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Integrated HTPC and Home Server Build

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February 11, 2010 1:18:29 AM

My wife and I each have laptops with all of our media stored on them. I'm looking to consolidate all of the media onto one home server. I'd like to hook it up to my home theater as an HTPC with Windows 7 and have it replace my DVR. Any help on parts/setup advice would be much appreciated. Here's additional info:

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Next few weeks

BUDGET RANGE: 400-600

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Recording TV/playing media, backing up network computers, surfing internet

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: OS, monitor, speakers

OVERCLOCKING: Not necessary

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not necessary

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1080p 54" Plasma

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS:
1. Since it's going to be in the home theater, it would be nice to have a suitable HTPC case and not too loud that it's distracting.
2. Not sure how to set up the hard drive situation, but I'm thinking it should probably have two hard drive, one for DVR purposes and the other for OS and storage--1TB each?
3. Would like to include a blu-ray player--is a graphics card necessary?
4. Have time warner cable. Will probably keep it for now. Will I need a set top box in addition to a tuner card to get cable channels (ESPN, etc.)?
5. Would like to have a tuner card that can record two channels at once.
February 11, 2010 3:45:24 AM

I can only answer #3 and #4 with any certainty:

If your mobo's onboard video is powerful enough, then no.

Your tuner card should be able to interpret signals straight from your cable, so no.
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February 11, 2010 5:18:02 AM

r_manic said:

Your tuner card should be able to interpret signals straight from your cable, so no.


That's correct, but only for unencrypted channels.
ESPN is encrypted. The only inexpensive way to record High-Def ESPN right now is Tivo/Moxi or a cable look-alike DVR product licensed from Tivo (Tivo holds the patent for time-shifting live video).

If the OP wants to record Standard-Def ESPN, he could connect to the s-video input of the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250. And if he's looking for an expensive way to record High-Def, there's Ceton Digital Cable Quad-Tuner Card (coming in the next few months) or BlackMagic Design Intensity Pro. There are a few other cablecard tuners available. For example, I believe this is a single-channel tuner:
http://www.cannonpc.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idpr...

The motherboard BIOS may need to be patched to enable the cablecard, and an appointment with your cable company to have the cablecard installed in the tuner will have to be arranged. Some cable companies will decline to install their cablecards into a PC.

More information:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2320615,00.asp
http://www.cetoncorp.com/products.php
http://www.blackmagic-design.com/products/intensity/tec...
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February 11, 2010 5:56:38 AM

1. The case is highly subjective and personal. I use a Silverstone Crown CW02B for my HTPC, it is rather expensive @ $365 when I purchased it. Primary reasons why I bought it:

- a) It has 6 drive bays, and one for an optical drive.
- b) Uses 120mm fan, generally large fans can move the same amount of air as smaller fans using less RPMs which means less noise.
- c) Thick aluminum to help suppress noise.
- d) Mounts for optional 92mm fans to cool hard drives
- e) Very compact case which can fit a full size ATX motherboard (makes building rather tricky)
- f) Lack of a power supply means I am not wasting money on some average PSU. I can drop in my own high quality PSU (Seasonic S12 500).

2. This my current hard drive set up:

- a) Somewhat used E-IDE 160GB Hard drive for Windows 7 Premium (currently evaluating it for 30 days trial period). Partitioned into 40GB drive for the OS; remainder is for logical drive just to store data / potential games.
- b) Two SATA 1TB Western Digital Enterprise Class hard drives in RAID 1 mode (mirror) to back up data. Audio files (mainly FLAC) and Video files are stored on these drives for "permanent storage". Only full encoded files are written to these drives. Potentially these drives should be access / used the least so they should last a long time before requiring replacement.
- c) SATA 500GB Western Digital hard drive used to rip DVDs (Blu-Rays later) for encoding into MKV files using X.263 codec (used DivX in the past). All encodings (audio & video) are done on this drive, once completed files are immediately transferred to the mirrored 1TB drives. I also set the windows Page file to use this drive. I refer to this drive as my "THRASH DRIVE" since this drive will be used the most due to constant writing and deletion of data (ripping & encoding), thus this should be the first drive to fail.
- d) Two available drive bays for another RAID 1 setup in the near future.

3. Generally no if onboard video is good enough. I prefer using a discrete graphic card, got a passively cooled 9600GT in my HTPC.

4. Current tuner cards cannot decode copy protected stations. Therefore you will have to manually set the tuner box to the channel you want to record. ATI's upcoming TV Wonder Digital TV Tuner should allow you to record protected stations if Time Warner is supported. You should expect this product to be a bit expensive; $200 - $300. You will most likely still need your cable TV service. Product link:

http://ati.amd.com/products/tvwonderdigital/specs.html

5. Can't help you there.

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February 11, 2010 3:28:07 PM

Sorry to highjack your thread here, but you might need to know the same thing I need to know.

What about digital 5.1 surround? What sound card should I get for this. My amd P2 biostar MB has built in sound and HD3000 video. It doesn't have any digital out jacks but has an HDMI out. I haven't set it up as a HTPC yet but would like to with 5.1 capabilities.

Thanks
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February 11, 2010 3:46:53 PM

jaguarskx said:
1. The case is highly subjective and personal. I use a Silverstone Crown CW02B for my HTPC, it is rather expensive @ $365 when I purchased it. Primary reasons why I bought it:

- a) It has 6 drive bays, and one for an optical drive.
- b) Uses 120mm fan, generally large fans can move the same amount of air as smaller fans using less RPMs which means less noise.
- c) Thick aluminum to help suppress noise.
- d) Mounts for optional 92mm fans to cool hard drives
- e) Very compact case which can fit a full size ATX motherboard (makes building rather tricky)
- f) Lack of a power supply means I am not wasting money on some average PSU. I can drop in my own high quality PSU (Seasonic S12 500).

2. This my current hard drive set up:

- a) Somewhat used E-IDE 160GB Hard drive for Windows 7 Premium (currently evaluating it for 30 days trial period). Partitioned into 40GB drive for the OS; remainder is for logical drive just to store data / potential games.
- b) Two SATA 1TB Western Digital Enterprise Class hard drives in RAID 1 mode (mirror) to back up data. Audio files (mainly FLAC) and Video files are stored on these drives for "permanent storage". Only full encoded files are written to these drives. Potentially these drives should be access / used the least so they should last a long time before requiring replacement.
- c) SATA 500GB Western Digital hard drive used to rip DVDs (Blu-Rays later) for encoding into MKV files using X.263 codec (used DivX in the past). All encodings (audio & video) are done on this drive, once completed files are immediately transferred to the mirrored 1TB drives. I also set the windows Page file to use this drive. I refer to this drive as my "THRASH DRIVE" since this drive will be used the most due to constant writing and deletion of data (ripping & encoding), thus this should be the first drive to fail.
- d) Two available drive bays for another RAID 1 setup in the near future.

3. Generally no if onboard video is good enough. I prefer using a discrete graphic card, got a passively cooled 9600GT in my HTPC.

4. Current tuner cards cannot decode copy protected stations. Therefore you will have to manually set the tuner box to the channel you want to record. ATI's upcoming TV Wonder Digital TV Tuner should allow you to record protected stations if Time Warner is supported. You should expect this product to be a bit expensive; $200 - $300. You will most likely still need your cable TV service. Product link:

http://ati.amd.com/products/tvwonderdigital/specs.html

5. Can't help you there.

any amd mb with 3300 or 4200 igp plays fhd without any problems on a sampron cpu.
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February 11, 2010 3:57:33 PM

If the biostar has an hdmi 1.3a port, you could connect it to an a/v receiver that can decode digital audio, such as this Onkyo,
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9712132-1.html

I don't know how old your biostar is, but many modern, on-board audio chips are quite good. If you have one of the realtek alc88X audio chips you would have a hard time distinguishing it from a dedicated sound card.

I don't have any sound card recommendations, other than it would probably be cheaper to buy a new motherboard with good integrated audio and an optical spdif port.
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February 11, 2010 4:38:58 PM

vanekl said:
If the biostar has an hdmi 1.3a port, you could connect it to an a/v receiver that can decode digital audio, such as this Onkyo,
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9712132-1.html

I don't know how old your biostar is, but many modern, on-board audio chips are quite good. If you have one of the realtek alc88X audio chips you would have a hard time distinguishing it from a dedicated sound card.

I don't have any sound card recommendations, other than it would probably be cheaper to buy a new motherboard with good integrated audio and an optical spdif port.



Thanks for the info
Here is my MB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Looks like it has the Realtek ALC888 and HD3300 igp

So will the HDMI pass the 5.1 to the receiver ?

Thanks again.
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February 11, 2010 4:49:09 PM

cah027 said:
Thanks for the info
Here is my MB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Looks like it has the Realtek ALC888 and HD3300 igp

So will the HDMI pass the 5.1 to the receiver ?

Thanks again.


The hdmi should pass 2-channel digital audio to your receiver, which will be decoded into 5.1 channel analog audio, assuming the receiver has this capability.
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