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Can an old PC be converted into an HTPC?

Audio 6000N Play

shail

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I have an old Pentium III (500Mhz) machine that I bought a couple of years back (in fact, during my engineering college days). The machine has 1GB ram, a DVD-ROM player. Now, I am wondering if I can use this PC as an HTPC? :rolleyes:

My initial doubts are:

1. Is it even possible (because of it's speed, memory constraints)?
2. If yes, what all are the components/devices do I need?
3. Is it possible and sensible to DIY?

Thanks,
Shail
 

venkatcr

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Very doubtful if you want to play any decent resolution. If you are happy with 480P, the machine may work as is. All you will need is a very entry level graphics card with an HDMI or DVI connector.

It also depends on what you have at the other end. If you have a decent AVR, you may need to send the audio as a digital stream. In which case, you would need a graphics card with HDMI. Otherwise, you may also need to get a sound card that can be connected to an amp.

What are the connections available on the machine?

Cheers
 

Kannan_madhu

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Most probably your mother board will have a AGP slot which may not be compatible with the current cards . If you have a pci 16 x slot test it with a card like geforce 210 , or 8400 and try xbmc live cd and some full hd clips . dont buy the card before testing ( i bought a amd 5450 for my athlon xp system . although motherboard sopports pci 16x it wont boot with the new card :sad:
 

Thad E Ginathom

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Even with a decent graphics card, the processor may not be up to feeding it with DATA. i say ditch the idea.
I think its better you make it as a music pc or a NAS or a video player for SD.
I say yes and yes!

But I forget my history... does a machine of this vintage have PCI expansion slots? What is the USB: 1.0 or 2.0?

If PCI, you can put a sound card from good to excellent, and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the analogue-out :)

If USB2.0 you can use external sound interface or DAC. If USB1.0, please avoid using the USB for audio: it was responsible for giving USB audio a bad name that still lingers!

File servers or audio-playing machines do not need all the power in a modern PC. Video is a different ball game --- but one I don't play, so I'll leave comments on that to the experts.
 

shail

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Very doubtful if you want to play any decent resolution. If you are happy with 480P, the machine may work as is. All you will need is a very entry level graphics card with an HDMI or DVI connector.

It also depends on what you have at the other end. If you have a decent AVR, you may need to send the audio as a digital stream. In which case, you would need a graphics card with HDMI. Otherwise, you may also need to get a sound card that can be connected to an amp.

What are the connections available on the machine?

Cheers
Thanks, Venkat. I have Denon 1311 AVR. But I will really not be satisfied with 480p 'coz my LCD panel is 40" and needs at least 720p for decent visuals.
Actually, I did not get your question. Which kind of connections you want me check for on my machine?
 

shail

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I think its better you make it as a music pc or a NAS or a video player for SD.
Hi @cmsajit, I have started liking the idea now! Probably if I will be able to convert my PC into an NAS, I will be able to connect it with my HD media streamer (WD Live+). But again, I am clueless, how can I do that? What do I need to plug-in and/or install to my PC to make it an NAS? WD Live has a LAN port and also supports Wi-Fi but with a separate dongle. I would prefer it to be connected to my PC (NAS) with the LAN cable.

Any ideas?

Thanks,
Shail
 

shail

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I say yes and yes!

But I forget my history... does a machine of this vintage have PCI expansion slots? What is the USB: 1.0 or 2.0?

If PCI, you can put a sound card from good to excellent, and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the analogue-out :)

If USB2.0 you can use external sound interface or DAC. If USB1.0, please avoid using the USB for audio: it was responsible for giving USB audio a bad name that still lingers!

File servers or audio-playing machines do not need all the power in a modern PC. Video is a different ball game --- but one I don't play, so I'll leave comments on that to the experts.
It has USB 1.0 :sad:
Thanks for your valuable inputs! :)
 

spirovious

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Thanks for your response!
The machine has a PCI slot.. but I'm not sure if it's 16x. What is the way to make sure if the slot is 16x?
You can check your motherboard model no.You can also post it here & can confirm the same.
 

manniraj

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Hi @cmsajit, I have started liking the idea now! Probably if I will be able to convert my PC into an NAS, I will be able to connect it with my HD media streamer (WD Live+). But again, I am clueless, how can I do that? What do I need to plug-in and/or install to my PC to make it an NAS? WD Live has a LAN port and also supports Wi-Fi but with a separate dongle. I would prefer it to be connected to my PC (NAS) with the LAN cable.

Any ideas?

Thanks,
Shail
Hi Shail

You can look at this thread by Sam, a nice simple NAS setup. http://www.hifivision.com/home-theater-pc-htpc-media-pc/20232-sam9s-nas-project-powered-unraid.html This will give you an idea of where to start. I am also right now in the process of pooling some cash to start the same.
 

Thad E Ginathom

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It has become fashionable to call file servers "NAS".

Any PC will serve files without installing anything else at all. Even Windows has been quite capable since about W2000. Linux, of course, will offer a variety of methods, even including looking like a Windows server to Windows clients.

I am skeptical that anything else is needed at all. Just make the relevant drives/directories shareable, or define them as shares in Samba (Linux) and ...go.

of course, necessity is not the only reason for doing things. Even the technical satisfaction of getting something set up and working is justification in itself. But we should begin by understanding what our Linux or Windows PC can do, off, or more-or-less off, the shelf.
 

prankey

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Thanks for your response!
The machine has a PCI slot.. but I'm not sure if it's 16x. What is the way to make sure if the slot is 16x?
Don't bother checking if its PCIX. It wont! Even early P4s only had AGP which is FAR MORE SUFFICIENT to feed 4p videos and even games at that resolution if the card has fast enough chipset and processor fast enough.

You have much more than sufficient RAM. Even 512MB would be sufficient to play FULL HD VIDEO (folks, lets not confuse him by treating plain video even FULL HD like its a full fledged latest PC GAMES!).

You would most probably have a AGP port. I can join you some day for a trip to SP road to find a decent AGP card. I do have one (nVidia 5900xt), but my grand parents are using it for now. Most of the good AGP cards have atleast one DVI port (only recent graphics cards have HDMI ports as well which are usually available only for PCIX interface). You could buy a DVI to HDMI cable from SP road for Rs.200. You would most probably have onboard graphics and sound. Check if you see any SPDIF/Digital audio output, that would be sufficient to pass original DD/DTS audio to your AVR. Also check what kind of graphics chipset it has. For USB 2.0, you could buy an inexpensive PCI card if needed to connect external HDD, etc. (Needed for HD video playback from external HDD).

I also have a P3 500MHz HP PC with nVidia Riva TNT on board graphics and 384MB of RAM. I will try to find some time to check that out to play HD videos (including Full HD) and let you know how it works.
 

prankey

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AGAIN! I request you not to misguide him. Its a PCIX card, NOT PCI. Also, 8400 will run even 4k without any sweat! Whether a P3 CPU can provide the decoded data that fast is another question.
 

Kannan_madhu

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@Prankey , please go through the link i have given , 8400 is available in PCI, AGP, PCI X interface versions . But here in India i think only PCIx version is available . And the decoding of 1080i video is done by the graphics card and not the CPU.
 
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shail

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It has become fashionable to call file servers "NAS".

Any PC will serve files without installing anything else at all. Even Windows has been quite capable since about W2000. Linux, of course, will offer a variety of methods, even including looking like a Windows server to Windows clients.

I am skeptical that anything else is needed at all. Just make the relevant drives/directories shareable, or define them as shares in Samba (Linux) and ...go.

of course, necessity is not the only reason for doing things. Even the technical satisfaction of getting something set up and working is justification in itself. But we should begin by understanding what our Linux or Windows PC can do, off, or more-or-less off, the shelf.
How about Win98? Does it support NAS/file servers? My machine actually has Win98 currently. :sad:

Thanks,
Shail
 

kaushik

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there are linux distros for old PC, give better performance
..check if ur G card driver + linux compatible
 
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