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How To Build a Budget Media Center PC and HD-DVR: Page 2 of 6

Introduction By Matt Whitlock

What You Need

The Hardware Components You'll Need

Unless you have aspirations to play Battlefield 3 on your Media Center PC, there's no need for the latest and greatest components. In fact, my current HTPC was built from an older Core 2 Duo machine I replaced about a year ago stuffed into a new case with a few additional parts. If you've got a serviceable machine laying around that's a few years old, it could make a great Media Center PC with minimal investment.

If buying new, there's no need to look at the top-end of most components; the additional power will never be noticed (other than on your electric bill).

At minimum, a Media Center PC contains the following:

  • Case
  • Power Supply
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • Cooler
  • RAM
  • Tuner (either internal or external)
  • Remote

The Software

Allow me to thwart off the trolls for a moment by acknowledging that there are more DVR software options than just Windows Media Center, like GB-PVR and MythTV. Down the road we may cover these solutions in a bit more depth, but for now Windows Media Center is more accessible, better supported (by PC-DVR standards), and easier to set up.

To get Windows Media Center, you'll need to purchase a licensed (OEM or retail) copy of Windows 7 Home Premium or higher. Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft will no longer be bundling Windows Media Center (and many other media functions) directly in the OS. If Windows 8 is your base OS, you'll need Windows 8 Pro and the Windows Media Center Add-On (pricing is unknown as of this writing).

Other software you may want to download and install:

About the Author

Matt Whitlock's picture

Matt Whitlock is online director and technical editor for

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