First off, I would like to thank the AVS Forum community for the wealth of information I've found whenever I've been researching anything audio/video related. I've never been one to post much on forums, but this site is typically the first I visit if I have any AV related questions.
My most recent project was building a home theater pc (HTPC). I found a good amount of information on the forums (especially from from posts by forum member "assassin"), but there was a lot of research I had to do before starting this project. Which leads me to the point of this post. I had originally thought I would take all the information I compiled and write it up nice and neat like a mini guide, but, unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to do so. So I hope the results of this post end up not being too inappropriate, but I thought it best to at least put this information out there instead of not sharing at all. If the information within is somewhat disjointed - which I'm sure it is - my apologies in advance. Or if I've posted anything inappropriate, like links to other sites, feel free to request this post be removed. My intent is truly to help someone who may have started out like me, not knowing much about HTPCs and unsure of where to start.
With that said, let's begin...
First and foremost, if you are serious about building your own HTPC, go ahead and visit http://assassinhtpcblog.com/
and pay the $20-25 for the membership! It was by far the most helpful site I found and full of information and step by step guides.
- Moderate to high technical / computer background.
- I had never built a PC, but had installed parts in PCs before, like memory and hard drives, and installed operating systems on PCs.
=========================================Why did I start looking into a HTPC
- I was looking for a way to replace my Time Warner cable boxes and dvrs and hopefully cut costs. I found there is a substantial upfront cost to building a HTPC (more details on this below), but a substantially reduced monthly cost after removing the TWC dvrs. I've not completely cut the cord, yet. I still have my TWC dvr box until I get everything totally set up on my HTPC.
- I wanted the ability to control (increase) the amount of storage for dvr content, which I could not with my TW cable boxes.
- I was looking for a way to get my recorded tv show and movie content all throughout the house and not just to the tvs with cable boxes. I found out I had a good head start on this because I already owned two Xbox 360s and they both work with Windows Media Center as Media Extenders (allowing me to view my HTPC content in any room I could set up a 360 and had a hard-wired network connection).
=========================================Operating System and program to store and distribute media
- I decided on Windows 7 early on because that's what I'm most familiar with.
- Not long after that I decided on Windows Media Center because it seemed to be well supported and came with Windows 7.
--- There are alternatives to Windows Media Center. I listed links below to some of them.
=========================================Windows Media Center
- Helpful sites I referenced when researching WMC.
---- TV Tuners...
--- Problem I ran into with TV Setup in WMC...
PlayReady would not install through WMC - http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=5445Alternatives to Windows Media Center
- I've not used any of these, but this is what I found in my research.
--- XBMC (this is what's Boxee is based on)
--- MediaPortal - Everything else is just a media center
--- NextPVR - A free PVR and Media Centre application for Windows
--- TVersity - The leading UPnP/DLNA Media Server
--- MythTV - Open Source DVR
=========================================HTPC Parts (2012-09-25)
- Below are the parts I used in my HTPC build. I thought this would give you a reference as to the parts needed and cost.
- Super handy web site that helps you pick your PC components and compare prices all in one place.
--- Intel Core i3-3225 Ivy Bridge
--- MSI Z77A-G41 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
--- $88.99 - $15 promo - $10 rebate = $63.99
- Power Supply
--- CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 (CMPSU-430CXV2) 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply
--- $44.99 - $20 rebate = $25.99
--- G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL
--- $39.99 - $5 promo = $34.99
- Computer Case
--- Antec Gaming Series one illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
--- ??? - http://www.antec.com/pdf/manuals/One%20Hundred%20Manual_EN.pdf
- Blu Ray / DVD / CD Drive
- CETON-InfinTV-PCIe 4 channel tuner
- Cable TV Tuner Card - Ceton-InfinTV-PCIe 4 channel tuner
--- works with micro boards
- Cable Card Activation and TWC number
- Media Center (PC) remote
- This remote was cheap and has worked perfectly.
=========================================Building the HTPC
- Like I mentioned earlier, I had never built a PC, but had installed parts in PCs before. The most helpful references I found for building my first pc were probably the following newegg videos...
Newegg TV: How To Build a Computer - Part 1 - Choosing Your Components
Newegg TV: How To Build a Computer - Part 2 - The Build
Newegg TV: How To Build a Computer - Part 3 - Installing Windows & Finishing
=========================================Installing Windows 7 Upgrade
- I already had a legit copy of Window XP I could install on the PC so I ended up purchasing the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade off of the Microsoft web site.
--- $69.50 - I was eligible for an educational discount so it may be a little more than this for the typical user.
- I performed the install using a usb drive and was able to perform the install without having to install Windows XP first. I did a little research (see links below) and found that installing XP first may not be necessary for the Windows 7 Upgrade software to work - and it wasn't.Read this first...
Creating a bootable usb drive to install Win 7
Purchase Win7 Professional Upgrade - Microsoft Store
Use Win7 Upgrade for new install
Create Win7 iso from downloaded upgrade
Download Win7 iso
=========================================DVD Ripping Software
- At this point the only software I've used to rip dvds is makeMKV. It was free and simple to use. I've listed a few other options that I read about, but I've not used any of them.
--- makeMKV (2010 post)
--- DVD Shrink (2010 post)
=========================================Remove commercials from recorded television - MCEBUDDY
- This program has a process to remove commercials from recorded television. I've not used it. It didn't work for me because almost all of my TWC recordings are "copy-once" protected.
Converts from WTV, DVR-MS, TS, MPEG and many other formats
Converts to MP4 , AVI, portable devices and others
Converts in the background at scheduled times
- My HTPC build also turned into a project where I hard wired my house with network cable. Below are some details.
- This wire running kit worked great for my install.
- Wire Running kit - 3/16" x 33 Ft. Fiberglass Wire Running Kit - $9.99
- I originally planned on buying Cat6 cable at the local Home Depot because it was just going to be the most convenient method. After a bit of waiting and searching, I ended up finding someone on craigslist that was selling 1000ft bundles of Cat6e cable for less than half of what it was going to cost me for 500ft of Cat6 cable at home Depot. So I kind of lucked out. The cable has worked great.
- Cat5e or Cat6 cabling - $76
500ft - http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202316438/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=cat6&storeId=10051
500ft - http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202206484/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=cat+6+cable&storeId=10051#BVRRWidgetID
- Cat6 wiring scheme - T568 A or T568 B Wiring Schemes
--- Check pre-existing wiring and use same scheme
- I ended up buying most of my network plugs, face plates, connectors, etc. from monoprice. Everything has worked great so far. I, unfortunately, don't have links to everything I ordered but I would highly recommend monoprice for their price and the reliability of their products.
- Cat6 plugs - $18
25 pack - http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202276269/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=cat6&storeId=10051
- Modular cable connector instructions (?)
- Questions about differences between Cat5 and Cat6 and connectors
- For a small home job like mine, this cable tester worked just fine.
- Cable tester - ordered 2012-11-01 - http://www.amazon.com/Pyle-PHCT45-Network-Cable-Tester/dp/B003ZUQSUI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1351884310&sr=8-3&keywords=pyle+cable+tester
- Video Signal Loss
=========================================TimeWarner Cable - Costs, etc.
- Since I installed a CETON-InfinTV-PCIe 4 channel tuner in my HTPC to view and record tv I needed a cable card and tuning adapter from TWC. I was able to pick the card up from my local pay center.
--- Cable card rental is $2.95 a month
- TWC Ceton
--- 2012-10-08 - called TWC cable card #866-606-5889
had to connect CableCard directly to outlet for it to pair
I guess that's it for now. I'll try to check back if anyone has any questions, but like I said, I'm not on the forums much. I just hope that all of this information - as unorganized and incomplete as it is - will hopefully save someone some time if they're looking into building a HTPC.