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Pentium 4 repair and repurposing - HTPC or light gaming

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February 21, 2010 12:13:04 AM

I'm looking for help deciding what to do with my old PCs, and advice for replacing a broken motherboard. I'm going to build new computers for my wife and me (but that's another post). I want to rotate our current computers to other jobs... eventually, I want
  • a back-end HTPC for recording and encoding video from basic cable, no converter box involved (we currently use 4x VHS recorders, I really want to switch to using computers for recording TV to make my life easier), probably using MythTV
  • a guest light-gaming PC for my home office (World of Warcraft, so more CPU- than GPU-intensive)
  • some inexpensive front-end HTPCs for playing video streamed from the back end, but ideally juicy enough to play casual games (I've never even seen Crysis) and surf the web, play flash video, and play to 1080p HDTV if we ever upgrade from our current old NTSC CRT TVs...

    My current (working) PC:
    CPU - Pentium 4 2.00GHz
    Motherboard - ASUS P4T533-C
    RAM - 1.5GB DDR-400
    Monitor - Samsung SyncMaster 2343 BWX (2048x1152)
    GPU - PNY GeForce FX 5200 128k (kind of underpowered since I got the Samsung after my beloved 100MHz 1024x768 CRT died)
    SATA add-in card: Promise Technology SATA300-TX4
    Hard drives - Maxtor 6Y200P0 (200G), WD1200JB (120G), Hitachi Deskstar 7k1000.B 1TB
    Optical drive - Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-116D
    Case - I thought I'd bought an Antec way back when, but the door says 2BD-601A-CM01-X-1, so if Google is any guide I must've gone for a Chieftec Dragon...
    Power Supply - Turbolink LC-A420ATX

    My wife's current (broken) PC:
    CPU - Pentium 4 630
    Motherboard - ASUS P5GL-MX 915GL - reboots every few seconds, replacing the M/B fixes the problem
    Monitor - LG 2252TQ (1680x1050)
    GPU - integrated
    RAM - 4x1G Kingston D400
    Case - Aspire X-Dreamer III ATX with 420W power supply
    Pioneer DVR-110DBK DVD+/-RW
    (not sure about the hard drive, computer is in the shop right now)

    APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: As soon as I can figure out what to buy
    BUDGET RANGE: ~200-300-ish maximum for repairing my wife's PC - M/B, RAM and perhaps GPU
    SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Video recording from basic cable (no converter box), streaming video to (as-yet-unpurchased) HTPC front ends, would like the option to add a GPU for light gaming (World of Warcraft) @ around 1680x1050
    PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, case, power supply, DVD recorder, processor
    PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Whatever's least expensive (newegg is great)
    COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: U.S.A.
    PARTS PREFERENCES: Intel (have a P4 630)
    OVERCLOCKING: Willing
    SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Don't see the need
    MONITOR RESOLUTION: Will probably hook it up to a KVM switch, using my Samsung SyncMaster 2343BWX (2048x1152); unless it's a second gaming system, in which case I'll look for a new inexpensive monitor
    ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Quiet is good, want option of PCI Express 16 @ x16, would rather not replace anything I don't have to

    The local repair shop says the motherboard is the problem with my wife's PC, offered to replace it with a Gigabyte G41M-ES2H and 2x1G DDR2 RAM. I'm not thrilled with that M/B choice, don't like the PCI-Express slot being limited to x4 if I decide to add a GPU. I was looking at GA-G41M-ES2L as an alternative... but then found on Gigabyte's web site that I don't have to limit myself to that chipset, a lot of their newer boards support the P4 630 with recent BIOS versions, and I might want more expandability to handle multiple capture cards for a MythTV back end server.

    So...
    What should I get to repair the wife's old PC?
    Which PC should I reassign as HTPC back end, HTPC front end or secondary light gaming?

    Best solution

    a b B Homebuilt system
    February 21, 2010 4:44:12 PM

    I looked at this thread last night, but I was too tired to take it all in. I think I understand this time.

    In all brutal honesty, I wouldn't put any money into either of those systems. They're running DDR. I'd sell what you can get money for, while keeping the cases, opticals, peripherals, and if the hard disks are SATA, those.

    If you have a case and peripherals to start with, you can get a solid everyday PC for ~400.

    PSU
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    RAM
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    CPU and MOBO
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

    That's it, $376.96. Athlon II X3, ASUS board with onboard HDMI out, 4GB of Crucial DDR3, and an OCZ ModXStream 500W PSU. I picked the 500W PSU because it will allow you to throw a GPU in there, but I've heard some good reviews about the Radeon HD 3300. It will be able to handle some casual gaming, as well as handle your HD video.
    Share
    February 21, 2010 7:28:38 PM

    Thanks, Jack!
    I probably put too many different things into one thread...
    The components you mentioned would probably be great for repairing the broken PC, and making sure it has a future. More than I want to spend, though, if I can repair it for half that.
    The working P4 2GHz, I'm not putting any money into (unless it's a video capture card or something like that)... I just want to use it for something instead of throwing it away.
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    a b B Homebuilt system
    February 21, 2010 8:56:12 PM

    Ahhh, I see. I don't think that P4 box will be able to handle HD video too well as it's setup right now. You might be able to sneak away with a discrete Radeon card to help you with that. Does that board have a PCIe slot?
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    February 21, 2010 9:21:01 PM

    It does not have PCIe... it has AGP. It's a modern, fully-functional board - provided you're living in mid-2002 and need PS2 keyboard and mouse connectors.

    http://active-hardware.com/english/reviews/mainboard/p4...

    I'm thinking it should be OK for back-end NTSC recording... but not sure about 4 TV channels at once.
    Maybe a file server? :) 

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    a b B Homebuilt system
    February 21, 2010 9:43:10 PM

    Fully modern, yes. See my profile pic? That's a fully modern 2002 Dell with Win7 :) 

    I'm not an HTPC guru, so I don't really know exactly how much horsepower it would take to just record channels. I know decoding takes some juice, but I don't think recording does, someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

    So, what you're proposing is use the P4 box as a back-end, leaving your wife's for wifey things, and building another affordable one for front-end? (The Athlon II X3 would do that nicely)
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    February 21, 2010 10:23:48 PM

    Close, except instead of leaving the wife's PC for wifey things, I'm building her and me spiffy new PCs.
    So I'm trying to find a use for her old PC, given that the motherboard needs repair and a new motherboard would also need new RAM.

    I need 4 front-end HTPCs, so I'm looking for the cheapest route I can go... I don't actually need HDTV yet. I'm considering buying old XBOXes for now since they're so cheap and can work with MythTV, might work OK until until we upgrade from standard definition CRT TVs to HDTV.
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    March 3, 2010 5:52:15 AM

    Best answer selected by fundragon.
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    a b B Homebuilt system
    March 3, 2010 7:27:55 AM

    The xbox's would be easiest. That way you could get a better computer at the same time you get a better TV to go with. I'd say with your track record, a athlon II x2 with 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM and a cheap 780G/785G motherboard would be great. It would be much less than the other one, and since you aren't a fan of upgrading there is no problem here.

    Personally I just use hulu, netflix, etc. on my HTPC so I've got no clue what it takes to record TV. I do know that you'd have to buy tuner cards to pull it off, and I think they only do 2 channels at a time. (they have system requirements listed though) Over the last 2 years the computers doing that have underwent severe changes in components and roles.

    First I had a 1.7 gigahertz P4 running ubuntu linux. This computer was capable of playing basically everything except for 720p or higher h.264 video. If you just play back recorded stuff (which would all apparently be Mpeg2, easy to decode) then this would be more than what you need.

    Skipping to today, we're upgraders, so the HTPC we're using right now is my dad's old computer with a 4200+ dual core and we added a 4670 to it when we did this in december. With that, I've plugged my wired xbox 360 controller into it and began playing Batman: Arkham Asylum that I bought over the weekend on GFWL for like $12 maxed out completely.

    $200 is way too much to buy pieces to fix a P4 system. You're better off parting it out on ebay, and if you want something of that level for a player only, then buy some off of the local craigslist for $100.

    In fact, I think you should use your current one for one of the clients, toss/sell the broken one. Buy xbox's to round out the rest of the players. Buy nice cheap AMD boxes for the back end and secondary gaming PC's. Depending on how much horsepower it wants for the tuners, my build from earlier but with a triple core. For the secondary gaming, my build from earlier but with a 4670, or 5570.
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