HTPC build log - by ICSTM

icstm

Novice Member
PROLOGUE

So as some of you may know from my other posts, I have been planning a new PC build. My last one dates from 2003, which may have been a good year for wine, but PCs are not like a vintage and it is now struggling to perform.

My requirements are simple and well known, at least from my perspective!
  • Midi tower PC to be used at a desk and a surround sound setup 5m away.
  • Quiet and capable of playing 1080p content and ~1080 4AA games

To aid this process I read the following threads here:

In planning my build I found the following threads to be an excellent source of advice and guidance, and I would recommend that anyone planning to build a gaming HTPC reads these threads before starting their own build:


Given these great guides, what I hope to do, that may be of benefit to readers is to include decision points, that either had me googling for answers (or binging, if you are that way inclined) or relying on memory from when I was far more versed in these matters.


QUESTIONS I would like answered:

I am not sure how frequently this thread will be read, it is not a ‘must' read from Grangey or razor, however I am hoping that some of these will get answered before I get to the point where the a decision needs to be made…


  • Do media players (eg WD Live, AC Ryan) or other devices (WinXP) have problems accessing drives larger than 2Tb (eg a 3 drive RAID 5 config would be 4Tb I think)?

http://windows7forums.com/windows-7-support/48493-some-icons-broken-start-menu-taskbar.html
 
Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
Part 1 – Component choice

Rather than explain the decision tree that led to each component, I shall list each and provide rationale.
I am currently writing this before I build it, and will update whilst I build and after it is complete, so if my tense changes, you will know why.

Case:
Fractal Design Define R3

Rationale: I wanted a quiet case and did not need it to look like a HTPC


PSU:
CoolerMaster Silent Gold 600W

Rationale: I wanted a quiet if not silent psu. I did not want to spend £100 and so traded fanless for modular (less cables = better airflow) and higher rated (lower utilisation = slower fan speed)


MoBo:
Asus P8P67 Pro (B3)

Rationale: Now this may change if this does not fit the bill. I had two requirements, eSata with Port Multiplier support and onboard audio with surround sound encoding (the way nVidia’s soundstorm offered me on my Althon 32 board). Gigabytes’ UD4 definitely offers both, but I have heard Asus’ P67 boards are better and I have always had Asus boards since my Celeron days.


CPU:
Intel Core i5 2500k

Rationale: I wanted a Sandy Bridge processor, at first as I was hopeful last year that the on board graphics would be a revolution, but now due to very low power usage and thus quieter. I could have got an i3, but everyone since the Core2 days seems to regret when they do not have a quad core cpu


Cooler:
Currently stock cooler until I know which to get and whether I need one quieter or better at cooling


Memory:
G-Skill 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz Ripjaws Memory Kit

Rationale: Seemed to be the cheapest 8Gb kit and not much more than a 4Gb kit. My old machine running XP only had 1Gb, so I have never had lots of memory.


Graphics:
Asus ATI Radeon HD 6850 DirectCU v2

Rationale: I wanted a reasonable gfx card and Tom’s Hardware suggest the cards below a 560Ti is the nVidia 460 or this ATI. I went ATI probably because this card has reasonable reviews and because it was on offer at Aria. Supposedly, the power usage is lower on the ATI, lower the noise seems the same. Both overclock if I need to. One mistake I made is that I should have got a card that exhausts out the back of the case, as that is supposed to work better with the R3 case. I don’t know if this will be a problem and want to complete the build over Easter, so I won’t RMA and swap for another. Note the v2 has two power connectors, not 1 as described in many reviews


SSD:
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB

Rationale: well many ppl here say that ssds load windows and other programmes quicker, so seemed a worthy upgrade to a new machine. As they are not free, I went 64Gb rather than 128Gb. The Crucial ones have been mentioned here in good light


HDD:
Samsung 2Tb F4/Z4
Samsung 1Tb F1

Rationale: Though I have an external 4bay eSata enclosure, I don’t want that on to access my TV Series and Music collection. I am not sure what Z4 signifies, it is not as some say a “grey” import, as the warranty checker tool says this is fine in the UK.
The F1 is the drive in my current computer, but that can survive on a 500Gb drive should I need to keep that machine running. I will probably use the F1 as the “other application” drive, as I did not want to spend to get a F3 or a WD black.


DVD:
Samsung SH-S223B 22x DVD±RW DL

Rationale: Originally had a BluRay drive for the PC (223?) in the cart, but swapped out to save money, let’s hope I do not regret that decision as I am sure BD will be cheaper to buy than HD movies online (and even LoveFilm do not really provide BD quality online services, though at least you do not have to wait to the right movie to turn up)


Mass Storage:
Star Tech 4 Bay eSata enclosure with WD Green 2Tb WD20EARS drives. 2 are 500Gb/platter 1 is 667Gb, one bay spare. Not sure best format to set it up, will RAIDs larger than 2TB cause problems?

Rationale: Did not want to spend the money to get a NAS and not sure how fast the various NAS can offer up data


Other:
The R3 case comes with two 120mm fans and a fan controller, so happy with that
I have an old Microsoft mouse and an even older PS/2 keyboard (so I must be the few customers who make sure of the PS/2 ports on modern MoBos…
HDD screws with rubber washers
I also bought a 3.5” to 2.5” kit, but this is not needed as Factal Design and “designed” their case to support both size drives, nice


WHERE TO BUY:
My old haunts were Dabs, Ebuyer and Scan (actually years ago I used a company called TechDirect, which were local to me and their ordering system (catalogue rather than online) was similar to Dabs). However, for some reason, in their move to a new ERP system, Dabs have wiped my account :mad: (shame on Dabs).
Ppl here mention Aria, so looked at them.

I did not want to order from everywhere, as I wanted to ensure that I have everything by Easter and was ordering less than 7 days ago. For example Novatech had the case the cheapest and though they had free shipping, I did not want 10 different deliveries happening, with 10 different RMA processes if this went wrong.

I chose Ebuyer and Aria (for those components on super specials). Ebuyer were charging the same for Saturday delivery as for next day and were only charging £3 less for 4 day delivery. Their super-saver was tight on having it by Maundy Thursday. Aria delivered on Monday (both delivers were so early they woke me, which normally I don’t like, but these were different). Aria also called on Friday to say that the orders had been dispatched, a very nice touch.
 
Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
Part 2 – Unpacking

Not sure you need the see the photos of the shipping boxes, I told those to document their state on arrival.
Suffice it to say, Ebuyer’s boxes are 2nd only to Dabs (not sure if Dabs use their super sturdy boxes) and Aria used a shipping box from MSI (recycling the way Scan do).
The extra HDD order from Aria however was only wrapped in the city link bag, so the only protection was the OEM HDD box (similar design to how Dabs used to ship, but probably not as kick-proof as a Scan bubble-wrap effort. Ebuyer did not package the case in any way, but seemed to arrive in good condition.

So here are the component boxes. Note that the PSU was shrink-wrapped, the CPU and SSD had security tabs




Here are the components. Note that the Intel stock cooler has thermal pads (heat activated paste) which basically come exposed (so I assume they do not dry). The Asus GPU has 2 power sockets.







Looks like fingerprints on the back of the CPU plate




HDD came with screws (but not used)

Though the WD came in a bag, at least it had an easy-tear corner...


This also came with silver and cream covers:








Memory:


HOW COOL, MADE THIS MONTH!
 

Attachments

Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
Part 3 – The Build

Now the one problem of using a machine you build in Jan 2003 only with upgrades since, is that you cannot remember simple things with how to install the MoBo and whether to install the CPU first etc…

So this log is how I did it this time, so it is probably wrong, so you may not wish to follow it!

PICS first, then I shall my comments and more importantly, tips for others later:

forgot the PSU in the last pics:

My tools

MoBo screws in

MoBo in - the I/O panel gets fitted from the inside.

CPU and fan in

Front of case, before DVD drive

I wanted to use these eBay screws with rubber washers, but they only fit HDDs, not DVD drives and SSD :nono:

The nice Fractal enclosures with rubber feat to reduce acoustics. It also means it is really simply to relocate a HDD either for cable management or to get nearer a fan

Super neat MoBo power cable management, I just wish it stayed that way

Note to keep it simple I put the memory and GPU in last, as they are easy to fit and have simple or no cable management issues.

Starting to get messy with fan controller cable management (short cables)




READY to boot: (HDDs not powered)


Did it boot first time?

It even the right date and time (though for a eastern time zone)

You want to know the crazy truth, it was SO quiet I thought it did not work until I looked at the screen.
There was a red light on the MoBo, but that was because there was no MBR on any media....

Improved cable management
I had to connect the HDDs, so I decided to relocate the fan controller to cover a PCI slot rather than a PCI-e. I hate the fact these MoBos are designed so double width GFX cards hide a pci-e slot.



So the only thing left I think is to use cable ties to group wires together and that is now mainly at the back, where they cannot be seen or disturb airflow. If I get a black SATA cable for the DVD drive, then it will look even neater.

I think that there are now no wires over the MoBo, my first computer to be this way!


TIPS
  • I mounted the PSU to intake air from below the case. The R3 has an air filter, so hopefully no problems even though it is onn carpet.
  • The Rubber proctection around the cable management holes really is as loose as ppl say, so make sure one hand holds that whilst the other manoeuvres cables
  • In future I would mount the CPU and heatsink before the MoBo install
  • I bought a little MoBo speaker from eBay so I could hear the MoBo errors, it cost less than £3 delivered and arrived in 1 day!
 

Attachments

Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
Part 4 – Configuring HDDs

Samsung F4 2Tb and F1 1Tb
[-]Though my Samsung F4 HDD has a Feb 2011 date, I think I should flash its bios[/-]
I decided not to flash the Samsung drive and like my previous drives from them, this one is fine and quiet. It is even faster than my F1.

Speeding up the F1
The Samsung ES-Tool enbles you to control the Automatic acoustic management on the F1 (the F4 does not seem to support this feature).
As I am running the F1 as a system drive, I changed its previous setting from quiet to fast. This does not delete the data on the drive and the noise increase is noticable, though not a problem.

WD EARS
I also want to switch the Idle timer off on the WD, like I have done on the other 2. This I did with the WDIDLE3 program. Checking the 2 older drives I noted that the timers had been re-enabled, but to 5mins.

Not sure if I mentioned before, but these new ones are 3 platter drives, whereas the ones from last summer were 4 platter.

Also even though the WD align tool reports that the drives were aligned, I had huge problems and many wasted hours trying to get this drive to work the StarTech enclousure. It worked fine on Sandy Bridge MoBo and an old PCI card.
Solution was to use a jumper I had lying around on pins 7 and 8.

Manging the lack of space on an SSD
This should probably come after the windows sections, but anyhow...

As the SSD has only 60Gb and as Win7 is HUGE compared to WinXP, on top of that there is the "limited write life of SSDs" I was worried about space.

To combat this, the first (and thus fastest) 100gig of the F1 would be a system drive, what it included I will explain later.
 
Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
Installation Harware
  • SSD but no HDDs
  • Leave Asus MoBo extras (eg bluetooth, LAN) switched to auto, so probably ON
  • No USB devices connected (PS/2 keyboard and mouse at this stage)

Installation
I wanted a clean install without doing a double install (as getting XP working on an SSD would be painful, esp without a floppy drive. My win7-64bit is an upgrade disc, as this is not my first windows product.

Being Win7 installation is pain free, nothing really to report. One super clever trick would be to set the first "admin powered" user account (which is prompted by the system) as NOT your main account. Once your PC is set-up and configured, delete this account, as the new profile will be a cleaner directory. I did not do this, as I only thought that afterwards.

How to get an upgrade to "activate"
Follow these great instructions HERE
which explains how to edit this line:
Code:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/
and to run this
Code:
slmgr /rearm
to enable activation


Installing MoBo features and GFX card drivers

I took a 2 pronged attack to this. First install from the supplied CDs, then update as required from the website.
Asus does not offer an auto-update feature where it scans your computer to tell you which drivers are out of date, so you have to do this.

Asus doctor
The Asus utilities for the ATI graphics card are pants. They look like they could be good, but Asus write windows apps worse than MS!
I installed but soon un-installed. Just use the standard CCC from ATI

Intel RST

Though Windows 7 installs on the SSD without a hitch and enables TRIM and disables defrag on the SSD etc, their own drivers are pants, do install intel ssd rst


Updating Windows 7

Bizarrly, Service Pack 1 (SP1) is not offered straight away, instead you need to download other critical updates first. Then reboot, then find other critical updates, then reboot, then SP1 is offered. It might therefore be better to download the offline SP1, install that and let it handle what is necessary

Once installed your windows is bloated as MS can't write for toffee apples (ms-dos 3.5 was on 1 floppy and windows 2.3 on 2 floppies, but could run of the first only!)

So as we are on a SSD, where space matters you are remove 100s of Mb (in fact about a gig or more) if you run 2 things:
  • System clean up tool and remove "update backups" and the like
  • run dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded, this cleans SP1 install
The 2nd makes a big difference

Anti Virus
I went with MS Security Essentials, as it appears to work ok and am hoping it integrates well with the computer. System apps like these, that run all the time can eat memory if left unchecked, so I hope MS know how their own OS is written!


simultaneous sound
You will remember that one of the requirements for my new PC is to support surround sound encoding onto the S/PDIF. I can sadly report, that this Asus does not support that, so I would suggest the Realtek ALC892 is below the ALC889

The next problem is with Win7.
In XP, you can have sound from the S/PDIF and the analogue jacks at the same time. It appears this is not possible in Win 7

After much searching THIS file can help. Make sure you have already installed the realtek drivers before using this


SSD and HDD
To keep the SSD size trimmed even if TRIM is running I did the following:
  • Moved the swap file (page file) onto the system disk
  • Disabled Hibernation
  • Moved certain user folders
How to use Junction Points
I used NTFS junction points to move specific folders in a manner transparent to the OS.

I moved the public profile, but most importantly I moved the Google Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery caches. These were over 500 Meg each and often get written to. I think therefore is are not SSD friently apps!
 
Last edited:

icstm

Novice Member
xxx
 

icstm

Novice Member
xxx
 

icstm

Novice Member
xxx
 

icstm

Novice Member
xxx
 
Good luck with your build!

All these threads make me wonder why I never actually got that HTPC rebuild of mine done and dusted and finally re-enjoying some telly and perhaps gaming - siblings seem to love it!
 

icstm

Novice Member
@useless: thanks!

Right I need some fresh air, been in doing this all day, when it is THIS good outside, I should use some of it at least!
I'll update the, but things are going well with the basic OS and system file install.
 

Razor

Distinguished Member
Nice to see another gaming htpc's on these boards and thank you for the mention. :)

Anyway good luck with the build and if you get stuck don't be afraid to ask. :smashin:


In response to your questions-

- I use image shack for my pics. Copy the direct link once you have uploaded the picture and then select the image icon in the avforums post section and insert the image link there.

- If your samsung f4 was made this year you won't need to flash the firmware. The drives firmware was updated dec 2010.

- Installing an OS on an sad is really no different than a mechanical hdd. Enter the bios and set to AHCI then set your main boot device to the DVD/bluray drive. Save and exit and then insert the win7 disc and install. When it asks you to format the sad select quick format and your done. I also set windows update to prompt rather than automatically install updates. :)
 

icstm

Novice Member
thanks regarding the HDD, actually I go one further with the updates, I don't even let it d/l let alone install. Have done since win XP

As for the SSD, I had already installed win 7 (clean). but need to switch off preload (or whatever it is called).
Anyway, cannot do anymore today, eyes are rather tired.

I will follow your advice regarding the pictures. The only with that approach is that it is not "work" friendly, as many IT dept block such sites...
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Hi icstm,

Good to see that you have started your build log and I look forward to following your progress.

In terms of your questions I hope that I can help you out with a couple of them:
  • How do you post images so they appear within the body of the post, is it only by linking to a image server? Can you not attach them?
    - If you click on the paperclip icon you can attach an image to your post
    - You can take the URL of the attached image and then use this when adding an image to your post

    Alternatively you can use an online image hosting service (I use Flickr) and then link to these images.
    Both options work, so just down to personal preference really.

  • What is the best guide to install Win7 on a SSD?
    - Here is a useful post that I came across when researching my build: SSD Installation / Settings - Aria Forums
I look forward to seeing your next update.

James
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
This should make a very nice silent desktop system indeed. Looking forward to this build log.

Personally I would have recommended going for the Blu Ray drive now as it'd saved a bit of hassle later on down the line particularly with prices having come down much.

Really no need to go for 8GB of RAM in a gaming or home theatre PC. If however you plan on doing media encoding or photoshop then an excellent purchase, particularly with prices how they are!

Out of curiosity how much did the Radeon HD 6850 set you back? Slightly odd choice unless price was very competitive as the 5850 cards are cheaper and faster. If on the other hand you plan on Crossfiring them later (as you have a Crossfire compatible board) then its a good choice as the 6800 cards scale very well.

Are you planning on overclocking your CPU seeing as you've gone for the K-version and a P67 board?
 

icstm

Novice Member
I think the card was about £125 with a free game from the supplier.
Yeah, I think you might be right regarding the BD rom

I went 8 gig, as it was either 4 or 8, and memory is cheap right now.

I was not planning on overclocking right now, I went p67 in case I got an overclockable chip later. As it happens I got the 2500k for about £155.

Though some of the particular things I am trying to do have kept me up all night (will post later about those). The Asus MoBo, right out of the box on first boot practically asked if I wanted to overclock then in 2sec changed the speeds to 4.3GHz! It took a while to get it to run at stock...

anyway, off to bed now...

what I will say is that even in the dead of night, at 4m away, the system is practically silent without physical drives on!
 

icstm

Novice Member
@Razor, James's way of doing the photos, linking back to AVF's own uploads, seems the best balance for work friendly, without hopefully costing AVF too much...
 

icstm

Novice Member
ok, added some pics to keep you all happy :)

What I am not happy is with the context ads making it look like I an linking to items I bought, when I am not...

I have added pics of my improved cable management. These are in the build section.


@purenitro (below)
Cheers!
 
Last edited:

roh008

Novice Member
Chip Jr,

Have you d/l Real Temp or HW Monitor. Check your CPU/GPU temps. Your Bios temp figure seemed quite high looking at the pics. Also apparently the temps have large error below 50C. But your idle temps should be lower than what the Bios is showing.
Post results. Also get it to O/C and post those temps. Then d/l prime95 and see what the load temps are.

I think my max on my C2D is around 55ºC, but that is diff as u have quad
Ohh my GPU is working well so am waiting to get my Projo so I can play on the big screen :eek:)
I want to see your outside of the case.
Also why aren't u on skype??
 

icstm

Novice Member
BIOS temps are higher than real idle temps in Windows, as in Windows the CPU can be power managed. CPU around 38°C and MoBo around 32°C

Not over clocking for a while (current speeds is plenty). However when machine first switched on, I thought the BIOS was asking about the system clock (ie time) not CPU clock, so with 1 push of a button, it clocked to 4.3GHz, w/o me even trying!

Max Payne on full settings did use more than 50% of 1 core and neither cpu or gpu fan needed to cooler their processors any further.

Which Projo? are you following the likes of Grangey and doing fancy screen work? Your walls are easy to work with, not like my concrete!
 

roh008

Novice Member
Will get a drop down screen with IR receiver so i can use my harmony. But will run a HDMI cable in the ceiling and hook it up to a projector. Just need to work out which one.
 

icstm

Novice Member
that sounds great, what are your timescales?
There have been a couple of posts here regarding floating wall designs.
 

icstm

Novice Member
Sorry for the lack of updates.
These sections above have been updated and include, amongst other things:

Part 4 – Configuring HDDs
  • setting up Samsung F4 and F1 drives
  • using WDIDLE3
  • setting up a SSD system

Part 5 – Installing OS
  • How to install
  • How to activate
  • How I installed drivers and updates
  • SSD drivers from Intel rather than MS
  • Sound issues
  • Using Junction Points
 

icstm

Novice Member
A quick tip for those using Media Browser with lots of ram:



Follow the guide HERE to to cache images to ram (if you have lots of ram), makes many skins super slick whilst scrolling and the like.

At some point I promise to update how I am getting on with 7mc. I am yet to install XBMC on the new machine and still need to move over Outlook and SabNZBD
 

roh008

Novice Member
A quick tip for those using Media Browser with lots of ram:


Follow the guide HERE to to cache images to ram (if you have lots of ram), makes many skins super slick whilst scrolling and the like.
So does what happens if I don't store to RAM, have only got 4GB (running 32bit OS) Does the plugin go at fetch everything over and over again? Surely it's stored on the HDD?
What's the reason for some images to randomly go missing?
 

icstm

Novice Member
very good questions. This does not solve that, however I have noted that it is the Media Browser cache that has the problems, not the actual files (if they are stored locally in the movie folders).

I think the problem is that Media Browser cache can often get corrupted and by deleting that folder (not the ImagesByName) helps things.
 

icstm

Novice Member
An extra 8Gb of RAM and 500Gb Evo SDD are not upgrades to write home about but it was excuse to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro x64.
This did require some new tricks, which I will post shortly!

HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL!!
 

Similar threads

Trending threads

Top Bottom