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Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC - OS Install and Tuning

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Microsoft

Tweaking Windows 7 for Media Center - Part 2

The following step is only needed if you are using more than one drive/SSD.  During Windows installation, our primary drive was partitioned and setup, but now we’ll need to do the same for our secondary/storage drive.  To do that, we use the Disk Management tool.

  • Press the Windows Key + the R key at the same time to open up the Run Box.
  • Type ‘diskmgmt.msc’ without the quotes into the Run Box and press enter or hit OK.
  • This will open up the Disk Management tool.  You will likely be prompted to initialize the other drives in your system.  Go ahead and click OK.
  • For consistency sake, we want to put a label/name on our C: drive if we haven’t already.  To do that, right click on the C: drive up top, and choose Properties.
  • In the blank space up top of the properties, you can type in a name/label of your choosing.  For the C: drive, I usually go with something like “OS” or “Operating System” so I know what’s on the drive/volume.
  • Looking at our Disks in the bottom of the tool, you should see all your drives.  Your big storage drive should have a large portion of “Unallocated” space.  To allocate that so we can use it, right click in the “Unallocated Space” area and choose the “New Simple Volume” option.
  • This will launch the Simple Volume Wizard that will walk you through creating the volume.  Click next.
  • The volume should default to the full amount of unallocated space on the drive.  If it does not, increase it to match the Maximum disk space that is listed and click on the Next button.
  • The wizard will choose the next available drive letter by default, though you can change it to any available drive letter with the drop down menu if you’d like.  Once you have the drive letter you want, hit the Next button.
  • Next the wizard will ask you if you want to format the drive.  We want our File System to be NTFS and our Allocation unit size to be listed as Default.  We can give our drive a label/name like we did earlier with the C: drive by filling in the Volume Label field with whatever we’d like.  I usually go with something like “Storage” or “Recordings”.  Make sure “Perform a quick format” is check and hit the Next button.
  • Finally, the wizard will list all the settings you chose.  If everything looks correct, hit the “Finish” button and the wizard will create and format the volume.
  • Once the wizard is finished and you are dropped back into the tool, you should see your new “Storage” drive ready to go.  Close the Disk Management tool and we’ll move on to the next step.

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This next step is only needed if you have a “Homegroup” setup on your home network to share data and files among Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers.  If you do have a Homegroup, you will certainly want to connect your Media Center to it so you can stream Pictures, Music and Video files from other machines in your Homegroup with relative ease.

  • Click on the Start Button and then choose “Control Panel” in the right hand bar.
  • In the “Network and Internet” section, click on “Choose homegroup and sharing options” link.
  • If there is already a Homegroup on your network, you should see the option to “Join now”.  Click on that, select what items you’d like to share on your Media Center PC with other machines in the Homegroup and click next.
  • You will then be prompted to put in your Homegroup password. If you don’t recall the Homegroup password, go to a machine that is already in the Homegroup, open up the Homegroup section in Control Panel and do “View or Print the Homegroup password”.
  • Input the password, press Next and you’ll be told whether or not you successfully joined the Homegroup

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December 7, 2012 | 11:38 AM - Posted by YTech2 (not verified)

Thanks for showing the Win7 Install process. I tend to miss this portion because I am so used to older WinOS where it takes hours to install. Then I usually go for coffee, etc.

Thanks for the note about the Activation Key :) Will remember that in the event a components choose to be defective.

Nice note about auto-login. I was wondering about a feature like this to use the computer as a wake-up alarm system, etc. Is there a feature like this available on Windows XP?

Nice Guide :)

December 7, 2012 | 12:13 PM - Posted by Chris Barbere

Yeah, there's actually the capability to autologin in Windows XP as well, just takes a little bit of registry hacking.

Check out the MS KB article on how to do it: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315231

December 7, 2012 | 11:41 AM - Posted by KTL

I didn't set the SATA controller to AHCI mode during setup and left it at IDE mode, would switching to AHCI mode now require a reinstall?

December 7, 2012 | 12:10 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Let me point you to our MOST POPULAR forums thread ever: 

http://forums.pcper.com/showthread.php?444831-HOWTO-enable-AHCI-mode-aft...

December 7, 2012 | 12:13 PM - Posted by Chris M (not verified)

No it doesn't but you do have to go through some steps before you make the switch over.

http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/987378-how-to-switch-from-ide-to-ahci-...

Those are the instructions I ended up using when I had to do it.

December 8, 2012 | 02:49 PM - Posted by KTL

Thanks for the information (to both), I was able to switch to AHCI from IDE and W7 home premium was able to boot up properly, recognize the drives (HDD & ODD), install the drivers, and restart.

December 7, 2012 | 05:36 PM - Posted by allen (not verified)

Where's the linux love?

December 7, 2012 | 10:43 PM - Posted by Jason Nevins (not verified)

Hope you mention the gory codecs details next.. i've been using Shark007's set which has been awesome so hopefully that's still the way to go? shark007.net then of course you have to have mediabrowser.tv then your HDMI with audio via AMD video card. Then you have your Steam Big Picture Mode and you're SET.

December 8, 2012 | 07:27 AM - Posted by Chris Barbere

Hmm, what kind of codec issues are you running into?  There's only thing I install to get MKV's working, otherwise I just run with what's out of the box.  99% of what we watch video wise is avi, mpg or mkv.

December 8, 2012 | 09:57 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I see you covered making sure your system time stays up to date. That's pretty darn important when you are recording TV shows on a set schedule. For my HTPC I don't rely on Windows to get it right so I use a 3rd party app that syncs every hour.
http://www.thinkman.com/dimension4/

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