101 Best HTPC Media Center Tips for Beginners

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Sep 26th, 2010
101 Best HTPC Media Center Tips for Beginners

This 101 Best Media Center Tips list is being combined for all beginners wishing to get started with a Media Center PC. The list has been compiled based on articles that can be found from the My Media Experience Media Center PC Guide. Enjoy these tips and remember to share them with your friends who wish to bring the internet to their TV, too.

Update: I have published also a newer list of the top 30 media center tips.

101. Use the NoSquint plugin to transform the Firefox as the best HTPC browser.

100. Read our top 10 list of media center software to find the best HTPC software to your needs.

99. If you own an external hard drive, create a folder shortcut to the external hard drive and replace the original e.g. Music folder with a shortcut. This way you save your internal hard drive space without breaking the links e.g. in the iTunes.

98. Attach an USB hub under your TV and insert mouse’s USB receiver to the hub to increase the wireless range.

97. Put a random photo slide show as a screen show to enjoy your recent photos when ever your Media Center PC is idle.

96. Invest on a good case, processor and motherboard and focus on the rest later if you are tight on money at the moment.

95. Pay careful attention in selecting the right remote control and mouse for your home theater computer.

94. Larger (over 500W) power supplies are usually louder and not suited for home theater environments.

93. Use your old laptop as Media Center PC by connecting the PC either using VGA or DVI connection.

92. All in one remote control such as Logitech Harmony Remote is a great way to control your Media Center PC.

91. When choosing a CPU cooler, go for the largest cooler possible that will fit in your case.

90. Use cable management solution such as CableBox or Belkin Concealed Surge Protector to hide cables nicely.

89. Do not forget to choose a motherboard that has HDMI output, so you can connect it to your TV directly.

88. For a HD video, you do not necessarily need a separate GPU at all, but it can be embedded inside a CPU.

87. Keep in mind that large hard disk drives are noisier than the processor fan itself.

86. If you need fast boot and start-up times, get an SSD drive as an operating system drive.

85. Use iPod Touch or iPhone as a remote control by getting a remote app such as a Rowmote from the Apple App Store.

84. Purchase a Toslink to Optical Mini Plug to enjoy digital audio from your Media Center PC with an A/V receiver.

83. Play HD video on a slow PC with the KMPlayer media player and CoreAVC codec. The KMPlayer is probably the best HTPC software for slower hardware.

82. Get a gigabit router such as Apple Airport Extreme to enjoy fastest possible transfer speeds with an external network hard drive.

81. Ceton InfiniTV 4 lets you record up to four different digital channels simultaneously.

80. Take scheduled daily backups from your valuable media files.

79. Use online backup services such as Mozy.com for an added security.

78. Bring a webcam to the living room to make Skype video calls to your friends and family.

77. Media portal is an open source application similar to XBMC with a TV tuner support.

76. Hulu desktop is a service to provide free online videos and movies using internet as the distribution channel.

75. Use the DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect your Media Center PC to TV.

74. Categorize video files in iTunes by changing the media kind of video file from the get info menu.

73. Listen to internet radio in iTunes and Front Row Media Center software by building a separate playlist for radio channels.

72. Get an external Blu-ray optical drive for Mac, rip Blu-ray to the Mac and watch them with e.g. with VLC player.

71. Use ethernet cable with your Media Center PC instead of wireless card to maximize the network speed.

70. Use an Air Mouse such as Logitech MX Air to enjoy controlling computer from the sofa.

69. Use bluetooth keyboard to ensure good responsiveness and wireless range.

68. Subscribe RSS video feeds to Boxee to enjoy your favorite video feeds.

67. Use Plex Media Center’s App Store to customize your media center experience. Overall Plex is a media center with the best ui when it comes to integrating your existing iTunes library to the 10-foot user interface.

66. Use the KyloTV browser to enlarge the font size suitable for the TV.

65. Consider Acer Aspire Revo if you are looking for really cheap and capable net top computer.

64. Try Lenovo Multimedia Keyboard if you wish to combine both mouse and keyboard into one device.

63. Use iTunes as a media manager to make your life easier.

62. Get a $5 extension cord for your IR receiver and hide the cord behind the TV cabinet.

61. If you are building a custom Media Center PC, Intel Core i3 processor is a good tip as it is very fast and has a built in HD graphics card.

60. Get at least 4GB of memory, and you will not regret this tip later with heavier applications.

59. Plex and MakeMKV ripping software are a good combination if you wish to add Blu-ray drive to your Mac.

58. As a great Front Row Media Center tip, to get different folders visible, create Alias links from external sources to the user/movies folder.

57. Picasa is a free download from Google and remains one of the most popular options for organizing, editing and sharing your photos.

56. Linux based GeeXboX is an ultra light media center software for older and slower PCs.

55. Get social with your media files by sharing your recommendations to your friends with the Boxee Social Media Center.

54. Get an advanced media center software by installing an XBMC Media Center to your computer.

53. Moovida is an open source media center similar to Plex and other media centers.

52. Windows Media Center is the mainstream user’s choice. Windows 7 takes this traditional media center to the next level.

51. Plex Media Center for Mac OSX is a visually stunning alternative to Boxee and XBMC.

50. It is always smarter to choose popular, highly rated, compatible software only for your HTPC.

49. Front Row for Mac OSX is visually very nice looking and simple media center to use.

48. MythTV is a popular Linux based Digital Video Recording software. Just get the TV receiver card and you are ready to record TV.

47. BeyondTV is an alternative digital video recorder for your TiVo.

46. Bring YouTube to Front Row media center using the Understudy plugin.

45. Splash next generation video player is a great solution for playing HD video files on a slower PC.

44. If you need mini keyboard, Logitech DiNovo Mini or IOGear Keyboards can be the best keyboard for your needs.

43. Subscribe to the RSS news feeds with Google Reader to get the latest news at home or on the go.

42. Get children’s apps to your iPod to keep them busy while you are playing with the Media Center PC.

41. iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad is an interesting substitute mouse and keyboard.

40. Keyspan URM-15T Remote Control is a great one if you are planning to get the Logitech Harmony 900 as both the receiver and the remote supports RF signals.

39. If you need without-line-of-sight remote control, Logitech Harmony 900 works with a RF technology and works through walls, as well.

38. You can get an infrared extender if you wish to control devices hidden into the TV cabinet with your remote control.

37. Get a USB receiver and control it with any Logitech Harmony remote. Windows 7 MCE PC Remote Control and Infrared Receiver is very popular USB IR receiver and should be fine for your needs, too.

36. Use the DVI or HDMI connection from computer to TV to enjoy the optimal image quality. VGA connection is only analog and a lot fuzzier.

35. Mac Mini has very high wife acceptance factor which makes it very good choice to the living room.

34. If you do not need to browse the Internet, Apple TV might be sufficient media player for you.

33. Activate vertical sync setting on your video card driver to minimize horizontal tearing while playing video files.

32. Adjust the font size DPI in the Windows operating system to make icons and text larger.

31. On Mac OSX, try the Billboard front-end for iTunes to get a 10-foot user interface with iTunes. Unfortunately, there is no Windows 7 version available yet.

30. Use the google reader Wii version to read the latest news on the Wii game console.

29. WiiMote is a perfect Media Center controlling device, so use Wii as an internet browser for your TV.

28. On an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, the stock CPU fan is more than fine.

27. Intel Core i5 is slightly too much for a normal use, but if you are doing video encoding or some other CPU intensive tasks, then it is fine.

26. It is enough to use the onboard audio output, if you plan to use optical sound. A separate sound card is only better, if you use analog audio output.

25. Finnish digital video recording service called TVKaista.fi is an excellent example of the future of the internet TV.

24. For a good sound quality, considering using FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), which means that the audio is compressed without a loss of quality.

23. For Intel Core i3 build with on-board graphics, you should not need more than the 380W-430W.

22. You can play HD AVCHD video files smoothly with the KMPlayer while most other players are not capable of playing M2TS files directly from your camcorder.

21. If you own a HD video camera, you should definately consider buying an external hard drive as you will otherwise run out of space with our backups.

20. CoreAVC is the fastest software AVCHD codec available for Windows computers.

19. Get Apple iPad as the internet browsing device to your living room together with the traditional Media Center.

18. Use Clicker.tv to stream internet television channels with a remote control friendly user interface.

17. Media Browser makes your media file artworks and other information complete on Windows Media Center

16. YouTube XL is a 10-foot user interface to make watching Youtube videos from the TV easier.

15. Rename video files to something more simpler for easier detection when using media center software.

14. Rip DVDs easily to your computer using the Handbrake software.

13. Use iPod Touch or iPhone as mouse with an apps like Rowmote.

12. Buy a cheap net top computer from Acer, Asus or Zotac for an entry level Media Center PC under $300.

11. Rent your movies from Netflix without a need to leave your house to the movie rental place. Works with Windows Media Center too.

10. Stream video and music files to the Wii or Xbox game console using the Orb software.

9. Windows Media Center is still the best digital video recording software. Just buy a TV tuner to the computer and you are ready to record TV shows.

8. Childproof your media center setup by hiding cables with cable organizers and attaching TV and speakers to the TV cabinet.

7. Adjust the brightness, contrast and color options on your TV to optimize the image quality for computer usage.

6. Use XBMC media center with its plugins such as Tetris game or YouTube video players to tune your ultimate media center.

5. Read AVSForum for expert advices and tips about Media Center PCs.

4. Start with two good quality speakers when building your home theater. You do not need cheap 7.1 speaker system, but invest a bit more on good quality 2.0 speaker system.

3. Start with iTunes media player and Picasa photo manager to get your family used to the computer in the living room. Later extend to more sophisticated media centers once they are used to the idea of having a computer in the living room.

2. Download video podcasts from iTunes to get started with collecting media content to your computer. iTunes video podcast offering has really improved in the past years.

1. Get help and learn more about HTPC tips by subscribing the HTPC Media Center RSS feed.

Media CenterSo, I hope you have enjoyed these tips to create your media experience.

If you want to learn more, check out our recommended HTPC builds.

What’s Next?

Please be sure to read our 5 Steps to a Successful Home Theater PC Project -eBook; I am sure you will be positively surprised by the quality of the book!

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