How to install Media Center from CDs

I have seen questions from fellow Microsoft employees regarding how to install Windows XP Media Center edition on a brand new computer using the OS installation CDs.  This question has very rarely been asked by customers outside of Microsoft because Media Center is typically only available via an OEM reseller and comes pre-installed on the computer.  There are some cases where customers can buy machines with the installation CDs but do not have the OS installed, or the OEM provides recovery media on CD instead of on DVD.  This process is a little bit tricky so I decided to list the steps to install Media Center on a clean partition from CD.

The process to install Media Center is different from the process to install XP Home/Pro because Media Center spans 2 CDs whereas the standard Windows XP Home/Pro product fits on a single CD.  It requires the following 2 steps that are different from standard XP Home/Pro OS setup:

Launch OS setup with a special command line switch

The following command lines can be used to launch Media Center setup from CD:

  • If you are launching OS setup from within Windows: <cd drive>\i386\winnt32.exe /makelocalsource:all

  • If you are launching OS setup from a boot floppy: <cd drive>\i386\winnt.exe /2

The /makelocalsource:all and /2 command line parameters cause winnt32.exe and winnt.exe to copy the contents of CD1 and CD2 to the local hard drive at the beginning of OS setup.  If you fail to do this you will receive disk swap prompts during Media Center (or Tablet PC) OS installation.

Enter a valid product key that matches the OS type you want to install

After launching setup with one of the above command line parameters, the other step required to install Media Center instead of the standard XP Home/Pro OS is to enter a valid Media Center product key when prompted during OS setup.  Doing so will cause OS setup to install the .NET Framework 1.0 and Media Center components in addition to the standard XP Home/Pro components.  It will also cause your OS to be branded appropriately (for example - the left side of the start menu if you have your desktop configured for Windows Classic view will display "Media Center" instead of "Windows XP").

Also, if you enter a Home/Pro product key, OS setup will not end up installing the .NET Framework 1.0 or the Media Center components, and you cannot use Media Center on the Home/Pro OS that you have just installed.

Why the extra steps?!?

Media Center setup ships with the core OS components on CD1 and the Media Center-specific OS components on CD2.  If you take a look at Media Center CD1 and compare it to XP Home/Pro CD1, you will see that the contents are nearly identical (with the exception of the EULA file and a couple other small things).  CD2 contains Media Center, Tablet PC and .NET Framework bits.  The decision about which bits to actually install happens at OS setup time and is controlled by the product key that you enter during OS setup.

Note that even though I only mentioned Media Center, the above OS setup behaviors apply equally to Tablet PC.  Both Media Center and Tablet PC share the same underlying OS setup design and both require the extra command line switches and specific product key to be entered during setup to install the correct bits.


Comments (27)

  1. Aaron, thanks for the nice post!

    The "extra steps" that you mention seem like something that should be changed soon.

    The design for this sort of installation definately doesn’t have Toby, the kid, in mind.

    Honestly, I’m a little bit offended that Microsoft would ask me to jump through so many hoops to use their product.

    Keep doing your best!

  2. Shawn Oster says:

    Huh, is this David J. Smith guy a troll/spam? No offensive if he’s not but Microsoft *isn’t* asking him or anyone else to jump through these hoops. In fact they are trying to politely tp tell David to not install it himself, hence why it’s really only available to OEM’s. Vista may change this but getting upset by said hoops completely ignores the fact that if he is installing it in the first place something has gone wrong or he’s a developer, to which said "hoop" is pretty big and low to ground and feels pretty much like just walking on forward.

    I’ve reinstalled MCE about 5 times (software developer) and didn’t even realize it felt all that different than a normal XP install.

  3. After I posted these instructions for how to correctly install Media Center from CD, I got a mail from…

  4. Shawn – no worries, it looks like David was an intern at Microsoft this summer (and represented my parents alma mater MSU for that matter) –

    David – Shawn is right, these really aren’t extra hoops we put up to purposely make it harder to install Media Center. This version of Windows has always been available only in the OEM channel for pre-installs on new computers. There is a growing hobbyist market for Media Center, and they’re the only ones likely to hit this kind of install issue. Also, there is a much better set of setup docs for Media Center linked in my more recent post ( As you can see in those docs, getting the OS installed is only the first step in getting Media Center up and running and is probably the least difficult part of the overall process….

  5. almart says:

    Well, it looks different from a normal XP install to me. I’m mostly hardware oriented and this is my first experience with an OEM install. None of the services start, IE and Media Player are there but inaccessable, and hibernate is not available. I understand that IE and Media Player are customizable and OEMs like to tweak that stuff before it goes out, but I don’t know how to turn them and everything else on. I only went the OEM route because that was the only way to get MCE.

  6. Hi Almart – without knowing exactly which OEM machine you have, it is a little difficult to know exactly how to resolve the issues that you are seeing. You may be able to enable IE and Media Player by using Set Program Access and Defaults (SPAD). You can find the SPAD applet by launching the Add or Remove Programs control panel applet and then clicking on the Set Program Access and Defaults item on the left side of the applet. Then you can expand the Custom configuration and make sure that IE and Media Player are marked as enabled.

    Hibernation requires specific hardware support, so if it is not available, it is likely due to lack of hardware support for that OS feature.

    Hopefully this helps….

  7. msvista says:

    There is a small mis-leading message from the installer of Media Center 2005. Check the following blog entry for more info:

  8. Kevin Thex says:

    Hi Aaron, thanks for the tip.

    Well, I just spent 4 days (yep, days) trying to become one of the MCE Hobbyists.  Longest. Install. Ever.  Net result: no MCE.

    I tried to do the upgrade, had the bits and the MCE product key.  Tried to do makelocalsource (felt like I was at mass, up and down, up and down).  The install would slow down (but not hang) at ‘Installing Devices’ (2+ hours?), and never get past ‘Installing Network’ (let it go overnight; no joy).  Eventually get a black screen and my mouse cursor.

    Any thoughts?  I have a Dell 5150/2.8 Dual core/1Gb/DVD RW+.  I don’t have any of the hardware (tuner/remote); just trying to check it out.  The XP Pro/SP2 upgrade works fine (using it now), and I was upgrading from the Dell XP Home image.



  9. Kevin Thex says:

    More Info:

    I’m upgrading from XP Home to using the MSDN XP Pro/SP2/MCE 2005 bits. Cruising around your blog some more, I found the troubleshooting guide, and the location of the MedCtrOC.log, which had the following:

    Current install is a slipstream upgrade

    RegOpenKeyEx on SYSTEMWPAMediaCenter returned 0x80070002

    Failed to read Registry entry ‘SYSTEMWPAMediaCenter’,’Installed’, this might not be a Media Center machine

    OnQueueFileOps:  Writing entry ‘SYSTEMWPAMedCtrUpg’, ‘IsLegacyMCE’ = 0x00000000.

    RegSetValueEx SYSTEMWPAMedCtrUpgIsLegacyMCE failed.  Returning 5

    OnQueueFileOps:  Failed to write entry ‘SYSTEMWPAMedCtrUpg’, ‘IsLegacyMCE’ = 0x00000000.  Returning 5

    OnQueueFileOps, error writing legacy entry.

    OnQueueFileOps, detected attempt to upgrade from a non-eHome system, returning NO_ERROR early



  10. Hi Kevin – Although setup does not block you from trying, it is not supported to upgrade from XP Home to XP Media Center Edition.  You will need to do a clean install instead of an upgrade to avoid the issues that you are seeing.  I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

  11. David says:

    As I’ve read through all of these, I’m wondering if I’ve make the right decision to use my computer as a media center.  Maybe I should have bought a DVR.  Hmm.  So, I can’t just install the media control center over my XP, I first have to uninstall it…is that what you are saying?  I think so.  Now, what if I have two separate HD’s.  Can I just install it on the 2nd drive that doesn’t have XP on it?  Please let me know and again thanks for all the insite on this new center.

  12. Hi David – You cannot perform an upgrade from XP Home/Pro to XP Media Center.  But you can perform a clean install of the OS.  There isn’t a way to uninstall an OS other than to reformat your hard drive.

    You can also setup separate partitions and dual-boot your system.  That is how I have one of my office test machines configured – I have a test OS partition on C and then I have Media Center 2005 installed on D.  That way I can reformat C and install a new test OS whenever I want without touching my fully functional Media Center OS on D.

  13. Andy says:

    Hey I am wondering I bought a Dell laptop and they sent me a installation disc.  I would like to know if that installation disk would work if I tried to use it to wipe out the laptop and can I use it to install Windows Media Center on a desktop?

  14. Hi Andy – Typically the installation disc that comes with a new PC will only allow you to restore the OS image on the same PC that it was originally installed on.  However, that depends on who the computer manufacturer is, and I am not familiar with exactly what Dell includes on their installation discs.  Your best bet would be to contact Dell to see if this kind of installation is allowed by your software license and if so, if their installation disc will work on different types of hardware.

  15. Andy says:

    I know I had the disc but I would like to know if I can use it to install Windows Xp Media Center on another DELL computer.

  16. Hi Andy – From a technical perspective, the answer is likely yes.  From a legal/licensing perspective, I cannot answer that because I don’t know what terms were included by Dell with the computer you bought from them.  That is why I suggest contacting them regarding this issue.  I’m sorry I’m not able to be more helpful here.

  17. ian says:

    Hi now this is rally confusing, i had xp home ive formatted the hard drive and started the install which wouldnt start black screen no bios etc, now i found a solution which is to plug in my wireless card, ive entered the reg code and installed but i get errors when starting xp also it never asked for the second disk any clues pls.

    Ian UK

  18. Hi Ian – Normally, if you are not prompted to enter the 2nd disc, that means that the product key you entered is for Windows XP Home or Pro as opposed to Media Center.  Can you check and see if you have the correct Media Center product key?

    Also, please make sure you are launching setup with the specific command line parameters that are listed above.

  19. Ed says:

    Hello I’m a bit confused now. I recently purchased a HP Media Center PC.  When trying to install my ATI HD card I checked my system info and found that my PC came with MC v.2002, ATI requires 2005 to be used. In my search of looking for an update to 2002 I found that the only way to get v.2005 was to either by a PC with it already installed or buy v.2005 and do a clean install.  I purchased v.2005 from TigerDirect and a new hard drive. I followed Charlie Owens instructions through out the installation. It appears to be successful, except that when I check my system info it still says that I am running v.2002. What am I missing?

  20. Hi Ed – There are some places in the UI that are not correct when listing the Media Center version.  Can you please check the following registry value and let me know what it says:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionMedia Center, Ident

    If the Ident value on your system is greater than or equal to 3.0, then you have Media Center 2005 installed.

  21. brian says:

    tried installing from MAPS oem disks. Crazy install! no IE, only 4 services were started of all the services that were even supposed to be "automatic". I’ve re-installed from the disks over the installation and it seemed like more installed the second time, but still not all of it. weird. also, during install, it asked me for the 2nd disk as usual, but then asked me for the "windows xp pro svc pk 2 cd" to which all i had was the disk provided to me with MAPS and it didn’t like it. so during both installs, i had to cancel out of the sp2 install routine.

  22. G_Man says:

    I’m new to MCE and have been struggling to get it up and running.  I’m using the two CD set and I get the software installed fine and begin all of the Windows Updates.  Eventually, my system stops booting and it’s never after the same update.  Any ideas on how to troubleshoot? I know this is quite vague, but it hangs in the middle of the boot on the Windows XP splash screen with the blue bar eventually stopping it’s chase across the screen.  The config is quite simple, Asus A8R32 board, Hauppauge Video card and an ATI Crossfire PCIe video card.  Can seem to find anything that makes sense in terms of diagnosing the problem.  Any help appreciated.

  23. Hi G_Man – If you are encountering this kind of unpredictable behavior, it could be a hardware issue such as bad RAM, a loose connection, etc.  It could also be a firmware or driver issue.  I am not sure the best way to try to narrow this down other than trial and error, and possibly searching in your event logs after it starts crashing.  You might be able to boot your system in safe mode to check this information.

  24. Ivan says:

    Here is an update article on Windows Media Center in Windows 7.…/inside-windows-media-center.html

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