A key component of Windows XP Media Center Edition is the DVD decoder – a piece of software that is, confusingly, required to play back recorded TV shows as well as DVDs.
Are you having problems with playback on a Media Center PC (or even on a plain old XP box using WMP 10)? Use the Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility as a first-level diagnostic tool:
- Lists all the MPEG-2 video decoders that appear in your Windows registry (a database that contains information about the hardware and software installed in your computer).
- Indicates whether each decoder listed in the registry is marked as compatible with Windows XP Media Center Edition and whether any decoder listed in the registry is marked as the preferred video decoder.
- Indicates whether each decoder listed in the registry is marked as compatible with the synchronization feature of Windows Media Player 10.
- Lets you designate which installed decoder that you want Windows Media Player 10 to use when synchronizing DVR-MS files to a portable device. This is known as the preferred video decoder.
- Lets you undo any changes the utility makes to your Windows registry.
You can also check to see if an update to your decoder is available, although the button doesn’t appear to do much more than take you to the Web site for the developer of the decoder.
One annoyance with this utility: It tries to install itself in its own top-level folder (C:\DECCHECK). That’s an absolute no-no; all programs should go in the Program Files folder by default. That’s item 2.5 on the Software Requirements checklist for any program that wants to use the Designed for Windows logo. C’mon, Microsoft – follow your own rules!