Choosing Your HTPC Software
Your HTPC software options will be determined by which operating system your computer will be running. In this section, we'll look at the best media center software on offer for each of the main PC platforms.
Windows Media Center has come a long way since its rather shaky beginnings, and is now incorporated into the full versions of Windows 7, rather than as a stand-alone operating system. Windows Media Center features great integration with your media libraries, a well designed and TV-friendly interface as well as Digital TV recording and playback functionality. If your computer is running Windows, then Windows Media Center will more than meet your needs, and has the added flexibility of plugin support.
Mac OS X
If you're using an Apple Mac, OS X also comes with a built in media center program called Front Row. Front Row is very easy to use on a television, and shares interface elements with the Apple TV stand-alone media player. However, Front Row does have some drawbacks which will mean that you will need to purchase additional software. Front Row doesn't support Digital TV recording, so a third-party program such as Elgato's EyeTV will be necessary to use a TV tuner. Front Row also essentially acts as a front-end for Apple software such as iTunes and iPhoto, and you will need to use those to organize your media collections.
Using Linux as the basis of your HTPC system will require some technical understanding, and support for issues that arise may be more difficult to find. However, running a Linux system comes with the advantages of massive customization options and, of course, the fact that Linux is free. There are whole Linux operating systems devoted to HTPC use, such as Mythbuntu, which are available for the price of a blank CD-R.