How to: Create a Mac Mini Media Center (Part 3 – Installing Windows 7)

If you’ve been following our How to series on transforming the new Mac Mini into a kick ass Windows Media Center PC, then you’ll know that in Part 1 we installed and configured Mac OSX and installed 500 MB of updates for Snow Leopard, and in Part 2 we prepared the Mac’s hard drive for the installation for Windows 7, courtesy of Boot Camp Assistant. The full list of tasks in the project looks a little like this:

  1. Get the Mac Mini Up and Running (with OSX)
  2. Configure Boot Camp to Allow Dual Booting With Windows 7
  3. Install Windows 7
  4. Installing and Configuring Codecs
  5. Install and Configure the Windows Media Center Remote Control
  6. Connect and Configure our TV Tuners
  7. Set up Windows Media Center
  8. Install the Media Center Connector
  9. Install and Configure Media Center Master
  10. Install and Configure Media Browser
  11. Install and Configure TunerFree MCE

If Parts 1 & 2 are complete, we must be at Part 3 and that means that our Mac Mini is waiting, arms outstretched, to receive Windows 7. For those new to installing an operating system from scratch, it’s actually really easy. Once your Windows 7 installation disc is slotted into the DVD drive, there are a couple of options to configure, then you’re pretty much set – Windows looks after itself. Okay, let’s crack on.

There are three main jobs to do in this part of the project – install Windows 7, install the hardware drivers required for the Mac Mini’s network, audio and graphics components and then ensure out Windows 7 installation is up to date with security patches and other fixes courtesy of Windows Update.

Part 3: Install Windows 7

1. Insert Your Windows 7 Installation DVD

We left Part 2 with Mac OSX’s Boot Camp Assistant requesting your Windows installation DVD. Once it’s inserted, the Mac Mini will be rebooted and the Windows Installation wizard will load up and run. After 30 seconds or so, we’re ready to start.


2. Choose Language, Time & Currency and Keyboard Formats

Much like our Mac OSX configuration, the first job is to tell Windows how we’d like it to be configured with regard to language, time and currency formats and keyboard layout. All pretty essential stuff. Make your selection and hit Next to continue, then agree to the license terms which will appear.


3. Select Installation Type

You’ll be presented with a couple of options for installation type. Obviously this is the first time Windows has been installed on the Mac Mini, so that negates the Upgrade option, so select Custom Installation which is used for a so called “clean install”.

4. Select the Drive Partition on Which to Install Windows

Okay, time to concentrate. You’ll be presented with a screen asking where you want to install Windows, with a list of the drive partitions that have been created on your Mac Mini. The correct partition to select is the one named BOOTCAMP. Don’t use any of the other partitions! The partition needs to be formatted before it can be used, so select the newly created BOOTCAMP Partition and click Format. Formatting takes a few seconds, after which you can select Next and let Windows do its thing.


5. Create a User Account and Computer Name

Windows takes around 20 minutes to install on the Mac Mini, and you can leave it to get on with the job – you’re not needed at this point. Once installed, you’ll be asked to set up a user account, and name the PC. I called my PC “TV” as that’s what it’s going to be used for.


6. Set an Account Password

Pretty straightforward, this one – you have an account, you’ll need a password for it. Now, I tend to find it a bit annoying to have to keep typing in a password on my TV, so we’ll sort that out a little later. For now, create a password and a password hint.


7. Enter the License Key

Somewhere in your Windows 7 Installation Pack, you’ll have a license key – it’s that long string of letters and numbers. Type it in here, and select the option to automatically activate Windows when you’re online, to take care of that piece of admin.




  1. Regarding the security concern, it should be fairly easy to set up the user account that automatically logs in on the mini to have limited access elsewhere on the home network through a combination of settings in that account, on the other computers sharing the network, and through the WHS settings itself. At least, that's how I'd see it…

      1. XBox 360 MCE remote, with the Mac Mini built-in Apple IR receiver.

        I've tried everything, including the HIP driver (won't replace the Apple driver), setting the remote in the registry to '0' or '8'. The mac mini remote works to adjust the volume, but the MCE remote gets no reaction at all. I know it works with my XBox.

        I have also forced the Apple IR receiver to use the ehome driver from the OS, but the device "won't start".

        I assume at this point that I MUST have a microsoft USB IR receiver.

        Any other ideas?

        HIP –
        Registry hack –
        Remote/Receiver package (do I need this?) –

  2. Why buy a Mac Mini and install Windows 7 on top of it?! Isn't a waste of money? And why not using Mac OSX to run the movies?

    1. @hnparades, because the mini is a small form factor power house, perfect for a HTPC. OS X however is not very useful as an HTPC interface without purchasing 3rd party software (such as eyeTV), which still has half of the capabilities as Windows 7 MCE, (encrypted TV content playback/DVR, free TV guide + free annual updates and Netflix navigation via remote to name a few)


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