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Desktop to HTPC conversion advice

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by drfager, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. drfager

    drfager Member

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    Hello guys, great forum!

    I need to repurpose my office, and rather than sell off my desktop I was wanting to convert it to an HTPC. Goal would be to either have this supplement my satellite package or cut it out completely. (Use Netflix, Hulu, ESPN3, Boxee app etc)

    I see that a lot of people recommend getting an HTPC case and reusing existing components in it. That would be nice, but I have no problem using the existing case.

    Here is some basic info on my PC....

    OS
    Win 7 Home Premium

    CPU
    AMD Athlon II X2 250

    Mainboard
    Manufacturer: Foxconn
    Model: 2AB1
    Chipset: AMD 785g
    Southbridge: AMD SB700
    LPICIO: ITE IT8721

    Memory
    Type: DDR3
    Size: 8gb

    Graphics
    NVIDIA GeForce 405
    (1gb)

    I ran a CPU-Z report, so I can post additional info if needed.

    I assume I need the following...

    internal HDMI card
    Blue-Ray drive
    TV Tuner card
    Remote
    Update graphics card? (Ive never had issues viewing content with the existing card, but I assume in this re-purposed role it may need something better)

    Is there anything else I need?

    Is there anything else to consider?

    Thanks in advance for any help or advice.
  2. STdrez625

    STdrez625 Well-Known Member

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    DO you want your HTPC to be both a datastore and the display device?
    Never heard of that Gfx card?
    Your CPU is a good start, desktop but lower powered. Additional peripherals should be added to suit, eg TVTUNER, BLUray, DVD etc.
    How much storage, what config (raid etc) ?? Your choice
    What OS? A lot of people stick with Win7HP and Its MediaCenter softwares but other better stuff is avaliable

    Case ... how good is the power supply? how noisy efficient?
    Fans ..how many how noisy

    Remote .... use your smartphone with app or Harmony
  3. drfager

    drfager Member

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    Thanks for the response!

    I do have about 300gb of music and movies saved. I have a 750gb native HD, a second 250gb harddrive, and a 500gb external HD. Right now, I keep basically nothing on the native stock HD other than programs etc. I keep my personal files and music on the 2nd internal HD and then backup all that data, plus keep my movies on the external drive. Essentially, the external is my master storage, but I back everything up minus movies to the 2nd intenral HD. (I dont care if I lose my movies, but I cannot lose my music collection or personal files, hence me backing those up on two different drives)

    Im not sure I follow on display device. My plan was to install an HDMI card in the pc and then HDMI out to my TV.

    Im fine with Win7HP.

    The desktop is relatively new and unused. (6+ months old) It makes virtually no noise, and only has one light on top, so I have no problem using it. Obviously if I could use a more compact case that would be a decision to make, but frankly im not savvy enough to know whether I can use another case with my existing internals. (Was hoping for some advice there based on my specs)

    The graphics card was the base card that came with this model of desktop. I obviously didnt purchase this at the time to be a HTPC, so I didnt bother upgrading it. Im not sure if I need to upgrade it now as a HTPC or whether I can get by with it.
  4. spyder viewer

    spyder viewer Moderator

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    From what I've seen, your graphics card has hdmi. If so, then it will be fine for HTPC. The Foxconn site is down so I cant tell if you have a spare pci-e slot (any size). For tv do you want HD or SD, freeview or freesat or both? Your native drive will be big enough for OS and recorded tv. W7MC can't handle bluray.

    This mobo comes up a lot in HP desktops. Is yours? Which model?
  5. drfager

    drfager Member

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    Yes its a HP desktop. I checked my card and it does have an HDMI port. I dont know why I thought it was display port. Ive read elsewhere that some cards have issues sending audio via HDMI, I wonder if that would be the case with mine.

    I would like HD.

    Not sure what is freeview or freesat. Could you explain the two?

    Interesting about Blue-Ray and WM7MC. To be honest I dont buy physical media anymore, but I thought it would probably be cool to throw a cheap blue-ray in it.

    Where are you looking for the pci-e info and what would that mean?
  6. spyder viewer

    spyder viewer Moderator

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    Now if you can just tell us which HP desktop it is, we'll do the rest.

    Freeview comes from your local tv transmission mast and freesat comes via satellite.

    It's the type of connections available on your motherboard. as you knew what the mobo was I assumed you had opened the case. Tell us the exact HP model and we can tell.
  7. drfager

    drfager Member

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    I will get you that info when I get back home. Thanks for everything.
  8. drfager

    drfager Member

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    HP Pavillion P6000 Series

    I opened the case and I have three remaining slots, what I believe are PCI-E 1 slots. I'm not 100% sure but they are very small. The NVIDA card takes up the other, larger, slot.

    I think i will be doing freeview as I use Dish Network satellite television and to the best of knowledge there is no way to capture Dish with a cable card. If I can get my local HD channels I can live with it, and if I dont cut the cord entirely, I can at least cut my package all the way down to the base package.
  9. spyder viewer

    spyder viewer Moderator

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    OK from your response I assume you aren't local to this UK based forum. My understanding, is that for you, most tv is via satellite or cable so giving you details of UK transmission services isn't going to help. It may be helpful if you tell us what services (and whether they are encoded) you do have access to.
  10. drfager

    drfager Member

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    I have Dish Network, a satellite company that to the best of my knowledge you cannot use a cable card and such to view. Im planning on using the TV card for my over the air, free, local HD channels.

    I plan to get the rest of my content online. (Hulu, Netflix, ESPN3, FoxSoccer.TV and other sites that I can get/stream content) I would like the BBC Player, but I dont think in the US we can get it.
  11. drfager

    drfager Member

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    I also have an Apple TV2, but I dont think I will have a reason to use it once I get this set up. I did at one time have the Apple Tv jailbroken, which gave me access to some cool stuff via XBMC, but I dont know this sites stance on things like that, so dont want to go any further and break any rules!
  12. drfager

    drfager Member

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    Any luck Spyder?
  13. spyder viewer

    spyder viewer Moderator

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    The tv cards to try would be TBS and Hauppage. A very popular one here is the Blackgold but I doubt it would be supported in the USA. Therefore, provided you have a transmitter and a suitable aerial, you're fit to go!
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  14. drfager

    drfager Member

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    OK so broke down and hooked everything up. Major issues dialing in the resolution.

    My TV is a 50" 1280x720. When I go to the nvidia panel and set it to that resolution its massively oversized on the screen. So, i tried clicking it on every other resolution or it drastically oversizes the desktop to where only a portion of its viewable OR its drastically undersized.

    I check my "picture" options on the TV and the only thing I can change is whether the ratio is 16:9 or 4:3. I tried every resolution possible under both settings and nothing works.

    Need help!!!
  15. lisag

    lisag Active Member

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    You need to adjust the 'overscan' options in the Nvidia card settings (I am using ATI so I can't tell you where they are, but they should be in there somewhere).

    lisa
  16. drfager

    drfager Member

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    Does anyone know where to adjust the overscan on the nvidia control panel? i dont see it anywhere.
  17. lisag

    lisag Active Member

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    Try under 'adjust desktop size and position'.
  18. drfager

    drfager Member

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    I hooked up the pc via VGA and it largely eliminated the issue. I now have an eighth inch black bard around the screen, my desktop is slightly cut off on the edges (just slightly eliminating the bottom portion of the toolbar), and the picture quality is slightly degraded but its otherwise functional, moreso than when connected via HDMI.

    I think im going to buy an ATI card this weekend and give it a shot via HDMI. Nvidias control panel is worthless. How you cannot simply toggle on/off overscan or reposition the screen via HDMI is absurd. (you can customize the resolution via drag-able arrows, but can only reposition it via VGA)

    Otherwise im getting XBMC all set up. I do notice the odd computer free requiring a complete forced power off, but that may be because ive got lots of album/movie info downloading while downloading other content, while also bouncing around trying out things. I hope a better ATI card will also help.

    Im thinking of wiping the pc and throwing Ubuntu + XBMC to make it a lean settup, but may wait until I get more familiar with the pcs new purpose.

    Also i got the Logitech Wirless Keyboard w/ Trackpad (k400) and it is quite nice for this usage. Still same keyboard functionality, but light smaller and no more cords or need for mouse.

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