Entertainment is becoming more and more web centralized these days, so the idea of concentrating TV, Internet, digital photos and video games in one site seems very attractive. Building a media PC or a computer specifically designed for use as an audio video center (HTPC) by yourself will save you tons of money compared to buying a pre-made one. This tutorial will show you how to create a media PC.
Method 1 of 3: Purchasing the Right Parts
Step 1. Look closely at the prices
Prices in stores can vary considerably. Find a store that has no problems with returns, as computer components have a high risk of being defective. Therefore, it is better to buy from a company that will replace your damaged components without unnecessary problems.
Step 2. Select a processor
You don't need the most expensive latest generation media PC processor like a gaming PC. You will need one that can handle HD (high definition) videos and movies. Look for a mid-range quad-core processor.
Try using a processor with a low power consumption. It generates less heat, which will help to significantly reduce the noise level of your car
Step 3. Select your motherboard
The choice of the motherboard is usually determined by the selected processor. USB 3.0, Ethernet and Wi-Fi are essential components of a good motherboard. Choose a motherboard with HDMI or DVI connectors, depending on the TV you will be connecting your media PC to. HDMI carries video and audio signals, so if you won't be using this type of connection, look for a board with audio connectors such as SPDIF.
- If you plan on using an SSD (more on that below), make sure your motherboard supports SATA III.
- The size of the motherboard depends on the size of the selected case and vice versa.
Step 4. Purchase RAM
Buying RAM is one of the simplest tasks when building an HTPC (a computer specifically designed for use as an AV center). Since RAM has a pretty high scrap rate, read reviews and make sure you're buying from a reliable store. The pin numbers of the RAM strip must match the numbers on the motherboard. Check the DDR type and frequency are supported by your motherboard.
Nowadays, the cost of RAM is not very high, so choose the highest frequency memory supported by your motherboard. If you want 4 GB, you can install 4 slots of 1 GB or 2 of 2 GB
Step 5. Select a video card (optional)
You need a graphics card if you are going to play games on your HTPC. Most motherboards can handle video playback without installing a graphics card. If you decide to use a graphics card, make sure that the power supply and case allow you to install it.
Step 6. Determine the size of your hard drive
The storage capacity depends on how you intend to use the HTPC. If you will be watching streaming video from the Internet and movies on DVD and Blu-ray, then you do not need a large hard drive. If you will be storing video and music on HTPC, you may need several terabytes of memory. Either way, you need at least 60 GB to install an operating system (OS) and multimedia software.
Consider purchasing a solid state drive (SSD) to install the OS on. They are quiet, consume little power, and offer faster communication speeds than conventional hard drives, which will increase startup speed. However, they are significantly more expensive than conventional hard drives and have less memory
Step 7. Buy an optical drive
Any modern HTPC should be equipped with a Blu-Ray drive. It will allow you to get the best quality video when watching HD (high definition video). Most Blu-ray drives have read speeds of 12x. The optical drive has a high defect rate, so buy it only from reliable manufacturers. Blu-ray drives also read DVDs and CDs.
Step 8. Select the chassis
Now you need an HTPC case. These are horizontal computer cases about the size of a stereo radio. You need to choose a case to achieve a balance between high-quality cooling and quiet operation of the fans. Also make sure that all of your components will fit into the case, but don't go too large, with too much free space.
When purchasing a motherboard and case, check that they are size-compatible. Make sure the fans in the chassis are working well enough; if not, add one to two 120mm fans, which are usually the quietest
Step 9. Select the appropriate power supply unit (PSU)
The wattage of the PSU depends on the components of your HTPC, but if you are not installing a graphics card and are using an SSD, then a PSU with no more than 300 watts should be sufficient. Look for a modular power supply that only accepts the cables you are using. This saves you valuable space inside the case and reduces noise (when using a low-power PSU).
Step 10. Select additional devices
The computer will be easier to control with a wireless mouse and keyboard. There are also Bluetooth or IR based remote control options. You will also need video and audio cables to connect the HTPC to your TV and speaker system.
Method 2 of 3: Build your PC
Step 1. Ground yourself
Static discharge can be devastating to computer components. Check your grounding connection before touching your PC components. If you have an ESD wrist strap, connect the wrist strap to the exposed metal of the case. Don't put your PC on the carpet, and if you're standing up, take off your socks. Do not wear synthetic clothing during assembly.
Step 2. Install the motherboard
To install the motherboard, prepare the case. Place the case on your work surface and open it. Install the motherboard connector panel into the chassis. This panel with holes for all connectors is different for each motherboard.
- Install the motherboard holders. The case will have several screw holes for the motherboard holders. Screw them into the holes that match your motherboard. The motherboard holders are screwed into the holes, and above there is another thread for attaching the motherboard.
- Place the motherboard on the holders. Gently slide the motherboard into the connector panel. Screw it to the holders starting from the connector panel.
- Install the processor. Carefully remove the processor from the package and align the triangle on the processor socket with the triangle marked on the processor.
- Do not touch the processor pins or use force when inserting the processor into the socket.
- Once the processor is inserted, close the retention arm.
- Installing the processor fan. If you purchased your processor at retail, it may already have a cooling fan and thermal paste applied. Otherwise, you will need to apply a layer of thermal paste to the processor yourself before installing the fan.
Step 3. Installing RAM
Align the notch on the RAM bracket with the key in the slot on the motherboard. Press gently on the middle of the plank until you hear a click. Make sure both retention clips snap into place on both sides and hold the RAM bar securely.
Step 4. Installing the hard drive and optical drive
Mounts may be required for installation, depending on the type of enclosure. Make sure the optical drive is flush with the front of the chassis. In some cases, an optional cover is attached to the front of the optical drive.
Step 5. Installing a video card (if necessary)
If you decide to install a graphics card in your HTPC, do so now. Locate the PCI-E slot on your motherboard. It will be a different color and shorter than the other connectors. Carefully insert the video card into the slot and press until it clicks. The back panel should line up with the hole in the back of the case.
Step 6. Installing fans
Most fans have air flow direction indicators. You want one fan to pull in air and the other to pull it out of the chassis. This is the best way to cool your components using fresh, cool air.
Step 7. Connect the motherboard
Before connecting components, connect the chassis connectors to the motherboard. This means connecting the power button pins, power LEDs, any case USB and audio ports, fans, etc. Most motherboards have these connectors marked, but you may need your motherboard user's manual.
Step 8. Install the power supply
Place the power supply into the niche and secure with screws. Connect the appropriate power connectors to your PC components. Make sure all installed components, including the motherboard, are connected correctly. If you have a modular power supply, connect only the cables that you will be using. Otherwise, hide unnecessary cables.
Step 9. Connecting components
Connect the hard drive and optical drive to the motherboard using SATA cables. Hide excess cables and make sure that nothing is interfering with the operation of the fans.
Step 10. Close the case
Well-designed housing improves internal airflow. Make sure the case is tightly closed and avoid operating the PC with an open case.
Step 11. Connect HTPC to TV
Using an HDMI cable or DVI cable with SPDIF adapter, connect the HTPC to the TV. Be sure to select the correct input on the TV when using HTPC.
Method 3 of 3: Launch HTPC
Step 1. OS installation
Once you've finished assembling your PC, it's time to start installing the software to turn it into a true media center. First, you need an operating system (OS). Windows is the most common choice. Depending on your preference, choose Windows 7 or 8. If you have more than 4GB of RAM, install Windows 64-bit to use all the extra memory. If you are tech-savvy, consider installing a free alternative - Linux. It can handle all the HTPC functions as well, but the Linux interface is not as easy for the user as Windows.
Step 2. Connect to your home network
To start streaming web content - Netflix and Hulu, connect the HTPC to the network using Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
Step 3. Install the media player
Windows comes with a media player already installed, but it doesn't play a few of the major video formats you download. If you are using HTPC to view downloaded media files, you will need a good media player to view more complex file formats. There are currently several suitable free media players available online.