“Building a HTPC is fun and Easy!”
Think building your own computer is too complicated?
Building a HTPC for your home theater is one of the smartest and easiest projects you can try.
Here’s some useful information to help you complete a PC build better, faster, and easier.
Where should you start ?
Choose a CPU brand.
Choosing the Processor or CPU – Building a HTPC that Costs Less:
The processor of any computer is what gives a PC the power to do calculations.
To see a full how to article with step by step instructions for building a HTPC go to HTPC build.
There are several brands of processors, but I will only talk about the two most popular; Intel and Athlon.
Intel Processors win the award for being the most popular and well known CPU’s available.
Intel is usually on the cutting edge of processor technology. They usually have the fastest processors too.
However, they are not shy about charging for this technology advantage and therefore are not always the best value. But if outright performance is what you crave then pick the fastest Intel processor you can find. (hint -they can cost over $1000.00 USD)
Athlon Processors win the award of the greatest value. Athlon has some outstanding CPU’s available with very high performance.
They may not keep pace with some of the best from Intel but they come remarkably close and for a fraction of the price. If it were my money to spend I would go for Athlon 9 out of 10 times. Their value is difficult to beat.
Choosing a processor speed is important as the type of work your PC does will determine how much processing power you need.
If you do any gaming you would probably benefit from a 2, 3, or 4 core processor.
There are even 6 and 8 core processors available for hard core gamers and other high performance uses such as graphics editing software.
Building A HPTC? Determine your needs for This PC now:
The motherboard is a circuit board that all of your computer components plug into.
The external video card, CPU, power supply unit – PSU, memory RAM, DVD drives, and hard drives all connect and communicate through the motherboard.
The motherboard is a critical component and deserves as much thought as any other component in the PC.
The motherboard is also where you plug your keyboard, mouse, external drives, sound card, video card, and everything else into.
Example: I use my PC to pipe video and audio into my home theater.
And one of the things I need is a digital output that will output 44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k, and 192k digital signals.
I need it to do this so that I can loop it back into the external audio card and apply room correction within the PC. So having a built in audio card that can output these signals is key for my setup.
There can be other considerations also; such as how much memory expansion will you need in the future?
How Much RAM is enough?
4GB of memory may be enough now, but your system may run better in a few years if you had 8GB or 16GB of memory. As files continue to become larger and more complex the needs and demands on the computer will increase naturally over time.
What equipment do you intend to connect to your home theater computer? You will want to be sure the motherboard has all the connections you demand for your home theater system and gaming systems.
In some situations (such as gaming) you may need to install a separate video card.
These offer higher performance than the on-board graphics card and will not use processing power and RAM to perform the video functions. Your computer will run faster if the processor is not needed to perform video functions.
Video cards can also be much more powerful than the on board graphics cards that are built into the motherboard.
Although this will depend on the quality of motherboard built in graphics and the quality of separate graphics card in consideration.
Choosing a Motherboard and CPU – Building A HTPC:
AMD processors have AM2, AM2+, and AM3 processor sockets. Intel processors and motherboards have their own numbers like socket 775, 1336 and so on.
You will need to get a motherboard that has the specific socket type of your processor or vice versa.
I like to choose my CPU type first such as; Athlon AM3 socket type processor, 3.2GHz x4 or a 3.2 GHz Quad Core processor. Then I know that I need an AM3 motherboard.
Another factor you will need to decide on; the type of RAM you will use.
DDR2 and DDR3 ram are not interchangeable on a motherboard. It is true that a few motherboards have support for both types of RAM but they are limited to only two slots. So out of 4 slots 2 are for DDR2 RAM and 2 slots are for DDR3 RAM.
And no, you cannot use both at the same time. You have to use either DDR2 or DDR3, so you can never fill up all the RAM slots on the motherboard. Basically, this means that you have a maximum of 8GB (two 4GB sticks available for upgrade) whereas a MOBU (motherboard) with 4 slots each may have up to 16GB of RAM capability.
At this time both DDR2 and DDR3 RAM are available to buy. DDR3 RAM is the new standard and has the potential to operate at higher speed (MHz) than DDR2 RAM. As DDR3 RAM becomes more common its prices are likely to drop and DDR2 RAM prices will probably get higher (this is what happened to DDR1 RAM).
So if you are building a HTPC now, the best choice is probably DDR3 RAM. If you are only upgrading your RAM you may be stuck with DDR2 which is by no means bad. But remember you can always upgrade a few parts of your PC at a time.
For Example; you could buy a new motherboard with DDR3 RAM slots. This would allow you to keep your current CPU and other components and only upgrade the memory (RAM to DDR3) and motherboard.
This can be a cost effective way to fine tune your Home Theater Personal Computer and Home theater system without dropping coin on an all new PC.
Summary – Building a HTPC:
Choosing the right components when building a HTPC is not hard. It just takes a bit of time and reading. My favorite source for buying PC parts is Newegg. They clearly mark the type of part you are looking at and even offer suggestions that may work well together.
When you have chosen your CPU and motherboard and know why you need them the rest is easy.
Your RAM (memory) plays an important role in how fast your PC will respond to your demands and should be given at least as much consideration as the processor. Be sure to buy the most RAM your budget allows and also make sure the motherboard has room for future expansion.
The OS or operating system is largely a matter of choice but know that there are excellent software packages included in the new Win 7 Pro software package. I’ve used this OS on 3 of my latest PC builds and have been really happy with it.
Building a HTPC is fun and not difficult. The actual assembly of the parts is much simpler than it looks. The wires and plugs really only go in one location on the board and are generally clearly marked. (although sometimes a magnifying glass is useful)
Using the PC in a home theater makes too much sense to ignore. The PC is capable of doing so many things with entertainment that it seems silly not to be included in any home theater plan.