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HTPC Guide

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The Parts - An Overview

The majority of you already know what goes into a computer, but there are a few extra considerations to make when it comes to building an HTPC that you might not normally think about. Things like noise and temperature begin to play a huge part in its operation, as well as physical size. When it comes to the components, you first need to examine what your use for this computer will be. Some may be building a brand new system, but you may be constrained by using spare parts you already own and coupling them with a few new ones to complete the system. Keep in mind you might be limited in functionality depending on the components you choose. Some of the typical uses of an HTPC are listed below, and depending on your needs this will greatly affect the cost and components of your project.

  • back up your music collection
  • use as a TiVo or DVR box to record live broadcasts
  • DVD/Blu Ray player
  • back up your movie collection
  • de-interlacer and digital scaler
  • HDTV tuner
  • gaming console
  • run as a home server for movies and music
  • and pretty much anything else you want!

These all have an impact on what goes in your HTPC - if you intend to store your entire DVD collection you will need a number of large hard disks. If you want to run ffdshow in the background with a de-interlacer or digital scalar, you'll need a powerful processor. If you are going to play Blu-Ray disks, you'll need a discrete graphics card. I'll discuss each component individually and make suggestions depending on your needs and budget. The list below shows the parts I will discuss in the order I'll do so.

  • processor
  • heat sink
  • memory
  • graphics card
  • sound card
  • tuner card
  • hard disk(s)
  • optical drive(s)
  • motherboard
  • power supply
  • computer case

I will examine each of these in more detail in the following pages. You may be somewhat surprised to see the motherboard so low on the list. Most of the time you'll see that as one of the defining criteria for a computer, especially on a performance-oriented site such as OCC. However, in the case of an HTPC the motherboard must meet the criteria that the other components define. Such things as SATA ports and PCI slots as well as layout of the board become critical as opposed to minor annoyances. More on that later.

I attempt to use Newegg and OCC links wherever possible as the majority of users will be able to utilize these fantastic e-tailers. However, many other vendors support these products overseas as well. If you don't live in the United States, chances are you'll still be able to utilize my recommendations. Keep in mind that prices change over time and some products may not even be available any longer. If this is the case, let me or another OCC staff member know so that it can be removed from the list. I realize that a lot of people reading this probably know a lot about building a computer already, but I have tried to make this guide suitable for all skill levels. There are a lot of people coming here with a very basic knowledge. I want those of you new to computer building to give this a shot! It's a great way to get the most out of your money while gaining valuable knowledge at the same time. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the forum.

Alright guys, let's start by talking about the processor.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Parts - An Overview
  3. Processor
  4. Processor (cont'd)
  5. Processor - Overclocking
  6. CPU Heat Sink
  7. Memory
  8. Graphics Card
  9. Graphics Card (cont'd)
  10. Sound Card
  11. HD Tuner Card
  12. Hard Drives
  13. Optical Drives
  14. Motherboard
  15. Motherboard (cont'd)
  16. Power Supply
  17. HTPC Case
  18. Final Thoughts
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