ESXi 5 and Windows 7 Media Center: No Video or Audio

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Windows 7 Media Center.  It’s a remarkably stable product, considering it’s from Microsoft.  And the ability to use an Xbox 360 as a media center extender, bringing live TV and DVR functions to any TV with an Xbox is probably the best part.

It’s also no secret I love virtualization.   Why run 4 different systems when 1 moderately powerful system can do the same.

So I guess it’s no surprise that I did the highly unrecommended thing and installed Windows 7 Media Center on a virtual machine.

This actually works, and it works great.  To get around USB/PCI problems with VMWare I use a HD Home Run — a device which connects Windows 7 to your cable system via ethernet instead of a tuner connected to the PC.  The cpu requirements can be modest for HDTV viewing, but a moderatly powerful system can power this, and borrow CPU from other VMs in these infrequent peak times.

However, an upgrade to VMWare ESX 5 recently broke all of this.  No longer would the video display — the menus worked great but no video display.  The fix is non-obvious and documented here:

Basically you either need to disable a portion of the standard E1000 driver, or switch to the more robust VXNET3 driver.  I chose to switch to the modern driver.

If you’re attempting to set all this up you’ll need to work around the fact that your VM does not have audio connected — you can follow these instructions to add a dummy audio driver:

You should always keep your ESXi 5 box up to date, which is easy to do following these instructions: