Aug 04 2011

Guide - Beginners Guide to installing Windows 7

Have you wanted to upgrade to Microsoft Windows 7 or just do a fresh install and don't know where to start? Running Windows 7 can be a huge time saver, and, in many cases, will run much faster on the computer you already own, with not much required. Maybe a memory upgrade to give your computer a little more speed. The computer may not be the fastest one on the block, for more speed you need at least two GB of RAM for basic computing.

What is needed before beginning:
* At least 1GB of RAM (Recommended 2GB or more)
* 32-bit or 64-bit machine and your choice of version of Windows 7 (microsoft link), all disc come with 64 or 32 versions (FYI OEM are specific to one type)
* 7GB of hard drive space just for the Operating System (80GB or more recommended)

An external video card is not required, but you will most likely not get the cool Windows Aero effects if you don’t have anything besides on-board graphics processing unit (GPU) on older machines. Any newer on-board or integrated GPUs can handle Aero as well as discrete GPUs.

Microsoft offers a Windows 7 Update Advisor which can be run on a Windows XP SP2 or Vista machine to help identify your PC’s compatibility with drivers or software and Windows 7. This will help you to determine what might not work when you do the upgrade or what new piece of hardware you are going to need before you do the install.

I always recommend you back up all of your data before you do a custom install. There are ways around this, but lets just keep it simple for now.

Lets get started with the actual installation!

There are two options to install Microsoft Windows 7:

May 31 2011

Guide - How to Watch TV without Cable

There’s a lot of talk these days about folks wanting to cut down on their bills and configuring their homes to be able to watch TV without a cable subscription, or “cutting the cord” as it’s called, for a number of reasons. All which seem to be related to a feeling that maximum value is not being derived from a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription. The rise of new content delivery mechanisms utilizing the Internet also is contributing new options that supplement and, for some, rival traditional cable and satellite TV. For all you prospective cord-cutters, this guide will try to help you understand what options are available to watch TV without cable, satellite plan or other residential service. This guide is primarily focused on the US market as there are differences in the availability of content on a per-country basis.

Examine Your TV Viewing Habits

Take stock of the TV programming you currently watch and determine what you can and cannot live without. It may be helpful to compile this information in a spreadsheet. For example, if you watch an entire season of Mad Men, take note of that and the fact that a typical season is thirteen episodes per year. If there are certain things you just can’t live without like ESPN or CNN, you are not a good candidate for cutting the cord because the programming is simply not available sans a cable subscription.

Content Sources

Terrestrial Broadcast Programming / ClearQAM

  • Pros: No monthly subscription fees, High Quality HD with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Access to Major Network Affiliates
  • Cons: Requires purchase of antenna, installation and placement of antenna can be challenging and even prohibitive in some situations

In many cases, you have access to high-quality broadcast programming with just the use of an antenna. This programming, often referred to as over-the-air (OTA) programming, is completely free. Depending on the content the programs are in many cases high-definition (HD) and contain Dolby Digital surround sound audio. Typically, network affiliates of ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC will broadcast in each metropolitan region.

May 25 2011

Guide - GPU Comparison

GPU ComparisonSelecting a graphics processing unit (GPU) (aka video card) that has exactly the right feature set for your home theater PC (HTPC) can be a time consuming task if you're starting your search from scratch. In the ever-changing landscape of home theater and HTPC, AMD, Intel and NVIDIA respond by implementing new features in their GPUs to keep up with the latest and greatest audio and video innovations. That is why we've got you covered here at MissingRemote with our brand new GPU comparison guide.

We plan to keep the guide updated regularly and add new information as it becomes available. If you've got some ideas for items you would like to see compared in the chart, please feel free to let us know in the comments below. We've tried to sift through all the vendor specifications and parse out the vital information that you need to know. While trade names such as AMD's Unified Video Decoder (UVD), NVIDIA's PureVideo HD and Intel's Clear Video HD are interesting, ultimately, it's all about the feature set and that's what you will see in the video card comparison chart. 

We're starting out with what we'll call today's "modern" desktop GPUs though we plan to add some of the older GPUs for comparison sake since many are still running strong.


May 18 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to Assembling an HTPC

We recently covered some recommended parts for Building a Home Theater PC and today we are taking that one step further by taking you through the process of how you can build your very own HTPC. The process is not going to be identical to what you will experience as parts will vary depending on what you select, but hopefully this will give you the knowledge you need to have the confidence to try. And, as usual, remember that our forums are here to help you if you hit any snags in the process.

Build HTPC

Where Brian went with an AMD-based system, I had some Intel pieces around so that is what will be used here; but the assembly process will be similar enough that there is no reason to feel intimidated. First, let's cover what components were used for these videos:


May 13 2011

Guide - Media Players Comparison Guide

Media Players Comparison Guide

It seems in this day that every company under the sun has their very own media player with various features, but how can you differentiate them? We're here to try to help!

I was at work when a buddy of mine asked me which Media Player device he should buy in order to play all his content. I thought for a moment and then realized how badly even I needed something to compare. This will be a living guide, in that we will constantly be adding devices to it. If you have or know of a media player not listed below, please let us know in the comments below!

Update 3: 1/16/2012 - Added links to Roku, Netgear, Dune & Pivos Reviews

Update 2: 5/11/2011 - Embedded spreadsheet (hope you like it) and added Netgear 550

Update 1: 1/7/2011 - Added Hauppauge MediaMVP-HD, ASUS O!Play2 Mini, AC Ryan PlayOnHD! Mini

Media Players Reviewed by @MissingRemote:

May 02 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to Building a Home Theater PC

We have covered a number of Beginner’s Guides in our effort to help out newcomers to the world of home theater computers. Topics covered include the basics, video resolutions, codecs and how they affect you, media players, frame rates and more. So hopefully you have read and enjoyed those as now the fun part begins--building an HTPC!

There are a variety of reasons why you might be interested in building a home theater PC (HTPC); perhaps you are intrigued by the idea of consolidating all your music, movies, and pictures into a central location. Or maybe the cable company upped their rates again and your only means of striking back is to build your own digital video recorder (DVR). Actually it's my personal opinion that most people build HTPCs just because it's fun! It is always a great feeling showing off your system to someone who's never heard of an HTPC and they can't quite figure out how you can have so much stuff available on your TV. This beginners guide is an attempt to introduce a relative new comer to the world of building your own HTPC. Hardware was chosen with a beginner in mind; a balance of cost, performance, flexibility and simplicity were considered when choosing the following components.

Mar 07 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Software

Welcome to the Beginner's Guide to HTPC Software. This will be an in-depth look at the software options available to you to build your HTPC. If you haven't already, make sure you read our Beginner's Guide to HTPCs for other topics.

We're going to cover only full home theater PC applications which can handle the following tasks:

  1. Music
  2. Videos
  3. Movies
  4. TV (optional)
  5. Photos

First let's take a look at the operating system options you have and a brief overview:

  • Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7
  • Apple Mac OSX
  • Linux

Each one of these has their pros and cons. If you are using Mac OSX, you don't have many choices beyond Front Row, XBMC and Plex (below). If you're using Linux, honestly you're probably not reading this guide due to limited options as well--MythTV (below as well). So that leaves Windows users . This is at least 90% of you out there, and most likely what everyone reading this is interested in.

Jan 31 2011

Guide - Beginner's Guide to HTPC Basics

Continuing our series of Beginner's Guides for HTPC and Home Theater, this guide offers ten basic tips for getting your HTPC up and running smoothly.  Most of these were learned the hard way, hope that sharing means you don't have to Smile

1. Dedicate a physical drive for recording TV:


Recording and scanning big TV files for commercials hits a drive really hard. Having at least two physical drives separates the bandwidth necessary to keep the user interface (UI) responsive and minimize the risk for glitches during recording and playback.  After adding up all the traffic caused by Media Center recording and ShowAnalyzer reading back and forth in the file while you try to watch it (all potentially multiplied by the number of tuners); then add in a couple “extenders” - you’ll be glad you put the operating system (OS) on one disk and recordings on another.

2. Don't Go Green (when choosing a hard drive):

I’m sure there will be some disagreement on this one so it is important to understand context. If you only want to store DVDs and other “light” media a green drive will work fine.  That said, I've had horrible results streaming really “heavy” (20GB+)  files off of them; both locally and over the network especially in multi-user (i.e. two clients hitting the same drive at the same time) scenarios.  Green drives are cheaper, quieter and use less power (what makes them “Green”) because they are slower, but they are not much cheaper, quieter or greener than a 7200RPM that will serve those heavy files without glitches. 

3. Reduce/disable the Recycle Bin:

Jan 26 2011

Guide - Video Frame Rates and Display Refresh Rates for Beginners

We hope you've been enjoying our series of Beginner's Guides for HTPC and Home Theater. As part of the series, we’ve previously discussed video resolutions and how video information is displayed on a screen for a frame of video in our guide, Video Resolutions for Beginners. What we didn’t delve into much was the rate at which video frames are captured, or, in other words, the video frame rate. This guide will cover the basics of frame rates and how displays deal with the frame rates. We’ll try to cut through the marketing buzzwords like 120Hz, 240Hz, 600Hz sub-field drive, etc. so that you can make a more informed decision when purchasing your next display and how to insure an optimal viewing experience.

Jan 19 2011

Guide - Change Windows Media Center Startup With Media Center Valve


  1. This is a work-in-progress. I'll be releasing updates every few days. I wanted to wait and release it in its entirety but I've had enough requests for it that I'll be releasing as each part is tested.

  2. Media Center Valve or Valve for Windows Media Center (WMCVALVE) is licensed for personal non-commercial use only.

  3. Please do not redistribute the installer. It will only be available here at MissingRemote for a few weeks as I want to track usage and I will be making weekly updates.

Media Center Valve is a work-in-progress of all my smaller Media Center Add-ins combined into one. Valve will replace Extender Live TV Startup, Control Panel, Start Menu Plus, Hide Menu Strips, AutoPlay Disable, Remote Remap, YAHAA and a few unpublished add-ins I use at home.

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