Old PC into minimal HTPC - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 11-09-2013, 10:57 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm reusing an old PC as a minimal HTPC. I've run into some dumb newbie problems and am looking for LOW cost ways to solve. I will use PC to watch internet based vid on TV and to run some movies I have both on its HD and elsewhere on my home network. Will run DVD from my standalone player Don't play games or run blu-ray. TV is old Toshiba 30HFX84 CRT. Was planning on using hdmi from onboard video to hdmi input on tv, but image quality is horrible no matter what resolution I set it at.. Not sure how to get graphics output to match what the hdmi input wants. I can also use component jacks and set to whichever resolution is best for my PC.

PC specs are as follows
1. Motherboard: Abit AN-M2HD.
2. CPU: AMD X2 BE-2400 2.3GHZ.
3. Memory: 2x1GB (2GB total) Ballistix DDR2 800. - BL 12864aa804
4. Power Supply: Antec true power 480Watts.
5. Onboard graphics - NVIDIA GeForce 7050PV
6. Sound Card: SB Audigy 4
7. OS - Win XP
How can I cheaply solve this? Board takes a PCI vid card, so I could buy one if cheap for better output. TV hasn't blown up yet so I don't want to dump it. Last of the great CRTs,

I am novice so any help much appreciated.
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post #2 of 20 Old 11-09-2013, 12:10 PM
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The NVidia chipset you have onboard is really not designed to output HD video, so you should probably throw a video card in. Since your board supports PCI express x1 and x16, just about any cheap video card will do nicely.

As an example, the Raedon HD6450 cards on newegg.. http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=hd+6450&N=-1&isNodeId=1. I picked up a couple of these cards.. one for a dedicated HTPC and another for my workstation. Both have served me very well.

Your board will also support up to 8 Gb of DDR, and DDR800 is probably cheap,too Older hardware is not necessarily a bad thing to have. $100 would probably be all you'd need.

Recommend upgrading to windows 7, too, but that may be too hard on the budget.
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post #3 of 20 Old 11-09-2013, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestion, exactly the kind of help I hoped I'd get. I'll check the vid cards out -- some on that list are ~$30 which is OK. As for ram - well, have to upgrade to Windows 7 to be able to use more than 2G or so I'm told, so even if I go used = $25-30 for the ram and ~$50-$75 for a used win 7 disc w/COA. I think I'll wait to see how things operate once I get the video to work. I'll be playing some dvd files and avi files from HD or home network via Media Player Classic HT and browsing the web. Might be OK with XP and 2G have to see. The PC is old and so is the HD on it and hate to invest too much for a system that could go belly up. Many thanks. rmb
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post #4 of 20 Old 11-09-2013, 03:22 PM - Thread Starter
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One more thing. My Audigy Sound Card is in one of the PCI slots. How do I know which is PCI-E x1 vs x16, and which is better for sound and which for vid. I have to look inside, may need a low profile card if I have the sound card in, as I recall with this box (which has been sitting in my closet for 3yrs) there;s not tons of room for cards.
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post #5 of 20 Old 11-09-2013, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by rmbelson View Post

One more thing. My Audigy Sound Card is in one of the PCI slots. How do I know which is PCI-E x1 vs x16, and which is better for sound and which for vid. I have to look inside, may need a low profile card if I have the sound card in, as I recall with this box (which has been sitting in my closet for 3yrs) there;s not tons of room for cards.

The x16 is the long blue one. The x1 is the shorter one. The Audigy 4 is a straight PCI slot, so you should be able to add a PCIe video card without having to remove the Audigy. I don't think you need to concern yourself with what port gives better sound/video. Your budget is limited. Let's just stick to using what we have and getting the most from it. In general, though, I'd try to keep the x1's free. CableCard and OTA tuners fit very nicely into those :-)

The audio out from the Audigy will probably be good enough. If it's not, get yourself a receiver and connect the Optical out on the motherboard to it (it has one of those, too). One step at a time, though..

I think you're going to find that XP is too clunky for home theatre usage. XBMC might be a better option.
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post #6 of 20 Old 11-10-2013, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm going from the Audigy to an old Denon DRA 395 receiver. Have to go in through the vcr inputs because all the other ones are used up, but that should work OK. I did download xbmc and immediately got confused by the interface. Have to find some documentation. Why will it be better than using XP desktop to launch Firefox or Media Player Classic HT? Many thanks for the guidance.
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post #7 of 20 Old 11-10-2013, 10:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Forgot to say receiver has no optical.
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post #8 of 20 Old 11-10-2013, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmbelson View Post

I'm going from the Audigy to an old Denon DRA 395 receiver. Have to go in through the vcr inputs because all the other ones are used up, but that should work OK. I did download xbmc and immediately got confused by the interface. Have to find some documentation. Why will it be better than using XP desktop to launch Firefox or Media Player Classic HT? Many thanks for the guidance.

As far as XBMC goes, there's a pretty complete guide available on this forum (http://www.avsforum.com/t/1294647/xbmc-media-center-setup-guide-knowlege-base-support) and there's a whole lot of enthusiastic users of XBMC on this forum (I'm not one of them, though) that would be happy to address any questions or problems you may have. Since you're starting fresh, and especially since you're not planning on pulling live TV, it might be worth playing around with.

How are you planning on controlling your HTPC? Are you using a standard remote control (like for a TV), or are you using your usual keyboard and mouse? Are you sitting on a couch several feet away? If so, you might find the keyboard and mouse thing is somewhat less than ideal. Even most traditional wireless keyboard & mouse combos weren't really designed to work at that distance, and you'll probably experience dropped keys and spotty mouse movements. If you're planning on using a remote, you'll have to add an IR receiver to your HTPC (whole different topic). But an IR remote isn't much use if you're not using something like windows media center (or XBMC). In other words.. how are you going to move the mouse cursor if you only have a remote?

I solved this problem by using a Bluetooth device called a diNovo mini made by Logitech. That handles the mouse movement and occasional keyboard input, and it also handles windows media center, and I can even power off the HTPC. I cannot turn on the HTPC with it though, since it's Bluetooth (I have to use my logitech harmony remote for that). I'm now starting to experiment with using a tablet to control my HTPC's. That may or may not be a good solution for you.

Controlling your HTPC in a way that's easy and comfortable for you and whomever else would be using the system is going to be the biggest challenge you'll face.
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post #9 of 20 Old 11-10-2013, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Was planning on using wireless mouse and keyboard. However have a Creative SB 0540 IR device and remote that came with an x-fi soundcard I bought once and have never used and will test out on system. Our viewing room is pretty small and I think the mouse and keyboard may be ok. I have one I use elsewhere I can move in to check out before I spend any more. I'll check out that guide for xbmc, thanks. Been fooling around with it and see for me a big learning curve. Thanks again. rmb
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post #10 of 20 Old 11-11-2013, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
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How do I tell if I need a low profile or regular vid card? Got the sound card in slot next to open PCI-E.
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post #11 of 20 Old 11-11-2013, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by rmbelson View Post

How do I tell if I need a low profile or regular vid card? Got the sound card in slot next to open PCI-E.

If the sound card fits without a low profile bracket, then obviously the video card will, too.

If you anticipate transplanting your hardware into a proper home theater case at some point in the future, it might behoove you to choose devices that have a low profile option. I try to future-proof my purchases like that as much as I possibly can. Few things make me happier than reusing older hardware.
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post #12 of 20 Old 11-11-2013, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ajkrishock View Post

If the sound card fits without a low profile bracket, then obviously the video card will, too.

If you anticipate transplanting your hardware into a proper home theater case at some point in the future, it might behoove you to choose devices that have a low profile option. I try to future-proof my purchases like that as much as I possibly can. Few things make me happier than reusing older hardware.
You and me both. There's an ASUS card in your list that's low profile and $30 with rebate. I'll get that one.
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post #13 of 20 Old 11-12-2013, 08:47 AM
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I have an E350 with 2 gigs of ram, the ram was plenty but the cpu was to slow for netflix.  I would try going with your current ram before you go out and buy more, I say drop an HDMI out graphics card in it and see what it does.

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post #14 of 20 Old 11-12-2013, 08:57 AM - Thread Starter
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What I'm going to do, thanks. Cheap card and see how it goes. I don't have Netflix now, but once I get system going will see if I want it and if I have to upgrade the system, will figure that out then. Thanks.
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post #15 of 20 Old 11-12-2013, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Some more research tells me that I can't use most of the cards in your link above because they are pci-express v. 2.1 and my mobo being old, needs either 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0. Only one on the list is ~$50 and I'd like to spend less. Suggestions for a good ~$30 board? Thanks,
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post #16 of 20 Old 11-12-2013, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by rmbelson View Post

Some more research tells me that I can't use most of the cards in your link above because they are pci-express v. 2.1 and my mobo being old, needs either 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0. Only one on the list is ~$50 and I'd like to spend less. Suggestions for a good ~$30 board? Thanks,

My primary HTPC uses an ancient MSI Media Live Diva 5.1 board that I'm certain predates yours, and I'm running an MSI PCIe 2.1 card in it with no problems at all. I think the compatibility problems you're talking about are confined mostly to the weird OEM boards that Dell & HP use. I think you'll be fine with a 2.1 video card. If not, Newegg has outstanding customer service. I'm sure your return will be processed promptly.
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post #17 of 20 Old 11-13-2013, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Krogue View Post

I have an E350 with 2 gigs of ram, the ram was plenty but the cpu was to slow for netflix.  I would try going with your current ram before you go out and buy more, I say drop an HDMI out graphics card in it and see what it does.

Yeah, I agree. I have one of those, too. My biggest complaint is the tiny CPU fan. I have to clean it frequently or it gets pretty loud. I subscribe to MLB.tv, and the 1.6 GHz processor can barely keep up. Really, anything flash heavy is not smooth at all. It is pretty good with pulling Live TV, music & movies though. I think mine has 4 GB of RAM, but the performance bottleneck really is the processor.
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post #18 of 20 Old 11-13-2013, 07:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. One last thing, just thought of. To test how my TV will manage input from PC, can I try out my main PC which has ATI Radeon HD5450? Will this output better than the GeForce onboard on the Abit? Before I spend time and $ on the Abit? Thanks.
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post #19 of 20 Old 11-13-2013, 09:39 AM
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No harm in trying it out, I guess. There are differences even within ATI's Raedon chipsets as well as differences between driver revisions. If you're disappointed with the performance of this particular chipset, understand that that may not carry forward to the new card you're contemplating.
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post #20 of 20 Old 11-13-2013, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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If Radeon functions OK, I could throw it into the ABIT and switch my main pc back to its onboard vid --Intel
GMA X3000 onboard graphics, see how that functions for me w/o spending $ on card for abit. I don't push the vid card hard too often and maybe onboard would be OK.
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