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Make HTPC out of gaming pc

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March 4, 2010 6:20:23 PM

I've checked out Tom's Hardware several times over the years whenever I was looking to replace/upgrade components or a whole new (usually budget) gaming computer. With the recent decline in my “home theater in a box” performance (a 5 disc slot loader from Sony I bought about 8 years ago that now has issues changing/reading discs) I am contemplating converting my gaming pc into a HTPC. I would like to game on my 55” rear projection TV (DVI) as well as copy/rip my dvd collection to a hdd to reduce room clutter and to view them from. Future plans are to connect to a front projector. I don't presently own any blu-ray movies, but would like to start. The receiver portion of the htib seems to be working fine still (optical input is available).

Currently in the pc are:

Case: ATX midtower from ~9 years ago

MB: GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX All Solid Capacitor Intel Motherboard – Retail
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=n82e16813128059

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 Processor BX80557E6750 - 2.66GHz, 4MB Cache, 1333MHz FSB, Conroe, Dual-Core, Retail, Socket 775, Processor with Fan
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3241551

HSF: Stock that came with the cpu

GPU: single HIS H467QSS1GP Radeon HD 4670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card – Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161273

HDD: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KSRTL 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Retail in an Antec HDD heatsink w/temp display
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16822136037
http://www.amazon.com/Antec-HD-COOLER-Celsius-Fahrenheit/dp/B0001Y6D6K

RAM: CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-6400C4 – Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145034

NIC: HAWKING HWPG1 IEEE 802.11b/g 32bit PCI2.2 Wireless Network Card Up to 54Mbps Wireless Data Rates 64/128-bit WEP Data Encryption, WPA (TKIP with IEEE 802.11x), WPA2 (AES with IEEE 802.1x) - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833164014&cm_re=hwpg1-_-33-164-014-_-Product

SC: Creative Labs Sound Blaster SB046A Fatal1ty X-Fi XtremeGamer Audio 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card: 70SB046A00000 (Retail) (moved from prior pc, should it stay?)
http://www.xpcgear.com/sdsdclsb046a.html

PSU: TR2-430W W0070RU (not the RUC version)
http://lzgusa.com/lzstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_6&products_id=13

ODD: Creative PC-DVD Encore 12X DVD-ROM with Dxr3 Decoder ( ENCORE12X )
(dxr3 not presently installed, is it likely to even be useful anymore?)
http://www.amazon.com/Creative-PC-DVD-DVD-ROM-Decoder-ENCORE12X/dp/B00004Z8X5

FDD: 3.5” oem

KB/M: Zboard-merc, logitech mx510

Disp: Samsung 226cw (1680x1050)
http://www.samsung.com/sg/consumer/pc-peripherals-printer/monitor/lcd-monitor/LS22MEXSFV/XSS/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail&tab=spec

OS: Win xp home 32bit sp3

Overclocking: No/maybe

Connecting to:

TV: Mitsubishi 55” Rear projection hdtv WS-55413 (1920x1080i)
http://www.dealtime.com/xPF-Mitsubishi-WS-55413

Reciever: Sony htib HCD-C770 or CSW3500
http://www.scribd.com/doc/18425286/Sony-Dvd-Hcdc770c990
http://www.cambridgesoundworks.com/pdf/manuals/DTT2500.pdf

Budget: low, $200-$300

Goals: Gaming (World of Warcraft presently), web browsing, and upscaled movies. Quiet, cool, with storage for over 400 dvd's (those tv series sure add up the count). I'm not particularly tied to the wireless card. I am also considering making a separate NAS out of an older system to store the movies to/on and stream from (something else I saw here) as opposed to storing them on this system, with expansion for future movie purchases. I don't watch much TV, but I won't discount its possible inclusion.

I am looking for a somewhat stylish case that will fit as many of my components as are required for it to work (leave out what is redundant/unnecessary, replace if absolutely necessary), blu-ray (ideally, but not a necessity at this point), any possible software conflicts with what I am currently using, which dvd software will allow me to store/view my films the best.

Will I have problems with DRM doing this?

Is this a practical idea, or should I just grab a decent blu-ray player to replace my aged standard dvd? I rather like having marathon movie sessions where I don't have to get up to change the disc that often.

Did I miss anything?

Any other recommendations?

Thank you.

More about : make htpc gaming

a b B Homebuilt system
March 4, 2010 10:35:54 PM

Always nice to find kindred spirits! :sol: 

Your system, as it currently stands, exceeds my HTPC which does everything your asking for (save WoW, I'm the one guy who doesn't play :pt1cable:  ). My system specs are as follows:

Case: NMediaPC 200BA
PSU: Antec SmartPower 500
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965GM-S2
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
RAM: 2GB (2x1GB) DDR2-667
Graphics: ATI HD2600 Pro
Sound: BlueGears B-Enspire
HDD1 (OS/Applications): 250 GB SATAII
HDD2 (Storage): 750 GB SATAII
ODD: LG DVD-ROM
TV Tuner: AVerMedia AverTV PCI-E Tuner Card
OS: Windows XP MCE 2005

Extras:
Microsoft Wireless MCE Keyboard
Microsoft MCE Remote Control
Onkyo HT-S3200
Olevia 232T HDTV (32")
BenQ MP610 Front Projector

As you can see, your system has a bit more oomph behind it, so it will definitely do all that you want to do with it. I would recommend, if at all possible, to add a hard wired network connection (as opposed to wireless) for streaming video from the Internet (HULU, Netflix, various cable channels, etc...). I'd also recommend (for now, anyway) keeping your movies stored locally (especially if you have to go wireless),

As far as purchases are concerned, I'd recommend going with an HTPC case that supports your ATX motherboard, is full height so you don't have to worry about low-profile add-on cards, has enough internal 3.5" drive bays so you can add a storage drive and probably a backup drive. Trust me. I know. You do NOT want to lose your ripped movie drive without having a backup (and I have less than half the DVDs you have). Finally, it should be aesthetically pleasing to you (if it's going to be in sight).

Hard drive purchases: You should probably be looking at no less than a couple 1TB drives (one you'll stream from and one as a backup). My movies generally run about 2GB each converted to DivX (non-compressed). This, in itself, probably exceeds your budget.

I'd also be looking at a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for it's Media Center software and quite frankly, I'd be lost without my Windows Media Center Remote Control.

Since you're on a budget, I'd probably go with the OS Upgrade and hard drive purchase (again 1TB at a minimum, larger if you can afford it) first. Your next purchase (when you can afford it) should be the backup hard drive, then finally, the case (and remote control).

For cases, I like NMediaPCs, though I hear a lot of good things for Silverstone cases (a bit more expensive). Hard Drives, look for Samsung F3s.

Any other questions or concerns, feel free to ask.

-Wolf sends
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 1:19:29 AM

For the record, I don't play it either.

I'd add a hard line if you were to have a separate NAS that might hold something as large as a blu-ray image. Unless it gets that, uh, dense perhaps, wireless would be fine. Especially for stuff like Hulu that would be bottlenecked by your internet far before your network. So the wireless will probably be fine.

My HTPC is basically my dad's older computer, and it's a bit slower than yours (in the CPU department) but it can still run batman arkham asylum maxed. As far as the case went we got the coolermaster elite 360 because it was literally $30 at microcenter, months before we actually did it.

If you want win7 try and get a product key off of ebay, they go for about $30 and activate just as normal. (just look at feedback first.)

I'm not sure what else you would buy other than a case (which in all seriousness is to make it look pretty) and hard drives to store all that on. Personally I'd go for 1.5 drives. If you would rather not doing all the ripping more than once you may want to get a second one and RAID 1 them so you can't lose anything if one crashes.
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March 5, 2010 4:51:10 AM

False_Dmitry_II said:


If you want win7 try and get a product key off of ebay, they go for about $30 and activate just as normal. (just look at feedback first.)




That is basically illegal.
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March 5, 2010 5:30:33 AM

To the OP,

Your HTPC is slight better than my current HTPC which uses an E6600 CPU. My current HTPC is basically my old primary PC before I upgrade to what is currently in my signature. I simply dropped the MSI 975X Platinum Power Up mobo and everything attached into a HTPC case; Silverstone Crown CW02 which is out of your price range. I have not dropped in a blu-ray drive yet though. But I dropped in 4 1TB drives purely for media storage of older DivX and XviD movies, as well as more recent x.264 encoded DVD movies. Encoding movies using x.264 is rather taxing so I don't even bother doing so on my HTPC. I do it on my primary rig. I also store my music files which are basically FLAC files to retain music quality. I also have a passively cooled 9600GT for those rare occasions when I wanna play games on my HDTV.

To quiet down your PC you need to replace noisy components. Those are generally any parts that have fans. You can replace them with quieter fans or with a passively cooled components. Of course this will be an additional cost to your system conversion. Typical parts which creates noise:

1. Power Suppy - bought a Seasonic S12 500w since they make high quality quiet PSUs.
2. Video card - they spin up at full speed, then slow down to be much quieter. Of course stressing it will increase fan speed. This is why I bought a passively cooled 9600GT.
3. Case fans - If you can, you want a case that uses 120mm fans because they can move just as much air as smaller fans, but at lower RPMs to reduce noise. There are plenty of quiet fans out there ranging from affordable to expensive. I use Scythe fans and Yate Loons.
4. CPU heatsink - I never bothered with the HSF that came with my E6600. I have Tuniq Towers cooling my E6600 CPU. I tossed out the 120mm that came with it and replaced it with a 120mm Scythe fan.
5. Hard Drives - Some are quieter than others. I use 1TB Western Digital RE2 series drives for my HTPC which are enterprise class drives for RAID 1 arrays.


With regards to DRM, that basically comes into play if you want to watch a Blu-Ray movie. Doing so will require a Blu-Ray Drive, but also requires that your video card and HDTV supports HDCP; typically via a HDMI connection. Your HD 4670 does not specifically state HDCP is supported nor does it have a HDMI port. I believe HDCP can be supported through the DVI-D port on some video cards; but I could be wrong.

As you suspect, setting up a HTPC is more complicated and expensive than simply buying a Blu-Ray player that you can simply connect to you HDTV. The added cost gives you a versatile piece of hardware, but also additional potential headaches as well.
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 5:39:48 AM

How is that illegal? There are cracks that people sell on ebay, but I'm not talking about those.

I'm talking about fully authentic product keys that talk directly to microsofts' servers and get declared genuine. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't give out that seal of approval to something that isn't right.

On 4670's HDCP and HDMI are standard, though I guess he could have that one oddball that doesn't have it.
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March 5, 2010 6:10:10 AM

If simply purchasing products keys is legal, then you would be buying them directly from Microsoft not off of some dude on e-bay.

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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 7:21:43 AM

They were selling them in bulk for a while. I don't know about you, but I don't have a use for hundreds of keys. How do you think they got to the sales numbers they've had?

They did that student deal (which was a joke, you could make up an email address and get one if one was so inclined. I didn't need to, I already have 2 real ones from each of my schools) for $30 for quite a while actually. Then those bulk keys, and since they activate just like normal they know how many are out there. (though, they'd probably have counted them as soon as they were sold in general)
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March 5, 2010 1:27:41 PM

the 4670 is HTCP compliant (all ati cards have been since the HD3xx0), so as long as the TV is HDCP compliant you should be able to watch blu-rays from the PC to the tv

@False, the keys might be legal, might not be, i would hing to not legal in the fashion that they are not authorized to sell the keys, especially if these are leftover keys from a system's builder which might be those type of keys (non-transferrable)
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 3:42:04 PM

Well, I can say that they're fully retail keys. They work with the retail discs I got during the student thing. The other part may or may not be true, there's no way to know everything about them. (especially because there may have been different methods of obtaining them.)

This has been rendered moot by the fact that I can't seem to find them anymore. Thusly no longer an option.
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March 5, 2010 5:16:16 PM

False_Dmitry_II said:


This has been rendered moot by the fact that I can't seem to find them anymore. Thusly no longer an option.


And rightly so.
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 5:38:56 PM

That just means that they've dried up already since they've already broken all sorts of records. No reason to continue that indefinitely.

But you can still buy retail boxed professional copies for $180~ which while higher than an OEM copy is much more versatile. (and alot less than the standard $300) Home Premium ones for $130-150.
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March 5, 2010 6:06:51 PM

Yeah, the cases, at least the ones that look a lot more like AV components, tend to push the budget I had in mind. I went and unpacked the box for the HIS 4670. On the box it says its fan runs at <=24db and -11 C cooling power, handles up-scaling, and a couple of HD/blu-ray decoder capabilities. My version is Dual DVI, but came with an adapter to use with an HDMI cable. The HDD hsf is probably the noisiest part, but it's displayed temp (HDD/case), even playing WoW, rarely breaks 37 C. The TV does have a DVI as I tried it out once a year ago to see if it would display my desktop in 1080i, and it did so I know that part works.

It is nice to see/hear that my equipment is still somewhat commonplace/used by others. One of the nice things about the E6750 is that it was one of the first 65w cpu's and that Frostytech (I think i saw someone refer it here) said the stock cooler was still a reasonably quiet one meaning my system is already partway in accomplishing the quiet/cool (I've never really monitored db of equipment before).

The MB has gigabit ethernet on board, and though I have teased others during games when they have to change batteries in their wireless kb/m, now I can see why they might be using them.

Having not looked at upgrading the OS lately, though I did read the HTPC article on Tom's, Win7 sounds like a possibility.
This makes Win 7 sound like it will do what I am looking for, for the most part, though will the physical age of my dvd drive prevent me from viewing any of my standard dvd's? Presently, I think I'll hold off on the blu-ray a tad longer, I just need to work out the specifics of enabling the upscaling on my gpu.

Thanks for the inputs presented so far, and please continue, sometimes when a conversation starts, it can spark new ideas in others.
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 5, 2010 10:36:28 PM

No, you just need DVD playing software. You may need to go out and get one (or find a freeware one) if you can't find the one that came from your drive originally. Just age wouldn't stop it from being able to play stuff, if it's broken however...

Yeah I just use a wireless keyboard/mouse for my HTPC, that's really the only time I use wireless mice, even on my laptop I've got a wired one.

I was never too concerned with noise, but even what I got and using standard cooling, you can't really hear it anyway. It's certainly quieter than, say, an xbox 360. Even than some of the old computers I used for that. (since they were never in a special case or in the stand they were pretty much just computers that were plugged in.)
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 6, 2010 2:32:35 PM

If you need to test out your DVD playing capabilities, then as Dmitry says, all you need is DVD playing software. I'd recommend (just for testing) VideoLan's VLC Media Player (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/). Free to use. Runs just about everything.

As far as upscaling on the GPU, it should be automatic with ATI's Catalyst Control Center and driver package installed.

-Wolf sends
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March 6, 2010 2:43:27 PM

the only problem right now is that vlc can't read the commercial blu-rays (movies) without help from another program, so vlc won't help here, for everything else though it works great
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 6, 2010 4:51:38 PM

mindless728 said:
the only problem right now is that vlc can't read the commercial blu-rays (movies) without help from another program, so vlc won't help here, for everything else though it works great


From the OP:

Quote:
Having not looked at upgrading the OS lately, though I did read the HTPC article on Tom's, Win7 sounds like a possibility.
This makes Win 7 sound like it will do what I am looking for, for the most part, though will the physical age of my dvd drive prevent me from viewing any of my standard dvd's? Presently, I think I'll hold off on the blu-ray a tad longer,


Doesn't look to be an issue. I recommended VLC for ONLY testing out if his DVD drive is capable of playing his DVDs.

-Wolf sends
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March 6, 2010 6:33:04 PM

fair enough, though i would still say it anyways for a heads up for later
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