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: http://www.sevenforums.com/media-center/208557-esxi-based-windows-7-extenders-tv-issue-2.html#post1922542
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: http://virtualization.blognotions.com/2011/07/27/virtual-hd-audio-hardware-in-vsphere-5/
You should always keep your ESXi 5 box up to date, which is easy to do following these instructions: http://www.itadmintools.com/2012/02/howto-patch-vmware-vsphere-esxi-50-free.html