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1st Time HTPC Build - File Server/Media Centre

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June 15, 2010 9:41:08 AM

Hi folks,

Apologies for posting something there are already a billion posts on already but I'm not just idly chucking this out there, I have done my research. While there are many other HTPC threads (believe me I've spent the last week reading them), most people seem to want to game on their HTPC's, making the system widely over the top for what I want.

All I want is:

1) a media centre to stream from things like SkyPlayer and BBC iPlayer, as well as play DVD's (possibly blu-ray if I can stretch my budget that far) and any downloaded TV/movies.

2) a place file server I can put all my stuff (photos/music etc.) and have them available on both mine and my girlfriend's computers over the network.


Another problem I've found with other guides/threads is that they are American, obviously I don't have access to those websites, instead I'm stuck with the following retailers:

www.overclockers.co.uk
www.ebuyer.co.uk
www.novatech.co.uk
www.amazon.co.uk

So here's what I need (i think...):

1) A motherboard - this seems to be big choice for HTPC systems, if I can I want one with HDMI output and decent audio so I don't have to get a proper graphics card. I WILL NOT be playing games on it, just watching and streaming media so I'm hoping that will be fine.
2) a processor - the i3 or athlon II x4 maybe? I just want it quiet, low voltage and good enough to do the job.
3) ram - I have no idea on this front, I'm guessing 2GB is going to be enough, this really depends on the motherboard.
4) hard drives - for network storage as well I was thinking dual 1TB drives in a RAID config. Maybe a pair of Caviar Green's as I hear they are pretty economical, though a lot of people say good things about the Samsung SpinPoint's.
5) the case/power supply - this is the big one. While I have bought other components before now to build gaming/work pc's, I have never bought an HTPC case and I've really no idea what I'll need it to do.

The most up to date thread I found recommended the following:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT UD2H
Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 Quad Core

After that it doesn't say much... I was hoping to get a case that included a PSU to keep the cost down?

Maybe something like this Novatech? Though I can't see the power supply being all the reliable, maybe better to go with an Antec?

As you can see, I'm confused and would very much welcome any input.

Thank you in advance.

BC,
a b B Homebuilt system
June 15, 2010 11:53:11 AM

Hello! Welcome to Toms Hardware forums! I just built an HTPC and I would be happy to help you.

I am only using my HTPC for video streaming, and video playing. No gaming. I am also using it on my network to access video on my other computers. It sounds like my build will suit you just fine.

So I have a few questions.

What kind of case are you looking to use? I personally use Antec HTPC case

For something like this, it's small and nondescript. In this case I would highly recommend a modular power supply as space will be limited.

When I know your budget I can put together a simple build for you to begin with. I will be referencing newegg.com just to give advice on what to get. As far as researching and finding it? Well that's half the fun of the build!
a b B Homebuilt system
June 15, 2010 3:53:10 PM

I'd add in this question. Is your network storage going to be separate from your HTPC system? If not, then you'll need an HTPC case that can accept more than one or two hard drives. Keep this in mind when looking for HTPC cases.

-Wolf sends
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June 15, 2010 7:40:18 PM

No I was hoping it could the network storage would be in the HTPC itself so yes I'd need space for two HD's and a DVD drive.

Budget wise I wouldn't want to spend more than £350 unless you could convince me it was worth it;)
a b B Homebuilt system
June 15, 2010 8:24:43 PM

Well, in my case we just used old parts after an upgrade, it's got a 4200+ x2 dual core and since the mobo it had didn't have any onboard graphics we just bought a HD 4670 and it can game.

But for building one from scratch your idea is fine. But a quad core is very unneeded. I'd go down to a triple or dual core athlon II since either of those will also be able to do everything you want.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 16, 2010 1:19:54 AM

For 350 on scratch thats going to be near impossible. I'll see what I can do tho. Do you need an operating system?
a b B Homebuilt system
June 16, 2010 1:29:19 AM

Basically you would be best off raising your budget to around 750. The build I'm squeezing under 350 is functional but low quality.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 16, 2010 2:49:45 AM

Here's what I have as a basic guide. This is from newegg.com so obviously you would have to reference available sites for your region.
June 16, 2010 3:53:42 PM

I've checked all the bits online and I manage to find almost everything except A-Data memory and the case.

These are what I found of a similar price:

Crucial 2GB DDR2 RAM

Extra Value Black Opera ATX Case


Seems like there's plenty of room in that, though I may need some converters as apparently the PSU with it does not have any SATA connections.

My only concern with that is that is very... very cheap and as my old dad used to say "When it comes to PSU's, you buy cheap, you buy twice".

The only other cases I can find are the Antec ones:

Micro Fusion
Minuet 350
NSK 2480

Leaning toward the Micro Fusion since it has a remote, but from the looks of it, fitting in 2 HDD's would be a squeeze.
June 16, 2010 4:00:02 PM

Also to answer your question with regards to an OS.

My university has given me a ton of free OS software so I've got the following to choose from:

XP Professional
Vista Professional
Windows 7 Professional
Windows Server 2008
a b B Homebuilt system
June 17, 2010 4:30:39 AM

Yeah cheap PSUs are bad. If theres wiggle room in your budget that would help.
June 17, 2010 8:36:24 PM

Well like I said if you cab convince me it's worth it I'm willing to spend more. Thing is, what you've put together for me up there looms fine and that's only around £300. It's HDMI, surely fast enough to play and stream HD content and with those drives it's got a decent amount of network storage.

Of you're saying I need more power behind it I'm happy to slap an i3 in it or something, if now what you've put up yet seems pretty good.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 18, 2010 1:59:19 AM

The Case and PSU are my biggest concern. I'll post an alternate build that costs a little bit more and you can pick between the 2. How does that sound?
a b B Homebuilt system
June 18, 2010 2:15:29 AM

As far as the main components go, that's roundabouts what my HTPC is. And it's handled everything I've ever thrown at it.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 18, 2010 3:02:31 AM



This has a much better motherboard manufacturer, the case is better and the PSU is from a good brand, and it's modular.

It's about $100 over your budget though.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 18, 2010 8:59:49 PM

For the case we're using the cooler master elite 360. I got it for like $30, that would save a bunch on that list of stuff.
!