The latest MCE Guide outage is becoming more…permanent. Microsoft and Rovi are claiming that they are working together on resolving the issue. Yet entire week passed and still guide shows empty slots. This is a bit strange considering that we are dealing with XML files.
I tried a tool called EPG123 and I can report that if you are suffering from missing guide information then you should definitely consider using this program. Head over to their website, download it and watch the installation video. There is pdf how-to file available too.
EPG123 installs two things. There is EPG123 Client and EPG123 that does actual pulling of data from Schedules Direct. Before you even start, you need to create account with Schedules Direct. They will give you one week of free trial of their service. After that you may want to pay annual fee. I find the price to be reasonable.
Once you finish installing EPG, the first thing that will be launched is EPG123 client that connects to MCE and gets your current channels information. Installation guide advises you on doing clean install. That means that EPG123 Client will attempt to delete Windows Media Center database form ProgramData eHome folder. If you do that all your settings and scheduled recordings will be gone. You will have to run setup of TV Signal again. I believe this step is unnecessary. I followed the instructions and I got an error message telling me that EPG123 could not delete database. Only after I rebooted to Safe Mode, I was able to do it.
You have to pay attention to the installation guide. During the process they decline agreement for Data Guide. I believe this step supposed to stop MCE from downloading data guide for us. As I said, I do not think this is right. Let me explain.
I wrote in previous article about Microsoft tool that was created in order to import third party guide data. I think Microsoft is using the same tool to get data from Rovi. They anticipated that something like might happen and they will have to switch to different provider. Developers do not create features that might be useful but not used. I posted a link to an MSDN article that explains how to use this tool. At the bottom of this page, they mention two services that run in the background and that we can use to re-index guide data in database. They way this tool works is that it adds new entries to database in empty slots. It does not replace anything in database. It only adds new items. Currently database is empty, even though MCE tries to get new listing from Rovi. So you can safely, import new data using EPG123 without worrying about messing up your MCE setup.
This is what I did. I deleted database on my main HTPC computer and imported listings through EPG123. On another computer that runs Windows Media Center, I left database alone and downloaded guide data using EPG123. In both cases it worked flawlessly.
Right now Windows Media Center is not importing any guide listing from Rovi. So even if this process is not disabled in some way, we do not need to worry about it. EPG123 can fill in the blanks left by Rovi. EPG123 allows you to specify how many days of data should it get from Schedules Direct. You could say you want 28 days or more. MCE always takes no more than 14 days of data from Rovi. It is hard to say if there is more data available from Rovi. Once MCE evaluates received listings it will recognize that data guide from EPG123 already exists and it will discard data received from Rovi.
It may be worth to investigate these two background processes that I mentioned before and disable them if necessary. Maybe there is additional service that is designed to get data from services like Rovi. EPG123 allows you to create a new task in Task Scheduler that will get new listings whenever you want.