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:
- Power Supply
- Tuner (either internal or external)
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: