of those happen to be Dell installs).

  8. I have an HP system with dual external tuners. I was having major problems due to pairing issues (Comcast’s fault), anti virus, and firewall.

    Honestly, it seems to me the IP-based solution used by the ATI tuners complicates things. Chris, do you know why they chose that model versus a normal set up? It seems to me it just creates more integration issues. I was also having major problems where one tuner would go out on me consistently about every week or so.

    I’ve been doing great since the latest firmware upgrade though.

  9. ATI chose it because that’s what CableLabs designed, ATI didn’t have a choice. That said, seeing how things have played out I’m not sure they could have designed it any differently and had to be more “normal.”

  10. I always do a clean install on purchased machines. This news prooves why I did this with my XPS420 and have had no problems with it. I need Dell’s support center like I need rabies.

  11. I’ve had a Dell420 for about 45 days…no problem other than the recent Dell Support issue….got that resolved but have noticed when I reboot the system my HiDEF channels don’t allows come back on-line until I have Comcast ping the cable cards a few times. The normal channels are fine. Any thoughts or best practices on how to get HiDef back online after a reboot?

  12. That would explain why I didn’t see this issue that everyone else was experiencing on the Green Button. The first thing I did with my XPS 420 was to re-install Windows using the included DVD. This removed all the crap that Dell usually bundles and gave me a clean system to work with. Since it was a OEM DVD, I was not prompted for a the product key during install. After install, I changed the product key in System Properties (using OCUR key on the sticker).

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