It’s really simple. So simple that I felt like an idiot when I did not get it to work right away. If you have a motherboard from Intel’s Extreme or Media series, you probably have CIR headers (some other manufactures have them as well, but it’s rather hit or miss). CIR is an acronym for Consumer InfraRed, is a standard of sorts that allows us to do fun things like turn on our HTPC with a standard IR remote. Best of all (sort of), it doesn’t require a USB adapter.
All you need to do is find the CIR header on your motherboard, install a CIR receiver, and enable the CIR module in your BIOS settings. Finding a CIR receiver may prove to be the most difficult part of this task. Currently, someone on ebay is selling the 8 pin version (the correct one for Intel boards) and it will set you back about 20USD. This is the only place I’ve found them for sale.
Once you have acquired a CIR receiver and install it, it’s time for drivers. If you have an internet connection, Windows 7 automatically loads all of the drivers you will need. There are two drivers, one for the Winbond CIR chip (used in most CIR equipped Intel motherboards) and the other is the “Microsoft eHome Infrared Transceiver” driver. After the drivers are installed, if you have a Media Center remote, it should just work. If you have a Harmony Remote, there is a little more work to be done.
Load up the Harmony software, and log in. Go to adding a device, and select “Computer > Media Center PC”. For the manufacture select “Microsoft” (on my first attempt I selected Intel, thinking there would be something for CIR but there wasn’t). For the device model, use “Windows Media Center”. Then click next and continue configuring it for your various activities.
Once you program the remote, select an activity that you assigned to the Harmony remote (e.g. “Watch a DVD”). After it has sent the activity start up messages (usually power on and input switches) to your devices, the remote menu should have all of the tasks your Media Center can do (minus anything added by plugins). The button mapping is fairly intuitive, and much nicer than arrow keys on a keyboard.
[end of transmission, stay tuned]