Sunday, January 1, 2012

How To: Create an HTPC - (Part 1 - Intro)

   What is an HTPC ?  HTPC stands for Home Theater Personal Computer.  It's just a fancy name for a computer or laptop that is used to view your movies, pictures, music, live TV, etc. on your TV.  Below I describe my setup and what problems I ran into.

I wanted an HTPC that would fit my needs:

•  Powerful enough to watch the latest movies at 1080p
•  Energy efficient - (since it'll be on almost 24/7)
•  Sleek Modern Interface
•  Quiet
•  Fast boot and resume
•  Wirelessly play media from my iPhone
•  And play a few games

XBMC 11.0 "Eden" w/ MQ3 Skin


PART 1 - Intro
PART 2 - Hardware
PART 3 - Software
PART 4 - Organize Media Files
PART 5 - Optional Addons

Software I Used:
•  Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) OS
•  XBMC 11 "Eden" with Aeon MQ3 skin - (Free) (other options are: Plex, Boxee)
•  Shairport 4 Windows (optional) - (Free) (allows you to wirelessly play your music from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch)
•  UltraVNC - (Free) (allows you to control your HTPC remotely)

iPhone Apps (optional):
•  Constellation (Free) - Used to Turn on HTPC, Control XBMC, Shutdown PC
•  Hippo Remote Lite (Free) - Used as a wireless mouse & keyboard

Android Apps (optional):
•  XBMC Official App (Free)

I didn't have a spare PC or laptop that was powerful enough, so I built a new one.

Hardware I Used:
•  Motherboard: MSI H67MS-E43 (micro ATX size) ($50)
•  Processor: 2.6GHz Intel Pentium G620 w/ built in GPU, LGA1155, 65Watts ($70)
•  RAM: DDR3 8GB 1333MHz ($45)
•  Video Card (optional): nVidia GT520, 30Watts ($14) (the G620 cpu I chose has a built-in gpu already, but for $14 I couldn't pass it up. Use a better card if you plan on playing the latest video games.)
•  Hard Drive: 500MB Seagate SATA II (had a spare laying around)
•  Blu-ray drive (optional): Asus BW-12B1ST ($80) (my sound system already has a blu-ray drive so just had to put a spare DVD drive in to install the OS and other software)
•  Power Supply: 275 Watts (included w/ case)
•  Case: Apex DM-387 (micro ATX size - 13"H x 4"W x 16"D) ($50)
•  TV Tuner Card (optional): Hauppauge 2250 Dual Tuner ($95) (for watching & recording live TV on your HTPC)

Total Price: ~ $325


   1) Build your HTPC or use a spare PC or laptop.

B) OS Set up (Windows 7 (64-bit):

   1) Power Settings - I wanted my HTPC to go to Sleep after being idle for 15 min, then Hibernate after 30 min.  This way after 15 min. I can quickly resume it, but if I leave for 30 minutes or more, I'm not using any electricity and saving money.  You can adjust your times to your preference.

Sleep Mode = Data remains in memory, everything else powers down, uses small amount of electricity, fast resume time (~5 sec.) If power is lost you will lose any unsaved data.

Hibernate Mode = Data written from memory to hard drive, everything powers down, no electricity used, moderate resume time (~45 sec.) If power is lost, you won't lose any data.

Hybrid Mode = Same as Sleep Mode, but the data in memory is also written to the hard drive, so that if you lose power you will not lose any data.

        a) Click Start button and type "power"

        b) Click "Power Options"

         c) To the right of "Balanced (recommended)", click "Change plan settings".


        d) (optional) Change "Turn off the display" to "Never"

        e) Click "Change advanced power settings"

        f) Change "Require a password on wakeup" to "No"

        g) Change "Sleep after" to 15 minutes

        h) Change "Allow hybrid sleep" to "On"

        i) Change "Hibernate after" to 30 minutes

        j) (optional) Change "Allow wake timers" to "Disable"

        k) Click "OK" and then "Save Changes"

  2)  Auto-Start XBMC - This will automatically load XBMC everytime Windows boots up.

PART 1 - Intro
PART 2 - Hardware
PART 3 - Software
PART 4 - Organize Media Files
PART 5 - Optional Addons

Have a problem, question or comment ? Let me know below.

1 comment:

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