Thursday, October 25, 2007

Building a Microsoft Windows Media Center - Vista PVR (DVR)

Why build your own Media Center PVR/PVR?
I currently pay $4.50 a month to Comcast for my HD DVR box, $9.95, Digital Plus $11.20, coming to a total of $25.65 that I am paying into a pit that goes no where. I have never been a fan of renting ANYTHING because when all is said and done you own nothing relating to your rental.

So... I wanted something that would not only act as a DVR but also give me added benefits as well. I decided to build myself a Windows Vista DVR box. Now I have built hundreds of computers in my days as a network administrator and general "tinkerer". So this I thought should not pose a major issue. I would be using Windows Vista Ultimate as it comes with Media Center as well as some added bonuses.

Although you can choose anywhere to buy your equipment, I chose Mostly because I've bought a LOT of things through them and their prices are reasonable and they don't hassle you when you need to return something for no reason at all.

Now when planning this out I knew I wanted it to match some criteria. I have a server that has 1.6TB of drive space. So I wanted to copy over my collection of approximately 250 DVD's, be able to listen to my MP3's that I had ripped from all the CDs I own and also be able to view the thousands of digital photos we have of the family. So I knew that passing that kind of data I would want a VERY robust connection and it would help to have a good amount of RAM as a buffer.

So here is what I bought:
I already had a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate
SilverStone's LC19B 1U case: $209.99
SpecResearch's 01027 Black Wireless Keyboard with built in Trackball: $59.99
GigaByte's GA-MA69GM-S2H Motherboard: $79.99
Sony's Optiarc DVD Burner (slim): $61.99
Hiper HFC-20820 80mm CPU cooler: $39.98
A-Data 2GB (2 X 1GB) SDRAM: $64.99

AMD Athlon 2.1 GHz Dual Core CPU: $65.99
AverMedia AverTV ASTC/NTSC Dual tuner TV Card: $103.99
I already had a Seagate 500GB SATA Drive

So my total cost was: $686.91 (plus shipping)

The Advantages?
So I know it will take me 26 months to recoup the costs, BUT there are a TON of advantages here:
I have a young child, so DVDs get destroyed ALL the time. Having them on a hard drive in a secure location and being able to pull all of them up instantly at the touch of button on the remote is awesome. Being able to pull up all of the photos and play them to music through the Photo Library is wonderful when family is visiting and they want to see some pictures. Being able to cue up any music at any time is wonderful. We can of course DVR television shows, but here is a really nice feature. We can BURN the show to DVD to give to someone else or take to a friend's house. MAJOR bonus!

Best of all? I OWN it. So I never have to return it, risking losing shows that I enjoy re-watching. I never have to worry about losing cable service and having nothing to watch.

Now there is one important thing to remember with all of this though. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS back up your data. Again, something that could never be done with a cable provider.

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