Home > Media Center > Black and White picture on XP Media Center Edition (MCE)

Black and White picture on XP Media Center Edition (MCE)

This has been coming up more and more lately, and it’s such a simple problem to fix that I thought it wise to post an article on the troubleshooting steps.


Your Media Center picture appears to be in black & white.  This can manifest itself in one of two ways:

  1. You have connected your MCE machine to a television set via SVideo or Composite (RCA) cables.  The picture looks fine on your computer monitor, but everything on your TV is black and white.
  2. You have connected your digital cable or satellite set-top-box to the Media Center PC via or Composite (RCA) cables.  The TV picture shows up in black & white, but the rest of the media center interface looks fine including menus, pictures, etc.


Composite cables and SVideo cables send picture information in a very similar way, except for how the colour is transmitted.  In a consumer electronics world, this usually isn’t an issue because care is taken to ensure that if you plug a cable into the SVideo port it is indeed sending colour in an SVideo format.  Not so in the PC world, where the composite and Svideo ports are usually shared and can operate in either mode.  You need to be careful with the PC to ensure that it knows what kind of cable you are using.  Sometimes it will auto-detect fine, but sometimes it will not.

Note:  There are times where the SVideo cable is bad and needs to be replaced.  However, in my experience supporting Media Center users this is usually not the case.  Your cable is probably just fine.


  1. In the case where the entire picture appears black & white on your external television set, you will need to change some settings on your video card driver.  Click on Start, Control Panel, Display.  Click on the Settings tab and then the Advanced button.  Now things get a little more tricky, because the setting you need to change varies depending on what video card you have.  ATI Cards will have this setting under the “Displays” tab, and you’ll need to dig into the settings for the TV display.  NVidia cards will have this under the “nView” tab, and again you’ll need to dig into the settings for the TV display.  Once you find the appropriate setting for TV-Out ensure that it is set to use either SVideo or Composite cables, whichever is most appropriate to your setup.
  2. In the case where just the TV picture appears black & white but the rest of Media Center looks fine, you will need to change some settings on the tuner card.  The TV tuner card in this case is expecting to see one type of cable but is instead set to use the other.  Walk through the tuner setup wizard in MCE and make sure that you’re selecting the right cable types for the connection between your set-top-box and the PC.  If that doesn’t help, you might want to take a look at the driver settings for the tuner itself in Start, Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager.
Categories: Media Center
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: