Windows 7 Home Theater PC (HTPC)

1

Advantages

  • Can watch any online media source because users have access to the the latest browsers
  • Can playback almost any video source
  • Expandable storage by adding a hard drive or setting up home media server
  • Capable of Blu-Ray playback with a Blu-Ray drive, decent video card and some third party software
  • If the user has a tuner card Windows Media Center can be configured to be used as a DVR
2

Disadvantages

  • Can be complex to setup and use
  • A windows license can be expensive
  • Third party Blu-Ray software can be expensive
  • Not the easiest interface to use from the couch
3

Third Party Software

Software NameFeaturesLatest stable release dateLatest stable version Cost USD
TotalMedia Theatre 5 Platinum DVD Playback (with upscaling), hardware acceleration (ATI Stream and nVidia Cuda), Blu-ray playback as well as many other video formats. November 18, 2010 5.0.1.80 $89.99 
AC3Filter Allows playback of multi channel audio in Windows media player. August 11, 2009  1.63b  Free
Haali Media Splitter Allows playback of .mkv (Matroska) files. These are a common format of Torrent files. August 8, 2010 Unknown Free
VLC Plays back many different file types. A great fallback player if non of your other media players can playback a file. August 27, 2010 1.1.4 Free
uTorrent Downloads torrents, this is a common way to get free video on the internet. Please do not download illegal content. October 11, 2010 (uTorrent) 2.0.4 Free

Adobe Flash Player

Used mostly to playback video on web sites, such as Hulu and Youtube. August 12, 2010 (Adobe)

10.1.82

Free
iTunes Great for podcasts and music management. September 24, 2010 (Wikipedia) 10.0.1 Free
hulu Desktop An application to view hulu on your desktop. unknown unknown Free
Boxee A multi purpose media player that will playback many different types of video and audio. It can also be extended to view video on Netflix, Revision3 and many other sites. unknown unknown Free
AnyDVD HD Rip DVD's or Blu-ray disks to your hard drive for later viewing. This will get rid of disk drive noise for users concerned with drive noise. Note that backing up copyrighted DVDs is illegal, don't do it. August 30, 2010 6.6.8.3 $64.89
CoreAVC The best h.264 decoder. Allows for great playback of h.264 and x.264 (the video format most torrents come in) video. It also supports nVidia Cuda hardware acceleration. December 2009 2.0 $9.95
4

Using the Desktop as an Interface

With a few tweaks the Windows 7 desktop makes a great home theater pc interface. The first step is to enlarge the desktop icons by changing the view to large. Secondly you can change your computers DPI settings so that everything in Windows appears larger. Once all of that's done you can setup high resolution icons for you desktop.

4.1

Large Desktop Icons

There are two options you can use to make your desktop icons appear larger, without reducing the screens resolution. The first step is to set the desktop view to Large icons. Once that's done you can additionally change the DPI to make the icons large. Note, that changing the DPI will also make the rest of Windows 7 larger too.

4.1.1

Setting desktop view to large icons

Before:

After:

Right click anywher on the desktop, select View and then click on Large icons.

4.1.2

Changing the DPI

Changing the DPI can help to make images and text bigger and thus easier to read from the couch.

Before:

After:

First, hit the Windows key on your keyboard or click on the Windows button and then type display and hit enter.

Set your DPI to 150%, this will make it much easier to read text from your couch.

Hit the Apply button and then click Log off now to apply the changes.

 

4.1.4

Adding Internet Shortcuts to the Desktop

Using the Internet Explorer browser, navigate to the site you want to create a shortcut for. Once you're on the desired site, drag the little icon at the left of the address bar to the desktop.

Don't worry about the ugly low resolution icon, we'll replace it later with a nicer looking high resolution icon.

4.1.5

Adding High Resolution Icons for HTPC Applications

4.1.5.2

Change Desktop Icons

Right click on the icon you want to change and click Properties.

Next, click on Change Icon.

Click the Browse button.

Navigate and find the icon you want and double click on it.

Click OK.

Click OK one more time and you'll have you new icon for your desktop.

4.1.6

Adding High Resolution Desktop Icons for Video Websites

4.1.6.1

Download High Resolution .ico Files

Below is a table of high resolution icons. If it doesn't contain the icons you need here is a site that can convert regular image files into icons.

Website Shortcuts
Website NameCustom high resolution .ico (right click on the download link and click Save Target As...)ico ResolutionScreen shot of the icon in use on the desktop. (Don't download these pictues, they're just regular picture files to give you a preview of what the icon will look like.)
Netflix.com Netflix.ico 256 x 256
Youtube Youtube.ico 256 x 256
Hulu hulu.ico 256 x 256
Revision3 revision3.ico 256 x 256
ThisWeekIn thisweekin-logo.ico 256 x 256  
History Channel historychannel.ico 256 x 256  
South Park south-park-logo.ico 256 x 256  
TV Land tv-land-logo-2009.ico 256 x 256  
4.1.6.2

Change Desktop Icons

Right click on the icon you want to change and click Properties.

Next, click on Change Icon.

Click the Browse button.

Navigate and find the icon you want and double click on it.

Click OK.

Click OK one more time and you'll have you new icon for your desktop.

5

Disable startup and shutdown sounds

Startup and shutdown sounds can be annoying if you have your computer hooked up to a loud sound system.

Next, go to the Sounds tab.

Once in the sounds tab scroll down Program Events: until you see Windows Logoff and Windows Logon.

Select each of these and then select (None) from the Sounds: drop down box. Also, make sure to uncheck Play Windows Startup sound. Once this is done you can then click OK to finalize the changes.

6

Wireless input devices (remotes, keyboards and mice)

6.1

Using a mobile device as a mouse and keyboard

6.1.1

Using an iPhone as a keyboard and mouse

Application Name Last Updated Cost
Air Mouse Pro Aug 04, 2010 $1.99
6.1.2

Using an iPad as a keyboard and mouse

Application Name Last Updated Cost
Air Mouse Pro June 9, 2010 $2.99
6.1.3

Using an Android device as a keyboard and mouse

Application Name Last Updated Cost
REMOTEDROID June 9, 2010 Free
7

Movie and television torrent sites

Please only use these sites for not copyrighted materials.
Site Name Public Television Shows Movies Video Quality
EZTV Yes Yes No Average
Bit-HDTV No Yes Yes Great
8

HTPC Hardware

8.1

Silent Video Cards

BrandModelChipset ManufacturerGPUSilentHDMIDVID-SUBHDCP NVIDIA CUDAATI StreamPCI Slots UsedNumber of Reviews on NeweggAverage Newegg reviewPrice on Newegg with Shipping
SPARKLE SFPX95GT1024U2H NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes (NVIDIA) No 2 110 4/5 $54.99
PowerColor AX5450 ATI Radeon HD 5450 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes (AMD) 1 80 4/5 $42.98
8.2

TV Tuner Cards

BrandModelInterfaceATSC Tuner (Used for Over the Air Broadcast)ClearQAM (Used for Unscrambled Digital Cable Channels)Manufacturer Warranty LengthNumber of Reviews on NeweggAverage Review on NeweggNewegg Price with Shipping
Hauppauge 1196 PCI-Express x1 Yes Yes 2 Years 192 4/5 $57.55
KWorld UB435-Q USB 2.0 Yes Yes 1 Year 440 4/5 $29.99
8.3

Blu-Ray Drives

Brand Model BD-ROM Read Speed DVD ROM Read SpeedWrite DVDsWrite CDs Newegg Price with Shipping
LITE-ON iHOS104-08 4X 8X No No $57.98
ASUS BR-04B2T 4X 8X No No $63.98
LITE-ON iHES108-29 8X 16X No No $77.55
SAMSUNG SH-B123L 12X 16X Yes Yes $69.99
LITE-ON iHES208-08 8X 16X Yes No $71.98
8.4

ATSC (Over the air Television) Antennas

BrandModelDirectionalIndoorOutdoorBuilt in AmplifierUHFVHFNumber of Reviews on AmazonAverage Review on AmazonPrice with Shipping on AmazonNumber of Reviews on NeweggAverage Review on NeweggPrice with Shipping on Newegg
Terk Technology HDTVi Yes Yes No No Yes Yes 249 3.6/5 $27.49 26 4/5 $32.98
RCA ANT111 No Yes No No Yes Yes 92 3.9/5 $9.69 0 N/A $14.68
8.5

Fanless Power Supplies

ModelBrandMax WattsWarranty (years)Newegg Review AverageNewegg Price with Shipping
ZEN 400 FSP Group 400 3 4/5

$124.99

SS-400FL Active PFC F3 SeaSonic 400 5 5/5

$144.18

X-460 Fanless SeaSonic 460 5 4/5

$164.17

9

Network Attached Storage (NAS) / Media Server Options

9.1

Comparison of Home Media Servers

Platform NameSetup Difficulty Single Drive Failure RedundancyTwo Drive Failure Redundancy Redundancy Method Drive Limit Windows 7 networkable Mac OS X networkable Software PriceHardware PriceTotal Price
Linux Hard Yes Yes (with FlexRAID, Greyhole or RAID 6) FlexRAID, GreyHole, Software RAID 1, 5, 6 or 10 Hardware dependent  Yes Yes Free    
Windows XP with RAID 5 hack Medium Yes No Software RAID 1, 5 Hardware dependent Yes Yes      
Windows Home Server Medium Yes Yes (with FlexRAID) "duplication" feature or FlexRAID Hardware dependent Yes Yes $94.99    
unRAID Plus Unknown Yes No UnRAID's Proprietary method 6 Unknown Unknown $69    
Drobo with DroboShare Easy Yes No BeyondRAID 4 Yes Yes Free $562.18 (Amazon.com Price) $562.18
Drobo FS Easy Yes Yes BeyondRAID 5 Yes Yes Free $651.76(Amazon.com Price) $651.76
9.2

Home Media Server / Network Attached Storage (NAS) Tutorials

9.3

Home Server Hardware

9.3.1

Expansion Cards

BrandModelCard TypeRAID SupportRAID TypeInternal SATA PortsExternal SATA PortsSATA Transfer RateIDE PortsNumber of Newegg reviewsNewegg average reviewQuirks Price
MASSCOOL XWT-RC018 PCI No  N/A 2 1 1.5 Gbps 1 41 4/5 None $15.99
VANTEC UGT-IS100R PCI Express Yes 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD and individual modes 2 2 3.0 Gbps 1 9 3/5 None $26.99
VANTEC UGT-ST310R PCI Yes RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, JBOD and Individual modes 4 2 1.5 Gbps No 5 5/5 Only 4 of the SATA ports can be activated. The desired ports can be activated by switching a jumper on the card. $31.99
9.3.2

Motherboards

Motherboard Manufacturer Model Number Inter or AMD SATA Ports Newegg Price
ASUS Maximus III Formula Intel 10 $164.99
ASUS P7P55D Deluxe Intel 9 $179.99
EVGA 132-BL-E758-RX Intel 9 $129.99
MSI P55-CD53 Intel 8 $109.99
9.3.3

Cases

3.5" Bays Newegg Price
9.3.4

Convert 5.25" bays to 3.5" Hard drive bays

Brand Model Number Price on Amazon with Shipping
Thermaltake iDrive A2309 $31.16
9.3.5

Hard Drives

Drive Name Capacity Drive RPM Newegg Price with shipping Price Per Gigabyte Number of Newegg Reviews Newegg Average review
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB 7200 $69.99 $0.069 112 4/5
Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARS 1TB 5400 $59.99 $0.059    
SAMSUNG EcoGreen F2 HD103SI 1TB 5400 $69.99 $0.069    
Seagate Barracuda LP ST31000520AS 1TB 5900 $71.99 $0.071    
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 1TB 7200 $74.99 $0.074 868 4/5
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALS 1TB 7200 $74.99 $0.074 187 4/5
SAMSUNG EcoGreen F2 HD154UI 1.5TB Unknown $79.99 $0.053 446 4/5
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 HD204UI 2TB 5400 $94.99 $0.047 19 5/5
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB Unknown $119.99 $0.059 338 4/5
10

Playing Console Games

10.1

Playing Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games on Windows 7

10.1.2

USB Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Controllers

PictureBrandNameCord LengthInterfaceNumber of Reviews on AmazonAverage Review on AmazonPrice on Amazon with Shipping
Hyperkin NES Retro Classic Controller USB Unknown USB 29 3.3/5 $14.48
Retro Motion Classic USB Super Nintendo Controller for PC 5 ft. USB 47 3.5/5 $19.11
    Classic USB NES Controller for PC Unknown USB 37 4.5/5 $18.48
11

Speaker Stands

Brand Price on Amazon with Shipping
Atlantic Satellite $49.99
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