Problems with HTPC - need advice on troubleshooting or upgrading - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-09-2013, 02:33 PM - Thread Starter
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I currently have the following system:

- Shuttle XS35V2 PC Barebone System
- Transcend JetRam 4 GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM 1333 MHz(PC3-10600) Laptop Memory Module JM1333KSN-4G
- Crucial V4 CT032V4SSD2 2.5" 32GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
- Windows 7 Home Premium x64

The system run headless and is hooked up to an amplifier and then to built-in speakers in my house. The system is always on, running iTunes, which my wife and I control from our iPhone/Android devices. iTunes streams music from my NAS and I also have CrashPlan running on the Shuttle to back up the NAS content.

This setup worked OK for 3 months. I found the system surprisingly slow, considering it's all solid state, reasonably fast processor, 4GB RAM and barely any software installed on the machine at all. Opening windows and searching in iTunes would be painfully slow sometimes. Nonetheless, it worked for streaming music, which is really all I care about. I was more puzzled than irritated.

After 3 months the SSD drive failed. I was very surprised, as I thought SSDs were supposed to have a much lower failure rate than traditional HDDs (which have moving parts). I RMA'd the SSD with Crucial, got a replacement and got the system up and running again.

It's now 2 months later, the SSD appears to have failed AGAIN (I'm getting a "Windows Explorer Has Stopped Working" error, and chkdsk found a bunch of errors).

I have several questions:
- Why has the SSD failed twice? Am I just unlucky, or could something about the system's configuration make this more likely?
- Why was the system so slow? I note that the RAM is DDR3 1333 MHz, but Shuttle says the max is DDR3-667/800. Could this be the problem? I couldn't even find DDR3-800 available to buy anywhere to test this theory.
- If I'm going to keep having these problems, I'm considering replacing the system altogether. To that end, I could use some advice:

As I said, all I really care about is streaming music from a NAS, and my only real requirements are that the device be always on and run iTunes. Low power consumption and noise (all solid state) are a bonus.

I was looking at some ZBOX devices, the ID41, ID81, Nano-AD10, AD04. I also saw some Foxconn units that are pretty cheap.

My real question here is this - the stats on these new devices seem comparable or even not as good as the Shuttle XS35V2, so would I just have the same problems with the device running really slowly? Do I have a decent set up I just need to troubleshoot, or should I bail and start over?

Any advice is very much appreciated. This is driving me nuts, I can't afford to have my music system down for a month every 2-3 months while I wait for an RMA'd SSD!
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post #2 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 02:27 AM
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This setup worked OK for 3 months. I found the system surprisingly slow, considering it's all solid state, reasonably fast processor, 4GB RAM and barely any software installed on the machine at all. Opening windows and searching in iTunes would be painfully slow sometimes. Nonetheless, it worked for streaming music, which is really all I care about. I was more puzzled than irritated.

Your using iTunes on Windows is the answer. Apple have always treated the Windows version of iTunes as a second class citizen, it's slow/laggy/buggy & so on.
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After 3 months the SSD drive failed. I was very surprised, as I thought SSDs were supposed to have a much lower failure rate than traditional HDDs (which have moving parts). I RMA'd the SSD with Crucial, got a replacement and got the system up and running again.

Not at all true, SSD's are far more dangerous then HDD's and you better have a sturdy backup system in place using anything with a SSD. That said things have improved greatly but the likes of Apple who use SSD's cherry pick stable drives and use their own custom firmware.

As to the various problems your having with the self build there is a very easy answer buy an Apple Mac Mini. iTunes should run a lot better on the Mini and stability should not be a problem.

Your asking for more trouble looking at those Zbox and Foxconn units, I've used them before and so just expect more of the same with weird bugs.
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 06:06 AM - Thread Starter
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The slowness wasn't limited to iTunes - it's really everything. The boot is slow, opening IE/CrashPlan/Antivirus is slow. Just really surprising considering my desktop has an SSD for the OS and it boots in seconds and is crazy fast in general.

As for the Mac Mini, it's definitely something I considered, but it's $600 for a really powerful computer - which I don't need. All I need is a device that runs iTunes.

If it's a matter of just picking a better SSD, anyone have any tips on picking a good one? Frankly, the system isn't jaw-droppingly fantastic, but if the SSD was stable then I would be perfectly happy.

Alternatively, should I consider a standard 2.5" SATA HDD (non-SSD) in this case?

Thanks for the advice!
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 06:20 AM
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Anything in the Samsung 830 range are one of the most stable drives out there if after another SSD.

The Mac Mini even a second hand one on eBay is still a better choice, Windows iTunes sucks and there is no way around that.
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post #5 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm sure you're right about Windows/iTunes - but if I can just get this system stable, it will meet my needs. So I guess that's my overall question - will a new/better SSD or HDD solve this problem and get this system (crappy as it may be) up, running and stable? If so, I just can't see myself dropping another $400-$600 on a really powerful Mac Mini that will do absolutely nothing except run iTunes and CrashPlan.

Thanks again! Would love to hear other people's input, as well...
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post #6 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 09:33 AM
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in itunes make sure you have all the in the sidebar librairies deleted that you don't use, also check all your sources and remove any that you don't need ie Radio etc if you don't use them.. Any thing under preferences could be causing iTunes to run slower. I removed a lot of the unnecessary settings that I don't need and it sped it up considerably and made it far snappier. Something to check out.

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post #7 of 9 Old 02-10-2013, 09:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Cujo74 - every little bit of performance boost will help, but it still seems to be the PC generally, rather than iTunes in particular, that runs slowly.

Anyone have any thoughts on the speed of the memory? The max for the motherboard appears to be 667/800 MHz, but the DIMM I have installed is 1333. Could that be causing a problem? My understanding was that if it was incompatible the system wouldn't even boot, and if you have extra speed, it simply goes unutilized (but what do I know?).
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post #8 of 9 Old 02-11-2013, 01:58 AM
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The RAM has automatic timings so it should just default to whatever is set in the SPD on the RAM for that speed level it can operate at. However not all RAM is equal, Kingston or Crucial RAM might be more stable also a HTPC does not need top of the line RAM with low latency timings, basic RAM modules will do.

If you keep spending money on this HTPC trying to make it work the costs are going to add-up.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-12-2013, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbroses View Post

Thanks, Cujo74 - every little bit of performance boost will help, but it still seems to be the PC generally, rather than iTunes in particular, that runs slowly.

Anyone have any thoughts on the speed of the memory? The max for the motherboard appears to be 667/800 MHz, but the DIMM I have installed is 1333. Could that be causing a problem? My understanding was that if it was incompatible the system wouldn't even boot, and if you have extra speed, it simply goes unutilized (but what do I know?).

There's no such thing as 667MHz or 800MHz DDR3. It's a "double" data rate memory, so a module that runs at 667 is actually DDR3-1333, while 800 is DDR3-1600. Memory sold as 667 or 800 will be DDR2, which wouldn't run at all in your system.

The reason for your slow performance is likely a combination of the Atom CPU and the SSD. For performance to be as brutal as you indicate, I would suspect something is up with the SSD. The Crucial V4-series is one of the worst SSDs on the market (which is somewhat puzzling considering their M4 line has been a classic) and SSDs get slower the smaller they are. I'd suggest upgrading the drive to a 64 or 128GB Samsung 830/840, Plextor M5, or Crucial M4. Even a Sandforce drive (and there are dozens of brands to choose from there) would be an upgrade.
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