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Windows 7: Wanting to turn older Dell PC into media center

04 Jan 2011   #1
211

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 
Wanting to turn older Dell PC into media center

I have a Dell Demension PC that my buddy/neighbor gave me (upgraded and got a laptop for xmas). There's nothing wrong with the PC other than it needs a good ol reformat and perhaps a video card. I'm looking into turning this into a media center though. Can someone give me some advice on what I need with regards to hardware and software.



A few questions/comments to get the ball rolling:
  • I do not have cable TV (just broadband internet) our only source of tv comes from Neftlix streaming through the Xbox360. So no need for TV tuner.
  • The PC currently only has onboard video but will support an AGP video card. My TV is a bit dated however and only has 1 HDMI input which is used by the xbox, 2 component inputs, and 2 or 3 composite inputs. It runs 720p.
    What card (or adapter) could I use to supply video to the TV?
  • Software? I have an unused license of windows7 can I use that or should I purchase a "Media Center" specific OS? Which one? Windows Media Center seems dated
  • What sort of plugins should I use for browsing TV shows available online? I know there's tons but the list is overwhelming for someone just getting started. A quick recommendation would be great.
  • Is there any reason WHY this PC couldn't be used as a Media Center? Currently I switch back and forth between my Xbox360 and a modded original Xbox with XBMC (Xbox Media Center). The original Xbox is what I use to stream content from my office PC because the 360 will not play AVI natively.
Thanks


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
05 Jan 2011   #2
Johnathan Lyman

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by 211 View Post
A few questions/comments to get the ball rolling:

I do not have cable TV (just broadband internet) our only source of tv comes from Neftlix streaming through the Xbox360. So no need for TV tuner.
K.
Quote:

The PC currently only has onboard video but will support an AGP video card. My TV is a bit dated however and only has 1 HDMI input which is used by the xbox, 2 component inputs, and 2 or 3 composite inputs. It runs 720p.
If you can find an AGP card with a DVI port, you can get a DVI to HDMI adapter and maybe switch your xbox to a component hookup. at 720p, you won't notice the difference.

Quote:
What card (or adapter) could I use to supply video to the TV?
Newegg.com - SAPPHIRE 100288L Radeon HD 4650 1GB 128-bit DDR2 AGP 8X HDCP Ready Video Card

Keep in mind that since they are no longer made, the price is much higher than one would think it should be.

Quote:
Software? I have an unused license of windows7 can I use that or should I purchase a "Media Center" specific OS? Which one? Windows Media Center seems dated.
Windows 7 Home Premium will work just fine.

Quote:
What sort of plugins should I use for browsing TV shows available online? I know there's tons but the list is overwhelming for someone just getting started. A quick recommendation would be great.
Hulu, FanCast if you want to do it legally.

Quote:
Is there any reason WHY this PC couldn't be used as a Media Center?
If it can't handle it. Please share the specs of this machine.

Quote:
Currently I switch back and forth between my Xbox360 and a modded original Xbox with XBMC (Xbox Media Center). The original Xbox is what I use to stream content from my office PC because the 360 will not play AVI natively.
But the PS3 Will :P Also does XviD
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2011   #3
211

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

Thanks for the reply.

The Dell Dimension is an E310. Also, for some reason I thought it had an AGP slot but it doesn't. It looks like it's got 1 PCI Express x1 and 2 standard PCI slots. This will limit my video card options tremendously, will it not?

So if I used Win7 as the Media Center OS will I be stuck navigating with a mouse and keyboard? Ideally I'd like to use a remote.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

05 Jan 2011   #4
Johnathan Lyman

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
 
 

You COULD get a PCI video card but for what you'd pay for it, it wouldn't perform very well with content over 480p. If it's still at spec as what it shipped with, you'd need at least 2gb of ram and a fat hard drive if you wanted to store media on there. Given it's age already, the amount of cash you'd put into it would be much better spent shopping on NewEgg for parts to build a new media center PC.

Now, this box COULD be turned into a cheap NAS with freeNAS and a larger hard drive for say $60 for a TB from NewEgg.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jan 2011   #5
byngo

windows 7 ultimate 32bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by jelyman View Post
You COULD get a PCI video card but for what you'd pay for it, it wouldn't perform very well with content over 480p. If it's still at spec as what it shipped with, you'd need at least 2gb of ram and a fat hard drive if you wanted to store media on there. Given it's age already, the amount of cash you'd put into it would be much better spent shopping on NewEgg for parts to build a new media center PC.

Now, this box COULD be turned into a cheap NAS with freeNAS and a larger hard drive for say $60 for a TB from NewEgg.
Great advice given and It gave me some inspiration too, I have an old dell, pentium III 600mhz 256mb RAM. Its USB 1.0 but has a wirless pci card so i could network it.
I dusted it off several months ago and did a fresh install of XP pro on it for fun. It has not been used since.
Now, I have no idea what spec a NAS set-up would require but it intrests me.
If it were suitable for a NAS I would buy a 1tb drive but maybe the Bios would not support such a size? (the HDD in it is 160gb i think). Also the 1Tb drive could not be SATA unless I also added a PCI card to gain that technology and connectivity. (That might apply to the original poster as well??)
My modern self build gaming desktop is running Win7 and is Bluray capable so I like to archive them (also DVD) and play them with Media centre and TMT3 using a remote control and with display switcthed over to my HDTV.
I could go on adding/ upgrading HDD's but the NAS to store my bluray files on intrigues me. Hang on a minute,, how long is it gonna take to transfer such large files over the network to the NAS each time?? I forgot about that.

Sorry to hijack a little on the original thread.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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