Using Windows Media Center in New Zealand

If you are trying to set up Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) in New Zealand you have probably noticed a couple of things:

  1. MCE cannot find all the free-to-air TV channels when using an antenna.
  2. There is no electronic program guide (EPG) available.

The solutions aren't quite as easy as you might hope but they are achievable. I fixed the first problem fairly easily but I decided against using the EPG solution myself. Anyway, the solutions for both problems are detailed below...


Tuning TV Channels

The available channel frequencies for each country are recorded in a text file by MCE. For some reason the default frequencies for New Zealand are wrong — they exclude all the UHF channels so the MCE channel search is limited to VHF frequencies. This is why you can't find Prime, Trackside, Sky channels, etc.

Various solutions have been suggested, including changing the country setting to Germany and hacking the registry. However I discovered a better, safer solution which only involves editing a single text file. Here's how to do it:

  1. Find the following file: \WINDOWS\ehome\MCETuningOverrides.xml
  2. Open the file in a text editor (e.g. Wordpad).
  3. Find the entry for New Zealand and look for this text:
    UniqueName="New Zealand Broadcast" MinChannel="1" MaxChannel="49"
  4. Change the MaxChannel value to 109 like so:
    UniqueName="New Zealand Broadcast" MinChannel="1" MaxChannel="109"
    Note: 109 is a fairly random number that I chose. It probably doesn't need to be this high but it works and doesn't cause any problems so I've stuck with it.
  5. Save the file and close it.

Once you have edited the file you will need to re-do the channel scan in MCE. Open Windows Media Center and go to Settings > TV > Scan for More Services. Click Run Scan Now.

Return to Live TV and you should find lots of new channels (exactly which channels you have will depend on your location). These won't be in the correct order — you need to go to Settings > TV > Guide > Change Channel Order to correct them.

Removing Unwanted Channels

You can't actually delete channels but there is a workaround:

  1. When changing the order of channels, put unwanted channels at the bottom of the list.
  2. Go to Settings > TV > Guide > Edit Channels.
  3. Uncheck all the unwanted channels and save the settings.

The unwanted channels are still in the system but they are blocked and ignored, so they are out of the way.


Finding a Program Guide

At the time of writing there is no official electronic program guide (EPG) available for New Zealand. However you can download an application from www.epgrunner.net External Link which will give you an unofficial guide. The data for this guide is contributed by volunteers.

Disclaimer: I have not tried this application and I cannot vouch for it! I've seen some positive comments in forums but I suggest you do your own due diligence before installing it.

Do you need the EPG?

The reason I haven't installed the guide app is that I don't really need it. I have NZ City's TV listings External Link bookmarked in a browser and this suits my needs. To record a series you just need to enter the days and times manually (e.g. "Every Thursday, 7pm-8pm") — not too difficult. Of course a program guide would be easier but it's up to you whether you think it's worth installing a third-party app and trusting strangers to keep the information updated.


Comments?

If anyone would like to help with more information about using MCE in New Zealand please feel free to post a message in our forum.

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