Tutorial Thursday

I’ve been using a Vista Media Center computer for over a year to record all of my favorite shows, and overall I have been really impressed with it. The commercial skipping add-on is a real gem, and the WebGuide add-on makes it possible to access and schedule shows no matter where I am. I don’t really have much to complain about, well, maybe on thing…

The only thing that has irritated me is the tuner limitation that Vista Media Center (and XP Media Center for that matter) has. They only let you have two tuners enabled at any one time, but some people like to have more than that so they can simultaneously record a lot of shows. I’m one of those people. Recently I purchased a dual-tuner to add to my already installed single tuner, bringing my total number of tuners up to 3. When I tried to enabled them all in Media Center I was presented with an error, but I didn’t stop there.

I started looking around to see if anyone had come up with a workaround that would allow me to enable all of my tuners. I came across these lengthy instructions over at the Green Button, but luckily a better way has emerged since then. A free no-install-needed application called MCE Tuner Extender promised to be the cure to my problem.

MCE Tuner Extender is said to work for both XP and Vista Media Center editions, but interestingly enough it hasn’t been updated since well before Vista was actually released. I gave it a whirl, and in literally seconds I had all of my tuners working. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Make sure you have setup at least one tuner in XP or Vista Media Center before running the tool. If you haven’t configured any tuners in Media Center this application will prompt you to do so before continuing.
  2. Download and run MCE Tuner Extender [download mirror] (there’s no installation necessary). You should be presented with a screen that looks something like this:

    (Click to Enlarge)
    MCE Tuner Extender

  3. Any tuners that are currently disabled will be highlighted in red. Click on one of the red tuners that you want to enable, and in the box provided enter a name that is currently not being used by the other tuners. Then check the Enabled for MCE box:
    MCE tuner name
  4. Just reboot before starting up Media Center, and then you’re done! You don’t have to go and reconfigure the tuners in Media Center, and if you try to do so Media Center will still give you the error saying that you can’t configure more than two tuners. The only way to truly verify that it worked is by trying to record several shows simultaneously. For example, if you have 4 tuners enabled try recording 4 different shows at the same time to see if it works.

To be honest I was quite surprised that this not only worked, but that it took just a few seconds to complete. I didn’t have to patch any system files, mess with the Registry, or anything like that. I just ran the program and entered in a unique name for each disabled tuner, and then it worked it’s magic! If you want to use more than 2 tuners in Vista Media Center (or XP) this is the perfect solution.

MCE Tuner Extender Homepage