What to strip on MCE?


Active Member
I have an MCE on it's way that will be used exclusively for DVD's, music, OTA and Home Control for HAI. With all the talk of stripping or limiting an MCE (ala Lifeware), what is recommended? What are you all doing to optimize performance and stability. Specifics would be helpful.
Remove Windows XP, sorry couldn't resist.

Actually you don't want to do that as it'll render MCE unuseable, but a lot of MCE systems come with a lot of extra "junk" to make them attractive as a Home PC as well. Microsoft Works, Money and other applications not uniquely suited for HA should be backed up and then installed (if you have the resinstallation media, then you can skip the backup of the applications, it's just you want to keep them somewhere since you paid for them and may want to put them back on to resell the computer in the future).

The only non-HA application I'd leave on the system would be anti-virus and firewall software to keep the system secure in the event it's connected to the internet (software firewalls should supplement and not replace a hardware firewall for your network as well).
to make a PC the most "reliable" will count on a number of things
1st from ur description is sounds like this MCE box will be acting as a MCE media server!! Correct?

Hardware side:
Make sure you do not buy cheap or use OLD hardware. Are you building your own? If so make sure all your parts are compatible with each other. I have a PC business and been doing it for about 3+yrs and into the hobby around 10 yrs and one of the main problems that i have or mistakes i made back in the day was the hardware compatibly side of things. I just threw a bunch of parts together or skimped on some stuff because it was cheaper, but only to find myself troubleshooting more. Make sure the ram is compatible with ur Motherboard - this is one of the biggest problems where a system can be call "unreliably"..

Im assuming that your new PC has SATA drives. I would setup a RAID 1 setup for data protection. Because no matter how good of a PC you have, Hard drives will always die

Software side:
Now i can go on for hrs about this but ill just state the basic's,
You can do alot of things to "lock" down and "strip" your MCE box
**If you purchases your MCE machine from a retailer/Pre-Built...WIPE IT OUT**

Your MCE should of came with 2 CDs!
The first CD is the same as if you bought a XP PRO version, the 2nd CD contains MCE
Go to http://www.nliteos.com/
Download nlite, copy the entire CD1 to your HD
load up nlite and follow the prompts, (check the website for a step by step guide)
This will allow you to remove all the crap in windows you wont need, and have less stuf running in the background

Are u familiar with unattended installs? There is a way to make everything on 1CD rather then 2...let me know if you are interested and ill tell you the commands that are needed

Make ur own embedded system OS:
Now the best way would be to make(this is what i have in my carPC, been up with out problems for about 3yrs) MCE around 1gig in size, load it onto a compact flash stick or USB stick, Setup EWF (Enhanced Write Filter) meaning that you setup ur sytem the way you like it, then once u enable EWF (by dos command)NOTHING will get written to the disk, its write protected
Im sure these are how some of the big guys(creaston,lifeware,etc)have there systems setup

let me know if u have any questions
take a look at this link

it talks about setting up a carPC, but the same logic can apply here...the only thing i have to look into is, if a MCE box needs to write to the HD, while using media center
Wow! Thanks, Sweethip. That is quite the list of steps isn't it. If you don't mind I will use this thread to both update and continue to ask questions. This is, probably, a bit over my head so I'll be feeling my way through it. I am excited for the machine. It shipped today (it's a Dell, yeah, yeah, say what you will). And yes, I will be using the machine as a server with the intention of adding a NAS as the need arrives.
Make sure you are careful with nLite, it is extremely easy to ruin the setup CD. I have ran into this serveral times, even when I didn't select anything to be stripped (just wanted to integrate some drivers), it ended up removing some components that ended up being critical down the road. Personally, I prefer disabling the components after install, just in case.

The embedded solution is pretty cool for sure, it's something I never got a chance to look into when I had my CarPC, but this same technique is used to run XP from USB thumbdrives.
its no problem, ask as much questions as you would like, the only problem i see is that i dont think Dell gives you any kind of MCE disk. It might be just a system restore disk
If thats the case, there is a way to get the product key on ur system and then you can borrow a friends copy of MCE and do a fresh install using your legit dell liciense key

on second thought, call up dell and ask them about receiving a MCE disk, they might charge you like $20 bucks and i hope u got your free upgrade coupon to vista premium

like electron said it can be easy to mess up when are removing parts of XP, but the newer versions came along way in this area...they have warning on certain things and what not

It might take a little bit to get the MCE build to your liking but in the end its def. worth it.

Im still in early stages on my HA setup using MCE(i should be cat5ing my whole house this weekend)then i will start messing with stripping down MCE..but i will be limited on my time, since i have a newborn to watch over tooo....but it will get done

Other concern is that im not sure if its worth messing with XP MCE, because Vista's MCE will be the way to go in the coming months, but at the same time the tools are very limited to strip down Vista. There is a progam called vlite, it does the same thing nlite does but its for Vista...it just turned beta

let me know if you have any other questions
Well, thanks again for your support. I am also pulling cable today to stay ahead of the machine. Not that big a deal as I am CONSTANTLY adding to and upgrading my HT! It should arrive in a day or two. I also have a newborn to help with and 2 more besides, so I know what that's like.

I did get the Vista coupon but, one of the primary issues that I "sold" to my wife was the Home Control for MCE from HAI. I need to contact my rep to see where HAI stands with Vista compatability before I can swap the OS.

Yeah, please post as you play and I'll do the same. Maybe others will be aided by my MCE ineptitude :)
I just downgraded my Vista MCE box back to MCE 2005. My hardware isn't exactly slow (P4 3.2Ghz, 1gig of memory, ATI 9600 pro), but with Vista, MCE was lagging to the point it just wasn't enjoyable anymore. The new interface also sucks, and while the wife was willing to put up with it for me, I couldn't stand it anymore ,and just downgraded back to 2005. Maybe I will give it another try in a year or so.

Sweethip: do you know if Windows Embedded is available through MSDN? The O'Reilly article uses a trial version, but I do have access to MSDN.
One suggestion is to stay away from the PVR-500MCE dual tuner card. There have been many (including me) that have issues with that card.

anthony, sounds good
also check http://www.cepro.com/news/editorial/16451.html
This shows you some upcoming thing regarding HA and vista for 07 and im sure we will see alot more next week from vegas, im sure home control will work with vista at some point

What got me was mControl w/vista (vista beta build should be out end\beg. of next week)

i kinda like the new interface, but from what i heard is that devoplers now have the tools to make there products look just like they came from M$(from a GUI perspective) PLUS make it look alot better then the "stock" GUI look..
for example take a look at this APP.. its using the new Media Center Presentation Layer (MCPL) which means it’s rendered using the same technology as the Vista UI itself
Big Screen TV

Big Screen Tv is what what My Movies does for DVD libraries - this does for your collection of TV Series videos/recordings.
I believe this is also what My Movies 3.0 will be based on

Your system specs are fine but its lacking another gig of ram...that and plus we are all waiting for ATI to get there act togther with FINAL Vista drivers...one day :)
So that is most def. causing ur lagging..

I just checked my MSDN account and it seems XPe is not available to us, but i might have the full version at home, ill check when i get home tonight...
Are you just requesting the full version just to try out the link i posted w\ the carPC?

If so I attached a zip file with all the files that are needed from the XPe trial version, so you wont need the actually XPe trial..cause u really only need about 4 files from it after you install it on ur system (if this is not by forum rules, ill remove the attachment)
It's ok (Thanks for the offer tho!), I am more curious about using XPe to run touchscreen and HTPC front ends. I ended up selling my CarPC (definitely something I regret), hopefully I can build another one in the near future.

As for Vista, it also made my machine run hotter, making the fans louder etc, so that's another reason I decided to downgrade. I do like how it detected all my hardware, standby worked correctly out of the box etc, but for now, it's a no go. I am not familiar with Bigscreen TV, but it looks like an interesting application for sure.
Yeah, there's no doubt that HAI will go Vista compatible. It's funny, it was either CES or the new machine this year, so I chose the more tangible of the 2. I may even skip EHX Orlando in exchange for a NAS. Praise God, my wife is SOOO patient with me!