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Tips on Building a HTPC

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/13/2010

Modern day computers are multimedia ready even at the entry level. You have enough juice to play back your video or audio files. However, if you want a PC which rivals a home theatre system, you will need to pay attention to specific areas as mentioned in this article.

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    The first question to be asked is why set up a HTPC system when you can always buy a conventional "hardware" home theater system? You may already know that with a home theater PC (HTPC) system, you run the risk of a system crash. You wouldn’t want to reboot your computer in the middle of watching a riveting movie, would you?

    But then you would want to weigh this "inconvenience" with what many consider a boon – having your favorite video, audio and other multimedia content in one place without having to shuffle discs. Discs take storage space and you also run the risk of scratching them.

    Let’s look at tips that will help you set up a home theatre PC system that meets your requirements.

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    Operating System

    If you’re building a HTPC system for the first time, you could do well to start with Windows 7, Windows XP or Windows Vista with Media Center. It makes organizing your media files and playing them back a painless affair.

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    Even if you do have the budget to buy the fastest processor on the market, you should think twice before doing so. A fast processor means more heat and probably more noise too, things you don’t want in a home theater PC system.

    As a guide, you would need at least a 3.0 Ghz processor if you want to watch high definition video content. A 2.4Ghz processor should suffice if you want to watch SD definition recordings. As you can see, you don’t need a top end processor to make a home theater PC system work.

    If you’re building a new system, then you could opt for a dual core processor to be able to play standard definition and high definition video content.

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    Motherboard/Graphics Card

    If you’re on a budget and want performance for your HTPC system, then you should consider getting an AMD motherboard. Research has shown that AMD motherboards have better integrated graphics compared to their Intel counterparts. Apart from saving cost, their integrated graphics cards take some strain off the processors.

    Whether yours is a dedicated or an integrated graphics card, make sure it comes with an HDMI connection or at least component outputs if you’re planning on viewing high-definition video content.

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    Sound Card

    This is again a personal preference. What kind of sound quality are you looking for? If you buy a good motherboard (an expensive variety) chances are you’ll have an impressive integrated sound card.

    It all depends on what kind of sound output you’re looking for. For good sound quality you should get your sound via a HDMI output or through optical output (S/PDIF).

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    Other Hardware Requirements

    As for RAM and hard disk, it depends on your budget. But these areas are not really an issue as far as budget is concerned because their prices have been steadily dropping. When building a HTPC system, you will want at least 4GB RAM and 1TB of hard disk space.