HTPC Guide

The Best HTPC Solution for Internet and Live HDTV in America

Cut the cable and build your own DVR with XBMC, MediaPortal and SchedulesDirect.


There is a quiet revolution underway as people are dropping their cable and satellite TV services in favor of low-cost internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon, Fox News and free terrestrial broadcast HDTV.  Taking back control from the Titans of TV not only saves money but also time which ultimately makes watching TV a better experience.  But don’t settle for a half-baked solution!  Most of the new services out there, such as Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Google’s Chromecast, offer internet streaming only, with no ability to receive broadcast HDTV.  Why forgo the largest source of free HDTV programming available, especially when it’s more reliable and provides better picture quality than streaming, cable or satellite TV?

This is the 21st Century and the ability to time-shift record and skip commercials is essential to most users, as it should be.  The problem is that the DVRs provided by cable and satellite companies only function when their subscriptions are active.  Even those DVRs that can record free broadcast HDTV typically disable that feature if your subscription is not paid.  Even worse, those DVRs are closed systems, hindered by DRM copy-protection and advertising schemes and some even limit what streaming services you can receive.  Well, open-source HTPC software has made tremendous strides in recent years and now we don’t have to take it anymore!

HTPC software has advanced to the point that anyone who knows how to install and use Windows can build their own HTPC that is better than anything the Titans offer.  After extensive research, I found this beautiful, integrated solution that combines the best of internet streaming (from any service) and broadcast HDTV with full DVR features on a Windows PC optimized as a Home Theater PC.  The combination of XBMC and MediaPortal software with the SchedulesDirect EPG service is outstanding!  When installed together with the Firefox or Chrome browser, you have a truly complete solution for internet and broadcast HDTV – all integrated into a single, elegant menu system which is driven by a wireless remote control and mouse.  Plus, this system is open, highly serviceable, expandable and upgradeable.  It’s ready to adapt to whatever happens next in the ongoing TV revolution.  Meanwhile, you will have a better TV viewing experience while saving money.

HTPC_Logos The Best HTPC Solution

  • The most complete and actively-developed HTPC software – XBMC and MediaPortal.
  • The most complete and reliable EPG service – SchedulesDirect.
  • Optimized for broadcast HDTV with DVR for use in North America.
  • Windows 7 or 8 with Silverlight for the best streaming support for Netflix, Hulu, etc.
  • Plugins for the most internet streaming channels, like YouTube Fox News, etc.
  • Very low power and quiet operation – 50 watts typical power dissipation.
  • Open system. No DRM.  Highly serviceable, expandable and upgradeable.
  • Can support multiple TVs and older TVs without HDMI inputs.
  • Good PC gaming and web browsing capabilities.
  • Easier to build and maintain than Linux solutions.
  • Lowest cost of operation (See chart below).
The XBMC Main Menu showing some DVR events for Live HDTV
The XBMC Main Menu showing some DVR events for Live HDTV

The Hard Part

It turns out that the most difficult part of building a HTPC is getting the DVR functionality with a reliable Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for the local HDTV broadcasts in your particular area, and a DVR is really useless without a good program guide.  This has been the major advantage of the Tivo service for many years.  However, there is another online EPG service for HTPC users in America named SchedulesDirect which offers excellent reliability and lower cost.  SchedulesDirect is actually the only online EPG service in America which is reliable, easy to install, low cost, legal and does not require you to buy and use a proprietary set-top-box.  The funny thing is that SchedulesDirect only supports open-source software projects like XBMC and MediaPortal.  They do not support, for example, Microsoft’s Windows Media Center because that’s not open-source software.  WMC has been a good solution for several years as it’s included with Windows 7, but Microsoft’s support for WMC has been fading recently.  Many WMC users are responding by switching to XBMC or MediaPortal, because these are open solutions with superior user interfaces and are supported by SchedulesDirect.  Most other HTPC solutions out there lack an EPG source for users in America and their websites largely ignore this problem.  They typically document EPG solutions that are only available in other countries, such as DVB EPG, or solutions that are difficult to install because they scrape EPG data from websites, such as XMLTV and WebEPG.  SchedulesDirect is by far the best solution for HTPC users in America because it does not have those problems.

The SchedulesDirect Program Guide in XBMC for Live HDTV
The SchedulesDirect Program Guide in XBMC for Live HDTV

The Solution

My HTPC solution is to use the combination of XBMC and MediaPortal with the SchedulesDirect EPG service on Windows 7 or 8.  The MediaPortal TV-Server software manages the HDTV tuners and EPG and XBMC provides a beautiful user-interface that integrates everything into a single menu system; Live TV, DVR, Internet TV, Radio, BluRay/DVD, Music, Pictures and Weather.

XBMC and MediaPortal are the most widely used HTPC solutions with SchedulesDirect support and fortunately, these projects are compatible.  They actually share a common ancestry and compliment each other really well. They are also experiencing rapid growth in users and continued active development, so they are most likely to be well supported into the future.

Finally, XBMC and MediaPortal have plugin architectures which allow their feature sets to be extended.  This is where much of the important capabilities of this software actually lies.  The complete List of Add-ons for XBMC is impressive, although not all of them have been maintained well as XBMC has evolved.  But, the availability of such a large number of plugins and their active development is what really sets XBMC apart.  This guide details the installation of many of the best plugins that have been of the most use to me.  You will certainly find more, so please leave a comment below to share what you find!

If you have time to research other HTPC solutions, by all means do so, but keep in mind that most of the solutions you will read about are actually configured for use internationally, don’t necessarily support the ATSC standard for broadcast HDTV reception in America and probably rely upon questionable sources for the EPG data needed for a quality DVR.

Some Recommended Links for Further Reading

A good first step for your HTPC project is to download and install XBMC onto any Windows PC just to give the user interface a test drive.  You can use much of XBMC even without a TV tuner installed, such as internet streaming channels and the music player.

Live HDTV in XBMC with program information displayed
Live HDTV in XBMC with program information displayed

Why Not Linux?

There are versions of XBMC for Linux, but they require different TV server software (because MediaPortal is for Windows only) and a different streaming solution because NetFlix requires Microsoft’s Silverlight which does not run directly on Linux.  Windows is easier because it already includes most of the drivers and codecs required for HTPC and Windows is generally easier to maintain than Linux.  There are also a lot more games available for Windows.

By limiting this guide to a specific configuration on Windows, it’s much more concise and accessible.  A problem with the documentation for most HTPC solutions, including XBMC and MediaPortal, is that they support so many different hardware and software platforms that it’s really difficult to navigate if you have not built a HTPC before.  My aim with this guide is to focus on this very specific configuration designed for new users in America that combines the best of internet and broadcast HDTV technology and is easy to build.  This is simply the best solution for most new users in America.

Cost to Operate

This HTPC costs a lot less to operate than typical cable or satellite TV subscriptions and with the combination of NetFlix streaming and broadcast HDTV, we never miss seeing anything we want, even when the TV Titans go to battle.  For illustration, here is a summary of my monthly TV subscription costs, which includes my internet service.

My Monthly TV Subscription Cost

Time Warner Cable (15 Mbps Internet only)                    $40.00
SchedulesDirect EPG    ($25 Annually)                         $2.08
NetFlix Streaming                                             $7.99
Total                                                        $50.07

A SchedulesDirect account costs $25 annually for the EPG service.  This is the only subscription fee that is required for this HTPC solution, besides an internet service provider and I recommend NetFlix, Hulu Plus or Amazon for paid streaming services.

Client-Server Design

MediaPortal has a client part and a server part, often called the front-end and back-end, respectively.  You can run both on the same HTPC, or you can have other HTPCs that just run the client part and receive content from a shared MediaPortal TV server.  XBMC and MediaPortal are compatible projects and a popular configuration is to use only the TV-Server part of MediaPortal (to control the HDTV tuners and the EPG) and run XBMC for the client, instead of using the MediaPortal client.  This means XBMC provides the user-interface and the MediaPortal TV-Server does most of the work behind the scenes.  I use a single HTPC to run both the MediaPortal TV-Server and the XBMC client on Windows.

Some of my favorite Internet Channels with XBMC Plugins
Some of my favorite Internet Channels with XBMC Plugins

The Hardware

This software can be installed on any PC, but since the DVR function requires the unit to be powered continuously it’s best to build a dedicated HTPC designed specifically for low-power operation.  This design is compact, low power and very quiet. It’s styled like component audio equipment to sit near your HDTV.  The Silverstone case features a black-anodized aluminum front with USB 3.0 sockets on the front.  The motherboard has PCI Express 2.0 and 3.0 x16 slots, which can accommodate a graphics card if you want better gaming capabilities than the HD4000 graphics, which is integrated into the Intel Core I3 processor.  However, that will probably also require increasing the capacity of the power supply and running more of the chassis fans which are built into the Silverstone case.  The integrated graphics works fine for all but the latest games and without a graphics card, the chassis fans are not even needed, so only the processor and power supply fans are required.  These are variable speed fans which only run as needed based on temperature sensors, which makes this system run extremely quiet.

I recommend using a combination of a solid state disk (SSD) and a Seagate Pipeline hard disk (HDD).   Windows and all of the rest of the software is installed on the SSD and the HDD is only used for storing recorded audio and video.  This provides fast operation while also keeping the power and noise down.  The Seagate Pipeline series drives are designed for HTPC applications with a lower rotation speed (5900 RPM) that reduces power consumption and noise.  A cheaper solution would be to eliminate the SSD and install all the software on the HDD, in which case you should use a conventional 7200 RPM HDD.

If you would rather buy a built HTPC with this software professionally installed, I recommend Assassin HTPC.

Hardware Components with Links to Suppliers

SiliconDust External Dual ATSC Tuner HDHR3-US                                             $69.99

Silverstone Micro-ATX HTPC Case GD04b-USB3.0                                             $99.00

Lite-on DVD Burner IHAS124-04 (Or substitute a BluRay Drive Instead)              $17.99

Seagate Pipeline HDD 2T ST ST2000VM002 64M 5.9K                                       $99.29

Intel Core I3 3225 3.3G 3M with HD4000 Graphics                                             $139.99

SDRAM Kit 2Gx2 GSK F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ                                                   $37.99

MicroATX MotherBoard ASUS P8H77-M/CSM                                                     $104.99

Seasonic High Efficiency PSU S12II 380B 380W                                                $53.99

Crucial SSD 128G CT128M4SSD2   (Optional)                                                    $149.99

USB-IR Receiver Kit with Remote    (Search for “HP OEM WMC Remote”)       $39.95

The integrated Intel HD4000  graphics controller features HDMI, DVI and VGA outputs which can be configured for virtually any display format up to and including 1080p.  The HDMI connection should be used if it’s available on your HDTV.  The HD4000 also has the ability to shift the video image horizontally and/or vertically up to 10%, which is often needed when driving older HDTVs that don’t have an HDMI input.  In that case, an HDMI to Component converter is also required which can be difficult to find.  Here are two possible sources:

Enjoy Gadgets HDMI to VGA & Component Converter with Audio               $42.50

KanexPro KAHDRGBRL  HDMI to Component Converter with Audio          $47.00

Of course, all prices shown are just representative of what I have seen recently at Amazon and NewEgg, which are my favorite hardware suppliers.  For more information regarding the selection of hardware components, see the Assassin HTPC Hardware Guide.

The Antenna

To receive live HDTV, you will need a UHF antenna.  This can be a small indoor antenna, if you are near the transmission towers.  If not, get a large yagi type antenna to mount in your attic or on the roof.  Attic mounted antennas work well provided your roof does not contain any metallic foil or radiant barrier. Yagi antennas are designed to pull in signals from a specific direction, so it’s essential to point it in the right direction.  The AntennaWeb guide will help with that.

Windows Versions

Either 32 or 64 bit versions of Windows 7 or 8 can be used for XBMC and MediaPortal.  64 bit versions can address more than 4GB of RAM, but this software will never actually use more than 4GB anyway, so the only reason to install more RAM would be if you want better performance for high-end games, for example.  Do not use WindowsXP because it lacks many of the required drivers and codecs for audio, video and remote controls.

Software Components with Download Links

Microsoft Windows 7 or 8 (32 or 64 Bit)                                                                    $90

Microsoft Silverlight                                    Silverlight.exe                                         Free

Microsoft DirectX                                         DirectX9c_dxwebsetup.exe                   Free

Microsoft .Net Frameworks                         dotNetFx40_Full_x86_x64.exe               Free

HD Homerun Installer                                      hdhomerun_windows_20130117.exe     Provided

MediaPortal                                                Free

XBMC for Windows                                        xbmc-12.2.exe (Frodo)                         Free

SchedulesDirect Plugin for MediaPortal   SchedulesDirectPlugin-   Free

MediaPortal TVServerXBMC Installer        TVServerXBMC-           Free

NetFlix Plugin for XBMC                                             Free

Software Installation

1. Start by installing Windows onto the SSD along with all the drivers from the CD supplied with the motherboard and the Microsoft .Net Frameworks, Silverlight and DirectX updates listed above.  There are some optimizations that can be made when Installing Windows7 on a Solid State Disk Drive.

2. Create yourself a SchedulesDirect account.  This service is free for the first week, then they will ask for $25 payment for the first year via a credit card or PayPal.  The guide data will be provided based upon the zip code you provide when the account is created.

3. Install the SiliconDust HDHomeRun tuners with an antenna and its software from the supplied CD.

Run the HDHomeRun Setup program which should automatically find the HDHomeRun on your local area network.

On the Location tab, enter your Country and Zip Code.

On the Application tab, select MediaPortal as your Main Application and HDHomeRun QuickTV for your Preview Application.

On the Tuners tab, select Digital Antenna for both tuners.

On the Digital Antenna tab, perform the channel scan for both tuners.  If the scan fails to find any channels, the problem is likely with your UHF antenna connection.

Click the OK button to save and exit.

Run the HDHomeRun QuickTV program.  This will receive and display live HDTV without the XBMC or MediaPortal software being installed yet.  This is an important test to be sure your HDHomeRun is working before proceeding.

4. Download and install MediaPortal.  Be sure to choose the One Click Installation option rather than the Advanced installation option.  Even though we will use XBMC for the front-end client, a full installation of MediaPortal is still necessary because it also installs several additional required packages such as MySQL 5.1, the MSVC++ redistributable and DirectX libraries and configures the Windows firewall.

5.  Download and install the plugins required for the MediaPortal TV-Server to work with XBMC and SchedulesDirect.  In MediaPortal, plugins are called Extensions.  The names of the required extensions are:


Run the MediaPortal Extension Installer:

Start > All Programs > Team MediaPortal > MediaPortal > MediaPortal Extension Installer

Click on the Known Extension tab and search for these extensions and install them, if they are found.  If they are not found, they must be downloaded manually.  Then come back and click on the Options tab in the MediaPortal Extension Installer and click Install Local Extension and browse to the downloaded extension files.  These files have names that end with either .mpe1 or .mpe2.

You can manually download the TVServerXBMC extension from the MediaPortal TVServerXBMC Installer page.  There are several versions available, but only download the MediaPortal Extension Installer and the latest version that is compatible with the version of MediaPortal installed.  The other download options for the RAR zip files with release DLL and debug executables are not needed.

Sore more information, refer to the MediaPortal TV Server Quick Start Guide page on the XBMC wiki:

You can manually download the SchedulesDirect extension from the SchedulesDirect Plugin for MediaPortal page.  There are several versions available, but only download the latest version that is compatible with the version of MediaPortal installed.

6. Configure the MediaPortal TV-Server.

Run the MediaPortal TV-Server Configuration program:

Start > All Programs > Team MediaPortal > MediaPortal TV Server > TV-Server Configuration

Click the box on the left of the TV Servers branch of the Project tree to expand it, then click on the name of your HTPC server on the branch (Typically HTPC).  There should be 2 SiliconDust HDHomeRun tuners in the list that is presented.  Be sure they are enabled and are assigned the highest priorities.

Select each tuner and click the Edit button to bring up the Edit Card Properties dialog.  Select these options in the Advanced Tuning Options section of that dialog for both tuners:

Allow this card to be preloaded
Pause card (faster for some cards)

For more information, refer to the MediaPortal TV-Server Configuration page.

Click on the Recording branch of the Project tree.  On the Folders tab, enter the path to store all DVR recording to (typically D:Recording) and click the Same recording folder for all cards button.

Click on the Timeshifting branch of the Project tree.  On the Folders tab, enter the path to store all DVR recording to (typically D:Timeshift) and click the Same timeshift folder for all cards button.

Click the box on the left of the Plugins branch of the Project tree to expand these branches.  Check the boxes for these Available plugins to enable them:


Click on SchedulesDirect EPG Client on the Plugins branch of the Project tree.  On the Configuration tab, enter your login Username and Password for the new SchedulesDirect account you created above.  This allows the MediaPortal TV-Server to automatically login periodically to download your EPG data.

For more information, refer to the SchedulesDirect Setup for MediaPortal page.

Click on TVServerXBMC on the Plugins branch of the Project tree.  On the Shares tab, verify that the Recording and Timeshift paths are correct for each HDHomeRun tuner, as previously entered.

Close the dialog and click OK to save your changes and exit the configuration program.

Note that there is also a MediaPortal (Client) Configuration Program that looks very similar to the MediaPortal TV-Server Configuration program, but we don’t need it because we only use the client for testing and debug purposes.

Now run the MediaPortal (client) program to test the display of live HDTV.  If this does not work, you may need to revisit the installation of the HDHomeRun software above or the MediaPortal Setup Guide.

The MediaPortal TV-Server Configuration Program
The MediaPortal TV-Server Configuration Program

7. Download and install XBMC for Windows.  Plugins are called add-ons in XBMC and the add-on for MediaPortal is included by default along with several other PVR add-ons with the default installation.  However, after installation, you must enable the MediaPortal PVR Client add-on at this menu within XBMC:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Disabled Add-ons > PVR Clients > MediaPortal PVR Client > Enable

For more information, refer to The XBMC Live TV and PVR/DVR Setup Guide in the XBMC wiki.  Those instructions describe several back-end sources that can be used with XBMC, but MediaPortal is the only back-end that needs to be installed.

8.  Share some folders for easier maintenance of this software from other computers on your local area network.  Also share the folders for your recorded content and music.  For example:


Use the Windows control panel to unhide the XBMC folder.  In particular, you will need easy access to the XBMC log that is in that folder named xbmc.log, to diagnose any errors that are reported.

9. Configure Windows to automatically launch XBMC every time Windows boots by simply placing a shortcut to XBMC.exe into your Windows Startup folder.

Windows 7 normally has Windows Media Center installed by default and it can interfere with configuring your remote control to drive XBMC.  So, to disable WMC to prevent it from launching select:

Start > Default Programs > Program Features > Turn Windows features on or off > Media Features > Windows Media Center > Uncheck

Install a Remote Control

A good remote control is an essential part of an HTPC system and there are several good options available.  XBMC can support a wide range of remote control types including those with integrated keyboard and trackball features.  But, XBMC is designed to work with remotes intended for Windows Media Center and those remotes operate on a different IR frequency than most remotes can generate – even most universal, programmable or learning remotes do not work directly with XBMC or MediaPortal.  There are some great tools available to resolve these compatibility problems, but configuring every button on a large remote can be tedious and error prone.  Therefore, here are some recommended options so you can choose what makes the most sense for you.

 Recommended Remote Control Options

  1. Start with a Windows Media Center remote kit such as the HP OEM WMC Remote.
  2. Purchase the Flirc IR Receiver to enable an IR remote you already own.
  3. Buy a high-end Logitech Harmony remote which can learn WMC key codes.
  4. Use your Android or Apple phone or tablet as your remote for XBMC.

In any event, use just a PC keyboard and mouse to get all of the essential software installed and working before proceeding with the installation of a remote.  The goal, of course, is to eliminate the need to use a keyboard and mouse to drive XBMC, but they will still be needed for occasional software updates, maintenance, gaming and web browsing.  Logitech has wireless USB keyboards and mice combos that share a common USB receiver dongle, which is a good idea.

Option 1 – The HP OEM WMC Remote Kit

The quick and easiest way to get started is with an HP OEM WMC Remote kit.  This kit includes an RC6 compatible IR receiver that connects to a USB port on your HTPC and a Windows Media Center IR remote control.  Even if you plan to use a different remote control, you still need an IR receiver and the WMC remote is useful for testing.  Beware that most universal remotes are not able to learn from WMC remotes because they use different IR frequencies.  The Logitech Harmony remotes are the exception.  The HP OEM WMC Remote kits are designed for use with Windows Media Center and the Microsoft eHome device driver which is provided with Windows 7.  This driver will install automatically when you connect the IR receiver to a USB port.

Most of the buttons on this remote will function correctly with XBMC right out of the box, but there are some buttons that do not work.  To fix this, install the MCERemote add-on, which you will also need for button customization.  From the main menu, select:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Add-ons > Program Add-ons > MCERemote > Install

Now run the MCERemote Add-on to configure the remote for XBMC:

Programs > MCERemote > Apply current settings to remote.

This configures all of the buttons on the WMC remote for use with XBMC and stores the configuration in the Windows registry.  You must have run XBMC as Administrator to do this and you must also exit XBMC and reboot Windows for these changes to take effect.  This Add-on only works with Microsoft eHome compatible remotes and it will complain if your remote is not compatible.  For more information, refer to Using a Microsoft Remote Control in Windows in the XBMC wiki and from the XBMC main menu, select:

Programs > MCERemote > Read the instructions.

The default button assignments for XBMC make a good starting point.  But, after using XBMC for awhile you may want to change some buttons.  For example, there is no button defined for deleting recordings, by default.  So, here is an example of how to customize a button to do that using the MCERemote Add-on. Select:

Programs > MCERemote > Configure MCERemote settings.

This displays a list of all the buttons on the remote with the keyboard commands they transmit.  Scroll through this list and click on the one you want to redefine.  I chose the ENTER key (bottom right corner on the remote) because it’s redundant to the big round OK key in the center.  Other good choices are the RADIO, MUSIC, PICTURES , VIDEOS or LIVE TV buttons, which are colored on some WMC remotes.  When you choose a button, a virtual keyboard will pop up.  Use that keyboard to enter the name of the keyboard command you want that button to transmit.  I entered delete.  Then, click the Done button on the virtual keyboard, then OK and Yes to apply the settings to the remote.  Exit XBMC and reboot Windows for the changes to take effect.

To help identify how buttons on your remote correspond to the entries in the MCERemote Add-on list, download and install the ShowKey Windows Utility.  This utility shows the commands that are transmitted for each button pressed on the remote.

Option 2 – The Flirc IR Receiver

If you already own a remote control that you want to use with XBMC and you are willing to spend some time configuring the software to translate each key code, then purchase the Flirc IR Receiver, instead of Option 1.

This compact IR receiver has a built-in microcontroller with flash memory that will learn whatever IR key codes your remote transmits and translate them into the keyboard codes that XBMC expects.  In fact, Windows thinks the Flirc is an ordinary USB keyboard, which means it can also be used to launch other apps on the Windows desktop.

The difficult part of programming the Flirc is that the remote you choose must have a sufficient number of buttons to properly control XBMC and they must all generate unique key codes.  Most remotes do not have enough buttons and sometimes the buttons generate redundant key codes.  Your remote does not have to be programmable, but if it is, then you must first program it to emulate some other remote which must also have sufficient unique buttons.  If you don’t have a picture of the emulated remote, some trial and error will be required to find an emulation code that works well.  Programmable remotes typically come with a chart of 3 or 4 digit codes for all the devices they can emulate ordered by manufacturer and equipment type.   Also, buttons which have learned key codes from other remotes can cause problems too, so it’s best to program a universal remote with an emulation code that resets all of the needed buttons with unique key codes.

Download and install the latest release of the Flirc Installer for Windows.  Then, plug the Flirc device into any available USB port.  There is no cable supplied with the Flirc, so you can use an ordinary USB extension cable, or if you have an IR repeater, just tape an IR flasher onto the Flirc.

Run the Flirc configuration utility and start by selecting the XBMC keyboard guide option to program these essential keys:

Controllers > XBMC

        Fast Reverse
        Fast Forward
        Skip Reverse
        Skip Forward
        Up Folder

The Flirc XBMC keyboard guide is somewhat out of date.  It shows some additional keys that are not really useful and you don’t want to waste your limited buttons with useless or redundant functions.  So, program just these important keys before adding others.  The following keys are also important for DVR operation, but you must  select the Full Keyboard Guide to program these:

Controllers > Full Keyboard

        Ctrl + G          (EPG)
        Ctrl + O          (Recorded)

For reference, here is a complete table of the Common Default Keyboard Controls for XBMC, but some of the keys shown here are actually redundant or not useful.

If you attempt to program any button more than once, the error “Button already exists” will be reported.  You can then Erase that button and try again.  If this error is reported for a button you have not already programmed, it is likely because the button is generating the same key code as another button that you have already programmed.  Universal remotes will typically assign redundant key codes to buttons that are not mapped and that is usually because those buttons don’t exist on the device the remote is configured to emulate.  So, try configuring your remote to emulate a different device which has more buttons.  I have had the best luck programming my universal remote with emulation codes for Sony DVD recorders.

The ShowKey Windows Utility is also helpful to test your Flirc programming to confirm it’s actually generating the key codes you want.

Option 3 – Logitech Harmony Remotes

The Logitech Harmony Remotes are a more expensive option which I have not tried yet, but they have received good reviews on the XBMC and MediaPortal forums.  These remotes have premium features like back-lit buttons, an LCD display and the unusual ability to learn key codes from a WMC remote, so you can use them with the IR receiver from an HP OEM WMC Remote kit or with the Flirc receiver.  For more information, read How to use a Logitech Harmony Remote with XBMC in the XBMC forum.

There is a beta version of the Flirc software available which has a profile specifically to make configuration for Harmony remotes easier.  For more information, refer to this thread in the Flirc forum.

Option 4 – Android or Apple Phone or Tablet Apps  (Added 11/17/2013)

An Android or Apple phone or tablet can also be used as your remote control for XBMC by installing the appropriate app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store, respectively.  This requires your mobile device to have an 802.11 wireless connection to your local network because these devices do not have IR interfaces and therefore no IR receiver is required.

The XBMC Remote Control App for Android
Android XBMC App

Install the Channel Logos

By default, XBMC labels TV channels with only the names assigned to them by the HDHomeRun tuners, which will be the call signs for HDTV stations in your area, like “KDFW-DT”, for example.  It looks really cryptic, so fix this by installing proper logo images.  This greatly enhances the user interface.  I created this collection of logo images specifically for use with XBMC.  It contains all the major broadcast TV networks in the US and Canada.  Once installed, XBMC will display them on the channel listing and EPG Timeline.  Follow these steps to install:

1. Download and unzip this file into this new folder in the XBMC addons folder:


2. Rename each file to match the TV station call sign names for the corresponding channel in your area.  Use the channel listing in the MediaPortal TV Server configuration program as a guide to the exact spellings.  For example, in the North Texas area they should be renamed like this:

NBC.png    to    KXAS-HD.png
FOX.png    to    KDFW-DT.png
PBS.png    to    KERA.png

3. Configure XBMC to open the new logo files from the main menu:

System > Settings > LiveTV > Menu/OSD > Default folder for PVR thumbnails > Browse to the new logos folder.

XBMC should then begin displaying the new logos on the channel listing and EPG Timeline.  If not, it’s probably because the file names do not match the station names exactly.

Logo images for major HDTV broadcast networks in America
Logo images for major HDTV broadcast networks in America

Install Your Music Collection

Once you have XBMC up and running with Internet and Live TV, be sure to explore XBMC’s music player capabilities as well.  XBMC originated as a music player with advanced visualization features that are a lot of fun to use on a large HDTV with your own music collection.  The first step is to copy your digital music files onto the HTPC’s hard disk in a new folder, then add that new folder as a music Source:

Music > Files > Add Source > Browse to your new music folder.

The XBMC Music Player can operate in three modes; File Mode, Library Mode or Party Mode.  Using File mode only requires that you add the Source with the path to your music files, then you can access them directly by their file names.  If your music files contain valid tags, you can also scan them into the XBMC music library and then access them in Library Mode which allows you to make selections based on an array of criteria such as artist, album, year, genre, etc.  Library Mode is only useful if your music files have been tagged with this information.  To scan a new Source into the library:

Music > Files > Right Click on Source Name > Scan item to library.

XBMC will then build your music library from the Source folder you added previously.  You should repeat this step anytime you add music files to that folder, or update the entire library with:

Music > Library > Right Click on Genres> Update Library

For more information, refer to the XBMC Music Library page.

The XBMC Music Player on the Main Menu
The XBMC Music Player on the Main Menu

Ripping Music CDs

XBMC has the ability to create music files by directly ripping them from audio CDs.  In fact, there are a lot of apps available to do that, including the Windows Media Player.  But, the really tedious part is getting all the tag data just right, including song titles, genres, dates and album cover art and the XBMC Library Mode is much more useful if your music files have good tag data.  Therefore, I recommend using a dedicated best-of-class tool on another PC to do this, then copy your music files with the new tags to the HTPC and update the XBMC library.  For a good comparison of several shareware tools that automate the ripping and tagging process well, check out Six Best MP3 Tagging Tools.

Install Pandora Internet Radio

One of the best Add-ons for XBMC gives you seamless access to Pandora internet radio, which will continuously stream music selections to your HTPC based on a list of artists which you select. This Add-on works with any Pandora account, paid or free, and it’s easy to install.  The paid service is called Pandora One which costs $36 annually and offers higher fidelity audio (192 kbps) and no ads.  But this Add-on actually skips the ads from the free service also, which is just another reason why XBMC rocks!

Start by creating yourself a free or paid account at the Pandora website, if you do not already have one.  An email address is required.  While you are there, enter one or more artists names, genres or composers to create virtual radio stations that will feature that music.

Then, download this Add-on zip file into a temporary folder.  It’s not necessary to unzip it:

Install this Add-on from the zip file within XBMC:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Install from zip file > Browse to the zip file > OK

Then, configure the Add-on:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Enabled Add-ons > Music Add-ons > Pandora Json > Configure

Enter your Pandora username (email address) and password, which you registered at the Pandora website.  Check the Pandora One button only if you have a paid Pandora One account, otherwise it will default to the free service.  Click OK to save and exit.  That completes the installation.  To launch Pandora select:

Music > Pandora Json

For more information, refer to this thread in the XBMC forum.

The XBMC Pandora Internet Radio Player.
The XBMC Pandora Internet Radio Player.

There is also an XBMC Add-On for GrooveShark, which is a similar service but requires a paid account, which is called GrooveShark Anywhere and costs $90 annually.  If anyone knows how this service compares to Pandora One, please leave a comment below.

Install NetFlix

XBMC does not have a completely seamless and integrated solution for NetFlix.  This is because NetFlix requires DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the NetFlix API has not had the stability that open source projects depend on.  There are two XBMC Add-ons that work around these problems to provide access to NetFlix, but they take radically different approaches. You can choose one or install both to evaluate them for yourself.  Of course, you must first create yourself a NetFlix streaming account, if you do not already have one.  These Add-ons require your NetFlix login name (email address) and password.

Option 1 – Install the XBMC Flicks Add-on

The first option is called XBMC Flicks and uses the NetFlix web interface with a browser of your choice.  This is easier to install, but the web interface requires a mouse (and occasionally a keyboard) to operate and switching between the XBMC and web browser interfaces is not very seamless.  Back in 2010, this Add-on had a more elegant design, but it has suffered somewhat from a lack of support.

First, download the Add-on zip file into a temporary folder.  It’s not necessary to unzip it:

Then, install this Add-on from the zip file within XBMC:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Install from zip file > Browse to the downloaded zip file > OK

Then, configure the Add-on:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Enabled Add-ons > Video Add-ons > XBMC Flicks > Configure

NetFlix can now be accessed from the XBMC Video Add-ons menu:

Video > Add-ons > XBMC Flicks

For more information, refer to Add-on:XBMC Flicks – Netflix for XBMC in the XBMC wiki.

 Option 2 – Create a WMC NetFlix Launcher

This approach uses XBMC’s Advanced Launcher Add-on to start Windows Media Center and its plugin for NetFlix.  This takes more time to install but provides a more seamless user experience because WMC responds to the same set of basic remote key codes as XBMC, so only a remote control is needed to drive it.  The user interface in WMC looks more like NetFlix running on a Roku or game console.  There are no scroll bars to contend with and a virtual pop-up keyboard is provided when needed.

Windows Media Center comes bundled with Windows 7 and should already be installed by default. If it has been uninstalled, then reinstall it with:

Start > Default Programs > Program Features > Turn Windows features on or off > Media Features > Windows Media Center > Check

For some inexplicable reason, Microsoft removed WMC from Windows 8, so in that case you must purchase it separately then install it.

NetFlix support is already built into Windows Media Center, but you must run WMC to configure it for Internet TV and test that NetFlix is working.  It’s not required for WMC to be able to access the HDHomeRun ATSC tuners.

The next step is to install the NetFlix script for WMC which is called snetflix by downloading this file and unzipping it into a permanent folder (such as c:scripts):

Also download the Angelscry Add-on zip file into a temporary folder from the Angelscry Repository. It’s not necessary to unzip it.  Install the Add-on from this zip file within XBMC:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Install from zip file > Browse to the downloaded zip file > OK

Now, install the Advanced Launcher Add-on for XBMC from the Angelscry Repository:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Angelscry Repository > Program Add-ons > Advanced Launcher > Install

Use the Advanced Launcher to create a new standalone launcher for the NetFlix script:

Programs > Advanced Launcher > Default > Standalone launcher (normal executable) > Browse to select the executable NetFlix script (c:Scriptsnetflix.exe)

Accept the defaults for the Application Arguments and select a title.  No platform selection, thumbnails or fanart paths are required.  To set a thumbnail image for the new launcher:

Programs > Advanced Launcher > Default > Right Click on snetflix > Edit Launcher > Change Thumbnail Image > Select Local Image > Browse to select the NetFlix logo file (c:ScriptsNetFlix_Logo.png).

NetFlix can now be accessed from the XBMC Programs Add-ons menu:

Programs > Advanced Launcher > Default > snetflix

You can create a shortcut to make it easier to access NetFlix from the XBMC Favorites menu:

Programs > Advanced Launcher > Default > snetflix > Right Click on snetflix > Add to Favorites

By default, the Escape key will exit the WMC NetFlix player and return to XBMC cleanly.  If you wish to change this key, refer to the instructions in the snetflix.txt file.  For more information on the snetflix script, refer to this thread in the XBMC Hub forum.  For more information on the XBMC Add-on, refer to the Advanced Launcher User Guide.

Option 3 – The PlayOn Service  (Added 11/17/2013)

Another way to access NetFlix (and other internet sources) from XBMC, is to subscribe to the PlayOn service.  I have not used this, but it’s a popular solution for people who use XBMC on Linux or Android because it eliminates the need for Microsoft Silverlight, which is not available on those platforms.   PlayOn works by transcoding video streams from Silverlight to an open format, which degrades the quality of the video some, but a wide range of streaming sources is available, including Amazon Instant and HBO Go, which are not otherwise available in XBMC.  The PlayOn+PlayLater service requires either a monthly subscription or you can purchase a lifetime subscription for a one-time fee of $60.

Install Hulu

The XBMC Hulu Add-on provides access to one of the largest sources of free TV on the internet and a more seamless user experience than NetFlix.  This Add-on works with or without a Hulu account, paid or free, and much of the newer content is provided in HD.  The advantage of creating an account is that Hulu will keep track of your queue of shows and make suggestions.  The paid service is called Hulu Plus which costs $7.99 monthly and offers access to more recently released content and less ads.  Although, this XBMC Add-on does allow the ads to be skipped, manually.

Start by downloading the XBMC Plus Add-on zip file into a temporary folder from the XBMC Plus Repository.  It’s not necessary to unzip it.  Install the Add-on from this zip file within XBMC:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Install from zip file > Browse to the downloaded zip file > OK

Now, install the Hulu Add-on for XBMC from the XBMC Plus Repository:

 System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > XBMCPlus Add-on Repository > Video Add-ons > Hulu > Install

 This repository also contains other Add-ons which are definitely worth installing as well, such as Free Cable, World News Live and VEVO.  If you created yourself a free or paid account at the Hulu website, be sure to configure the Add-on:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Enabled Add-ons > Video Add-ons > Hulu > Configure > Hulu Login

Enter your Hulu username (email address) and password, which you registered at the Hulu website.  Check the Hulu Plus button only if you have a paid Hulu Plus account, otherwise it will default to the free service.  Click OK to save and exit.  That completes the installation.  To launch Hulu select:

Videos > Add-ons > Hulu

For more information, refer to this thread in the XBMC forum.

Install The Wall Street Journal

This XBMC add-on provides access to a great source of current news videos with titles organized by subject.  No user account is needed and XBMC automatically skips the ads.  To install this from the main menu, select:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Add-ons > Video Add-ons > The Wall Street Journal Live > Install

For more information, refer to Add-on:The Wall Street Journal Live in the XBMC wiki.

Install Fox News

This XBMC add-on provides access to another great source of current news videos with titles organized by subject.  These are highlights from the live Fox News channel posted on their website.  No user account is needed and XBMC automatically skips the ads.  To install this from the main menu, select:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Add-ons > Video Add-ons > Fox News > Install

For more information, refer to Add-on:Fox News in the XBMC wiki.

Install NPR Radio

This XBMC add-on provides access to all available National Public Radio streams and most podcasts.  No user account is needed.  To install this from the main menu, select:

System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Add-ons > Music Add-ons > NPR (National Public Radio) > Install

For more information, refer to Add-on:NPR (National Public Radio) in the XBMC wiki.

Install Apple AirPlay

XBMC can also play music and video from 5th generation Apple iPhone, iPad and other iOS 7 devices with the AirPlay feature, provided an 802.11 wireless connection to your local network is established.  XBMC will act as an AirPlay receiver, as if it where an Apple TV.  This requires first installing a Windows service on your HTPC named Bonjour, which provides Apple’s zero-configuration networking protocol.  Bonjour enables the automatic discovery and streaming to AirPlay receivers on your local wireless network.  The best way to install Bonjour is to install Apple’s iTunes for Windows, because Bonjour comes bundled with it:

First, go to Apple’s website to Download  iTunes for Windows.  Support for AirPlay is otherwise built into XBMC.  To enable it, select:

System > Settings > Services > AirPlay > Allow XBMC to receive AirPlay content

On the Apple device, you can now send music, videos or photos from a variety of locations, including from within the Photos, Videos, Safari and Music apps.  Swipe up from the bottom of your screen to access the iOS Control Center.

Then, select the AirPlay icon in the lower right corner.  XBMC should appear in the list as an AirPlay receiver.  For more information, refer to Apple’s Using AirPlay guide.

95 thoughts on “HTPC Guide

      • I actually use all 3, XBMC, MediaPortal and WMC. They each have their strengths and fortunately, they work together well. WMC is still the best solution for NetFlix, but MediaPortal (with SchedulesDirect) is more reliable and accurate than the free EPG Microsoft provides for WMC.

  1. True, the MediaPortal client can be used instead of XBMC. But, I don’t like the default skin for MediaPortal. Of course, there are better skins available, but it takes some time to install them and find one you like. The default XBMC skin (Confluence) is very nice “right out of the box”. I do recommend installing the full MediaPortal package (client and server) anyway which makes it easy to compare MediaPortal and XBMC for yourself, if you have the time. In any event, having both installed is very worthwhile. Also, it’s unclear how well MediaPortal stacks up to XBMC in the area of available plugins. I plan to evaluate more of the popular plugins for both and add some guidance on that.

    It takes considerably more time and patience to get WebEPG working for all the channels available at any specific location than with SchedulesDirect. It would be interesting to compare the accuracy and dependability of the two over time, but since SchedulesDirect is a licensed and paid service (from the Tribune Media Group) I expect it would win.

  2. Thanks for producing this fantastic guide. It will surely save folks countless hours of research.

    I was wondering if you recommend any internal tv-tuner cards? I plan to build a HTPC soon and favor a “one box” approach. It’s a preference, not a requirement.

    I’m also wondering if you have an opinion on the 65 watt AMD Richland APU’s?

    Thanks Again!

  3. Thank you! I found it frustrating how other guides are so general that hours of wading through online forums was required to answer basic questions and select components. Hopefully this guide will save many people that time and trouble.

    I have not tried any of the newer internal HDTV tuner cards yet or the new AMD processor, but a compact card like the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 should fit in the Silverstone case just fine and the power supply should handle it. Hopefully you can find one that someone on the MediaPortal forum has tested and confirmed works with MediaPortal.

    Please share your experience here once you get it built and running.

  4. Clay, great article. I already have XBMC installed since I wanted to try it out before dropping cable. So, can I just leave it and install Media Portal or do I need to do a clean install in the order you outlined? I have two HD Home Runs each with two tuners. I had used WMC for my HTPC in the past.

  5. There is no need to reinstall XBMC, but do update it to the latest Frodo version. The install order is not important. Leave WMC installed too, because it is still the best way to watch NetFlix, even from XBMC. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Clay, I had some problems with the install but I’ve worked them out. One thing I wish we could do is add some color to the Schedules Direct EPG. While using WMC, I used a program called My Channel Logos that added color to the Timeline and also installed logos. But, it doesn’t seem to have a version for XBMC. One problem I can’t seem to solve was a problem with the CBS logo. The logo doesn’t look like the one in your setup. Any suggestions or ideas to fix it would be appreciated.


  7. Ken, The color scheme is actually controlled by the XBMC skin. The EPG timeline is a little dull, but Frodo is just the first version of XBMC to even have this feature. I expect it will be improved in future releases. Meanwhile, you could try installing other skins. Let me know if you find one you like better. I did invert the color on the CBS logo to make it visible on the white background. The version in the zip file should be white to show on the dark background in XBMC. I will try changing it to blue. I think that will look better.

    • Clay, thanks for the reply. I will try some other skins to see if that changes things.I wish I knew how to write code and I would try some things but that would be a stretch for me. I’ll take a look at the changes you are making to the CBS logo. Thanks.


  8. Fantastic guide, thank you very much for this info

    My question is, can all of this be done on an OpenElec? Meaning can I have OpenElec set as the host and MediaPortal set as an add on or a program? I really like the concept of OpenElec because a Windows OS is very high maintenance and has a lot of unnecessary background services, updates, startup programs etc…

    OE is tailor made for an Intel Nuc or something similar to one. Its very straight forward.

    Much appreciated

    • Ghass, Probably not. MediaPortal requires Windows, so it would make more sense to use different TV-server (back-end) software for live TV that runs on Linux. The problem with OpenElec and Linux is that getting NetFlix to work will require a service like But, I have not used OpenElec. You should ask this question in the forums.

  9. So I built a new HTPC/media server for my mother, got an HDhomerun, a WMC remote, antenna, etc. I was wondering how to put it all together correctly for her and somehow I ended up here and I am just blown away. I don’t think I have ever seen a guide that is so thorough and easy to follow. I have been using an HTPC for a long time, but I guess I do it the hard way.

    Thanks man, changed my life over here haha

  10. That was a good comprehensive guide. I knew most of this. I use xbmc on a daily basis but still can’t cut the cable completely because of sports for me and certain channels for the wife (food network, hdtv). I use the free cable and sportsdevil addon but something breaks on it daily. So it’s not a good and seamless experience… at least not yet anyway.

  11. Great guide!
    Lots of research this week figuring out the best hardware & software to get us closer to “cutting the cable”- this ties it all together nicely!
    Thank you!

  12. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would
    really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design.

    Appreciate it

    • Thanks. I built this blog using WordPress and the Catch Box theme, which is open source software. I highly recommend WordPress. It has been great to use.

  13. Thanks for this guide, it’s very well written and covers things the way I was hoping for so I can finally jump into this. I’ll be referring to it soon.

    I have seen NextPVR and TVHeadEnd used other places for the PVR and live video tuner handling. Do you have an opinion of those? I will plan to set mine up kind of like yours, where I’ll use mostly just XBMC for everything after getting everything set up.

  14. Thanks. I did try to use the NextPVR back-end with XBMC before I found MediaPortal, but I never did quite get it to work. But, the big issue is that NextPVR is not supported by SchedulesDirect, because it’s not an open source project. So, you would have to get some other EPG source set up, such as WebEPG or XMLTV. Those are free. but will require more time to get working.

    • I would not trust the tables on that page too much. It may be out of date because MediaPortal has seen significant improvements lately. You should ask about CableCard support on the MediaPortal forum to get a reliable answer. In any event, please share your findings here once you find what works.

  15. First thanks for the time and effort putting this together! Good stuff!! Unfortunately for me, even though I believe I followed the instructions to a “T” (one exception being I used the latest version of MediaPortal (1.6)) but “Live TV” doesn’t show up when I start XBMC. Anyone else experience this? Any suggestions? I’m relatively new to XBMC, but pretty tech savvy. Should I try and roll back to MediaPortal 1.4? If so can I just uninstall MediaPortal and re-install or should I try and uninstall everything that MediaPortal installed and then re-install? Hardware OS = Windows 7 x64 if that’s relevant?

    • I have not tried MediaPortal 1.5 or 1.6 yet. I am planning to do a major update of this guide for the Gotham release of XBMC in the next month or two. I have been waiting for an update to the SchedulesDirect plugin for MP, but the developer of that has switched from MP to ArgusTV for the back-end. Part of my update will be to evaluate whether it’s better to use Argus or MP 1.6 with Gotham. Before you roll-back MP, try to get live TV working in the MP client. Also try the HDHomeRun QuickTV app. Are those working?

  16. Thanks for the reply and I apologize. I should have included in my post that I verified that both MP and HDHomeRun QuickTV can be used to watch TV without any issues. I’ve checked and rechecked that the TVServerXBMC and SchedulesDirect MP Extensions are installed, the MP TV Server Configurations are correct and also that the MediaPortal PVR Client is enabled in XBMC. Still no “Live TV” option in XBMC?? Gonna take one more look at everything and with fresh eyes and if I still can’t get it working I think I’ll try reverting back to MP 1.4.

  17. Ok don’t I feel stupid. Live TV has to be ENABLED before it will show up! Dooh. XBMC > Settings > Live TV > Enable. That was it. Not sure if I turn it off by accident or if it’s off by default. Either way I now have Live TV working. Again…Thanks for the great guide. I look forward to your update in the next several months.

    • Thanks for reporting back. You found a missing step in the guide! I will add it. So, exactly which versions are you running now for XBMC, MP and the SchedulesDirect plugin?

  18. XBMC = 12.3
    TVServerXBMC =
    SchedulesDirectPlugin =
    MediaPortal = 1.6.0_Final

    As I was following the guide I wan’t paying attention to the versions of the stuff I was downloading. I just downloaded the latest of each as of the day of the install (Jan 29, 2014).

    I’m not sure the SchedulesDirectPlugin is working correctly since I don’t see a schedule when fire up Live TV. Other than that it seems to be working ok.

  19. I think this is among the most significant information for me.
    And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The website style
    is ideal, the articles is really nice : D.
    Good job, cheers

  20. I noticed on the XBMC wiki the following:”Direct HDHomeRun support may be dropped from XBMC’s core in the future in favor of PVR functionality, which can better handle talking to HDHomeRun devices. Because of this, expect support for this feature to be limited going forward. It should still work as of XBMC v12 Frodo.”

    Is there concern using HDHomeRun tuner in the future? Are there other tuners that work well?

    • Direct HDHomeRun support in XBMC only allows you to watch live TV from the tuner – there is no DVR functionality. That is why I do not use that feature. I use the MediaPortal TV-Server to control the tuner, which is certainly not being dropped. The HDHomeRun tuners are probably the best selling tuners available, but I understand some folks prefer tuners that mount inside the HTPC. MediaPortal supports a lot of different tuners. That information is here:

      The page you were referring to about direct HDHomeRun support in XBMC is here:

      Please come back and share what tuner you decide to use.

  21. Clay,
    I ended getting the SiliconDust External Dual ATSC Tuner HDHR3-US. I set everything up to the point to where you set up the remote. I have run into a few problems but haven’t had time to troubleshoot them. 1) When doing the set up for Media Portal there is no Edit button or tab to bring up the Edit Card Properties dialog for the tuner cards. All it lets me do is scan the cards. 2) The EPG for XBMC isn’t populating with schedules direct. I have to see if I got the latest file; I thought I did. 3) The TV channel logos also aren’t populating XBMC.

    • Clay, I got everything working except the harmony remote. It can only list 5 devices at once so I will program it after I get rid of my cable box. Right now I am using a XBMC remote on my iPad. I had a question about recording a live TV program. Does XBMC have to be open for the program to record or just the computer to be on?

      • XBMC does not have to be running to record because it is the MediaPortal TV-Server that does the recording. That is why it is important to have that service enabled to start automatically when Windows boots.

  22. Thanks so much for the great guide, I have now built my htpc based on your recommended setup and have installed windows 7 on it. Getting ready to put the rest of the software on and reading through your guide beforehand it is not entirely clear at what point to install tge actual XBMC exe program (maybe I missed it? It seems to jump straight to all the various XBMC plugins after the MediaPortal install…guess my question is to install XBMC before or after the MediaPortal install for best results? Sorry I am new to this

    • Thanks for the feedback. The install order is not critical, but you should get the HDHomeRun QuickTV program working before you try to get MediaPortal configured and working and then configure XBMC’s Live TV/DVR plugins last.

  23. Nicely written and specific, I am planning to set up a pvr on a windows 8 laptop, I don’t have funds to create a dedicate server, and wanted to be able to use the PC with a hdhomerun box and my Ruku and/or AppleTV boxes to access it, this has given me some ideas but I can not dedicate a separate PC for each tv. I could drop the AppleTV use the laptop as a front and back end, but I am still twisting on the other tv

  24. Thanks for this great write up. I am considering the new amazon firetv. It doesn’t have XBMC (yet) but it does have plex. Since plex is based on XBMC, do you know if it has the required PVR support?


    • That’s a great question, but I don’t know much about Plex. When you find the answer, please come back and share!

  25. I’m not clear on what is doing what in your very welcome writeup.
    How much money could we shave off if we’re only using the antenna, and don’t want any “services” such as program lookup? If we know a program happens every week at a given time, and we just want to punch that into whatever software schedules the recordings, what items in your list could be dropped?

  26. It is possible to program XBMC to record “VCR” style without the SchedulesDirect EPG service. Or, you could use WMC instead since Microsoft provides a free EPG for it. At least until they decide to discontinue it. You could also reduce the cost by eliminating the SSD, or buy a smaller one. A 32 GB SSD would be fine if you do not want to install a lot of other software.

  27. I am in the process of building a new HTPC. Currently, I use Plex as it allows me to view my media from outside my network. Does this setup have the same functionality? Also, If I don’t purchase the HDTV antennae right away, (not ready to give up the cords completely yet) will I have to redo this setup when I am ready?

  28. I have not used Plex but I suspect it does not support HDTV tuners? So, you would still need the MediaPortal TV-server to control a tuner. I recommend you ask on the Plex forum what back-end TV-servers Plex supports. You might be able to use Plex as the client with MP the way I use XBMC as the client with MP. Yes, you can wait and install MP when you have a tuner.

    • Thanks Clay.. But I don’t think my real question was answered. Is there a way to access my media from outside my network? If so, how?

      • XBMC and MediaPortal do support remote access, but this is an area I have not yet explored. I recommend you ask this question either on the official XBMC forum or the XBMC forum on where you will get a lot of answers.

    • Thanks. I expect Gotham will require some significant revision of this guide but I think the MediaPortal TV-Server will still be required. I plan to update this guide once Gotham is complete.

  29. Clay, I ran across this and appreciate very much the write up for I am a novice to all this. I have been playing around with XBMC for 3 months in FRUSTRATION :( script errors, one or more items fail to play ect. ect. Downloaded Gothom new version and update to Beta1, then Beta2, then RC!. Today, I cleaned out XBMC due to all the aggravation. I am using windows 7 home premium on ACER ASPIRE 5250, Just wanted to bring you up to speed for if you can give any other tips or areas to go for step by step easy user friendly directions great. Now for question, when will you update all this? I know you said after Gothom is complete, are they still going? Is their an end in place? LOL I can’t even find Frodo anymore and it seems Frodo worked better, but heck I dont know Beta and what thats all about, anyway living in frustration of one day working and another day more script errors. I am wondering if adding all the fusion, super repo, and the hub in which has no association with XBMC is causing problems but without all them you miss out on very valuable addons, hmmmmm

  30. I feel your pain. I have been waiting for the add-ons to stabilize on Gotham and I fear it may be awhile. I have deliberately limited this guide to only the add-ons that I have tested or others that I trust have reported good results with. I will update to Gotham sometime this Summer and I would like to include some of the XBMC Hub repositories also, but it has got to work without a lot of hacking.

    I would appreciate your feedback on what you have found working and not working on Gotham. Particularly for features I detail in this guide.

  31. Great article. I am having trouble with the PVR part. MP, NextPVr and Argus TV all seem to have trouble tuning to some of the channels I can see easily in WMC, on the TV, and with the WinTV software. W7, (Happauge 2250.) IE, 2,4,7 (California OTA) show as No signal. Any advice from anyone?

    Also, does the PVR software allow one to drag past commercials when paused? Seems fast forward works, but its a pain. WMC allows that, and its a feature I am reluctant to give up.

    • TV server back-ends tend to lock-out others from using the same tuners. So, try disabling the Live TV features of WMC and then setup MP TV-server. You don’t have to uninstall WMC, just disable Live TV.

  32. how do you support multiple tvs? Say, den has main computer and bedroom has non-smart HDTV. What needs to be done to the bedroom tv so as to watch live TV and internet content? Currently have a windows 7 main computer and have a home network and internet is working.

  33. MediaPortal has a client/server design to support multiple TVs. You would need another PC for the second TV. However, the second PC would only need XBMC (the client) installed. It can be a much smaller PC with no hard disk, Windows or Linux.

  34. Great guide. I wish I’d found this a few weeks ago, would’ve saved me a world of hurt.

    I stepped into the PC/XBMC area a few weeks ago, it was frustrating at first, but I’ve just about got it all running smoothly and reliably now. I’m down to finishing touches. I was searching for channel logos, and most of the logos I found seem to be slanted toward europe. (Like most of the information I found early on in my research) Thankyou for you the transparent channel logos, that covers my US channels, just need to find transparent Canadian ones now, I have white-background ones, so I may end up trying to convert mine to transparent.

    I’m using HDHomerun and NPVR as my tuner/dvr server and XBMC openelec on RaberryPi’s as my media clients. (Of course my PCs and Laptops work as XBMC clients too, but I wanted something easy to plug in to my TV and projector)

    I didn’t know Mediaportal had a windows version. NPVR is running well for me, but I may investigate MediaPortal and see if that has any advantages over NPVR.

    Also wanted to mention mc2xml and zap2xml – both provide free schedule data, I went with zap2xml as I’ve had an account on the zap2it website for many years, so it was easy for me to get up and running, and I know the guide is reasonably accurate from experience (for my area – YMMV) I briefly tried mc2xml and that seemed to work OK also. (note: zap2it is not affiliated with zap2xml)

    • MediaPortal is Windows only. It would be great to hear how you like MP compared to NPVR. If you create a good set of transparent logos for Canada that you want to share, I will add them to this guide. Thanks for the info on zap2Xml. I will take a look at it.

      • I should add that zap2it seem to have sabotaged their own website lately. they’ve added so many ads, and video clips, that it’s very difficult to navigate, even on my reasonably powerful 6 core pc, its almost unusable. That said, once you setup your account, and use the tool to schedule/retrieve the listings, you don’t ever need to look at their website.

        So I tried the mediaportal (server only) took me a while to get it working, but work it did. speaking as a relative layman, it seems a little ‘heavier’ than NPVR, and little more involved in installing, though once installed the configuration is very similar. after configuration was completed, using it’s client side with xbmc..well, its pretty much the same experience as NPVR. I was hoping MediaPortal would handle naming ATSC channel numbers properly (2.1 / 2.2 / 4.1 etc) but, it appears it’s the same as NPVR, and does not.

        I’m sticking with NPVR for now, not because I found anything really wrong with MediaPortal, but just because I’ve already become more familiar with NPVR. but in truth, both are easy to setup and I would have no issue recommending either one to someone reading this, in fact had I found this guide earlier, I would probably go with MediaPortal, as you’ve done such a good job of documenting the install here.

        Finally, I live in Canada close enough to the US border where I’m fortunate to receive both US & Canadian TV stations. Could I send you the logos I’ve obtained and created ? – Its a fairly large market where I live, and there’s a chance someone from my area may read this and find the logos I have useful.

  35. Hi,

    Thank you for the article! Very helpful. I’ve already purchased a GBOX and was curious if there is any way to watch true live tv without a TV turner. I hate to sound so naive, but I’m fairly new to this. Thanks.

    • There was a startup named Aereo that offered live TV over the internet, but they lost a big court battle and have since shut down their business. So, according to the Supreme Court, everyone must own their own TV tuner!

    • The main advantage of the MediaPortal TV-Server is that it can be configured to get program guide information from the SchedulesDirect service (or Zap2It as Craig pointed out) so it is completely independent of Microsoft and their EPG. However, you will likely want to have the WMC client installed also to get the better support for NetFlix as explained in the HTPC Guide.

  36. After installing Media portal tv-server, then opening program, I am getting an error message. “Failed to startup tvservicesystem.NullReferenceException:Object reference not set to an instance of an object. The problem is I set this up on another computer and worked fine. I also uninstalled it and reinstalled it. Do you have any imput?

    • Did you do the full install or an advanced install where you picked pieces of MediaPortal to install? I have had trouble with the advanced install. I think the full install gets tested better and you really need the MediaPortal client anyway for testing the server installation, if nothing else. Which version are you using?

  37. Your Windows recommendation is 8.1. Do all your comments and software/hardware choices also work using Windows 7 OS? Thanks

  38. Clay,

    Thanks for all your hard work while providing such a thorough guide to cutting the cord.

    I have an Acer laptop E5-571P-55TL with Windows 8.1 that does not have WMC. At the time of purchase Best Buy put on VLC in an effort to make up for the lack of WMC. As a result, we can see OTA Television with all the commercials and no guide. This on top of my HDHomeRun Extend (HDTC-2US).

    If you have some time to answer a few questions, as a non-geek, I would really appreciate it:
    1) Is it possible to run Media Portal and KODI without any support from
    2) If the above is possible, can I download and set-up Media Portal &
    KODI with LVC remaining, but unused or, do I need to delete LVC
    before or after the installation of Media Portal and KODI?
    3) As I understand it, HDTC-2US is capable of transmitting to more
    than TV with DLNA UPnP. Is that true?
    4) Is it necessary to keep the computer on 24 hours a day?

    As a non-geek, I really look forward to your comments.



  39. Hi Ron,

    I would leave VLC installed until you get Kodi working and you are comfortable with it, but VLC might stop working when you configure the MP TV-server because it tends to lock-out other apps from using the HD HomeRun tuner.

    The only reason to have WMC installed is to use its Netflix plugin, which most people prefer over watching Netflix in a browser. But you can start with the browser and add WMC later, if you want. WMC is certainly not needed for Kodi. The MP TV-server takes its place and provides better EPG, independent of Microsoft, from SchedulesDirect.

    The HDHomeRun comes with a simple little app that you can put on all your Windows PCs and use the tuner, but the better approach is to let MP TV-Server on one HTPC own both tuners. It locks out other apps and PCs, but it will do all the recording as a server should, then you can run Kodi as a client on all your PCs to access the content either, recorded or time-shifted from the MP TV-Server. This way only the HTPC needs to be on 24 hours.

    I see that SiliconDust offers a new plugin for Kodi. I would give that a try also. Let us know how it works:

    Regards, Clay

    • I did some research on the new SiliconDust addon for Kodi. It looks like it is for viewing live TV only with no ability to record. However, they have an active campaign on KickStarter to develop a full-featured DVR server for the HDHomeRun and their initial funding goal of $100K has been met. If their stretch goal of $150K is also funded, they will offer a Kodi addon for this new DVR server too. The EPG subscription will cost $30/year and it is provided by FYI Television. This could develop into a good alternative for the MP TV-Server, but time will tell.

      Regards, Clay

  40. Hi Clay, thanks very much for the guide. I was hoping to ask a few questions if possible.

    We cut the cord from DISH a while back but my dad misses the dvr. The cheap OTA dvr guides like the one from Mediasonic look like they leave a lot to be desired and the fancy new alternatives such as tablo are so expensive that we could build a whole new HTPC for the same price or less. We don’t need networking or wi-fi or any of that, so that pretty much makes the guides a deciding factor. Can the HTPC guides you mention here be set to record on an ongoing basis or is it a day by day, week by week thing?

    If you have a HDHomeRun that has two tuners, can you record two shows simultaneously? What limits this? I’ve got a mobo that doesn’t have HDMI and a nvidia 210, is that ok or would I need something more? Would a 6450 be better?

    I also was wondering when you say that the PC must be powered continuously, does that mean the PC must be running continuously, or just powered on so that it can be woken from a sleep state.

    Thanks a bunch,

    “The Hardware

    This software can be installed on any PC, but since the DVR function requires the unit to be powered continuously it’s best to build a dedicated HTPC designed specifically for low-power operation.”

  41. Hi John,

    The MediaPortal TV-Server will definitely record on an ongoing basis, but the PC must be on and running. I find much of what I record is on in the middle of the night, so I never turn it off, but it only consumes 50 watts.
    You need an HDMI output more than an Nvidia card. The Nvidia card just wastes power unless you also want your HTPC to be a serious game system also. The newer Intel HD graphics is much better than it used to be. Dual tuners means you can record 2 channels at once. SiliconDust also sells the Prime model, which has more tuners.

    Regards, Clay

  42. This is the most detailed and comprehensive guide I’ve found on HTPC! Great job! Tuukka Komssi at My Media Experience does a great job explaining Linux solutions but yours is the best I’ve found related to Windows. Can’t wait to try this! Thanks!


  43. Wow, this is a great guide. I have been looking at so many write ups and stuff on HTPC that my head is swimming.
    Your guide addressed one of my concerns – the 2 week OTA scheduling service.
    But I still have a lot of questions.
    1) Is your guide fairly up to date (wrt applications, hardware, etc)?
    2) Where is the facility to schedule the new episodes of a series handled (e.g. record all new eps of Big Bang)
    3) Does Schedules Direct provide episode information with it’s guide (description, original broadcast date, cast,) ?

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to do such a complete guide!

    • Thanks Bill. Yes, DVR functionality for OTA live HDTV is a topic that most HTPC guides still strangely ignore. I am working on a major update to this guide since much of the software has been updated, but I still recommend the same design – XBMC/Kodi paired with MediaPortal and SchedulesDirect. Plus WMC for Netflix. There is no better solution. The SchedulesDirect information is the best available in the USA and it does have descriptions. DVR support in Kodi has improved a lot since I wrote this guide. It still describes the Frodo version of XBMC which was the first version to support DVR and I actually had to use the MediaPortal client to set recurring DVR events.

  44. I have learned a lot from your guide. Thank you. After watching a movie or tv via kodi, I then join my wife to watch our 55″ LG smart tv and am aware of how much better quality the picture is. Is this avoidable? I am using a Dell Inspiron 580 running Windows 7 and the display adapter is an ATI Radeon HD 4550. The monitor is a ViewSonic VA2431 Series. I just updated the driver and, hopefully, that will make a difference. Could you suggest additional hardware changes that would improve my experience? I need to solve this problem before cutting my dependence upon TimeWarner.

    • The ViewSonic VA2431 has the older cold-cathode fluorescent type backlight, so it is not as bright as newer panels with LED backlights. That is the first thing people notice when comparing these things. But frankly, all that extra brightness is really only necessary in a well lit room. Turning the lights out can help a lot.

  45. Great article. I’m in the process of cutting the cord, and building an HTPC. My goal is to have one media machine with Blu ray playback, DVR, Netflix, Hulu, etc on as simple of an interface as possible. My HTPC setup will be a Win10 based ITX build with HDHomerun extend. I have tinkered with Kodi (15.0 Isengard) and love its appearance, and hope to use it as my main interface. With the arrival of Win10 and the loss of WMC, I’m apparently in the need of alternatives for good DVR and Blu-Ray playback. Not to mention a good way to launch Netflix/Hulu hopefully without backing out of Kodi. Do you have any suggestions on this? I’ve been looking into VLC Player, AnyDVD HD, PowerDVD15, Playon/Playlater.

    • My advice is to stick with Windows 7. The newer versions of Windows add nothing for HTPC and drop the best NetFlix solution available, the WMC NetFlix plugin. Otherwise, you will have to use a browser or PlayOn service. Microsoft is actively working against HTPC applications for Windows now in favor of their XBox console business.

  46. So my current PC is on Win7. I tried to intstall the Netflix Plugin today to check it out. Low and behold there is a pop up saying “As of September 15 2015, Netflix will no longer be available on Windows Media Center. Please visit to see the many devices that support Netflix today.”

    SInce MS is abandoning support for WMC altogether, is there any other reason I should go with Win7?

  47. Clay, I know you put a lot of work into the development of your guide. However, I can’t get past the extension installation. I already have a Schedules Direct account so I downloaded the two extensions just as you instructed. The trouble is there is no installer included so I can’t get them to install and show up under the plugins section. It is very frustrating to deal with this issue. Maybe I don’t understand or I’m missing something but I can’t install the plugins because I need the installer and I can’t seem to find it. I don’t know why the developers didn’t include it in with the plugin! Help!!!!!

    • Hi Ken. I think I see the problem. It is true the MediaPortal extensions do not have proper installers, so it requires a couple of extra steps to install them manually. Once you have downloaded the TVServerXBMC and SchedulesDirect mpe1 or mpe2 files, run the MediaPortal Extension Installer:

      Start > All Programs > Team MediaPortal > MediaPortal > MediaPortal Extension Installer

      Then click on the Options tab in the MediaPortal Extension Installer and click Install Local Extension and browse to the downloaded extension files. This just makes them show up in the Known Extensions List, but they are not installed yet.
      So, click on the Known Extensions tab and select and install them. They should now show up in the plugins section. I will update the guide to make this step clearer. Thanks for pointing it out.

  48. Good article.

    I was looking for a new solution since WMC died a few months back. Now the Netflix plugin definitely does not work nor the program guide. I tried MythTV on Linux for the past few months getting most things to work except the remote and Netflix. The wife refuses to use the keyboard to view Netflix in a Win7 virtual machine IE browser so I am going back to the drawing board.

    Kodi seems to have a workable solution now except for Netfllix. I am planning to try the solution and was wondering if perhaps you had found a Netflix solution yet. I was going to see if EventGhost could perhaps be used to control the browser-based Netflix by imitating a mouse.

    Thanks for any insights on this idea.


  49. Hi Randy,

    Yes, WMC is gone now and it was my best solution for Netflix. I have switched to using firefox for Netflix, which I find works fine without a keyboard provided I log into Netflix occasionally from another PC to add items to my streaming queue. It’s just the “search” box that requires a keyboard and it can be avoided or consider some of the innovative remotes out there that have a small keyboard or use a phone. I see there is even a Kodi project now to build a better remote app for Android. I’m planning a major update of this guide soon that will include that. If you discover a better solution, please share it here.

    Regards, Clay

  50. Hi Ken,

    I have not used Windows 10 yet, but there should not be any issues with it. They have removed Windows Media Center of course, which makes the MediaPortal TV Server even more important. Please let us know how it goes.

    Regards, Clay

  51. Clay, for the third or fourth time, I have been trying to set up MediaPortal on my HTPC machine. I am running W7 64 bit on an I5 processor so I’m good from a hardware standpoint. I have two Home Run Extends, each with two tuners for a total of 4. My wife has been using WMC to view and record programs for a number of years now with no problems. But we also use Kodi.

    The Extends have Home Run View (I guess that’s the same as Quick TV) installed but I’ve never used it until now. Now, however, I can’t get video, only audio so something is wrong. This go round, I have tried unsuccessfully to set up MediaPortal because I want to upgrade to Windows 10. But I simply can’t get it to work and I don’t know what’s wrong. I desperately want to integrate with Kodi so my wife won’t have a steep learning curve.

    I am so frustrated I’m about to give up but I’ve already paid for a Schedules Direct subscription and I’m too cheap to stop trying to get MP up and running.

    I just don’t know what could be wrong. It just shouldn’t be this difficult. Is there some way you can help me?

  52. Ken,

    Don’t panic, we’ll figure this out together. The QuickTV app has been dropped from the new release from SilliconDust in favor of using the Windows Media Player. It’s not the same as Home Run View. You were right to look for it, but do this instead; Run the config_gui, select a known good channel and click the View button:
    C:\Program Files\Silicondust\HDHomeRun\hdhomerun_config_gui.exe

    Windows Media Player should pop-up and play live video from your tuner. That has to work before you can attempt to use MP or Kodi. If it’s not working, check your antenna and try re-scanning the channels. If it does work, then try viewing live TV in the MP client, before moving on to Kodi.

  53. Clay, ok, I followed your instructions and here’s the result: When I run the config file, and hit view, VLC Media Player plays the file perfectly so it seems the tuner is working correctly. VLC was downloaded because I thought that the lack of video codecs might be the problem.

    Then, when I try the MP client, I get nothing. When I hit TV, I get the menu out to the right but I can’t access anything. If I try to access, the menu disappears. It could be that I have changed a setting somewhere but I just don’t know what else to do.

    Would you be willing to send me an e-mail so we can discuss a solution. I really need some help.


  54. I have installed Kodi and MediaPortal. And after hours and hours….everything works! The one thing I can’t seem to replicate that my high-functioning autistic son really liked is the Movie Guide in WMC. It showed cover art for the upcoming broadcast movies along with descriptions and the ability to click on Record. Very simple. Has anyone come across something similar?

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