edward said:If you can't afford someone else to come around and do it for you and you aren't up to basic self-help on a PC, lisa, I think you might be better off staying away from HTPCs for a while.
I don't think Lisa has any problems maintaining her own PC , don't know why you made that comment.
Personally I enjoy tweaking and upgrading my HTPC and I'm normally quite happy to build other PCs for people for cost ( I won't then give you lifetime support though as some people seem to assume but I'm quite a happy to make suggestions to troubleshoot problems , kind of redundant to say so as thats precisley what this forum is for of course).
There is nothing magical about building a HTPC over a normal PC. As with anything you find out what you need to know when you need to know it.
Its fun and you can do it in a weekend. The only thing that you really gain from experience is identifying faults quicker ie , I got a DOA graphics card for a friends new built PC ( quadro fx3000 too ...you'd expect that to work when it left the factory!). I was 90% certain the card was dead rather than any other problems ( sticking in a 10quid graphics card proved it to be the case). card went back and I got a replacement within a week (well done scan).
A few years ago I might well have spent a few fretful hours trying to bring it to life. Nowadays my first thought is usually correct.
Using something like Ghost ( I use Acronis Trueimage myself) takes the sting out of tweaking too. ( a fully capable driveimage system should be incorporated into windows if you ask me).
You could also do a dry run and build a really cheap HTPC that will do pretty much everything you require for a few hundred quid. Live with it for a few months and decide if you want to beef it up. The only thing you need a lot of grunt for is ffdshow ( personally not worth it on screens smaller than 42") or state of the art gaming.