What’s In Your Media Center?

Sep 19, 2014 by

As many of our readers know, most of our contributors are big fans of Windows Media Center. And so are many of our readers and podcast listeners. We often get requests to learn more about how we have our own Windows Media Center HTPCs configured, so we thought we’d share some information about our own, respective specs. If you have a setup you’re particularly proud of, leave us some information in the Comments section. We’d love to learn more about how our readers are using what we still believe to be one of the best home media hubs and DVRs available today. [Beware the affiliate links if you click through to buy any of these products for your own rig...you may end up helping us to keep this site running!]

Josh

Josh began using Windows Media Center full-time in the Windows Vista days. His family loved having greatly increased storage capacity for recorded TV, access to all of their music, photos, and videos, and a fantastic user experience. He began by using an Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender before building the ugly HTPC you see here in 2009.

joshhtpcCustom-built HTPC
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5200+ @ 2.7 GHz
Gigabyte GA-MA780g ATX Motherboard (on-board Radeon HD 3200 video)
4 GB RAM
1 TB HDD (80 850 GB partitions)
Internal BluRay Drive
Windows 7 Ultimate SP-1 64-bit
Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCI

Additional Hardware

Ceton InfiniTV 6 ETH
Atom-Powered Windows 8 “Server” for Movie Storage

Additional Software
Cyberlink PowerDVD 13 Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
DVRMSToolbox
ComSkip
Haali Media Splitter
MCEBuddy

Media Center Add-ins/Utilities
Ceton My Media Center
Audio Renderer Updater
My Channel Logos

Richard

Richard’s been using Windows Media Center since Windows XP Media Center Edition. It’s not the primary DVR in his home, but it is the central hub for movies, archived TV, and Recorded TV overflow. Richard’s been known to rage about not giving up his Media Center until Microsoft pries it from his cold, dead hands.

Mac Mini  Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
Intel Core I5-3210M @ 2.50 GHz
8 GB RAM
OWC Mercury 80GB SSD
Windows 7 Professional SP-1 64-bit

Additional Hardware
Microsoft Media Center IR Receiver
Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
FAVI Mini Bluetooth keyboard Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime
miniStack MAX w/ Blu-ray reader (3TB for recorded TV)
Drobo 1st gen (5TB for TV series storage)
Drobo 5N (12TB for movie storage) Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]

Additional Software
Amazon Unbox Video
AnyDVD
ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 6 Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
DVRMSToolbox
Virtual CloneDrive
Haali Media Splitter
iCloud
ShowAnalyzer

Media Center Add-ins/Utilities
Ceton My Media Center
My Channel Logos
My Movies
Niveus SiriusXM
Recorded TV HD

Chris

Chris has been using Media Center since early Windows 7 days. This HTPC underneath his TV records over-the-air programming for his cord-cutting ways and gets over-the-top content that would otherwise be unavailable.  The Wisconsin Badger wards off bad TV shows with great efficacy.

htpcCustom-built HTPC
Intel Core i3-2120 @ 3.3 GHz in an ASRock H67M-ITX
2 GB RAM
500 GB HDD (9 TB on the Home Server 2011 box)
InWin BP655 Mini ITX case Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
Windows 7 Home Premium SP-1 64-bit

Additional Hardware
AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet Dual ATSC Tuner
Bunny ears
Logitech Harmony Smart Control Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
FAVI FE01-BL Mini 2.4GHz Wireless Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad (Black) Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
ASUS internal Blu Ray player
Samsung HT-C6600 HTIB 5.1 surround (upgrading this soon!)
Atlantic 77305018 2 Speaker Stands for back and front speakers
Wisconsin Badger

Additional Software
ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]

Media Center Add-ins/Utilities
Relaunch [for YouTube and a few other web apps]

Jon

Jon has been using Windows Media Center exclusively as his DVR/home theater OS since 2007.  He’s been a vocal proponent of Media Center since the very beginning—even going as far as stoking a heated email argument with Walt Mossberg, who didn’t include Media Center in a DVR column back in 2006. Some say that he can still be heard spouting about how Media Center is the best home theater OS ever made to this very day, even as Microsoft provides virtually no assurance of a viable future.

Custom-built HTPC
Silverstone Tek GD04B case Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
Intel Core I5-2500k @ 3.3 GHz
8 GB RAM
SeaSonic Fanless Power Supply
Intel 128GB SSD HD (OS/Apps)
4TB WD HD (for “unlimited” DVR)
Windows 7 Professional SP-1 64-bit
ASUS Blu-Ray/DVD burner
Ceton InfiniTV4 PCIe CableCard Tuner
Microsoft Media Center IR Receiver

Additional Hardware
Logitech Harmony 880 remotes (3)
Logitech DiNovo Mini
Microsoft Home Server (6TB for movies/videos)
Google Chromecast Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]
Linksys DMA2100 Extenders (2)
Ceton Echo Media Center Extender Buy this at Amazon.com [affiliate link supports the DMZ]

Additional Software
AnyDVD
Remote Potato
XBMC

Media Center Add-ins/Utilities
Media Center Cast
My Channel Logos
Home Server Plug-In
My Movies 5
Niveus SiriusXM
MacroTube
XBMC launcher
Hulu launcher

You

What’s in your Media Center? Custom hardware or pre-built? Do you have any favorite add-ins and accessories? Let us know about your Media Center in the comments.

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  • http://www.mnmaven.com umdivx

    Been using HTPC’s before they were called HTPC’s and before MCE 2005 was available. I’ve had a few iterations of a HTPC over the years.

    I started using a PC as a media playback/consumption device just after I bought my first HDTV in early 2004 (Sony rear projection LCD). I quickly learned that DVD’s look horrible on HDTV’s, especially when you were only feeding the tv 480i video. I then discovered the concept of using a PC to upscale your video (via software) and then became a very active member on AVSforums and it just grew from there.

    Not long after MCE 2005 came out, and the concept of recording OTA HDTV and having a DVR became an obsession and that is when I knew I was hooked. I bought my first OTA antenna and OTA ATSC tuner and haven’t looked back since.

    My most “recent” build of my current HTPC is from 2008 (why fix what isn’t broken?) which consists of the following:

    AMD Phenom 9850 2.5ghz Quad core
    8GB ram
    250GB Samsung EVO SSD
    2 x 3TB WD Black drives for DVR storage
    Win7 Pro 64bit
    Ceton InfiniTV4
    Ceton InifniTV6
    Silicon Dust HD Homerun (OTA tuning)

    In the last 2 or 3 years i’ve delegated my HTPC as more of a “server” as it runs in a rack in my basement and is only connected to a 19″ monitor and isn’t directly feeding any TV’s in my home. I have xbox 360′s (4 of them) connected to each tv in my home. With the recent changes to xbox I now use the xbox’s for Netflix, Prime Instant, and Media center extenders.

    I run a very minimalistic setup (software wise) the only other software I have installed besides the Ceton companion software, is Comskip and DVRmstoolbox. I don’t run anything like my movies, or media browser.

    The reason I run a very minimalist setup is for stability, I want to make sure that every time I turn the tv on it just works. I don’t want my system crashing because an update messed something up. I’ve been running it this way now for 4 years (headless “server” HTPC) and I have yet to have a crash, reboot, or time when TV wasn’t available.

    I’ve started to augment my Media Center usage with an Amazon Fire TV, I have a prime account and with all the backlog catalog of HBO shows and the recent price drop in the Fire TV I figured I’d give it a shot, now I have it rooted, installed XBMC onto it and I use that as another source to augment my media center DVR usage.

    I will definitely continue to use Media Center as my main DVR until they take away cable cards or until I can get everything streamed online (including sports) any where and everywhere I want, so until that day comes Media Center will still be around in my home.

    -Josh

  • Pingback: ArcSoft Drops TotalMedia Theatre | The Digital Media Zone()

  • SikSlayer

    Just like umdivx, I’ve been using HTPC’s long before they were called HTPC’s and before MCE was available. I too did the ffdshow to upscale DVDs thing, that’s what first made me make the jump to build an HTPC, which I had long thought about doing. My first HTPC was a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz, then a 3Ghz. I ran MythTV from 2004-2005.

    For the longest time, (starting in ~2008) my HTPC was a Core 2 Duo E6850 @ 3Ghz, 4GB RAM, a 500GB HDD, and Windows Vista, then 7 Ultimate. Now it’s a Core i7 4771 @ 3.5 Ghz and 16GB of RAM, and a 250GB Samsung EVO SSD. Pretty high end CPUs because I also game on them. Still on 7 (Windows 7 Professional SP-1 64-bit). I’ve upgraded GPUs a number of times, from an Nvidia 7900 GT VIVO, to a 9800GTX+, to a 560 Ti, and now a 750 Ti. A Ceton InfiniTV4 PCIe CableCard tuner, a Silicon Dust HD Homerun, and a Hauppauge PVR 150 analog tuner, recently replaced with an Avermedia for some local analog-only channels (don’t ask). My non-recoded content is on a 10TB RAID 5 array, and a 2TB drive for recording.

    I have too many add-ins to count, but some of the major ones are Arcsoft’s TMT, AnyDVD HD, XBMC, Media Browser 3, Niveus SiriusXM, My Channel Logos XL, Recorded TV HD, Relaunch, Steam in Big Picture Mode, Virtual Clone Drive, Sharks Codec Pack (its mainly just LAV Filters with some tuning, nothing like the garbage K-Lite is), Audio Renderer Updater, and of course, Ceton My Media Center. (and yes, that’s just SOME).

    I don’t go minimalist, but I spent a long time researching and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t, and one golden rule I stuck with is after putting things together, I don’t fool with it. I treat my HTPC like an appliance. It may be a PC inside, but I treat it as the set top box on steroids that I intended and wanted it to be from the start.