How to Turn Your Old Computer Into the Ultimate Media Center: 100 Resources and Tools

So you’ve gotten a newer model. It was bound to happen, as new technology becomes more and more demanding. But after years of faithful service, you’re probably not excited about saying a final farewell to your old computer, and you don’t have to. With these resources, it’s easy to give your old computer new life as a media center. Solutions These handy pieces of software offer an easy way to turn your PC into a media center.

  1. MythTV: MythTV offers easy PVR, a media library, and TV viewing.
  2. GB-PVR: GB-PVR is feature-packed, providing users with scheduled recordings, media viewing and remote usage.
  3. Media Portal: Media Portal can turn your PC into a home theater and video recorder.
  4. ShowShifter: ShowShifter’s Home Media Center acts as a DVR, DVD player, audio player and more.
  5. MythDora: MythDora is a distribution that combines Fedora Core with MythTV.
  6. SageTV: This media center records TV, offers online video, and all of your personal media in one handy tool.
  7. BeyondTV: Check out BeyondTV for PC DVR software.
  8. GeeXbox: With GeeXbox’s free software, you can temporarily turn your Windows, Mac or Linux machine into a media center powerhouse. This program has extremely low requirements, so there’s a good chance it will work on your old clunker.
  9. Freevo: This Linux solution allows users to access all of their media in one easy place, on demand.
  10. Windows Media Center: This Windows operating system is a simple, all-in-one solution for turning an old computer into a media center.

Software This software can help make your media center experience easier and more fun.

  1. ClarkConnect: ClarkConnect can be used as a firewall, router, and media server.
  2. NVIDIA PureVideo Decoder: For clear MPEG-2 video and high fidelity color, check out NVIDIA.
  3. ComSkip: Skip commercials with this highly useful program.
  4. Ampache: Ampache is a useful audio file manager that’s implemented with MySQL and PHP.
  5. KeepVault: Back up your media with this storage service.
  6. Orb: Access your media at home or away via your phone, TV, or game console.
  7. GenieCommands: Control all of your media in simple menus via GenieCommands.
  8. FreeCodecs.com: Find all of the audio and video codecs you need with FreeCodecs.
  9. FireWireSDK: Most cable boxes come with FireWire ports, and FireWireSDK helps Mac users take advantage of them.
  10. AV/C Browser Enhanced: Patrick Edson’s AV/C integrates recording and channel tuning into one piece of software.
  11. iRecord: Another Patrick Edson creation, iRecord has a simple purpose: scheduled show recording.
  12. VLC: VLC can, among other things, read MPEG-2 streams.
  13. Knoppix: This Debian-based distribution of Linux is a low-requirement OS that’s a great foundation for media centers running on outdated machines.
  14. VNC: Get this remote PC access software.
  15. OSXvnc: This VNC is Apple-friendly.
  16. iTunes: Organize and play your digital files with this popular program.
  17. SlimServer: Stream music remotely online for free with SlimServer.
  18. CyberLink PowerCinema TV Plus: With PowerCinema, you get DVD, video and audio playback as well as TV viewing and recording.
  19. Switchres X: To get your graphics to output at a native resolution, use this software.
  20. Winamp: Check out this perennial favorite for multi-format playing of streamed audio and video content.
  21. Jinzora: Use Jinzora to stream media files from HTTP.
  22. DisplayConfigX: Easily adjust your Mac OS X display resolution and refresh rate for your TV.
  23. Server Elements: Use these NAS tools to serve up your media.
  24. MCE Customizer: Use this tool to tweak Microsoft Media Center.
  25. Windows Media Player: With Windows Media Player, you can play audio and video as well as copy audio to hard disks.
  26. MSN Remote Record: Set up remote recordings from any Web-enabled PC.
  27. MyTV ToGo: Take your recorded shows on the road with a portable device using this program.
  28. Sailing Clicker: Control your media center with your cell phone using this piece of software.
  29. TVTonic: Automate your video viewing with TVTonic, a program that subscribes users to video podcasts and channels.
  30. MCE Portal Basic: Get news, weather, feeds, and other information aggregated to your Media Center PC with this program.
  31. GB PVR: Use this software to control your media center through your TV.
  32. DynDNS: Use this dynamic DNS service to connect to your home server via a fixed domain.

Hardware This gear represents some of the most useful hardware media center builders can find.

  1. Hauppage WinTV-PVR Products: Check out Hauppage’s WinTV-PVRs for TV cards.
  2. EyeHome: Access your Mac’s digital content and watch it on your TV with EyeHome.
  3. Approved Media Center Hardware: Check out this list for Windows-approved Media Center hardware.
  4. ATI’s TV Wonder Elite: With this graphics card, you can set up a DVR timer to record shows to your hard drive.
  5. M-Audio Transit: Get digital audio from your machine to your stereo using M-Audio Transit.
  6. DVI to S-video adapter: Make your Mac mini’s digital output go analog with this adapter from Apple.
  7. S-video to RCA adapter: If your TV uses composite/RCA, you may need to adapt it to S-video with this adapter.
  8. Hardware Recommendations: Check out this article for Media Center hardware recommendations.
  9. ATI’s Remote Wonder: Operate your media PC via remote from a few feet away or even another room.
  10. Amazon HTPC: This customer community on Amazon is a good resource for HTPC gear.
  11. Media MVP: Hauppage’s Media MPV will take a signal from your computer and put it on your TV.
  12. Media Center Software for Macintosh: This resource is full of useful software for Mac media centers.
  13. MiniTV: The MiniTV USB allows you to watch TV on your computer, record shows, burn to DVD, and more.

Tutorials & Advice You don’t have to be a computer genius to make your media center dream come true. Check out these tutorials for step-by-step instructions.

  1. Free TiVo: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC: Forget about expensive boxes and monthly subscription fees. With this tutorial, you can build a DVR out of your old PC.
  2. How to Configure an $80 File Server in 45 Minutes: Get your file server set up on the cheap with this tutorial.
  3. Building a Mac Home Media Center: Check out Informit’s guide to turning a Mac into a media center.
  4. TiVo versus MCE versus my cable company: Users that turn their old box into an MCE machine will enjoy this analysis from Ed Bott.
  5. Media Mac: Find out how this person turned their Powerbook into a very unique media box.
  6. Extreme Tips: Turn your old PC into a music server: Here you’ll find G4’s tutorial for creating a music server on your old PC.
  7. How to: Turn your Mac mini into a media center: Check out this extensive Mac mini media center tutorial from Engadget.
  8. How To Build the Ultimate Windows Media Center on a Budget: Read this tutorial to find out how to build your own MCE on the cheap.
  9. Build Your Own PVR, Then Trash It: Wired discusses how digital rights management may throw a wrench in your media center plans.
  10. A media center based on GNU/Linux: Using this tutorial, you can build a GNU/Linux media center that allows you to record, receive podcasts, play games, and view web TV.
  11. G4 Tower (Sawtooth) Media Center: Find out how to build a media center out of a G4 Sawtooth tower using this tutorial.
  12. Building My MythTV Box: For detailed information on creating a MythTV machine, check out Matt’s story.
  13. Build Your Own TiVo: If you’re looking for inspiration, Francis Shanahan’s simple explanation introduction to home brewing DVR is a good place to start.
  14. Resurrect Your Old PC for Music-with Linux: This article details how you can use a Knoppix-enabled machine to create a media center.
  15. How to Build a Multimedia Server From an Old System: This simple how-to offers instructions for building a multimedia server in eight easy steps.
  16. How to connect the S-Video TV-Out of your computer to your TV: Get details on S-video connection in this tutorial. It covers a number of different operating systems.
  17. Media Center Guide: Read this guide for instructions and advice on how to build a media center out of your old PC.
  18. The Mac mini as a Media Computer: This article discusses many media functions the Mac mini can take on, specifically video editing.
  19. Web Server vs. Streaming Server: This Windows article will help you make the choice between creating a web server or streaming server for your media.
  20. Myth TV Edgy: Get information on running MythTV on Ubuntu Edgy with this guide.
  21. How-To: Ubuntu Media Server: Find out how to make an Ubuntu media server in a few easy steps.
  22. MythTV vs. MCE 2005: A fight to the death: Can’t figure out whether you want to go with MythTV or Windows Media Center? See what Josh has to say.
  23. The Linux HTPC How to-Basic and Advanced Media Center Build Tips: Find out how to build your own media computer on Linux with these helpful tips.
  24. How-To: Turn Your Mac mini into a DVD Jukebox: Find out how to use your Mac mini as a DVD jukebox with this tutorial.
  25. Use your PSP as a universal remote: Hack your PSP to use it as a remote for your media center.
  26. Build It: A Homemade Media Center PC: Check out this tutorial from PC Magazine for building a media center PC.
  27. Easy PC upgrades: Be a media star: Upgrade your old box using this tutorial.
  28. Millenium Falcon Mac mini: Once you’ve turned your Mac mini into a media center, go one step further and turn it into a Millenium Falcon.

Support & Community Whether you have a pressing question or just want to brag about your sweet setup, these resources can give you what you need.

  1. L 99 99 99 99 99…: Find out what to do when your MCE machine spits out this error message.
  2. Ubuntu Forums: Multimedia & Video: For multimedia support in Ubuntu, turn to the users on these forums.
  3. MyHtpc: This website is an excellent resource for more Home Theater PC information.
  4. Belarc Advisor: Before you open up that PC you found on the side of the road, find out what it’s got under the hood using the Belarc Advisor.
  5. SilentPCReview: Who wants a noisy machine in their living room? Get your media center up to par with this website’s advice.
  6. Ubuntu Forums: Servers & Security: If you’re running your media center on Ubuntu, find support on these forums.
  7. AVS Forum: Home Theater Computers: This forum is dedicated to Home Theater PCs running on Linux.
  8. HTPC Projects: Discuss your HTPC project here.
  9. Windows Media Center Forums: Check out these forums for information on Microsoft Media Center.
  10. Digital Trends Forums: The Digital Trends forums are full of users who have experience in media center transformations.
  11. MacHTPC: Get the latest information on Mac Mini HTPCs on this blog.
  12. HTPC News: For the latest in Home Theater PCs, check out this news site.
  13. The Green Button: This community is the "#1 authority" on Windows Media Center.
  14. MythTV Wiki: Get more information and the latest updates on MythTV through this wiki document.
  15. VideoHelp Media Center PC/HTPC: These forums are for users who need help building a media center. They have useful topics on building an HTPC as well as recommendations for useful tools and sites.
  16. SageTV Forums: Check out these very active SageTV forums for information and support.
  17. HTPC Forums: This community is made up of users who have extensive Home Theater PC knowledge.

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