Is there some sort of step-by-step guide on how to set all of this up?
There is now! Check out my blog where I have an illustrated paid guide on how to setup everything to get you started.I have never built a PC. Can I do this?
You can do it. However, there are also companies such as mine that specialize in custom built HTPCs.
This is an excellent
step-by-step guide to help with building a PC: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/27...guide-buildingI can't this thing to post or get to the bios screen. What do I do next?
You need to do a few test of your motherboard to help diagnose or rule-out any problems. These are great places to start to troubleshooting before posting your problem for others to help solve.
POST test a motherboard: http://www.computer-how-to-guide.com...t-test-how-to/
Motherboard does NOT post troubleshooting: http://www.computer-how-to-guide.com...nt-start-help/What’s the best way to get started with picking my pieces?
Measure the space where you are putting your HTPC so you know your size constraints. Then find a case that will fit --- make sure to leave at least 2-3” behind the case for cabling. Then find the size motherboard that fits into your case and set a budget.What's the difference between ATX, micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards?
Mainly size and the number of expansion slots each can offer - the performance is roughly identical over a given platform. Most builders that want to match the size of their other AV equipment may be interested in the micro-ATX form factor as the size of the case for those motherboards is very similar to the average width and depth of your AV receiver, for example. Unless you are using a tower case the ATX is likely too large to blend in with your other AV gear (although this is perfectly fine and in fact often desired if you are hiding your HTPC in a cabinet or AV media closet). Finally the mini-ITX is a great option if you want a very small HTPC for your main area, bedroom, kitchen, RV, etc. Its counter-intuitive but usually the smaller the motherboard the higher the price. Its pays to be small.Should I buy 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of RAM?
You will need at least 2GB. I recommend 4GB because you can usually get 4GB for $5-$15 more than 2GB and imo it is worth it (although your HTPC can run on 2GB). Your HTPC will never use more than 4GB so buying 8GB is a waste of money. (One caveat to this is if you are using multiple extenders to play media on other HDTVs. In this situation upgrading to 6GB or 8GB could be of benefit)Why do you recommend Windows 7 64 bit instead of 32 bit?
There was once a concern that 64 bit systems would have compatibility issues and a few years ago some of those concerns were valid. However, today the mainstream PC world is going 64 bit and it is the present and the future. There was post on AVS Forum where I asked bluntly for anyone to post ANY compatibility issues they had with using a 64 bit OS on their HTPC. There was not even a single example of incompatibility. If you are going with all new parts then go 64 bit. If you are using an older TV tuner card, software, etc then you should consider 32 bit. Be aware that 32 bit systems also do not recognize more than 3.2-3.3 GB of RAM.
However with all that being said 32bit may be the way to go if you are bitstreaming HD audio due to the way that WMC 64bit is structured. There are pros and cons of 32 vs 64 bit and it may vary on your setup which one is best for you.What is the single best upgrade I can make to my HTPC for performance?
Easy. An SSD followed (not so closely) by additional RAM --- but no more than 4GB. Again a SSD is absolutely NOT a necessity but is very nice to have. A Green hard drive is plenty fast enough to run your OS as well.Should I overclock my HTPC?
No. There is simply no reason. The i3 is PLENTY of power and making it more powerful will just add heat and noise with absolutely no benefit.Why won’t I need a bigger PSU? 300-400 watts seems awfully small, doesn’t it?
No. Your HTPC will draw only 40-60 watts even at load. So to spend more money on a larger PSU is a waste, imo. Many people on AVS use a PICO system which has 120 watts or so without difficulty.Is there an online power calculator that you like so that I can calculate my needs?
This calculator seems to be pretty accurate. Set your CPU usage at 50% for this calculation as your HTPC will likely not use much more than that - especially if you are building an i3 HTPC. http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jspCan these builds bitstream HD audio over the HDMI cable?
Yes. All four of my builds can do this with no additional sound or video card required.What’s the best way to add (or not add) thermal paste/compound to the CPU and CPU fan?
These builds run very cool. There are 3 options and all are acceptable. 1) Don’t add any paste 2) scrape off the factory compound and add you own such as Arctic Silver 3) add your own to the stock compound.Do I need USB 3.0?
No, not really. But if your motherboard has it it is nice to have for the future.I don't want to buy an optical drive. How can I install Windows from a USB flash drive?
Follow one of these:
This software has been tested and is proven to work: http://wintoflash.com/home/en/
These guides have also been recommended by AVS users with varying results:http://www.winsupersite.com/article/...emory-Key.aspxhttp://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/m.../dd535816.aspxIf I use a single large hard drive why should I make a partition for the OS?
I think Wikipedia says it best…
Okay. You've sold me on the partition. How do I do it?
Creating more than one partition has the following advantages:
- Separation of the operating system (OS) and program files from user files. This allows image backups (or clones) to be made of only the operating system and installed software.
- Having an area for operating system virtual memory swapping/paging.
- Keeping frequently used programs and data near each other.
- Having cache and log files separate from other files. These can change size dynamically and rapidly, potentially making a file system full.
- Use of multi-boot setups, which allow users to have more than one operating system on a single computer. For example, one could install GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows or others on different partitions of the same hard disk and have a choice of booting into any compatible operating system at power-up.
- Protecting or isolating files, to make it easier to recover a corrupted file system or operating system installation. If one partition is corrupted, none of the other file systems are affected, and the drive's data may still be salvageable. Having a separate partition for read-only data also reduces the chances of the file system on this partition becoming corrupted.
- Raising overall computer performance on systems where smaller file systems are more efficient. For instance, large hard drives with only oneNTFS file system typically have a very large sequentially accessed Master File Table (MFT) and it generally takes more time to read this MFT than the smaller MFTs of smaller partitions.
- "Short Stroking", which aims to minimize performance-eating head repositioning delays by reducing the number of tracks used per hard drive.The basic idea is that you make one partition approx. 20-25% of the total size of the drive. This partition is expected to: occupy the outer tracks of the hard drive, and offer more than double the throughput — less than half the access time. If you limit capacity with short stroking, the minimum throughput stays much closer to the maximum.
For example a 1 TB disk might have an access time of 12 ms at 200IOPS (at a limited queue depth) with an average throughput of 100 MB/s. When it is partitioned to 100 GB (and the rest left unallocated) you might end up with an access time of 6 ms at 300 IOPS (with a bigger queue depth) with an average throughput of 200 MB/s..
Its a good idea to perform a windows install with ONLY your OS drive connected to keep from accidentally installing it on the wrong drive. So if you have a SSD and a storage drive (like the 2TB Green) only connect the SSD or OS drive. If you only have a SSD there is no reason to partition anything. If you only have a large drive (like the 2TB Green) then this is how to partition your drive for the OS.***This is just a generic example. Screen shot specifics (like size of the drive) will vary.***
Choose custom install.
You should see your hard drive. Select Drive options advanced.
For the size select 50000 (roughly 50GB).
Windows will tell you that it is going to make a partition. Tell it ok.
Now you should see your "original" hard drive minus the 50GB partition and a "new" hard drive which is the 50GB partition that you just made. There will also be a 100-200MB
reserved partition there for windows. Ignore that and leave it alone. Select your 50GB partition and install windows there.I've completed the partition and install but I don't see the rest of my hard drive. Why?
You need to tell windows to make it an active hard drive. To do this follow these instructions:
- Right click on My Computer
- Click on Manage
- Under Storage click Disk Management
- Right-click the unallocated volume that you want to format and then click Format (located in the bottom right area) or Simple Volume
- There may be a "wizard" that pops up. Follow the instructions to make a quick format of your simple volume.
- Your drive should now show up under My ComputerSpeaking of hard drives I bought the Samsung F4 2TB that you like and may need to update the firmware. How do I do this?Samsung Green F4 HD204UI 2TB Firmware Update
The Samsung is a great drive but early drives (manufactured prior to 01/01/2011) had firmware that *could possibly* cause corrupted data. This update is very easy and safe to do. It won't change, erase or add anything to your existing storage. You do not need to unplug any of your other drives (like a SSD) or change any of your settings with the exception of your device boot order (see below). The whole process will take about 5 minutes and requires 1 blank CD/DVD.
Drives manufactured after 01/01/2011 do NOT need to update their firmware.3 things to download (all free)
1. FreeDos Base CD 8MBhttp://www.freedos.org/freedos/files/
2. Ultra ISO - use the trial for freehttp://www.ezbsystems.com/ultraiso/
3. The Samsung Firmware Update (zip file which will need to be unzipped after download)http://www.samsung.com/global/busine...bbs_msg_id=386Steps to Prepare the boot CD/DVD
1. Open FreeDos base CD (fdbasecd.iso) in UltraISO.
2. Add the Samsung firmware update (F4EG.exe from the zipped file) to the root drive
3. Burn the new file you just created to a CD. Look for the Burning icon at the top of the program's screen.
4. Insert the disc you just made into your CD/DVD/Bluray drive.
5. Restart your HTPC (Make sure that your CD/DVD/Bluray drive is set in bios to boot up BEFORE the OS hard drive/SSD).
6. Wait for FreeDOS to boot. Then choose the following...
- Choose "Continue to boot FreeDOS from CD-ROM"
- Choose "Install to harddisk using FreeDOS SETUP"
- Choose "English"
- Choose "Run FreeDOS from CD-ROM"
7. At the command prompt type "F4EG.exe" exactly like that but without the quotes
The firmware will now update (you will see a screen like this from one of my recent firmware updates):Where are your Sandy Bridge build recommendations?
Sandy Bridge is going to be an awesome platform. However due to the recall the parts (CPU and Motherboards) aren’t readily available. Therefore I think it’s a little premature to recommend which are the best as no one really knows. Stay tuned though as I should be able to make some recommendations in a few months.
Edit: Now available!Should I wait for SB or build a Clarkdale system?
That depends on 1) if you are okay with waiting a few months to get an better idea of what MB and CPUs are going to be the best bang for your buck and 2) if you really need integrated 3D. If you don’t want to wait and don’t need/want 3D the Clarkdale system is an excellent choice. The SB may be a little more efficient and a little more powerful but both will be excellent and more than adequate for a non-3D HTPC. One thing is for certain in electronics --- there is always something better and "worth waiting for" on the horizon.
Edit: Now available! I would go with SB over Clarkdale at this time.Can I buy a Clarkdale CPU now and upgrade to a Sandy Bridge later?
No. The motherboards use differenct CPU slots. They are not interchangeable.Can I use a H61 Sandy Bridge motherboard and what's the difference?
The motherboard options for Sandy Bridge include H67 and H61 chipsets. The H67 boards will have many more options than the H61. You will have to decide if you want these options and if you think they are worth the extra cost. Here is the difference...
1. Less onboard SATA connection options (4 vs 6) for hard drives, SSDs, optical drives
2. Less USB ports (10 vs 14)
3. No SATAIII support
4. Potentially no AHCI support which is possibly a big deal if you are planning on using a SSD (although it appears that some H61 motherboards support AHCI while others do not. Please look closely if this feature is important to use --- i.e. if you want to use a SSD especially)
5. No RAID supportWhy don’t you like AMD?
Well, I don’t dislike AMD. I just think the Clarkdale and Sandy Bridge offers more bang for your buck and uses less energy than anything AMD is offering right now (with maybe the zacate as an exception). I do like the AMD Zacate for a budget build although comparing the power of the zacate to the i3 is apples and oranges.I'm building a zacate. Anything else I should know?
Yes. Look for the most up to date AMD Catalyst Drivers on AMD's website. The drivers that came shipped with many of the zacate boards are not nearly as good as the later drivers. As a backup the driver found here (AMD Catalyst 11.4, 3/27/2011): http://downloads.guru3d.com/download.php?det=2687
has been known to work well and is a huge upgrade from some of the older drivers.Why don’t you like/use XBMC?
I think mediabrowser is much easier to use personally. XBMC is a great option too though.My mediabrowser doesn’t look as good as yours. What are your settings?
I use the pearl theme with the coverart plug in. Unfortunately to use these requires a $10 donation to mediabrowser but imo its worth it. See the bottom of the faq for a more detailed guide.Is there a list of free plug-ins and other HTPC software that I can use?
Absolutely. Take a look here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/24...ftware#t871526Is there some sort of guide that can help me setup windows media center?
Absolutely. Look at this option from right here at AVS: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1250607How do I add all my files to mediabrowser so they show up?
This is a great tutorial: http://community.mediabrowser.tv/per...dia-collectionAre there sample HD Audio/Video files that I can download to check all the various different HD formats?
Yes. This is an excellent compilation: http://www.demo-world.eu/trailers/hi...n-trailers.phpWhat’s this whole 24p issue?
Movies are shot at just under 24 frames per second --- 23.976 fps to be exact. Many HTPC options, including the Intel SB and Clarkdale, can only output at 24.000 fps. The result a dropped frame every few minutes while watching a movie. Personally I, nor anyone I have ever built a HTPC for, has ever noticed or complained about this effect. So to me it is simply not an issue and is way overblown. However if you are a purist you may want to add a discrete video card such as the inexpensive ATI 5450 (about $30) to your build which can output 23.976 natively. What is even better is to try the i3 and if you do notice this effect add the $30 card at a later date. Chances are you won’t notice it at all.What's IDE and AHCI and which one should I use for my hard drive?
In most cases you should use AHCI. Here's a pretty good summary: http://expertester.wordpress.com/200...ark-advantage/My PSU cable only has a 8 pin connector and my motherboard needs the large power connector and a 4 pin connector. What do I do?
The 8 pin connector will separate into 2 four pin connectors. Separate them and use the appropriate one in the 4 pin slot.What are all of these cable to connect the motherboard to the Header and how do I know which ones are positive and negative?
This is how your motherboard communicates with your case. The power switch, reset button (if available), hard drive light (if available), speaker (if available) etc are all here to be connected. It is IMPERATIVE that you look at your motherboard manual to determine which cable connect where.
This is how to determine which cables are positive and negative:
Black or white is negative.
Colors are positive.
Triangle usually is negative.My case fans are a little loud. How can I slow them down and make them quieter?
The is pretty easy to do but requires you to reduce the voltage to your fan. Most stock case fans run at 12 volts but can run easily at lower voltages. For instance a 1200rpm fan at 12v will run at 700rpm on 7v. This can be done by powering the fan off a different rail (cable) than normal. Here's how...
Locate a molex connector that is not being used by any of your other hardware:
This is how it normally connects to your case fans:
Summary of possible options:
Alternatively there are other options like adjustable fans, thermal sensing fans and PWM (pulse width modulation) fans - of course these come at an additional expense and the above solution may fix your fan issue for free.I have all of these connectors coming off the power supply. Where do they go?
PSU manufacturers often try to do there best to build a "one size fits all" PSU. What that means is that most PSUs will have left over connectors that may not apply to your board or that there may be extra. Consult your motherboard and case owner's manuals closely for what connections need to be made. Then take all the remaining connectors and tuck them safely out of the way wherever you can inside the case.Will I have enough of those connectors for everything?
In most cases - yes. However some of the smaller mini-ITX cases have only 2 SATA power supply connectors so take a close look and plan accordingly. There are molex to SATA adapters that you can use to turn an unused molex plug into a SATA plug. You also can buy an adapter to split 1 molex/SATA connection into 2. Again, plan accordingly --- especially if you have a hard drive, optical drive and SSD in a mini-ITX case to make sure you have the connections you need.Okay my HTPC is built but its not filling the entire screen. What do I do?
If you have an older TV (like I do) this may be especially true as they were not built to work with a PC attached. These are the steps I would use to try to get the best picture for your screen.
1. Read your manual. Find out your TVs native resolution (you may have to Google it). Set this as your resolution.
2. Set your TV to "just scan" or equivalent to enable 1:1 pixel mapping. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1:1_pixel_mapping
3. Some TVs need the PC to be connected to a specific HDMI connection (like HDMI1) to work properly. See if this is in you manual and if not try the different HDMI connections on your TV.
4. Some TVs need to have the HTPC HDMI input labeled as "PC". So for instance you will need to change "HDMI1" to "PC" if your TV supports this feature.
5. If all the above steps fail to give you the perfect picture then it is very acceptable to use Intel's built-in over/underscan tool. Right click on the desktop and go into the Intel Graphics settings and this is how you adjust your screen:Is there a way to clone my OS to another hard drive?
Yes, and you can do this for free using Windows 7 "Backup and Restore" feature in about 30 minutes as long as the target drive is equal to or larger than the original OS drive.
Go to Start, then All Programs, then Maintenance, then Backup and Restore. On the left select "Create a System Image". Use an external drive to backup the image file. At the end of this process it will ask you to make a Start-Up Boot disc. Insert a DVD and burn the files onto the disc. Then turn off your HTPC and disconnect the previous OS drive and connect your SSD drive. Boot up your HTPC with the new Start-Up Boot disc in the DVD drive --- keep the external hard drive connected during this whole process. Windows repair should now boot from the disc and search for image files. Now the image will be moved (cloned) onto your new OS drive. Everything will be the exact same as your old drive.I want to install a SSD later. Is there a way to clone my OS partition and install it on a SSD later?
Yes, although the system image technique above cannot be used to do this due to technical problems. These are some programs used by myself and other AVS forum members to accomplish this task:
Paragon (used and approved by me but costs $20): http://www.paragon-software.com/tech...ate-OS-to-SSD/
EASEUS (free): http://www.easeus.com/download.htm
Acronis True Image (free for WD drives --- don't know if it works for others) http://support.wdc.com/product/downl...l.asp?swid=119
GParted (free): http://gparted.sourceforge.net
Ghost (not free): http://us.norton.com/ghost
Clonezilla (free): http://clonezilla.orgOkay I have a SSD. Any tips on how to make it even faster?
Follow these tips to make your SSD even faster...
Can I control WMC from my iPhone or iPad?
Increase System Speed
Description: Indexing creates and maintains a database of file attributes. This can lead to multiple small writes when creating/deleting/modifying files. Searching for files will still work.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Manage -> Services and Applications -> Services - > Right-Click Windows Search -> Startup type: Disabled -> OK
Description: Defragmenting a hard disk's used space is only useful on mechanical disks with multi-millisecond latencies. Free-space defragmentation may be useful to SSDs, but this feature is not available in the default Windows Defragmenter.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Manage -> Services and Applications -> Services - > Right-Click Disk Defragmenter -> Startup type: Disabled -> OK
Disable Write Caching
Description: There is no cache on the SSD, so there are no benefits to write caching. There are conflicting reports on whether this gains speed or not.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Manage -> Device Manager -> Disk drives -> Right-Click STEC PATA -> Properties -> Policies Tab -> Uncheck Enable write caching -> OK
Description: Frees up RAM by not preloading program files.
Instructions: On second glance, I would recommend leaving this one alone. However, there are some customizations that you can follow in the post below.
Firefox - Use memory cache instead of disk cache
Description: If you use Firefox, there's a way to write cached files to RAM instead of the hard disk. This is not only faster, but will significantly reduce writes to the SSD while using the browser.
Instructions: Open Firefox -> Type about:config into the address bar -> Enter -> double-click browser.cache.disk.enable to set the value to False -> Right-Click anywhere -> New -> Integer -> Preference Name "disk.cache.memory.capacity" -> value memory size in KB. Enter 32768 for 32MB, 65536 for 64MB, 131072 for 128MB, etc. -> restart Firefox
Free up extra drive space
Disable the Page File
Description: Eliminate writing memory to the SSD, free over 2GB of disk space. Warning - If you run out of memory the program you're using will crash.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Properties -> Advanced System Settings -> Settings (Performance) -> Advanced Tab -> Change -> Uncheck Automatically manage -> No paging file -> Set -> OK -> Restart your computer
Alternatively, if you want to play it safer, you can set a custom size of 200MB min and max.
Disable System Restore
Description: Don't write backup copies of files when installing new programs or making system changes. Can free up between a few hundred MB to a couple GB. Warning - Although unlikely, if a driver installation corrupts your system, there won't be an automatic way to recover.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Properties -> Advanced System Settings -> System Protection Tab -> Configure -> Turn off system protection -> Delete -> OK
Description: You may free up 1GB of space on the SSD if you have 1GB of memory, 2GB of space if you have 2GB memory. You will lose the hibernation feature which allows the equivalent of quick boots and shutdowns.
Instructions: Start Menu -> Type cmd -> Right-Click the cmd Icon -> Run as Administrator -> Type powercfg -h off -> Hit Enter -> Type exit -> Hit Enter
You can with iRule. Here is a link to a step by step tutorial: http://www.iruleathome.com/tutorials/mce-control.htmlWouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to just buy a Dell?
Cheaper? Yes --- in both dollars and especially in quality. Build your own. You really do get what you pay for. That’s why you are here? Right?Where did you mediabrowser appearance guide go?
The AVS servers were giving me errors as I had way too much data on my first page of this thread so I have moved them over to my blog at www.assassinhtpcblog.comI accidentally installed my SSD in IDE mode. How do I change this to AHCI without a complete re-install of Windows?
There's actually a Microsoft "Fix-It" to solve this issue. You don't need to reinstall. With the PC still in IDE mode and booted into Windows 7, run this http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976
then reboot, enter the BIOS and change it to AHCI. Save BIOS settings and restart. Windows will load, you'll get a message about a driver being installed (for your SSD) and then told to reboot. Reboot and now you're good to go.The volume on playback seems low. Can I fix this?
Absolutely. Try these steps as this fixes the problem most of the time.I am trying to use the HDMI connection with the integrated i3 Sandy Bridge Intel GPU but keep getting a blue or blank screen. What gives?
There is a bug in the Intel Win7 x64 HDMI drivers that can cause a blue or black screen with certain system combinations. Try this older driver
which has been known to fix this issue. If you connnect okay with VGA and not HDMI this is highly suspicious of confirming this problem.I put my HTPC to sleep and it wakes up a few minutes later. What gives?
The first step is to see what is waking your HTPC and try to change it. Open Command Prompt (Start Menu->All Programs->Accessories->Command Prompt).
Assassin you've built a lot of HTPCs. You must be constantly upgrading your own to the "best", right?
Nope. I built my HTPC in 12/2009 and it is still going strong. It does everything that I need and want it to and it is quiet and efficient. I don't do 3D so there is no need for me to upgrade. My HTPC consists of an Intel e5200 Core2Duo CPU, Gigabyte LGA775 motherboard, ATI Sapphire 5450 fanless video card, Corsair 4GB DDR2 RAM, WD Green 640GB Hard drive (OS and some storage), WD Green 2TB Hard drive (storage), DVD drive, Antec NSK2480 case with 380 Greenwatts PSU, Rosewill keyboard/mouse combo, and Geminii S CPU cooler/fan. If you spend your time picking your components you should be able to build a HTPC that will last you many years as well.
Edit (07/2011): Finally upgraded my HTPC from 2008. Now I am using a Mini-ITX case, 2x2TB HD, 64GB SSD, i3 2100, 4GB G.Skill DDR3 RAM and a Bluray player.