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Thread: HTPC uses?

  1. #1

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    Jan 2010

    Default HTPC uses?

    I got an extra PC from my parents and don't want it to go to waste but I don't know what I can really do with it in my home theater. I was planning on just using it as a music server to connect with the other computers itunes libraries on my network.

    Its an older dell computer with only a 60 gig hard drive, pentium 4 2.8ghz, 512mb ram. My tv (panny s1 plasma) and receiver (onkyo 807) don't have a VGA input so i'll have to use s-video. I can upgrade some components if it would be worth while but I don't know what I would really use it for... Whenever i watch downloaded videos i just bit torrent them then transfer to ipod then play though ps3 so it wouldn't benefit me there.

    Any other uses for it let me know.
    HT basement room:
    TV- 42in Panasonic S1 Plasma
    A/V Receiver- Onkyo NR807
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  2. #2

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    Jun 2004
    Live Free or Die


    Unfortunately "Ghz" and "MB RAM" don't tell nearly the whole story anymore, but I'm doubting it could do full HTPC duty if it's that old. If you already have a way to get video to your PC, barely seems worth the effort to me to try and retrofit something which may or may not do the job well.
    If you will it, dude, it is no dream.

  3. #3

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    chicagoland, IL


    I think you're going to have a hard time using it in your home theater for anything other than music. You certainly won't be getting any 1080p playback worth watching and even 720 is going to be rough. Also that hard drive is pretty tiny, I'd say if you stick a new HD in it, use it as a media server like you mentioned.
    design is where science and art break even.

  4. #4

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    Mar 2005


    HTPC is more hassle than it's worth. If all you're looking to do is stream music, look at something like a squeezebox. For video, check out sagetv. I'm a big believer in keeping the computer in a back closet as a server, and then hooking up tcp/ip devices as extender hardware in your home theater.
    Good music, a good source, and good power can make SDA's sing. Tubes make them dance.

  5. #5

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    Rockledge, Florida


    I would think a HTPC maybe worth the trouble, if you like to call it that. But saying that I would suggest Win 7 OS and I don't feel what you got would work at all.

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  6. #6

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    Peterborough Ontario, Canada


    I don't see any reason it couldn't be networked and used as a NAS box. If you have a DLNA compliant device like some Sony bluray player. You would need to add some larger drives. Now it will depend on the motherboard chipset as to how large a drive it will recognize but if it will see 1 terabyte drives it could work for this purpose. There is software out there IE: Freenas that can be loaded. This software has a built in bittorrent dowloader as well as HTTP and FTP serever capabilities.

    I know someone who has used a P4 box for this use. Anyway, food for thought.

    "They're always talking about my drinking, but never mention my thirst" Oscar Wilde

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  7. #7

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    Hot Springs,Arkanasas


    I have used a pc running win7 32 bit using a P4 3.4 ghz with 2 gb ram and it was able to run windows media center just fine. Video was a gforce 6600gt using a DVI to HDMI cable.

  8. #8

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    Jun 2010
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Default HTPC upgraditis...

    Quote Originally Posted by keeneyrm01 View Post
    It?s an older dell computer with only a 60 gig hard drive, pentium 4 2.8ghz, 512mb ram. My tv (panny s1 plasma) and receiver (onkyo 807) don't have a VGA input so i'll have to use s-video. I can upgrade some components if it would be worthwhile but I don't know what I would really use it.
    I revived an old P4 2.6 gig pc, and was using it for HTPC duty before snarfing a discarded core2duo from work. Your mileage may vary, but you might be able to extend the life of that dell.

    My office pc is a homebuilt 2.6Ghz P4, 3 gigs of ram, Asus 3650 AGP video card with 512mb, HT Omega Striker Sound card, LG HD DVD/BD combo drive, and close to 3 terabytes of storage. Running Windows 7. When this computer was in my living room, I took the video to the DVI input of my TV, and the audio out to my Onkyo 806 on a piece of digital coax. I was able to play back my backed up BD content with no problem from this box. The newer dell has a low profile Radeon HD 5450 that sends both audio and video over my network to my receiver via hdmi.

    Upgrade the physical memory of the computer. 512mb is barely enough to run XP. Since it is an older pc, memory could be pricey. 2 gigs or more is better.

    Upgrade the video card with 512 to 1 gig of ram, one that is HDCP compliant, and has a DVI out. S-video from a pc does not look that great. You can pick up an inexpensive DVI to HDMI cable from Monoprice. My guess is that your motherboard has an AGP slot, perhaps even a pci express slot. It would help if I had the model number of your dell and service tag so I could look up the configuration of your computer.

    Plop in a big hard drive. If this dell has SATA connectors, stick a 1tb drive in that box. You?d be surprised how quickly you can fill that drive with BD content! If no onboard SATA connector, then shop for a PCI SATA controller card. IDE drives in larger capacities are becoming difficult to find.

    Find a sound card with a coax or optical digital output - take the output to your Onkyo so you can enjoy Dolby Digital and DTS surround.

    Upgrade to Windows 7.

    Examples of Newegg prices

    PNY Optima 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR - $53.99

    SAPPHIRE 100288L Radeon HD 4650 1GB 128-bit DDR2 AGP 8X HDCP Ready Video Card -$79.99
    (This card needs its own power source)

    SYBA SD-SATA-1E1I PCI SATA Controller Card - $13.99

    DIAMOND XtremeSound XS71 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Interface Sound Card - $29.99

    HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.C HDS721010CLA332 (0F10383) 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $54.99

    Microsoft Windows 7 - $109.99


    6ft 28AWG HDMI DVI Cable w / Ferrite Cores ? Black - $3.71

    Total before shipping: $351.65

    Is it worth upgrading? Another option would be the WD TV Live Hub. Has a terabyte of storage, plays just about anything, for $200.

    Hope this helps. Good luck!
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