For various reasons I recently needed to do a fresh install of Windows 7 on my Home Theater PC. It isn’t a hard process these days but you can save yourself a ton of frustration if you follow a step by step procedure. This includes the non-intuitive steps of installing a couple hot-fixes before you actually perform any updates to the OS.
During the install I kept notes over on my wiki page. I would have posted them all here but that page is easier to modify and leave this one here as a sign post.

I wrote a post a little while ago about How-to use the HD-PVR with Windows Media Center. A lot of people, including me, have experienced slow channel changes with the internal HD-PVR IR blaster. One of the options with the native Hauppauge drivers is to use an external IR blaster. We’ve been using the IR Server Suite which is very powerful but the documentation is a little thin. Especially since it was designed initially for other software. Below are the steps I went through to get it set up on my system. Hopefully it will help others.

Before you get started, If you also have a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1850 or WinTV-HVR-2250 installed, use the Hauppauge Windows Media Center remote control receiver/blaster configuration utility (Hcwcirconfig_tool_1.2.28165.exe) to enable or disable the built-in IR receiver/blaster hardware. Download it from the Hauppauge Support site (Accessories tab).

How to set up the IR Server Suite

  • Download IR Server Suite – Test Build 1.4.2.3281.zip
  • Run setup
  • Under tools, leave everything selected and ALSO check IR File Tool and CommandLine Tools
  • Click Next
  • Leave IR Server as Service selected
  • Click Next
  • Click Install
  • Leave ‘Run IR Server Configuration’ checked and click Finish
  • Deselect everything except Microsoft MCE (you should see both boxes checked next to the Configure button)irsuite1
  • Click the Configure button next Microsoft MCE
  • On the Basic tab, deselect ‘Disable Windows Media Center services’
  • Click OK to close the config dialog
  • Click OK
  • Click OK to restart the IR Server
  • Go to C:\ProgramData\IR Server Suite
  • Look in the Set Top Boxes folder and see if one of the boxes is the one you have.
  • If there is one, open its folder and copy all the *.ir files to C:\ProgramData\IR Server Suite\IR Commands
  • Then right-click on the IR Server icon in your task tray and click Configuration
  • Then click OK and OK again to restart the IR Server
  • If your Set Top Box is not one of the ones listed, you’ll need to have Server Suite Learn the commands
  • Click the Windows Start orb and go to IR Server Suite
  • Find the IR File tool and click it to run
  • Under Server at the top, click Connect
  • You should then be connected to the server
  • Get your Set Top Remote and get it positioned near (maybe an inch or 2 away) and pointed at your IR receiver device
  • Click File – New
  • Click Learn IR and press the button on your remote (start with the 1 button). Press the button but don’t hold it down.
  • You’ll see a bunch of numbers and at the bottom ‘Learned IR Successfully’. If you don’t get it right away, try holding your remote a little closer or a little further away.
  • Then click File – Save As and save it to C:\ProgramData\IR Server Suite\IR Commands as the key.IR. So, if you just programmed the 1 key it would be 1.IR
  • Continue with the steps above for all the numbers 0 to 9 and the Select button (label it SEL.IR) I created one called E.IR that is just a duplicate of SEL.IR.
  • Close the IR File Tool
  • Then right-click on the IR Server icon in your task tray and click Configuration
  • Then click OK and OK again to restart the IR Server

Next, you have to go into your Registry and enable the HD-PVR drivers to use your new IR Server Suite. Be careful editing your registry as you could screw up your computer.

  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\PSWTuner\HCW49SWT\Blaster
  • Set “ActiveBlaster”=dword:00000002
  • Set “ExtAppName” to the path C:\Program Files\IR Server Suite\IRBlast-NoWindow.exe
  • Set “ExtAppArgs” to -host localhost -delay 250 -channel %c “E.IR”

If you are interested, Wolfe explains more about these external arguments in his post on The Green Button.

Here is an export from my registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\PSWTuner\HCW49SWT\Blaster]
“ActiveBlaster”=dword:00000002
“ExtAppArgs”=”-host localhost -delay 250 -channel %c \”E.IR\””
“ExtAppName”=”C:\\Program Files\\IR Server Suite\\IRBlast-NoWindow.exe”

Hopefully these instructions will be helpful to you.  Now, go enjoy some HD.

UPDATE: 06JUNE2012: Here is a screen shot of the new settings for use with the latest HD-PVR software.

App Path is:
C:\Program Files\IR Server Suite\IRBlast-NoWindow.exe

App args is:
-host localhost -delay 250 -channel %c “E.IR”
or try this one:
-host localhost -pad 3 -channel %c “E.IR”

The HD-PVR is a device that connects between a set-top box (such a your cable tuner box) and your computer (HTPC). It uses component video and S/PDIF optical audio connectors.

Earlier this year, Hauppauge released drivers for Windows 7 Media Center that let you use the device as one of your tuners within media center. In the community these are often referred to as the ‘native drivers’ since they come from Hauppauge rather than DVBLink which provides another solution for this to work.

People have had various experiences getting these drivers working. For some people they are great and others have a bad experience. My opinion is that this has to do with the other things running on your HTPC including background processes and codec packs.

While we all can hope that this should “just work”, there are many variables involved which combine to make it hard. Here is how I have it working with success. Much of this has been learned by my own experiences and the helpful people over on The Green Button. Hopefully it will help others get up and running.

First, my system specs:

  • Atom ION
  • 2GB RAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Windows 7 32-bit
  • Hauppauge 2250 Dual Tuner Card
  • HD Homerun Dual Tuner
  • HD-PVR using native drivers
  • My set-top box is a Scientific Atlanta 4250HDC

Getting started: Set up your set-top box correctly

The first thing you need to do is lock your set-top box to output only one resolution. By default, my SA 4250HDC had several resolutions checked. I changed this to ONLY 720P. The HD-PVR doesn’t seem to like the resolutions to change when you change channels

Next, be sure your set-top box is set to output Dolby Digital audio.

I can’t tell you how to do this on all boxes but here is basically how it is done on the SA 4250 (hopefully this will be close for some of you with other boxes)

  • Press the Settings button on your remote
  • Under Quick Settings, select Devices – Audio:Digital Output
  • Ensure Dolby Digital is selected
  • Still in settings, scroll right to Display
  • Go into Output Resolution and be sure to check only 1. On my box the dots on the left of the resolutions indicate which ones that will be used. I use 720P as progressive is best in my opinion. What ever you decide, choose either 720P or 1080i. Lock it in as only 1 so the box isn’t trying to switch depending on source.

Make sure Windows 7 is up to date

Run windows update (might as well)

There is a Windows 7 hotfix that is not part of windows update yet. The notes on it do not indicate that it would help in this case but in my opinion it is a must for Media Center. I really do think it helps with channel changing. You can get it here: New functionality and performance improvements for the Windows 7 graphics platform (http://bit.ly/fRjCsw)

Set up and install the HD-PVR

Tip: If you have Windows Media Center set to start automatically with Windows, you might want to change that option to off. The installation process may take a couple reboots so this will help speed things up and minimize problems. For reference, this setting is in Media Center under Tasks – Settings – General – Startup and Windows Behavior.

Download the installation package and installation instructions from the Media Center tab of HD-PVR Support (http://bit.ly/ag73Cn)

Note: You do not need all the Arcsoft software provided with your HD-PVR for this to work.

Run the component cables and optical audio from you set-top to the HD-PVR input jacks.

Follow the instructions to install the HD-PVR down to the part about installing and setting up the IR utility.

Now, before you go on, take the time to make sure your HD-PVR is completely isolated from your other USB devices. 1Geek1Tool provides great instructions on How to isolate your HD-PVR (http://bit.ly/f4NdiH).

Once you have finished that process and your HD-PVR is on its own physical USB controller continue with the HD-PVR setup instructions to set up the IR software and the the MCE Installer.

The HD-PVR is considered a Digital Cable tuner when using the native drivers so you can easily install it along side your ATSC and QAM tuners.

After the tuners are set up in Media Center, disable background scanning to help improve performance:

  • Open up REGEDIT and go to
  • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\BackgroundScanner]
  • Create a new DWORD value, and name it PeriodicScanEnabled  and set the ValueData to 0
  • Close Regedit, and reboot the box.

Note: Don’t forget to enable the switch to start Media Center with windows if you disabled it in the tip above.

Helpful Utilities

GuideTool is a handy tool for quickly editing your channel list (useful whether you use the HD-PVR or not). You can find it here: http://bit.ly/hBaw60.

Some people experience what is often called the Dual Tuner or Double Vision bug. This is where though you have only one HD-PVR showing up as 2 digital tuners. Fortunately, Mikinho of Missing Remote and The Green Button has written a piece of software that makes it easy to do a quick reset so only 1 tuner shows up. You can get it on Missing Remote here: http://bit.ly/hlN1Hj (note: you have to log in to see the attachment.)

Channel changing notes

The above instructions get you up and running with the HD-PVR’s built in IR port. Some people have issues with the built in IR blaster being causing long times changing channels. Here are some notes I’ve gathered:

How to increase the video bitrate and turn off the blue ‘bling’ LEDs

There isn’t a nice user interface method of change things like bitrate or that bright blue “bling” light. To do that you need a utility like GraphStudio. This isn’t hard, it just takes a few steps.

  • Download GraphStudio http://bit.ly/goE0aa
  • Ensure your HD-PVR isn’t recording a show then shut down Media Center
  • Run GraphStudio
  • Click Graph – Insert Filter
  • In the filter chooser dropdown, scroll down and click on WDM Streaming Encoder Devices
  • Select the Hauppauge HD-PVR Encoder in the left pane then click the Property Page button.
  • Click the Hauppauge H264 Encoder tab
  • Here you can change the Bitrate from its default 8 to 13.5 Mbps. You can also check the “Disable bling LEDs” box
  • Be sure to click the Apply button after any changes
  • That’s it! Simply close GraphStudio, start Media Center back up and enjoy some TV.
  • Note, there are also some settings for Luma and Chroma. I didn’t change these. If anyone has changed them in a way they think increases picture quality, I’d like to hear about the results.

Other Notes

  • The HD-PVR can take a lot of processing power. I suggest not running background processes such as Show Analyzer if possible. If you are having trouble and you must run these processes, at least try turning them off for a bit as a trouble shooting method.
  • Valkyrie-MT’s notes on getting this to work with Dish Network: here http://bit.ly/fJHL5F
  • Valkyrie-MT’s info on changing the audio to RCA if you absolutely have to: here http://bit.ly/fRzaK7
  • Media Center keeps all its tuners, channels, recording, EPG and other information in a single database file. If for some reason you want to take things back to a clean state, you can follow How to reset your Media Center database http://bit.ly/e0fC3V

Main Web Sites and Threads

The thread on The Green Button is the best place to go to get your questions answered. If you have other tips or helpful utilities I have missed, let me know in the comments below.

*** change log ***
12JAN11: Optimized the page for printing.
12JAN11: Fixed links to Missing remote that moved when they redesigned the site. Also added a link to some details on DirectTV channel changing over the network.
27DEC10: Added a link to my IR Server Suite note.

15DEC10: Added a link to uspino’s notes about Tivo channel changing. Also added a link to my notes on disabling other Hauppauge tuners.

15OCT10: Added section about increasing bitrate and disabling bling lights
14OCT10: Added a link to Mikinho’s Double Vision Quick Fix in the Helpful Utilities section