Installing MediaPortal Guide - Tips, Tricks, and help to save you time

Discussion in 'Installation, configuration support' started by AlexanderIanHall, March 27, 2011.

  1. AlexanderIanHall
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    AlexanderIanHall MP Donator

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    I've been using MediaPortal for a few months, when I first took the plunge I struggled with understanding how to configure MediaPortal and spent countless 10s/100s of hours tweaking. I've now able to reset my MediaPortal installation within 20 minutes and/or do a complete fresh install including OS within 3 hours. Hopefully the information below will be useful to others who are just beginning their journey. One of the great positives of MediaPortal is that it is so customisable, however for a person new to MediaPortal this can then make it quite daunting to set-up, configure and get working.

    If this guide is useful, and you feel would benefit from screenshots then PM me and I'll look at uploading some, otherwise I'll leave as is and hope others can benefit from its content.

    Background Info on my Setup

    2 x Home-PCs (wife and mine) running Windows 7sp1 64bit Ultimate
    2 x HTPCs running MediaPortal 1.1.3 and Windows 7sp1 64bit Ultimate (note: I do not use TV Server) - the HTPCs do not have optical drives and all my media is stored on my network. I also use Total Media Theatre 5 for Blu-Rays so I have the full menu experience.
    1 x Synology 4 x 2TB HDDs (Raid 5) for media - mostly ISO image backups of my DVDs and Blu-Rays, however also a few MKVs, AVIs etc
    1 x Synology 2 x 1TB HDDs (Raid 1) for personal documents/files etc
    Gigabit Lan, Netgear Switches (GS608s) & CAT6 cabling to all machines other than HTPC-02 which is downstairs in the Gym
    HTPC-02 connected to home network via Netgear Powerline AV 500 Mbps (XAVB5001)​

    My HTPCs are over-specced however that is only due to some spare parts from other upgrades that I had lying around, hence they are:
    • Phenom II 955BE
    • 4GB DDR3 Ram
    • 80 GB HDDs
    • AMD/ATI HD4550 or HD5650 discrete graphics cards with HDMI out
    • AMD Motherboards with Realtek sound and Realtek LAN

    Notes:
    You don't need a powerful specification HTPC if all it is used for is running MediaPortal. If you use your HTPC to encode video then a faster CPU/GPU will be of benefit depending on what software you use.
    • An AMD Athlon II X2 should be fine.
    • Integrated Graphics Cards on the motherboard should be fine
    • 60 or 80GB HDD is more than fine if you store your data on a Network Storage device, otherwise you'll probably want to include separate data drive(s). 2TB HDDs are a good price (3TB are too much of a premium). I'd recommend going for 5400rpm Green drives as these will run cooler and will be more than sufficient for playing audio/visual content.

    I do recommend Windows 7 (either 32 or 64bit), it is far better than Windows XP (and I skipped Vista). You do not need to use the Ultimate editions, I only use these as I bought them on special offer. If you want to Remote Desktop into your HTPCs (very useful!) then you need to consider your version of Windows 7 (You can't use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to computers running Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, or Windows 7 Home Premium.) so you'd have to use a 3rd party product.

    Additional Hardware & Peripherals Comments

    Logitech DiNovo keyboard. Once the HTPC is built I rarely need to use a keyboard/mouse directly. For normal day to day use I have a remote control, and for configuration I just use Remote Access to connect in. However on the times when you do need to be physically in front of the HTPC with a keyboard/mouse then I highly recommend this keyboard. It is fairly expensive. As I have 2 HTPCs I can just take the keyboard and blue-tooth dongle to whichever HTPC I need to use, plug it in, and I'm good to go.​

    Microsoft/MCE Remotes. These can be picked up fairly cheaply on eBay and other places. My gym HTPC (HTPC-02) uses a standard MCE remote. My lounge HTPC (HTPC-01) using a Logitech Harmony remote so I can also control the AV Receiver etc.​

    Motherboards - You don't need the latest and greatest Motherboards, I personally try to go for AMD Motherboards with integrated AMD chipset rather than a mix of nVidia/AMD as it is easier to manager the drivers. I also go for AMD Motherboards that have both a Realtek audio and Realtek LAN chipsets - rather than a mix of Realtek/Via etc, as once again I find it easier to manage the drivers. For a motherboard brand I typically use Gigabyte as it makes things easier for me to keep them the same, however you shouldn't have issues with other brands. I do not install the Motherboard vendors drivers and software (see later).​

    Network. If you store your media as ISO images or want to stream very high-bitrate media then I recommend ensuring your network is all gigabit (including motherboard, switches etc). If you typically play compressed AVI/MKV etc then you may be fine with a 100 Mbps (megabit lan). When looking at performance of your network/HDDs etc please be aware that a gigabit LAN can move around 125 megabytes a second. This means that if your HTPC is accessing your media via network shares on a LAN then your network is likely to be the bottleneck rather than your HDDs as modern 5400 rpm disks have Data Transfer Read Rates around 100MB/s (Megabyte per second)​

    Data Storage Growth

    How much storage you will need and how this will grow over time will depend on a number of factors:
    a) How much media you plan to store!
    b) The format of the media e.g. will you encode to AVI/MKV/etc which are usually compressed (smaller file sizes) or keep as the original ISO disc images.
    etc

    I originally bought a 4-bay Synology. When I started to make more use of MediaPortal I changed my set up and bought a 2-bay Synology (DS210J) for personal use (photos, documents, etc) and switched the 4-bay Synology for media storage with 4 x 2TB HDDs in RAID 5. This is now full and I am having to expand my storage again. Rather than go for another Synology I am now switching to unRaid since I do not use many of the additional features that the Synology provides and unRaid works out far cheaper for me.

    If I knew what I know now, and was starting afresh I would instead have bought a 2-bay Synology for personal files and an unRaid server for media i.e. I would not have the 4-bay Synology. The advantage of unRaid (for me) is that I can re-use the old PC components I have laying around. It is also free for a 3 HDD data array and $69 and $119 for upto a 6 and 21 HDD data array respectively. You can then (depending on the PC Case you use) just keep adding in additional HDDs growing from the original 2-3 HDDs up to 21 HDDs for (almost) only the cost of the HDDs (i.e. an additional 2TB = ~ $70-$80). Compare this to the cost of expanding by buying more Synologies and the difference in cost is very large.

    With the above, my 2-bay Synology backs up all my personal files to the unRaid server (or 4 bay Synology). When I go on vacation I take the 2-bay Synology and put it somewhere out of the house (e.g. locked up at work), this way if something were to happen at home or the office, I always have my personal data available. Imagine losing all the digital photos of you and your family for example! note: I also backup to a portable USB HDD.

    The media on my unRaid server is protected but not backed up, since it would be inconvenient rather than a disaster if something were to happen to it.

    There are other options instead of unRaid, feel free to use what works for you..​

    INSTALLATION PRE-REQUISITES

    The guide below assumes you are installing Windows 7. I would recommend a fresh installation of the OS to help minimise any issues. I am assuming some level of technical knowledge. I am not covering configuring the BIOS of your HTPC - my only tip there is if using SATA drives then set the HDD entries to be SATA/AHCI.

    My preference is to install as little as possible on an HTPC while ensuring I do have the latest drivers etc. However I am sure there are different views on what is the right approach. There are pros/cons of using the drivers directly from AMD/Realtek etc rather than those supplied by the Motherboard/GPU manufacturer. My approach works for me which is to go directly to AMD/Realtek rather than Gigabyte/Asus/etc.

    1. Install Windows 7 and Service Pack 1 (hint, you can do an Install of Windows 7 from a USB key rather than a DVD using the Windows 7 USB DVD tool from the Microsoft website. This is useful if your HTPC doesn't have an optical drive (DVD/BR etc). You can also slipstream (merge) SP1 into Windows 7 prior to installing to save having to spend time on this afterwards if you build a lot of PCs).



    2. Configure Windows settings
    • Set Date/Time and Time Zone (Control Panel)
    • Change Folder options (Control Panel) to 'Show Known Extensions'
    • Change 'Start Menu' settings to include 'Run' command. Remove others as per personal preference
    • Disable Hibernate (elevated command prompt "powercfg.exe /hibernate off")
    • Remove any Windows Components/Programs you don't need (Control Panel Programs & Features) e.g. XPS, Tablet, Games, etc
    • Change the network Workgroup to match the Workgroup of your home network (You only need to do this if you don't use the default 'WorkGroup' name. Reboot if this is changed.
    • Set windows to auto-login by running the 'netplwiz' command and unchecking the 'users must enter a password'

    3. Install Drivers and other OS related software
    • Install Microsoft Security Essentials - Optional - However I recommend installing an anti-virus product and MSE works well hence I have switched from freeAVG.
    • Install latest audio sound drivers. For Realtek the drivers are at www.realtek.com
    • Install latest AMD Catalyst display driver (if you have a discrete or integrated ATI/AMD graphics card) - otherwise install the drivers that are relevant. AMD drivers are at www.amd.com
    • Install latest AMD Southbridge drivers (if you are using a motherboard with an AMD southbridge). AMD drivers are at www.amd.com
    • Install latest AMD AHCI drivers (if you are using a motherboard by AMD, SATA drivers and wish to utilise AHCI). AMD drivers are at www.amd.com. - You can skip this step and use the Microsoft ones that come with Windows 7, however I prefer using the AMD ones.
    • Install latest keyboard/mouse drivers/software if using wireless keyboard/mouse and/or want to make use of additional mouse/keyboard features. For a Logitech keyboard/mouse this means installing the appropriate version of SetPoint. Logitech drivers are at www.logitech.com.
    • Install latest network/LAN drivers. For Realtek the drivers are at www.realtek.com
    • Run Windows Update and download/install any other required OS updates
    • Now is a good time to check the sound is configured properly. Go to Control Panel->Sound and check that the Playback device is correct (for my HTPC the AMD HDMI Output is the Default Device). Also click on 'Configure' and then select the correct configuration e.g. Stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and then 'Test' that the sound is working correctly.
    • Empty Recycle Bin and run Disk Clean Up (All Programs->Accessories->System Tools)
    • If you wish to use Remote Connect (and have the appropriate version of Windows installed) then enable Remote Connect (Control Panel->System->Remote Settings)
    • If you store your Media as ISO images then I'd also recommend installing Virtual CloneDrive. Daemon Tools is an alternative however Virtual CloneDrive has worked flawlessly for me.
    • If you store your Media as ISO images on a network (rather than local HDD) then I would recommend the following Windows Registry change to adjust the parameters for Network Throttling as otherwise you may encounter stuttering when playing back Blu-Ray ISO images. How to use the throttling mechanism to control network performance in Windows Vista

    4. Now is a good time to create a Windows Restore Point and SYSTEM IMAGE

    A nice feature in Windows 7 is being able to create a System Image (Control Panel->Backup & Restore->Create a System Image). Think of this as the inbuilt equivalent of Ghost etc for those of you who have used this in the past. By create a System Image I can at a future data rebuild my HDD to match exactly this point in time. For an HTPC this is a great way to minimise the heartache that occurs when things stop working due to updated codecs, windows updates or just returning from vacation and finding MediaPortal is not working as it was.

    You can save the System Image to a network drive (create a separate directory for each image you make as otherwise they will overwrite each other), to a DVD, USB drive etc. Using System Images has saved me 10's if not 100's of hours in the last few months. A System Image is different and much more useful for rolling back or resetting your HTPC than just taking a backup of your system or creating a System Restore Point. Typically it takes my HTPCs about 15-20 minutes to save the System Image. I would also suggest you try restoring the System Image to prove it works :confused: . Restoring the System Image takes 10-15 minutes for me and is a perfect "Time Machine" back to when I created the Image. Proving that your System Images work then they can give peace of mind for the future. Just remember to delete older ones (just delete the files) if you are short on storage space​

    At this point, grab a cup of tea as we're about to move onto installing and configuring MediaPortal!

    INSTALLATION OF MEDIAPORTAL

    Now we're ready to begin with Installing MediaPortal!

    5. Download and Install MediaPortal (at time of writing the latest production version was 1.1.3. The only real decision to make is whether you wish to watch Live TV on your HTPC. I do not, hence I deselect the TV Server installation options. Unless you are definitely going to watch Live TV on your HTPC I would recommend not installing the TV Server as it is one additional thing to have to consider.

    6. Install Codecs. I personally prefer installing as few codecs as possible, whereas others will install a codec pack e.g. SAFv5, Sharks, Windows Codec Pack, Klite etc. There are pros-cons. By installing as few codecs as possible I occasionally find a new piece of media that won't play properly and then I need to install the relevant codec for that media, on the positive side though I do not have to worry about all the 'clutter' that the Codec Packs add. I install the latest FFDShow x86 MSVC2010 from XvidVideo.RU. Note: While I have a 64bit OS I only install the 32bit FFDShow in MSVC2010 format. If you are going to play with Codec packs then I highly recommend creating another System Image backup (Step 4 above) before installing Codec packs so you can easily roll-back if the installation causes issues.

    7. Install Standalone Filters. As I don't use a Codec Pack I need to install the standalone filters I wish to use. I create a directory "C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\Filters" to store the ones I am actively using as it makes it easier to manage. At present my HTPC has the following additional filters registered:
    • MatroskaSplitter.ax
    • MP4Splitter.ax
    • CLCvd.ax
    • CLFLVSplitter.ax
    • CLVsd.ax
    The first two are part of the Standalone Filters pack. Click on the latest version of Media Player Clasic HomeCinema listed here, scroll down and you'll see the Standalone Filters. Note: While I have a 64bit OS I only download the 32bit Filters in MSVC2010 format. Once I have downloaded the filter pack, I then copy the specific filters I want into my "C:\Program Files (x86)\Team MediaPortal\Filters" directory and then register these with the following command under an elevated command prompt from the Filters directory "regsvr32 [filtername].ax" for each of the filters I wish to register.​

    8. Blu-Rays - If you are going to play Blu-Ray discs or ISOs and want the full menu experience then I'd recommend using ArcSoft Total Media Theatre v5. I have had better performance from TMT rather than Cyberlink PowerDVD 10. Both can be downloaded as a free trial so why not give them a go. Alternatively if you are less concerned on the full menu experience you can try the MediaPortal plugin Blu-Ray handler. While I have previously had this working fine, more recently I have had issues with getting it working so I'd recommend searching on the forum. I no longer use the Blu-Ray handler plugin.

    9. Install a MediaPortal Skin (optional). I like to use StreamedMP however there are many Skins you can use. By using a Windows System Image backup you can always recover from a troubled install. StreamedMP also installs some additional plugins (optional). I use the default options.

    10. Install MediaPlayer plugins as required. I'd recommend not getting too carried away here. Install the minimum you need to get your system working, then create a System Image, and then play with the others afterwards - then if something goes wrong you can always do a System Image Restore. I use the following Plugins
    • FanArt Handler (also included in StreamedMP skin)
    • Intelligent Frame Correction
    • Moving Pictures (also included in StreamedMP skin)
    • MP-TV Series (also included in StreamedMP skin)
    • My Netflix
    • Pandora

    11. Configure FFDShow. Your settings here will depend on your setup. I'd suggest searching the forums and experimenting. I change the following settings:
    • FFDShow Audio->Output->select Output formats and Pass-through formats that my AV Receiver can support
    • FFDShow->Stream Switcher->Enabled (needed to support media with multiple streams e.g. audio languages)
    • FFDShow Video->I tweak the image a bit for Sharpen etc, however still experimenting here

    12. Configure MediaPortal. Your settings here will depend on your setup. I'd suggest searching the forums and experimenting. I change the following settings int he MediaPortal Configuration Tool:
    • General - Keep MediaPortal always on top = checked
    • General->Skin - Start with BasicHome Screen = checked (if not already set by StreamedMP installation)
    • General->Virtual Drive - As I play ISO images I set this as follows:
      • Automount image files = checked
      • Drive tool: C:\Program Files (x86)\Elaborate Bytes\VirtualCloneDrive\Daemon.exe
      • Supported Images: .cue,.bin,.iso,.ccd,.bwt,.mds,.cdi,.nrg,.pdi,.b5t,.img
      • Ask before playing image files = unchecked
    • General->Videos->Video Extensions:Add
      • bdmv
      • iso
      • m2ts
      • m4v
    • General->Remote->Microsoft MCE: Use Microsoft MCE remote or keyboard = checked (only if you do actually have a remote!)
    • Codecs and Renderer_>Video Codecs, DVD Disc/Images Coders. This is the tricky one. I use Cyberlink for video and ffdshow for Audio however there are lots of recommendations in the forums. It really depends on what type of media you play.
    • Additional 3rd party checks: MP Tray Autostart checked. (Allows you to start Media Portal with the green button on your MCE remote)

    13. Check your media
    There are many different ways to store your media. I use the following top level directory structure on my NAS for movies/tv shows.
    • Fitness - ISO-DVD
    • Fitness - Ripped
    • Movies - ISO-Bluray
    • Movies - ISO-DVD
    • Movies - Ripped
    • TV Series - ISO-DVD
    • TV Series - Ripped
    • Temp

    Movies
    I then store each movie in its own directory as "name (year)" or "name, the (year)". The individual media files are then named as "name" or "name, the" if a single disc or as "name - disc 1", "name - disc 2" etc if multiple discs e.g. Special Features. e.g.

    Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
    With an individual movie name of "Day the Earth Stood Still, The.iso"


    TVShows
    TV Shows are stored in directories as "name (year)"\"name (year) - Season n" e.g

    Doctor Who (2005)
    \Doctor Who (2005) - Season 1
    \Doctor Who (2005) - Season 2
    \Doctor Who (2005) - Season 3
    With an individual episode name of "Doctor Who_S01E10_The Doctor Dances.mkv"​

    14. Configuring MediaPortal Plugins
    Prior to importing your Media I'd recommend you configure your plugins and skins to be the way you wish. For me this means:
    • Editing the StreamedMP Basic Home menu to display the menu items I want to see in the order I want to see them
    • Editing MovingPictures to:
      • Auto Approve on Alternate Titles = unchecked
      • Prefer Folder Name for Movie Matching = checked
      • Always Group Files in the Same Folder = checked
      • Enable NFO Scanner = checked
      • Auto-Approve on NFO File IMDB Match = checked
      • I also go to About->Advanced Settings and change:
        • Use External Player = true
        • Enable Dynamic Refresh Rate Changer Settings = true
        • Enable Player Path = C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcSoft\TotalMedia Theatre 5\uMCEPlayer5.exe
        • External Player Arguments = "%root%"
        • note: External Player Arguments for TMT3 and TMT5 are different. TMT3 uses "%filename%"
    • Editing MP-TV Series to:
      • Online Data_>link to my theTVDB.com account
      • Extras->Enable SubtitleDownloader
      • Various other options for thumbnails/downloads/episodes etc
    • Editing My Netflix to authorise my netflix account
    • Editing Pandora to use my Pandora account
    • Editing FanArt Handler as required
    • Editing Weather locations to be for the cities I wish to see

    15. Now is a good time to create a Windows Restore Point and SYSTEM IMAGE

    The HTPC should have a working (but empty) version of MediaPortal. The only step to go is to import your Media!

    16. Importing Media

    While I have 2 MediaPortal HTPCs in the house, I keep the MP databases separate and on each local HTPC, although the actual media is stored centrally on my NAS. The advantage of this is that if the database gets corrupt I can easily just restore from a system image, it also means I can try upgrades on one HTPC without impacting the other. The downside is that I have to import every movie/tv-show twice, and my watched settings etc between the 2 HTPCs are not synchonised. There are posts on the forum and wiki about how to use a single shared database etc if you so desire.

    Set the directories in MP-TVShow and Moving Pictures to be where your media is, and then import! You'll need to do some level of manual matching for some movies and shows. Once your movies are imported, you may wish to go to the Movie Manager tab and scroll through the movies to ensure the correct match is shown (use the cover-art as a quick visual clue) and that the "sort by" is how you want it, as some foreign films will not be sorted correctly by the English title.

    17. Exporting IMDB NFOs

    If for some reason I build a new HTPC or want to go back to the clean MediaPortal from Step 15 that would mean having to re-import my media and go through the manual matching process again. Luckily there is help at hand! Install MP Artwork and Info Copier v0.5.1 (search for it on google or on the MP site). I only use this to create an NFO file rather than copy CoverArt, FanArt etc however decide for yourself on the options you wish. This tool will then create an file called movie.nfo in each movie directory that can then be used next time you have to do Step 16 Import from an empty database. It can save a lot of time!

    18. Test Your Installation

    If all has gone well, you should have a working version of MediaPortal which is populated with your media. However I'd recommend testing this before showing your efforts to your family/friends.

    Good luck, enjoy!

    Alex
     
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  3. Haraldpeter

    Haraldpeter Portal Pro

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    AW: Installing MediaPortal Guide - Tips, Tricks, and help to save you time

    Hi,

    Thank you for your very fine Guide.

    But I have 2 Questions:

    CLCvd.ax must registerd to use DXVA outside PDVD. Can you please explain how ?:confused:
    During FFdshow Config must I unchecked VFW Interface? During Video und Audioconfig can I leave all settings default ? I will use Audio SPDIF:confused:

    Best Regards:D
    Harald
     
  4. ap90033
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    ap90033 MP Donator

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    Great Guide! I have about 20 hours so far in this and love the product. Since you have a very good grasp of it can you point me to how we record tv shows without recording reruns? I know this is probably very basic but anywhere I post on the forum on this is met with a deafening silence. I am sure Mediaportal can do this easily since Media Center and Tivo both can heck the crappy cable dvr can do it! Thanks!
     
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