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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know you guys probably get this question all the time but I'm in kind of a hurry. I have retired my old PC to backup status and I'm thinking of trying to turn it into a HTPC of some kind if it's not too expensive. It's about 5 years old. A Micron PC / AMD Athlon 800mhz I think. It has about a gig of ram and two DVD drives, a 40 GB hard drive and a crappy video card that is dieing anyway. So, what do I need to get to make this thing useable or is it really worth it? It will be feeding a DLP projector with available VGA in and S-video in. I also have component to VGA and component to s-video adapters. I will need some kind of software to act as a front end for the system. Oh yeah, the OS is Win.XP if that matters. So, some of you guys that have done this before please give me some video/sound card recommendations. I need a way to get digital audio to my receiver also. It can be optical or coax, either one. If I can spend $300 or less that would be great but I don't expect any miracles there either. This will be my first experience with HTPC so I want to keep it simple, no fooling around with custom resolutions and timings and all that. I'm somewhat computer savy but maybe not enough. Thanks guys.
 

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Ok, since you don't seem to have much action, I'll try a shot at this. If it were me I'd start from scratch or maybe keep the case and psu. However, since you would like to keep this under $300, get a chaintech sound card, a 6600gt video card and my preference is Leadtek.

It will come with a dvi to vga adapter so you can feed vga straight into your projector. It'll be easier for you to just get TheaterTek for your movies, less set up required and with the set up you have TT will give you a good picture right out of the box without the need for ffdshow which your cpu wouldn't be good for anyway.


good luck
 

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What is the fastest processor your motherboard will take? Maybe it would be worth it to bump up your processor. If you're an ebayer you can easily snatch up last years good parts and make a capable htpc for all but HD and fancy post processing. On your budget I'd grab a processor, slightly older radeon or geforce, cheapo sound card with a digital out, basic overlay tuner card and still have money for a remote and some frontend software and stay under your budget.


I have three older pc's like yours all doing it fine with dirt cheap used components. My fastest of the clunkers right now is an xp1700+, one is a celeron 1400, one is a pIII 1ghz.

Most of my video cards are radeon 8500's. Not one of these "old" parts should be much over $20 if you shop around.


The most important thing is to blow out the dust, and blow out the OS and start from scratch with all new drivers off the web, not the old tangled mess left on your drives now.


Is it worth it? That's up to you... I'd say yes, but just don't spend more than what you could buy an already capable surplus pc for. I would not put half your budget in a 6600gt and then stick it in an athlon 800 powered motherboard. What's the point of that?


Technically your processor is more than what many of us had in htpc's two years or so ago and we all ran just fine, but you aren't going to make a silent running state of the art system out of it. You aren't going to turn that into a capable media center pc either.


If you want it to be a DVR then you'll need a hardware based tv card. Here is an article on using surplus stuff to make a DVR system from old parts.
http://www.makezine.com/extras/4.html


Troy
 

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Yes it could be worth it, depending on what htpc functions you want the htpc to perform.

Advice could become very specific if the projector and your desired functions of the htpc were listed. Some people's idea of a htpc is for dvd playback only, while others want music and video capture or server duties out of the htpc.


I'd suggest a Radeon 9600 video card and a Chaintech AV710 soundcard as great performers on a budget. Your processor speed is the bottleneck on that computer and I'd lean down the OS by stopping unneeded processes and unneeded programs from loading, to maximise the processor's speed. (Black Viper's website is a great resource.). You might check and see if you can still buy an older version of Theatertek or if you can run reclock with a newer TT version on that processor (I have doubts). You might also look into what cpu upgrade your motherboard will take and go looking on the used market. Then I'd look into an ir receiver, and a programable remote if you don't already have one.


For dvd playback, you can set the needed programs to autoload upon boot up. Power on the pc, wait for boot and grab the remote. You could assign the power button to shut the htpc down, in the bios.


You might want to check out the local computer newsgroups and buy used components to keep things cheap or to get the most from your budget.


If your DLP has DVI in, use it. If not, then the vga port. You want the computer running at the native resolution of the dlp pj.


Another thought is to sell the motherboard, ram and cpu on the used market and upgrade those components.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the replies everyone. I ordered a Radeon 8500 card and the Chaintek sound card from Newegg. So, I will play around with that when it arrives. With these two items so far I will only have $63 invested. Someone asked what duties the HTPC will be performing. I really only intend to use it for DVD playback. I have an HD PVR from my cable company so I'm covered there. My interest in the HTPC is to load clips, trailers, etc and then have the movie play. I have a lot of downloaded content that I would like to be able to play in a specific order without having a bunch of burned DVD's to load up. I'm anxious to try this out. Now I'm considering buying Theatertek or some other player.
 
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