Windows 7 Ultimate (Release)

I finally came to a point where I was to install Windows 7 Ultimate on a Dell XPS/Dimension 400/9150, which I use as a (not so quiet) Multi Media computer. Below a summary of my findings.

The Hardware

The Dell machine is quite old already: it shipped on 15 March 2006. It has the following configuration:

I am using a 42" 'TH-42PY700F' Panasonic Plasma TV as monitor, connected through HDMI. This is a Full-HD television, capable of a maximum resolution of 1920x1080.

The Sound Blaster is connected through a Creative Digital I/O Module and Optical Cable to a Harman/Kardon AVR 635 receiver with 7.1 speakers.

The Operating System

Originally the machine was running the Media Center version of Windows XP. When Vista became available, I installed that, but I had serious stability problems. Also to get the proper (video) codec's was not a trivial exercise (to say the least).

A few months ago I reinstalled the Vista Operating System to include TV Pack 2008, but had some issues playing back HD movies (MKV) and DVD's (would stop for some time, then move forward fast to catch up).

So I downloaded Windows 7 RC build 7100 (from MSDN) to install on this machine and ran that for a few months without serious problems. There were some minor issues:

In October 2009 I downloaded Windows 7 Ultimate (Release) from MSDN, so I installed that. As I could not upgrade from the Release Candidate, I did a fresh install - which went smoothly.

Additional Software

I installed the avast! 4 Professional Edition virus scanner - which can be bought from the avast! Web Site.

I then did a Windows Update, but with Language Pack Updates hidden (I prefer to have English as Operating System Language).

I installed Adobe Flash Player version, which can be downloaded from the Adobe Flash Player Downloads Page.

I installed the '191.07_desktop_win7_winvista_32bit_english_whql' driver for my NVIDIA Graphics Card - which can be downloaded from the NVIDIA Web Site. This driver works great - an issue I had before with the 185.85 driver (over scan at maximum resolution could not be corrected: correction with 'HDTV Resize Desktop' was not retained) has been resolved.

Then I installed the 'SBXF_W7DRVBTA_US_2_18_0013' (Creative SB X-Fi XtremeMusic 2.18.0013) driver for my Sound Blaster Card - which can be downloaded from the Creative Web Site.

I then installed the 'Integrated Driver Setup (BETA)' (5.6) programs and drivers for my FloppyDTV Card - which can be downloaded from the Digital Everywhere Web Site. It seems to work great: I could find all Ziggo channels, including the HDTV ones(one channel that is missing is the Belgian 'een' channel).

As Windows 7 cannot handle Matroska files (open standard container files for several different audio and video formats, a format that is becoming more and more popular), I then installed the 'The_KMPlayer_1435' KMPlayer v2.9.4.1435 - which can be downloaded from the KMPlayer Download Web Site.

I was hoping installation of the KMPlayer would result in the ability to play Matroska files from Windows 7 Media Center, but that was not the case. I therefore downloaded and installed the 'Win7codecs_v1171' Windows 7 Codec's from Shark007. Information can be found at the Shark007 Free Codec Solutions Web Site. The actual download is kind of 'hidden', but can be done from the Major Geeks Web Site.

That was it.

The Results

So far I have not had any issues with Media Center playing DivX files, AVI files, etc. from Hard Drive or Network Drive. Music (MP3, WAV) is also played without problems. Since I installed the Shark007 codecs I can play Matroska files - including subtitles - although the sound is at very low levels. DVD's from Hard or Network Drive still give problems: the screen freezes a number of times per DVD: I have to stop the movie, and start from scratch...

I'm not such a happy camper - I hoped the Windows 7 Media Experience would be better...