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Details of My Completed HTPC Build

longplay

Standard Member
Hi all, long-time reader first-time writer, so first off, a big thanks to all who have posted their experiences and builds, I spent a lot of time gleaning information before I built mine and it was invaluable. Knowing how useful it was to read of other people's builds I thought it was long past due I did I write-up here.

This was my second build, as I originally used some old hardware with media portal but I liked the look of Vista Media Centre and so upgraded.

I've been using this for about the last year as my sole entertainment centre.

The Hardware

Case: Silverstone LC17
PSU: Silverstone ST30NF (fanless)
Mobo: Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H (780G)
Proc: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e (45w)
Cooler: Scythe Mini Ninja (running fanless)
RAM: 2 * 1Gb Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500
HDD: 2 * 1Tb WD Caviar Green (started with 1Tb but quickly ran out)
Optical: Pioneer DVR-116DBK (replaced original one I used due to noise, no Blu-ray yet)
TV Tuner: Hauppauge Nova-T 500 (Dual Tuner)
Keyboard: Microsoft IR Media Keyboard
Remote: Microsoft MCE 2005 Remote and IR receiver
Other: 2 * Zalman Fanmate 2 fan controllers, using Silverstone standard case fans

The machine runs silently. I originally used a different PSU, but it wasn't quiet enough so replaced it with a fanless one. I did have an Antec TriCool 92mm in there, but I disconnected as it was making a little noise, I've used some Sharkoon fans since and they were excellent, recommended if you need some, but the stock Silverstones with fan controllers do good.

In terms of power, it idles at about 80w and draws 105w at full tilt (more details here).

The Software

I'm currently running Windows 7 and using Windows Media Centre. Originally it ran VMC, which was solid, but I recently upgraded (and have had some fun, I rolled back to the 9.8 HD3200 drivers to try to sort out tuner issues).

I use Astrotoy7's 7mc version of JNRidgway's original VMC Back in Black theme (MS really need to make the default theme black, so much better). I used Media Center Studio to install it rather than swapping files around.

I also run Media Browser with the Vanilla theme (I think), the images attached show my Media Browser setup look.

And I have Shark007's codec pack installed.

I use a combination of AnyDVD and DVD Shrink to rip my SD movies, so far a combination that has never been beaten.

Lessons Learned


  • Making a PC totally silent is hard, but well worth it, top tips are picking a good case and case fans, don't scrimp on these, and if it's got a fan it'll never be silent (CPU coolers and PSUs).
  • Definitely don't scrimp on your case, but research it well first, my Silverstone wasn't cheap and is nice (if big), but I built an HTPC for my brother using an Antec NSK 2480, which is their budget HTPC case and it was infinitely easier to build, had nice separation of PSU and main compartment and vibration dampening mounts for the HDDs as standard (not quite as quiet as mine, but it didn't take a fanless CPU fan, fanless PSU and some fan controllers to get it that way).
  • HTPCs need very little horsepower, playing back even HD video is not CPU intensive, just make sure you have reasonable graphics, onboard generally suffices depending on the type.
  • Having said that, if you plan on doing any transcoding, that is CPU intensive, as are some of the add-ons to strip adverts, so bear that in mind, you can get around this by scheduling the work to be done overnight.
  • HTPCs are not for the faint-hearted, this isn't a 'set it and forget it' piece of kit, it'll need you to keep it running (installing updates, rebooting, finding drivers, etc) and it will freeze and crash occasionally, as such I'm not sure I'd recommend to someone who isn't prepared for that and knows what to do (i.e. the relatives, you'll be doing endless support).
Hopefully that'll help anyone looking to build.

Next up I'm thinking of replacing mine with one using a dual-core atom ION mini-itx board so I can wall mount it (and scanning these forums is helping again!).

Full write-up of the trials and tribulations of the build can be found on here.
 

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