Windows 8 Pro x86 and Media Center Pack on Acer Idea 510 - successful

As the upgrade of my Acer iDea 510 with Windows 8 x64 and the MCE feature pack failed (See here) as well as using XBMCbuntun (See here), mainly due to issue with drivers, I have decided to give a try to Windows 8 x86.

And now, the result is really great - the HD video is playing very well and standby mode is back! The only tricky part was to force the installation of Nvidia Video Drivers for Vista on Windows 8.

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First, I did install Windows 8 pro x86.

Notice that during the installation, I did check the option to automatically activate Windows.

Next, for the Software part: I did install the Media Center feature Pack:

  • On this page, request a free licence for this pack (Offer limited until 31 jan 2013).
  • On the Start Screen, type "add features" to select "Add Features to Windows 8".
  • In the "Add Features to Windows 8" window, select "I already have a product key" and enter the free key got previously for the MCE pack.
  • Notice that once MCE installed, the "Add Features" is not available anymore in Windows...
  • Configure MCE

After that, I didn't experience the same issue (licence not valid for activation) as I did when testing Windows 8 x64. I means that I most probably skipped a step during the first time ? Possibly I did install the MCE pack before the activation of Windows ?!

  • Start a Windows Update and install Microsoft .Net 3.5 (required for the next step)
  • Install and configure the latest version of Media Browser (.Net 3.5 is a prerequisite)
At that time, I noticed that MCE was reacting very slowly and not displaying smoothly movies... Just like during my tests with Windows 8 x64... To solve this, I really had to install video drivers specific for Acer iDea 510's graphic card: a NVidia GeForce Go 7600.
  • Drivers for the GeForce Go 7600 compatible with Vista or Windows 7 should theoretically run fine on Windows 8. But unfortunately, the setup usually refuses to install those drivers because they don't officially target this OS. It's only due to information configured in the .inf file used by windows to install the drivers. It means that we can reconfigure those settings to become "compatible" with Windows 8.
    • Download the drivers (self-extracting exe named "18070_vista.exe") and the adapted .inf file (named "nv_disp.inf") separately from the bottom of this  page http://www.laptopvideo2go.com/drivers/vista/180.70/disclaimer/
    • Those are unofficial drivers and not WHQL certified.
    • Audio via HDMI is not supported by these version of the drivers. You need an older version (See replies bellow this post).
    • Once the drivers and the .inf file downloaded, extract the self-extracting package (exe file) and move nv_disp.inf into the extracted folder ("180.70_vista").
    • Run the setup.exe and don't be afraid if you see that it's for Vista.
    • Once installed, reboot the system. You will clearly see the difference (the resolution will be much higher - 1920x1080 instead of 1024x768 - and MCE   runs now much faster).
  • The issue mentioned above does not exist anymore with Windows 8.1. For that version of Windows, a version 307.68 of the NVIDIA Drivers is downloaded automatically when updating the drivers. It works fine except that there is no sound via HDMI (although there is an option "Set up Digital Audio" in the NVIDIA control panel to enable it !). If you don't have an optical connection and need the sound to go through HDMI, you will need to downgrade the drivers to 173.90. But that one comes with other issues, much more annoying... (See in the replies)
  • Install K-Lite codecs to be able to play HD movies (mkv)
  • Configure the codes to play French audio by default
    • Go to C:\Program Files\K-Lite Codec Pack\Tools and run CodecTweakTool.exe
    • Under configuration, select DirectShow Filter
      • Click Haali Media Splitter > Options tab > Languages > Audio Language Priority > enter "fre" (the three letters of French). Click Ok.
      • Click LAV Splitter > enter "fre" in both "Audio" and "Subtitle" and select "Only forced Subtitle". Click Ok.
      • Click LAV Video Decoder. In Hardware Acceleration, select XDVA2 and check the two options H.264 and MPEG-2.
  • Disable UAC (reboot required to become effective)
  • Disable Firewall for private network
  • Enable Remote Desktop:
    • On the Start Screen type "system", click on "Settings" and select "System" in the results.
    • Click on "Remote Settings"
    • Enable "Allow remote connections to this computer"
  • Configure the Speakers 5.1
    • Right click the speaker in the sys-tray and select "Playback Device"
    • At the bottom of the tab "Payback", click on "Configure"
    • Select the second 5.1 in the list of "Audio Channels" (with 2 speakers on the back).
  • Create a new user with MCE instead of the windows shell
    • Create a new standard user "Media Center" without password
      • On the start screen, type "Create User" and select Settings
      • In the list of results, click on "Create Standard User Account"
      • Select "Add a new user in PC settings"
      • Under "Other Users", click on "Add a User"
      • At the bottom of the page, click on "Sign in without a Microsoft Account"
      • At the bottom of the page, click on "Local Account"
      • Enter the name "Media Center", nothing else (no password) and click Next.
    • Change the picture of the user "MediaCenter"
      • Go back to the Start Screen (Ctrl + Esc)
      • Click on your account in the top-right corner and select "MediaCenter"
      • Wait while Windows prepare the PC for this user.
      • Once on MediaCenter's Start Screen, open IE and find a nice picture, right click on it and save it in the picture library.
      • Go back to the Start Screen and click on MediaCenter's account in the top-right corner to select "Change Account Picture"
      • In "PC Settings/Personalize/Account Picture", select Browse and pick the picture from the libraby
    • Possibly: enable Room Correction in the Speakers Properties\Enhancement... (microphone required )
    • Configure MCE Media Library and the Screen Saver
      • Run MCE
      • Go to the Tasks > Settings
      • Select Media Libraries and configure them
        • E.g.: Add the "Pictures" folder of the NAS. This one must be either public or the user "MediaCenter" must be granted access via the NAS user management UI.
      • Go back to Tasks > Settings
      • Select Pictures
      • Select Slide Show Screen Saver
        • Check that the option "Play my favorite pictures ..." is enabled
        • Set the delay before starting the Screen Saver
        • Save
      • Select Favorite Pictures
        • Select Use All Pictures (Or anything more relevant)
    • Sign-out (Via the Start Screen, right click the account in the top-right corner, ...)
    • Replace the Shell Explorer (explorer.exe) of MediaCenter with MCE (ehshell.exe)
      • Log in as an administrator
      • On the Start Screen of the administrator, type mmc and select mmc.exe in the list of results
      • Type Ctrl+M to Add a Snap-in
      • Select "Group Policy Object"
      • Click Add.
      • In the new window, click Browse
      • in the new window, open the "User" tab and select "MediaCenter".
      • Then click Ok, Finish and Ok.
      • Back into mmc, select in the left pane: Console Root > Local Computer\MediaCenter Policy > User configuration > Administrative Templates > System
      • In the right pane, double-click on "Custom User Interface"
      • In the new window, check "enable"
      • Under the Options, type in the field "Interface file name": %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /mediamode
      •  Switch to the user MediaCenter for testing purpose!

Here is the list of MCE switches (most of them provided by Andrew Cherry and Missing Remote) that can be used as on the command line ehshell.exe

  • /nostartupanimation – disables the startup animation
  • /noshutdownui – removes the shutdown item from Tasks
  • /mediamode – start in “media only mode” with no minimize/close buttons (use F4 to quit MCE)
  • /widescreen – force widescreen mode
  • /directmedia:general – force full screen
  • /directmedia:video – force full screen and navigate to the video library 
  • /nochrome – launch windowed mode without the containing window
  • /playallmusic – Play all music at startup
  • /playfavmusic – Play favorite music at startup
  • /playfavslideshow – Play favorite slideshow at startup
  • /playfavslideshowwithmusic – Same as above with music
  • /playslideshow – Play all slideshows
  • /playslideshowwithmusic – Same as above with music
  • /screensaver – Start media center in screensaver mode
  • /configuress – Start media center at configuring screen saver menu

Multiple switches can be enabled by entering multiple switches separated with a space in the target input.

Finally, from the hardware point of view, notice that:

  • The remote control is working fine
  • WiFi and Ethernet connection are working fine
  • Ethernet NIC is configure to allow WOL
  • The front Digital Display is  recognized by Windows 8 but not displaying anything else that "Welcome To Aspire IDEA.
    • I did try to install the drivers from Acer web site (named "VFD Transcoder Driver 1.01.01.zip") successfully, but it didn't fix anything. I am not surprised as this display was already not working with Windows 7
  • Drivers are missing for the 2 Multimedia Video Controllers devices (See previous try with Windows 8 x64)
    • I did install the drivers from Acer web site (named "MPC718_install_V6_13_32_1026_Oscar.msi") and those devices were recognized without any issue.
  • Standby mode works out of the box (nothing to fine tune in Windows) with the remote control.
    • I didn't change the BIOS settings since my first try with Windows 8 x64.
  • Wake-up on Lan works out of the box (nothing to fine tune in Windows) if the shutdown was initiated from MCE (or XBMC - see here after). If the shutdown is done from the Start Screen, WOL does not work!!!
    • I didn't change the BIOS settings since my first try with Windows 8 x64.
    • The difference in support for WOL or not depending on where the shutdown is initiated is explained here: In Windows 8, the default shutdown behavior puts the system into hybrid shutdown (S4) and all devices are put into D3. Remote Wake-On-LAN from hybrid shutdown (S4) or classic shutdown (S5) is unsupported.
    • Indeed, a boot after a default shutdown is fast. On the opposite, a boot after MCE/XBMC's shutdown is clearly much slower.
    • As I don't car about slow boot on this PC (which is usually in sleep mode anyway), I did disable the hybrid shutdown (S4) a.k.a "Fast Startup" :
      1. On the Start Scren type "Power" and select "Settings".
      2. Click on "Change what the power buttons do” in the list of results.
      3. Click on "Change settings that are currently unavailable" if UAC is not disabled
      4. Uncheck “Turn on fast startup (recommended)"
      5. Select "Save Settings" and test a shutdown/WOL. It works !
Notes:
  1. After booting the PC, windows automatically re-log in with the last account (if this one has a blank password)  (I didn't configure that?!)
  2. The "Restart" feature doesn't work. The PC shutdowns but does neither power off nor reboot... This seems to be due to the video drivers as the PC restarts fine with other drivers (but with those, the PC didn't stay in standby mode. It was waking up immediately).
  3. XBMC 12 runs quite fine on Windows 8 pro too.
    • Sound 5.1 is supported as soon as Speakers are configured in 5.1 in Windows (The sound is really well improved compare to the sound provided by MCE...)
    • Watching movies and listening music from Synology using UPnp works very well (first time, indexing is required...)
    • Remote Control MCE is quite well supported too. A Hard Reset is required (pressing the power button on the Acer for a few seconds)
    • WOL works fine after either an Hibernate or a Power Off (Even without disabling "Fast Startup" in the "Power Options").

10 thoughts on “Windows 8 Pro x86 and Media Center Pack on Acer Idea 510 - successful

    • No, I don't use HDMI for sound... I am using my surround system instead of the TV.

      But I remember I had such an issue (get the sound via HDMI) when using Media Center on this Acer with Vista and later Win7. I think the nvidia drivers were disabling the sound via HDMI (it's weird but it's indeed a video setting)...

      I am sure you found on Google that you can try to use the SPDIF device and go to Control Panel > Sound, click the Properties of your sound device, Supported Formats tab, and uncheck "DTS Audio" & "Dolby Digital" formats ?

      • Ok, audio via HDMI works fine if I use an older nvidia Drivers such as the version 174.13 that can be found here => http://forums.laptopvideo2go.com/topic/17587-v17413-vista-32bit-nvidia/

        - Unzip the package
        - Override the inf in the package with the one to be downloaded from the page mentioned above.
        - Run the setup (I had no need to run it as admin in a compatibility mode with Vista SP2).
        - Restart to PC
        - As a Playback Device, select the Digital Audio (S/PDIF).
        - In Windows Media Center's setup, Configure:
        - the video connection type = HDMI
        - the speaker connection type = HDMI/DisplayPort (digital) and the number of speakers = 7.1

        Notice: I have no Realtek drivers installed anymore! (I did remove the Realtek drivers I did install for testing purpose). Instead, I am using the native Windows 8's drivers => I see 2 playback devices named "Speakers" in addition to one named "Digital Audio (S/PDIF)".

        DTS and Dolby are both enabled in the supported format... as well as all the rates available. They are well supported by my soundbar Yamaha YSP-3300.

        I notice however new issues: among other the Start Screen of Windows 8.1 does not appear (it disappears after a few seconds). I have to press "Windows-E" to start a Windows Explorer and switch therefore to the Desktop. "CTRL-ALT-DEL" can also do the trick by starting the Task Manager (but option "always on top" must be off).

        I will try more recent versions of the drivers to see if I can keep the audio via HDMI but solve the display issue. But this issue is not a blocking one for me as I mainly use my Acer with the Windows Media Center as a shell replacement => I don't access the "Start Screen" and MCE runs fine with sound via HDMI!

        All versions of the drivers are available from here: http://forums.laptopvideo2go.com/forum/31-archived-releases. I am going to try various NVIDIA versions targeting Vista x86.

        -------------------------------
        [EDIT] Taking some times tonight to try various versions of the drivers.

        - I did first upgrade to 179.67 and had no display issue anymore but no audio via HDMI either...
        - I did downgrade to 169.61 and this was working fine.
        - Upgraded to 174.93. No display issue, but no sound.
        - Downgrade to 171.12. Sound via HDMI is ok. But Start Screen disappears.
        - Upgrade to 173.90. Restart does not work. Sound via HDMI is ok. But I still have issues with the display of the Start Screen.
        - Tried version 307.68. No display issue. Restart works fine. But no audio via HDMI although there is now a clear option to enable/disable HDMI in the nVIDIA Control Panel!?

        I tried to force an upgrade to Windows 8.1 by loading the AppStore via IE. This can be made by navigating to ms-windows-store:WindowsUpgrade. But it didn't work as the AppStore is not only accessed but also displayed as a tile and the display issues is with the Start Screen. I would like to upgrade as I presume this could clean the mess I made on my PC by installing/uninstalling so many drivers. I don't want to reinstall the PC but feel that some issues could be solved if I could restart from a clean situation...

        However, if I uninstall the NVidia video drivers, I have no issue anymore with the display of the Start Screen. So, I was next able to start the upgrade to "Windows 8.1 Pro with Media..." via the AppStore accessible on the Start Screen.

        Unfortunately, nothing solved after the upgrade to Windows 8.1. Only notice that Windows 8.1 will download automatically the version 307.68 if none is installed and that one comes with a quite complete Control Panel including the option to enable/disable sound via HDMI. But it does not work :/

        I did test next the nVidia drivers 174.12, 174.13 and 174.16. They all come with audio via HDMI but the Start Screen still fails to display. The versions I did test without success are: 174.74, 174.93, 179.28, 179.67, 180.70, 180.82, 186.82, 186.91, 192.62, 310.33. (Notice: installing 174.16 after 174.74 results in error messages. But I did install it after 174.13 and audio via HDMI works now fine)

        I wanted finally to install the Realtek High Definition Audio Drivers R2.73 in combination to nVIDIA drivers 174.16. I saw one "Speaker" and the "Realtek Digital Output" in the list of Playback Device and did select the "Digital Output". But I didn't get any audio anymore via the HDMI... So, I did downgrade from 174.16 to 174.13, then to 174.12 and finally to 173.90. Audio via HDMI only works with Realtek Drivers and that version 173.90. Those Realtek Drivers have an added value as they offer various enhancements.

        So, I keep 173.90 and I have configured windows to go directly to the desktop after login instead of going to the start screen. A good how-to can be found here: http://www.gottabemobile.com/2013/10/06/disable-start-screen-windows-8-1/

        -------------------------------
        [EDIT] I just noticed another issue with those drivers supporting Audio via HDMI but resulting in an issue with the Start Screen: IE 11 is flashing/flickering when browsing pages... I have the feeling that both issues are related... Looking for reason why this can occur, I found that it's indeed usually due to the graphic drivers. Settings the advanced option of IE to use software rendering instead of GPU can solve it. It's also recommended to fully uninstall the drivers and reinstall them... Trying to do that, I found that I had various parts of various versions of the nVIDIA Drivers. Ex.: update software from one version, physX from another one, etc... So, I did a full cleanup of that mess (using REVO uninstaller). Next, I did restart in "Safe Mode" to reinstall the drivers: Type 'msconfig' in a console and tick the option 'Safe Boot' + 'network' in the tab Boot, then 'Apply'. Doing so, I noticed that the display was only possible via the VGA connector and not via HDMI anymore. Once back into Windows (in safe mode) I was unable to run the nVIDIA drivers setup. It didn't detect the hardware?! So I did reboot now in normal mode. As I had both the HDMI and VGA connected between the Acer and the TV, Windows did install itself automatically the nVIDIA drivers 307.68 and switched to a dual display. This was really confusing as I had actually only one screen and thought there was yet something else wrong...

        As I have still not audio via HDMI with 307.68, I did run the setup of 173.90. But I was next back in the situation where IE 11 was flickering... So, again, I wanted to uninstall the remaining parts of 173.90: the "NVIDIA Update" Version 1.10.8 (works fine) and the "Graphic Driver" 307.68. Unfortunately, once that driver removed and the PC rebooted, I have no display anymore (black screen :/). To solve that, I did connect remotely (remote desktop command: mstsc) and did upgrade to version 174.12*. The display went back but I loose the audio (as I have Realtek Drivers installed). But once the display was back, I was able to reinstall the version 173.90. Disappointment: IE 11 is still flickering :/
        The only solution that works for me is to go to "Internet Options" > "Advanced" > "Accelerated graphics" and tick the option "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering". It took effect immediately (without even rebooting as mentioned in IE ?!).

        * I tried first to reinstall 173.90 but the setup told that the drivers were already up-to-date (although the device appeared with a yellow exclamation mark in the device manager).

        Remaining issues are now: Start Screen fails to display. Quite annoying as I need it to "search" for apps and commands.

        Attention, if Windows install all updates by default, it will automatically reinstall the drivers version 307.68! I have disabled the automatic update otherwise I have to reinstall 173.90 everyday :(
        Also, Windows 8.1 had updated my network drivers and the PC was not staying in stand-by mode anymore. I had to go into the advanced tab of the Ethernet Controller to enable support of WOL only for magic packets

        Realtek Drivers are required to get a better sound and the Surround effect in my case...

        DTS and Dolby are both supported by my Soundbar Yamaha YSP 3300 but not Microsoft WMA. Supported Sample Rates are 44.1, 48.0 and 96.0 Khz.

  1. To support MediaBrowser 3 as a shell replacement, it's a bit more complex... I will do a new post.

    Additional parameters for ehsheel.exe: /nostartupanimation /entrypoint:{CE32C570-4BEC-4aeb-AD1D-CF47B91DE0B2}{FC9ABCCC-36CB-47ac-8BAB-03E8EF5F6F22}

  2. Hi, sory for bad returns but poorly know English spellings, I have a comp on Win8 and everything is ok, but I have a problem with the memory framework put two bones 2gb 2Rx8 PC2 6400S-666 and I hangs on startup screen ACER, can you help me.

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