Five reasons to stay with MCE 2005

Now that Vista and its updated version of Media Center have been released I’m seeing people listing the benefits of upgrading from Media Center 2005.

But what about the alternative? Are there reasons to stay with MCE 2005?

I would say absolutely yes. Vista MCE is certainly new and improved, but depending on your situation there are some very good reasons to hold off upgrading for a few months, if not longer.

Here’s why:

  1. Cost. Aside from any required hardware upgrades, Vista will cost between $100-$400 depending on the version you choose. This isn’t going to change, but if you’re considering a new machine it could be worth waiting a bit longer, especially with CableCard supporting machines on the horizon.
  2. Extenders. It can cost less than $100 to put a wireless MCE2005 extender in a room, but the only Media Center Extender (MCX) that works with Vista is the XBox 360. Cost of a 360 + decent cables + remote + wireless adapter? Around $450-$500. Do you really want to spend $500 to watch recorded TV in the bed?
  3. No Remote Desktop. All versions of Vista come with a Remote Desktop Client, but only Vista Ultimate has a server (which surely should be the other way!). Unless you buy Vista Ultimate, which is overkill for a dedicated MCE box, you won’t be able to use Remote Desktop to administer a headless machine.
  4. Functionality. Sure, in many ways the interface is nicer but there’s little Vista MCE does that is not already available on MCE2005. CableCard support require you to buy a whole new PC, and although Vista MCE is a better platform for developers there are few, if any, must-have applications at the moment.
  5. Stability. Aside from some recently fixed overheating problems, my MCE2005 box has been running unattended for months (with a scheduled reboot and defrag). Upgrading to Vista and having to install new drivers is almost certain to cause a period of instability, and there are already hotfixes appearing for MCE issues in Vista. 

I’ve been using Vista on my desktop PC for a while now and I’m HUGELY impressed, as far as I’m concerned Microsoft have really hit a homerun. However, until there’s some real benefit to upgrading, and I can put extenders in rooms for less than $500, my Media Center will be running MCE2005.


  • February 21, 2007 - 10:20 am | Permalink

    Good points.
    But I would not want to go back to the 2005 UI, the Vista UI works so much better for my on the widescreen display.
    As for stability, I have tried a clean install and an upgrade and found both ways work fine. My main Media Center PC is much more stable with Vista on.
    I did add more ram and ditched my old TV card that was not supported with Vista but it was worth it to me.

  • Wayne
    February 21, 2007 - 10:55 am | Permalink

    Not trying to be a pain in the butt, but what if you are in my situation:

    I bought my machine in Nov, 2006 so I have sent away for my free upgrade.

    I don’t currently have an extender nor do I foresee getting one.

    Remote Desktop is an issue but there are other alternatives that sometimes work better – is one.

    MCE 2005 seems to crash once or twice a week for me. Not a big deal but it is too infrequent to really troubleshoot.

    So in my instance is there any reason why I shouldn’t upgrade

  • Cliff
    February 21, 2007 - 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I’ve ugraded to Vista, and have not noticed any increase in stability issues. Furthermore, the UI is WAY better and since most of my MCE time is spent looking at the screen (?!?), the better UI is a HUGE reason to upgrade for me….! (not to mention the WAF gain)

  • ton
    February 23, 2007 - 8:15 am | Permalink

    How about footprint

    vista is a lot bigger tan mce 2005 both on disk and in ram

  • Wayne
    February 23, 2007 - 8:18 am | Permalink

    Does anyone really care if Vista takes up more space on a hard drive? I can see memory perhaps being an issue but using an extra 10 GB costs you about $3 with hard drives less than $0.30 per GB.

  • ton
    February 23, 2007 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    what they told me was that it’s about 15gb

    i run mce 2005 of a 8gb cf card via a cf/sata converter

  • Steve K
    February 23, 2007 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I just installed Vista Ultimate last night. For anyone streaming content to a 360 over wireless (802.11a or 802.11n), Vista MCE is a HUGE imprement!!!

    My home config is as follows: The 360 is plugged into a linksys wireless-n router. The router talks to my vista PC wirelessly (the PC has an wireless-n pci card in it). According to Windows, I get on averate 216Mbps speeds.

    In MCE2005, lag from the 360 remote was horrible (I think it was how MCE presented album art and movie thumbnails to the 360). In vista, the 360 responsiveness is instantaneous.

    Furthermore, running the network performance tool in both MCE2005 and MCE Vista, MCE2005 would rarely rank into the HDTV viewing area. Whereas vista consistently was in the HDTV-quality area of the perf graph. Methinks MS put a great deal of effort into the networking code to make the whole experience more wireless friendly.

    My only gripe is I miss my video titles :( When I’m browing my videos, why can’t i just show the title and a thumbnail for every movie?? Did I miss something? The thumbnail-only view is useless if the thumb doesn’t give you a clear idea about the movie it represents. (If anyone knows a resolution to this, I’ma ll ears ;-)

    Still, the above-mentioned performance improvements make the latter gripe acceptable.

  • February 23, 2007 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t upgraded yet for issues #1 and #3. I’m running MCE on an old Dell mini-tower with only 512MB and a pretty sub-par processor. I installed Vista when it first came out on my MCE machine and it became unusablely slow.

    The slowness I could get over but the lack of Remote Desktop is a deal-breaker. I run my MCE headless so there is no way I’m going to shell out Ultimate coin for a machine that just sits in a corner without a monitor doing only one thing. I don’t need Ultimate Extras, I don’t even need Aero, I just need Media Center + Remote Desktop.

    Granted I can install other third-party VNC apps but the fact that I didn’t have to with MCE annoys me enough that I’m not just going to upgrade.

    Plus in all of this if I’m going to spend any money or time I’m going to instead buy a *cheap* CableCARD system. I don’t need a slick sexy HTPC since I use my 360 to watch everything. I’m waiting for the budget CableCARD systems.

  • February 23, 2007 - 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Most people’s mileage will vary.

    For people buying new machines or with a single TV/360 then upgrading to Vista may be a no-brainer. In other situations there are several negatives for, let’s be honest, few benefits.

    I’d certainly agree that the VMCE interface is greatly improved, but MCE 2005’s interface isn’t shabby and is a great deal better than most set-top boxes. When moving from our Comcast box to MCE2005 the WAF was quite high :)

    And like Shawn, the fact that Microsoft have effectively removed Remote Desktop annoys me enough not to want to upgrade for a while.

    My deal breaker is extenders. Until I can replace the two I have in other rooms for a reasonable amount of money (sub $200) I’m sticking with MCE2005.

  • Cliff
    February 24, 2007 - 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Keep in mind you can always subscribe to MS technet for $350 and get a T O N more than just Vista Ultimate.

    Also, Vista MCE can join a domain – that was a big plus for my environment.

  • October 20, 2007 - 12:53 am | Permalink

    I have used and installed both on my system, and I prefer 2005, at least for the MCE side. Mainly because of the “My Videos” portion of MCE. Looking through 400 thumbnails without titles under them (Vista)is a pain. Personally I think the MCE part of Vista is a step backwards. Also the driver issue in Vista was a big pain. For now I’ll stick with 2005. I have both, and went back to 2005.

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