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  1. #1
    Lounger
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    An awful experience with Windows 8 "free" Media Center

    This is intended as a warning to others who may see themselves as starting down a path similar to mine when attempting to add the limited-time offer of the "free" Media Center to Windows 8.

    My advice is this: If you see the process going the way mine did, quit while you are ahead.

    Before I describe all of the processes and troubles I went through, below are the initial steps ("warning signs") that happened to me and may show that you are entering the same territory:
    1. If you go to the website that offers "For a limited time, get Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free" (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/w.../feature-packs ), then you enter your e-mail address and satisfy the Captcha, and if you DO NOT receive the Media Center "key" in your e-mail within 72 hours (as promised), this could be the sign that you are entering the slippery-slope which I went down. (See more steps, below.)
    2. If you then call Microsoft support (I used 800 642-7676, which was supposedly the "Windows 8 answer center"), and if they first determine what your key "should be" by having you enter a hash number of some sorts into the " Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool" (MSDT);
    3. And if they give you a key, which you then enter into Control Panel's applet called "Add Windows Features to Windows 8" (it goes into the blank titled: "I already have a product key"). And if the response you receive after this key is automatically "checked" is: "This key won't work. Check it and try again, or try a different key."; then you are most-likely entering the Microsoft tech support morass that I went through.
    4. If this happens to, my recommendation is that you immediately "quit right there and then".
    I continued with the process and ended up with the following unsatisfactory results:
    1. The issue was never resolved.
    2. I made five separate calls to Microsoft tech support. One lasted over two hours and one lasted nearly four hours.
    3. One of the calls I made to Microsoft was AFTER I was told "a tech support person will call you between 9:00am and 11:00am (my time zone) on January 5th". (This upon being asked "what would be a good time to call you back in the next two days".) That call was NEVER made to me by Microsoft at the appointed time!
    4. At one point (the third attempt) I was actually given a key that successfully installed Media Center. After installation, I noticed an "Action Center" message, and when opened it said (paraphrased) "your Windows is not activated", followed by whatever boiler plate comes up that I needed to buy a key.
    I re-entered the Media Center key I was given and received a message (paraphrased) that "the key was in use on another computer". I then the key from the original "upgrade" install and received a message (paraphrased) "you need to enter a key for windows Media Center edition".
    1. When I contacted tech support about this, the agent "took over" my computer vial "LogMeIn", told me my "installation files were corrupted", and proceeded to have me put my windows 8 disk in the optical drive. Then (after some extensive mouse work I couldn't keep up with) clicked on the selection that said "Refresh your PC without affecting the files".
    This performed some sort of "over install" which took an hour or more and included the entering of my original "upgrade" key.
    After this the tech support person then entered the Media Center key which I'd been previously given, and which had worked temporarily until I went "de-activated". The key "took" and Media Center began to install. This took over two hours! I asked the tech support person why it was taking so lone and he said that Windows had to first install ALL of its updates before Media Center would be installed.
    After a large number of re-starts (maybe 10 or more), things came "alive" with the following results/problems:
    • Windows once again was not activated
    • I'd used "Classic Shell" and many of the start menu icons and folders were gone; as were some of the associated desktop shortcuts to these items.
    • I tested a few pieces of "classic" software that at install required on-line activation and they did not work or run (i.e. said they needed to be "reinstalled"). My experience with this is that, since they weren't uninstalled while on-line, one of the "activations" is then consumed with the result most often being that I have been SOL with getting the software installed and activated.
    "The end":
    After having spent a couple of days setting everything up on my Windows 8 install (while waiting for the Media Center key to be e-mailed to me), I'd fortunately made an image of the hard disk prior to the mobbing I encountered from Microsoft tech support. (I used Acronis True Home.)

    I re-installed the image and I am now operating "Media Center-free", and I intend to stay that way. (The original "upgrade" key is what is showing on the activation).

    Resources consumed: 1) many phone calls; 2) many hours of my life never to be recaptured; 3) lots of energy interpreting foreign accents; 4) frustrations in delaying my traveling schedule while waiting for a phone call that never came; 5) for others who don't have a back-up image, partial destruction of the OS installation that you've been working on.

    If this start's to happen to you, DON'T GO THERE!

    Al T.

  2. #2
    4 Star Lounger
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    Microsoft obviously economized heavily on their Win 8 support crew. I spent over 5 hours on the 'phone with them failing to find out how to download the 32-bit Win 8 Pro edition after having been given the 64-bit version (without, of course, being asked which I wanted). They were even unable to confirm that the solution which I suggested (and subsequently used successfully) would work.

    It's good to know that you can just restore the original non-Media-Center image and have them consider it still activated, though: I've held off on installing Media Center due to precisely that concern, since while free is free it's not worth any real hassle if it doesn't work right.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    I installed media center before I did anything else to, or installed anything else on, Windows 8. I've had no difficulties.

    I had a similar experience a few years ago with Windows XP when Windows Update went belly up and it took a department head to finally get it straightened out for me. In the end, she emailed a critical system file to me that finally got everything back in synch. The files that they had me downloading to try to correct the situation turned out to be corrupted! In her email she said that those files (and several more) were being purged from their system to be replaced with known-good copies, but that it would take some time and she wanted to get me straightened out without having to wait any longer. But it literally took days and several escalations to get it all sorted out, but it did get sorted out. I kinda doubt if many folks like her are still around. She called me three or four times.

    My XP was retail, and I was long past the support time frame. However, Windows Update support never ends as long as the OS hasn't reached Microsoft's end-of-life date. At least that's the way it was back then.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

  4. #4
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    I had to wait for a few days to get my Media Center key, but everything installed quite well.

    I think your problem started when you got support involved. They screwed up the system by trying to give you a key that was not correct and that just started the ball rolling. Perhaps waiting for the original key to arrive would have saved you a few hairs and stress.
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  5. #5
    Lounger
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    >>Perhaps waiting for the original key to arrive would have saved you a few hairs and stress<<

    I probably wasn't clear enough about that (I left a lot out of the post for the sake of brevity), but I actually waited SIX days for the key, applying for it twice, when it was promised to be sent to me "within 72 hours".

    So it was either try it the way I did with tech support, or else do without. (I wish I'd "done without" right from the start.)

  6. #6
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Yes, 6 days should have been plenty of time. I heard of a few cases right after the official release that took quite a while. In my case I applied for keys using 2 separate email addresses, the first took 4 or 5 days, the second followed right behind. This was OK since I had 2 PCs.

    Was this an Upgrade Install of Win 8, or a Custom Install? I have heard of far more very strange problems with the Upgrade Install.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  7. #7
    Lounger
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    >>Was this an Upgrade Install of Win 8, or a Custom Install? <<

    Again, I left this part out of the post, but perhaps it is important.

    I used a disk I made from the "upgrade" download and performed a "fresh" install by following the steps in this post from the Windws 8 Forum: "Clean Install with Windows 8 Upgrade" (http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials...8-upgrade.html)

    It worked perfectly with one "wrinkle". When I first I started up the OS, it showed as already activated, so I did not have to follow either of the steps listed in the post (i.e. do a "Refresh", OR run the provided .bat file). Of course, for this to happen I had to have provided an internet connection during install.

    Perhaps this apparently non-standard activation could have had something to do with it all. (Then again, the hard disk I did the Windows 8 install onto, previously had a Windows 7 install on it, and I'm sure I've read about instances with Windows 7 installs where the "upgrade" disk somehow mysteriously "knew" that a previous version of Windows had been on the disk, without the user providing any proof.)

    Hope this sheds some light.

    In a nutshell, this was a "clean" install done with an upgrade disk (32-bit), made from the downloaded ISO image.

  8. #8
    4 Star Lounger
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    Hmmm. The phrase 'clean install' means different things to different people. The eightforums post you link to seems to be using it in the 'install to a completely empty disk' sense (which is technically a violation of the EULA for an Upgrade Win 8 Pro version: that's why they need to perform the work-arounds they include to get the new system activated, though some people have reported that the work-arounds aren't actually necessary), whereas the I believe the more accepted use of the term is to mean 'install to a disk with an XP, Vista, or Win 7 system on it that's eligible for the Upgrade and choose to format the old system within the installation such that a completely new Win 8 Pro system is created with no Windows.old directory or other remnants of the old system in it'.

    So which did you do: install to a completely empty disk (which you had formated to remove your Win 7 installation BEFORE running the Win 8 Pro installation DVD), or install to the disk on which your Win 7 system was still present (which the Win 8 Pro install would have seen and used to activate with with no special tweaking required)?

    If the latter, the installation and activation should have been completely normal and seems unlikely to have caused the later problems you encountered. If the former, anyone inclined to try to subvert the intent of the EULA (though that's certainly not encouraged here) would likely be interested in as much detail as you're inclined to provide.

  9. #9
    4 Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by al taylor View Post
    >>Perhaps waiting for the original key to arrive would have saved you a few hairs and stress<<

    I probably wasn't clear enough about that (I left a lot out of the post for the sake of brevity), but I actually waited SIX days for the key, applying for it twice, when it was promised to be sent to me "within 72 hours".

    So it was either try it the way I did with tech support, or else do without. (I wish I'd "done without" right from the start.)

    It has been awhile since I tried to install Windows 8 Media Center, but it took more than a week to get the key, and when I did, Media Center didn't work. It never occurred to me to try to get tech support. For one thing I didn't really care that much, I was just "evaluating" it, and for another, I don't know whether I would have qualified for free support anyway, since I was using the Windows 8 Enterprise Evaluation Edition [the free one].

    I reverted my computer to Windows 7 this morning, so I can't try to go in and figure out what I did.

  10. #10
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Media Center will not work with the Enterprise Edition. I guess MS figures most enterprise customers do not wish their employees using Media Center.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  11. #11
    4 Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medico View Post
    Media Center will not work with the Enterprise Edition. I guess MS figures most enterprise customers do not wish their employees using Media Center.
    That makes sense, I guess. I can remember when Windows computers in the workplace did have Solitaire, and I remember that some people played it a lot.

  12. #12
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    I always tried to add some things on my work PCs. It has been documented that Media Center will not work with Enterprise. There are quite a few similar posts around the web.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  13. #13
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    >>So which did you do: install to a completely empty disk (which you had formated to remove your Win 7 installation BEFORE running the Win 8 Pro installation DVD), or install to the disk on which your Win 7 system was still present <<

    I installed to a completely empty 'partition'. I only removed the Windows 7 install from one of the three partitions and then installed Windows 8 (not realizing that it was a "violation" of anything).

    Interestingly, today I received TWO Media Center keys in e-mail (about 200 "hours" later than the "with 72 hours" that was promised).

    I inserted the first key that MS sent and Media Center installed without complications.

    The "moral" I guess, is to wait for the e-mailed key (as was suggested earlier) and not involve tech support.

    As an aside, after the Media Center install completed and the computer was rebooted by it, I still had to re-activate as with the farkled installs, it's just that when I used the e-mailed key, it worked!

  14. #14
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    The most appropriate way to install to a formatted partition is to format the partition during the install. After you choose the Custom Install option, I believe the next screen will have a link for Advanced (Disk) Options. If you click on this link you will then see the various partitions (disks) on your system. Highlight the appropriate partition (disk) and then choose the Format option. You will get the warning about wiping out any info on the chosen partition (disk). Choose OK and the partition (disk) will be formatted before the installation proceeds. In this way you are not installing to a clean partition (disk) prior to beginning the installation, yet are still installing to a formatted partition (disk) and conform to the EULA.

    I'm glad they finally sent the appropriate media center keys. I believe you did find that even though it takes quite a while, waiting for the keys to be sent by email is the appropriate approach. It does seem as though MS has hired many support people that do not provide appropriate support. Either that or they subcontract out all their lower level support. I have heard some real horror stories about this new "Support System". Some have gone so far as to try to sell this "free" support.
    Last edited by Medico; 2013-01-08 at 05:16.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  15. #15
    4 Star Lounger
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    That's certainly the way Microsoft expects people to use the Upgrade, so it's probably the safest. Formating the disk prior to beginning the installation and tweaking the installation (if necessary - possibly simply by 'phoning customer service for help) to activate anyway may be technically OK according to the EULA as long as you actually did have a legitimately upgradable system to upgrade, but could be riskier.

    It's worth noting that the approach Ted describes does not require that you install the upgrade OVER the system that you're upgrading: the install will still detect the latter and (I believe) install the upgrade into an empty partition if you tell it to, leaving the old system untouched. This could be useful if, for example, you wanted to move data from the old system to the new Win 8 Pro system manually and/or just try out Win 8 Pro before finalizing your decision to upgrade, but the EULA makes it clear that you cannot legitimately continue to run the old system instance after putting the new system into active service.

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