how hard is it to build a media center pc?

ush flynn

Novice Member
not very and no not at all.
Have you built a PC before?
i went for a silverstone case which doesnt need low profile gear or a small psu so its pretty much the same as any other build, just have to watch your cpu fan height. A Quiet PSU, and CPU fan and if possible a fanless GPU would do you well.
Ive built a fairly good spec machine (would be considered a good gaming rig) for less than ive seen lower spec media PCs.

Asus m2n32 SLI deluxe mobo
Asus fx7600 GS Silent GPU
450W EZ-Cool PSU (slightly cheap but very quiet unit)
2x512mb sticks of Crucial XMS2 DDR2 667 Ram and one 1GB stick of same (2gb total but 1gb on dual channel)
AMD Athlon 64 3800 X2 (dual core)
1x 250gb Maxtor SATA2 drive (blergh)
1x 300gb Seagate SATA2 drive (yum)
LG DVDRW
silverstone case
silverstone card reader unit on 3.5inch bay
Logitech mx510 wireless keyboard mouse and remote
legit copy of MCE
(cheapy usb DVB tuner ... upgrading soon as i get decent reception sorted out)

all for well under 600 if i remember correctly
built one for a friend for 450 with same CPU, GPU and PSU, and lesser but still Crucial branded ram, Asus mobo and HDD (160gb Western Digital)
 
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tim_kay

Guest
Building pc's isn't rocket science. But understanding why they won't boot or even have no life can sometimes be! It's usually the problems after building that cause the most stress/difficulty.

However if you get your build correct, i.e. fully compatable components and you source A1 top quality components usually theyre isnt problems. Cutting corners by purchasing cheap ram, or cheap hard drives is a definate no no!
 

Frosty Predator

Novice Member
Just buy a new factory graded (scratched case) pc from dell or hp. It will cost you more money, time and effort trying to build your own, forget it.
 

ush flynn

Novice Member
but less likely to be good enough for a media centre (im guessing to cope with HD at some point?)

im with tim_kay... sourcing good parts, paying a slight premium (but still cheaper than pre-built) is worth the money 10 times over
 
C

caleebra

Guest
...and for someone that is interested* it is a fun challenge and provides a great deal of satisfaction when you get your own rig working. You also learn a lot more along the way thus giving you scope to tweak and make additions later down the road.

You have full control over all the components comprising your machine, as well as all the software on it. The Dell/HP bog stock boxes aren't very attractive in your living room either.

There is a huge wealth of information on fori (what actually is the plural) such as this, TGB etc and elsewhere on the web.



* and has a degree of techincal savvy
 
S

Szgany

Guest
If you've added hardware to a current / previous PC, from motherboard, CPU, HDD you can build a Media Centre PC. Patience is always the key.

If your going to build a low profile MCE PC you'll usually have less PCI slots to work with, hence less expansion for wireless cards, soundcards etc.

The cost always depends on what your going to use the MCE PC for.


Always remember though, Quiet is the key to a good MCE PC. (Use fanless components as much as possible, PSU, Graphics, etc).

Let us know what you decide and how you get on.

Good Luck.
 

rucyj

Active Member
fori (what actually is the plural)


fora?
 

sniff

Novice Member
My two cents worth...

If you're experienced with changing PC parts, e.g. HDD, Graphics Cards, CPU, RAM etc then you've probably got enough experience at "building" the actual PC.

*Only* if you have enough experience of playing with different drivers, BIOS settings, registry hacks *and* have the patience of constantly tinkering with these settings would I consider building a HTPC.

MCE is very very temperamental. Once you have it setup how you like it, it's great, but it can take a lot of effort to get to that stage.
 

NikosF

Novice Member
Building the PC is pretty much idiot-proof. All the difficult stuff is already together, and you're just slotting some components together - which can typically only go in one way and in one slot.

Actually even the term building a PC is a little misleading - it conjures images of someone sitting with a soldering iron putting resistors into a motherboard. It's more akin to Ikea furniture assembly (but probably easier).

The hardest part by far is choosing the components. You can drive yourself crazy wondering what the difference is between a Nvidia 7300GS and a 7100GS, which of seemingly 30 identical motherboards is really the one you need, or what an extra 2MB CPU cache actually mean to you. But - you learn a lot, it's fun (if you're so inclined) and you end up with EXACTLY what you want.
 

craigd

Active Member
I built my own Media Center PC and it has been no end of trouble. This is mailny due to my motherboard:

AOpen i915GMm-HFS - DON'T BUY ONE!

I was sold on it having component video out (Aopen GFX drivers constantly crash so I have had to go to INtel chipset drivers for it and therefore no component video support). AOpen supplied speedstep software was unstable so I had to find a 3rd party utility to get the processor to go above 800MHz without random hangs.

The system easily meets Microsoft's requirements but everytime a TV show starts recording sound either skips and picture judders.

A self-built MCE is not suitable for someone without a ggod deal of experience the PCs. If you are not confident don't do it!

BUILDING A PC IS NOT HARD until you decide to install MCE - I am scared to even do windows updates because sound will stop working or graphics will mess up!

Also DVD playback is unreliable - some rented DVDs do not play at all an dthe skip far easier than in a normal DVD player. I have tried both nVidia and PowerDVD codecs and neither are satisfactory.

AT LEAST WITH A PRE-BUILT MACHINE IN SHOULD ALL HAVED BEEN FULLY TESTED - less chance of compatibilty issues. I still bet Windows will need a mandatory reinstall every 12 months though.
 

PeteT

Novice Member
BUILDING A PC IS NOT HARD until you decide to install MCE
I agree, i have built many pc's before but my MCE has been a learning process. Since building my original machine 18 months ago, i still haven't got standby to work correctly. Its been guess work to try and get it to work. I have replaced my PSU, Graphics are twice and memory. I suspect my motherboard now.

AT LEAST WITH A PRE-BUILT MACHINE IN SHOULD ALL HAVED BEEN FULLY TESTED
I have been thinking about this myself but i have satisfaction that my machine is home built.

I am using hibernate at the moment and it works fine but my remote wont wake my machine.

Go for it, but be prepared to have frustrating days.

If you build one yourself then here's a tip for you. Invest in acronis true image, it helps to have a working image to restore back to if something goes wrong.

Pete
 
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tim_kay

Guest
Quiet is quite possibly the last of my concern now. A good case will enclose most noise from fans.

Going down the fanless, low profile, low power route can cause the new-starter endless problems.

I've said this a million times but if you can deal with an xbox 360 or sky + you could deal with a top of the range fanned Nvidia card with fans all fired up in a good case. Trust me!

Don't waste time and money getting fanless cards, unless you really think you need to, fanless psu's also not really the easiest option.
 
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Szgany

Guest
As with most things in life Tim, it's personal choice. In a quiet woodland area with no traffic the last thing I want to hear is the whirl of fans. Yes you can get near silent fans but add two or three without good fan controllers and that whirl of noise returns.

The fanless option for graphics cards very rarely becomes an expensive one. A Nvidia 6200 fanless can be bought very cheaply but as I've said it depends on what the build will be used for. The PSU passive option can become expensive and troublesome so I've stayed clear of these myself.

A decent case is a good starting area to look at and a low profile case can be very functional aswell as being aesthetically pleasing. Although expansion is always a problem with low profile cases as is sourcing low profile cards.
 

Neil Fellows

Novice Member
I think for me the main benefit for me was been able to build it to fit your exact needs, and finding a pre-built one that did this was difficult. One instance been my Pioneer plasma I was attaching it to, i know from threads here that it's happier with a nvidia card rather thann ATI, and that Black Gold makes decent tuners, so i can build it around that. I don't play games so saved a few bob on an low spec nvidia card.

Also, when things go wrong (trust me, it will!) at least as you built it you're more inclined to know how to fix it. Probably.
 

slingshot

Active Member
how hard is it to build a media center pc? or is it cheaper to just by one?
It's not rocket science but it can be a pain in the backside. If you want to treat it as a hobby then build one and enjoy the learning experience. If you want to plug it in and it work then you have more chance with a purchased machine but it's going to cost you a bit extra.

Slingshot
 

sapper

Active Member
...and for someone that is interested* it is a fun challenge and provides a great deal of satisfaction when you get your own rig working. You also learn a lot more along the way thus giving you scope to tweak and make additions later down the road.

You have full control over all the components comprising your machine, as well as all the software on it. The Dell/HP bog stock boxes aren't very attractive in your living room either.

There is a huge wealth of information on fori (what actually is the plural) such as this, TGB etc and elsewhere on the web.



* and has a degree of techincal savvy
and a pain in the bum if your media PC becomes buggy.

I have bult a MCE box and learnt a lot from it..

Never the less, it is very unstable and so not as relaibel as iwould like. Unfortuantely i am convinced it became unstable, inpart due to windows updates.

I am looking at building another oin the new year, or whether to buy one from a custom maker.

Any thoughts on hardware and software? After all it may eb that i am notusing the most MCE friendly software.

Adrian
 

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