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OS Recommendations for Building a new Home HTPC

Hey there Tom's Hardware forum. This is my first post here. I am about 15 years removed from custom building machines and I know a lot has changed.

I would like to build a new PC for my house. The primary role will be home theater (kodi), but also as a central depository for our (me and wife) movie & music collection, family photos, general NAT storage. Also would like to use this for a new home control software package (Homeseer or Indigo depending on OS) and home surveillance recording (NVR).

Unit will be rack mounted in my home theater setup and headless. Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and HDMI out (video and audio) to my reciever. I have 4 spaces available, but if this takes the place of my blue ray player, I now have 6.

For one, not settled on any software yet, what operating system would you use? I know Windows has come a long way in 15 years and back then I would have never even considered it. I am still concerned that it will be too top heavy. My laptop is an Apple and I have considered a custom OSX build, but I have seen an staggering increase in reliability issues on their ecosystem in recent years. For example, my AppleTV drops signal all the time, or laptops can't see them...and my network is all hardwired in. My wife has a new surface book that also complicates that approach.

No games or photo editing on the new PC; we will do that on our laptops.

My primary interface will be using either AppleTV or Roku devices at each TV, probably using Kodi. The other software would be accessed using Apps. If I build everything well enough, there should be no reason to access the device except for setup and maintenance. I was always interested in Lixux but never pulled the trigger on it. I want something streamlined and stable (and secure). My degree is in civil engineering however, not computer science. I don't mind doing a little work on the front end, but compiling kernals and software is out of my league. I also need the end product to be idiot proof for my wife, kids, relatives and double idiot proof for the in-laws.

I'm a little removed form (and greatly miss) my PC building days and am completely new to the HTPC arena (outside the Apple Ecosystem) Please let me know what you think, OS, software, hardware recommendations. I plan to spend a few months getting all my ducks in a row before I actually purchase anything.

Chris
14 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about recommendations building home htpc
  1. What is your max budget for it.
  2. Haven't set one yet, but let's assume $1,000, including a decent sized SSD and a 4 to 6 TB hard drive.
  3. Here is the list:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel Core i7-7700 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($309.49 @ OutletPC)
    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i 33.8 CFM CPU Cooler ($37.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Asus PRIME B250M-A Micro ATX LGA1151 Motherboard ($84.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Memory: Team Dark 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory ($84.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Crucial MX300 525GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($139.99 @ B&H)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($83.99 @ Amazon)
    Case: Silverstone GD08B (Black) HTPC Case ($138.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA G3 650W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($89.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($46.88 @ OutletPC)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Total: $1059.26
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2017-02-02 03:32 EST-0500

    It can handle anything you throw at it.

    CPU comes with a decent cooler but I provided a more silent one.

    I also included 4 Fans which are silent and provide good airflow. Case comes with 3 Fans already installed in it. I included the fans to make the PC as silent as possible. If you are fine with bit noise you can ignore those fans.

    As you wont be gaming on it I skipped the GPU for now but you can add one later.
  4. King Dranzer said:
    Here is the list:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel Core i7-7700 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($309.49 @ OutletPC)
    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i 33.8 CFM CPU Cooler ($37.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Asus PRIME B250M-A Micro ATX LGA1151 Motherboard ($84.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Memory: Team Dark 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory ($84.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Crucial MX300 525GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($139.99 @ B&H)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($83.99 @ Amazon)
    Case: Silverstone GD08B (Black) HTPC Case ($138.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA G3 650W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($89.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($46.88 @ OutletPC)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Case Fan: be quiet! Pure Wings 2 51.4 CFM 120mm Fan ($10.49 @ SuperBiiz)
    Total: $1059.26
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2017-02-02 03:32 EST-0500

    It can handle anything you throw at it.

    CPU comes with a decent cooler but I provided a more silent one.

    I also included 4 Fans which are silent and provide good airflow. Case comes with 3 Fans already installed in it. I included the fans to make the PC as silent as possible. If you are fine with bit noise you can ignore those fans.

    As you wont be gaming on it I skipped the GPU for now but you can add one later.



    Thanks, I was looking more for OS and software options at the moment though. The unit will be rack mounted with my A/V gear and the silverstone was a great case recommendation - I was looking at them and Fractal already. For what I need, will the i7 be too much? I don't want to have to deal with unnecessary heating.

    I'm also debating a single unit that does everything, or separating out my NAS and Blueray ripping functions to another machine so the family only interfaces with a single simpler unit, possibly running Openelec. Thoughts?

    Again, thanks for the very detailed response.
  5. i7 is great and you will not get over heating with the CPU cooler I provided.

    OS You can go with either Windows or Mac OSX. Linux is good but for media entertainment setup it is not that good. In fact even Mac OSX is a waste. Go for Windows as it has huge entertainment software lineup which supports it.

    For video viewing I like VLC media player. For Photos and image viewing there is Windows image viewer. There is huge range of software where you can pick from.

    Also check this Keyboard
    http://www.logitech.com/en-hk/product/wireless-all-in-onekeyboard-tk820?crid=27
  6. Get single unit that does everything. It is more cost effective.

    That specific case can support 8HDDs which is more than enough space for adding storage. First I thought to go with smaller case but then I wanted make the storage limit expandable as per users requirements.
  7. So you are not of the opinion that Windows is too resource heavy for this task? Comes back to me questioning the need for the i7. In case I did not mention, this case will be rack mounted in a cabinet. There is some air flow through there, but I may need to add more.

    Secondly, from a user interface perspective, what software would you recommend for the front end? I think your recommendation that I use Windows because it can do anything/everything over looks the fact that if my wife, kids, parents, in-laws, babysitter were to cover over, I do not want to give a 30 minute lesson on how to watch TV, or switch from a OTA football game (or cricket, right :)) and then switch over to a movie on my NAS. This was my appeal to using, say Openelec with a separate NAS as an example, or kodi on the front end with something else on the backend.

    Currently, I have AppleTV with netflix and a separate Blu-Ray Player and a separate OTA DVR. If we want to watch anything downloaded, we first have to transfer it from my wife's laptop to an ipad and then airplay to AppleTV. My goal here is to simplify the process by storing everything on a NAS and then all TV's stream from there. This takes the laptop and wifi out of the equation. I would then like to consolidate everything through my front end (or single) HTPC..albeit I am reading that the Blu-Ray player may not work out this way.
  8. You can directly play Blu-Ray movies through PC using software like POWER DVD. Check the link below for more information.

    https://www.cyberlink.com/products/powerdvd-ultra/features_en_US.html?&r=1

    As you are gonna use this PC for a long time like 5-7Yrs i7 is better suited as with 4cores and 8threads it can handle any software thrown at it smoothly.

    What brand and model of TV are you using.

    Not 30min lecture but you will have to spend 5 min(only 5 min) to explain them how to access the player(that is one time go).

    One recommendation. Switch on your PC in the morning and keep it running the whole day(if possible). So that whenever you want to switch to PC mode on TV the Windows is ready and open.

    Also place the software you want to access media through on desktop(easy to access basic stuff)
  9. Ok, this is where I have an issue with most HTPC builds and why I am trying to do it better. Anything that requires me to give 5 minutes lessons is not going to work. It needs to be intuitive. A kodi front end or openelec, AppleTV, Plex with a good designed skin, these are all very friendly. Having to switch through various programs on a windows interface is not. The front end should be controllable through a remote, not a mouse or keyboard. And the desktop should not be accessible unless I close the front end.

    The TV is samsung and its a straight through dumb tv at 1080i. Again, I want everything through the HTPC front end software. I do not want my wife trying to figure out that to do X, she has to switch to the TV, for Y, go to the blue ray software on the windows desktop, for recorded TV and movies, go to PowerDVD and for music launch Y.

    And the PC will remain on 24/7 because of home control and home surveillance...again another reason I am very hesitant to accept Windows as an answer.

    I really do appreciate your recommendations, but this is not a build that would be used or enjoyed by anyone but me and means it won't work. Any the purpose of this post was to settle the software and OS first, before I get into hardware.
  10. Windows 10 do support Kodi. One thing is that Remote setup will cost you good $250 extra. So as I said get that Logitech Keyboard which includes mouse touchpad in it and is wireless. Easy to handle and you can operate it while laying down in sofa.
    With Kodi you can easily access all the media on the PC.

    One thing that you wont be getting with Kodi is the ability to play Blu-Ray media. If you wanna play Movie from Blu-Ray disk you will have to buy External Blu-Ray Player or manually setup the video using different software.

    Have the Kodi open all time and when you switch from TV to PC you can easily access the media.

    There is Logitech Harmony(here is the link) remote setup which I would recommend you to check out. But you will be needing IR module for the PC. One remote for every thing.
  11. Remote setup is fine and worth it for a finished product that people other than me can use. I already have a Logitech Harmony remote, with IR modules, as all my equipment remains in a cabinet.

    Blu-Ray does seem to be a big limitation of any option I have considered. I will keep my dedicated unit for Blue-ray movies not ripped. But my plan is to rip anything we watch onto my NAS.

    Kodi would remain open 24/7, or Plex if I go that route instead. I will go with which ever one supports everything I want. The big unknown is the home controller interface.

    The wireless keyboard and mouse will work for me. But if I tell other people they need the keyboard to watch tv, they will just say nevermind. Perhaps things are a little different in India :), but here people are used to and expect ease of use, reliability and intuitive operations.

    And I still think Windows 10 (or even 8) on an i7 is too much power and too much heat for what I am doing. I will look into it a little more. The setup is in a cabinet as stated above, with my received and DVD player. I am concerned about this.

    Thanks
  12. Best answer
    One thing that PC with i7 won't be producing heat as you think. Infact if you go with lower end CPU it will create more heat than this CPU. Because as the workload on 2cores with 4threads or 4cores with 4threads gets the CPU under stress which causes it to heat more. With 4cores and 8threads work load gets further distributed to get the CPU under less stress and thus creating less heat.

    If you wanna rip Blu-Ray content to NAS then get that internal Blu-Ray writer.

    As you already have Logitech Harmony. If you get some time visit nearby tech shop and ask for IR Receivers to be connected to PC which support Windows 10.
  13. King Dranzer said:
    One thing that PC with i7 won't be producing heat as you think. Infact if you go with lower end CPU it will create more heat than this CPU. Because as the workload on 2cores with 4threads or 4cores with 4threads gets the CPU under stress which causes it to heat more. With 4cores and 8threads work load gets further distributed to get the CPU under less stress and thus creating less heat.

    If you wanna rip Blu-Ray content to NAS then get that internal Blu-Ray writer.

    As you already have Logitech Harmony. If you get some time visit nearby tech shop and ask for IR Receivers to be connected to PC which support Windows 10.


    Thanks
  14. Your comments on the i3 vs i7 make perfect sense, thanks.
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