This guide will take you through the various options available for a home media center (also known as home theater personal computers or HTPC ). More and more people are switching to the cutting lifestyle. abandoning traditional TV networks for streaming services and alternative methods of watching live TV.

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This guide should help you replace your outdated TV boxes, as well as expand the functionality of your TV — smart or otherwise!

Why do you need a home media center?

A good home media center is an extension of television but provides much more functionality. They can:

  • Let you keep watching live TV.
  • Provide access to various streaming services such as Netflix. or Amazon Prime Video
  • Allow playback from external hard drives or networked computers.
  • In some cases, allow you to play computer games from the couch!
  • Allow access to social networks such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • Allow playback of DVD, CD and Blu-ray discs.

Exactly how much of the above features you end up with depends on how much you’re willing to spend, and what level of customization complexity you’re willing to deal with. Whatever your budget or tolerance for working with things, there are options.

What you need

Before getting into the details of the options, it’s worth considering what you really need in a media center. Do you basically just want to watch Netflix, TV and sometimes DVDs? Have you bought an Ultra HD Blu-ray scam? Are you looking for the latest 4K HDR for the sharpest picture possible?

Are you already using Apple products and want to keep your technology in the same room? Are you itching to create something completely new from scratch? The answer to each of these questions may help you choose one of the following options:

  • Smart TV: TV has gotten a lot smarter since media serving machines came along, and many of them provide the basics of HTPC in one box. If you’re just looking for a good picture and access on-demand services like Netflix, then this is the option for you.
  • Wireless multimedia device. They come in many forms, but the most common are the Roku Box/Dongle, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Chromecast. All of these options work with all major streaming services as well as the Plex media server. In almost all cases, either one will meet your needs for less money than a dedicated media center. Since most of these devices now support 4K, it’s worth checking out these services before you start building an HTPC to see if you can save some money!
  • Apple TV: Apple TV is a standalone device that connects to an already purchased TV via HDMI and connects to Apple’s streaming services through your home network. There are alternatives to Apple TV such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick that provide a similar service. If you’re an Apple lover through and through, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better solution than the Apple TV for your needs.
  • Media Center Extender. While these devices are much rarer these days, they bridge the gap between your PC and your pre-existing TV. This allows you to play media from your computer, such as downloaded videos and music. While standalone solutions have all but disappeared, Xbox One and PS4 can provide the same services.
  • Create a custom HTPC: this option is the most flexible and the most complex. By building a personal computer for your media needs, you can customize it exactly the way you like it, and even add your game library to your living room. This is the most flexible way in terms of budget, as modern lower range PCs are more than capable of HD playback. The more you’re willing to spend, the more functionality expands with the ability to integrate 4K HDR into your setup. There are also many options in terms of built-in software to give you a truly personalized experience.
  • Repurposing an old computer. Finally, reusing an old computer can be the perfect way to remove an old workhorse and put it to good use. With a few modifications, most older computers will be able to provide many of the features of a modern media center, and unless you have a huge 4K TV to hook up, quality shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Of course, it all depends on the characteristics of your old car.

Apple TV

Apple TV has evolved significantly since its introduction in 2007. What started out as a box to sync files between your computer and TV has grown into a fully featured multimedia system.

The Apple TV is fully integrated with all other Apple products, although it will also play well with a PC for media sharing via iTunes. HomeKit Users can also control his smart home with his Apple TV, and with the new release of Apple TV 4K, he’s capable of delivering the highest quality media with minimal effort.

how to build a great pc media center

The benefit of this setup for Apple users is clear; all your iTunes purchases are available from the cloud, with local storage available also in case of internet outages. All your Apple devices are also compatible, making it easy to transfer media between your TV, iPhone, and iPad.

With the addition of channels, you can watch live TV using the pay-per-view approach as needed. This bridges the gap between on-demand services and live television, which many people consider on-demand to be non-existent.

how to build a great pc media center

Apple TV is only enough to play DVD or Blu-ray discs. Since most media is currently purchased on demand or purchased digitally, this may not be an issue for you, but if you already have a large collection of physical media, this may not help you.

Plex users can also access their library using the Plex app available on the App Store, though Plex doesn’t yet support full 4K HDR functionality. Recently, Apple has also made inroads into the realm of gaming with many games available to play on the device, including Minecraft. although these games are exclusive App Store apps or game updates available for Apple handheld devices.

If you’re already familiar with Kodi, you’ll be pleased to know that it can be used with an Apple TV. as well as. We’ll cover both Kodi and Plex later in this guide.

For movies, TV, and on-demand shows, Apple TV covers all the basics, especially if you’re already an Apple fan. There are now a large number of devices that work in a similar way, ranging from the Amazon Fire TV to the hugely popular Chromecast and Nvidia Shield. If you come from a gaming console background, there is an alternative!

Xbox One X and PS4 Pro

Are you a console gamer? Then you probably already have a fully functional media device! Using a game console as a media center is a concept that has been around for a long time. Both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro have recently expanded on this concept to include just about every streaming service.

how to build a great pc media center

If you primarily want to watch streaming services or watch DVD and Blu-ray content, then the Xbox One X is hard to beat with its Full HDR support at 4K. The PS4 Pro provides almost the same service, however it lacks an HD Blu-ray drive, which lags slightly behind its Microsoft counterpart.

Also, if you have a large collection of movies and music on your computer, you can access them from any console. We discussed the merits of both platforms earlier and you have a simple guide to connecting your Xbox to your computer.

how to build a great pc media center

Nintendo Switch is currently does not support video streaming. However, Nintendo plans to implement this service in the future. Streaming between a Switch tablet and a TV may provide unique experiences for Nintendo users, but for now, the Switch is purely a gaming device!

Build your own

The real holy grail of media systems is building your own from scratch. This gives you complete control over the quality and presentation of information. It also allows you to test your settings to some extent in the future, saving you expensive upgrades whenever the technology moves forward.

how to build a great pc media center

A good media center replaces your set-top box, cable box, DVD/Blu-ray player, and in some cases even your TV. Some people prefer to use a 4K capable computer monitor instead of a traditional TV.

Exactly how much you need to spend on an installation depends entirely on what you want to use it for, and a well-built computer can always be upgraded. later.

If you’re mainly interested in watching TV shows and movies, then there are budget builds that will be more than enough, while if you’re looking for an all-in-one gaming and video experience, it’s worth looking for higher-end components that can handle the demand. modern day games.

In this guide, we’ll evaluate a budget build designed for watching shows and movies that is both compact and quiet.

Case: SilverStone Sugo SG09B Series

how to build a great pc media center

We will be using a microATX case for this build. While there are smaller cases available, this case is fairly quiet and leaves room for future updates. It also lacks some of the brighter LED effects and molded plastic of its gaming counterparts, so it should fit in nicely in any living room! The Silverstone Sugo Series SG09B is widely considered to be a great case for the price.

Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 1200

how to build a great pc media center

For our processor, we will be using the AMD Ryzen 3 1200. Since its release, these processors have been widely praised as amazing value, and are commonly referred to as incredibly high performance for their place in the market. For this type of build, the stock Wraith Stealth cooler is quiet, keeps our CPU cool, and is included with the CPU.

Motherboard: ASRock AB350M Pro4 AM4

This motherboard works great with the processor of our choice and contains all the features required for such a computer. The motherboard outputs 4K at 24Hz, although this can be expanded by adding a graphics card. While this board doesn’t have the high-end products you’d see on pure gaming platforms, it’s hard to beat the quality offered at this price point.

how to build a great pc media center

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16 GB

how to build a great pc media center

One thing you should never skimp on is RAM. These matched 8GB sticks offer great performance and should see your system going into the future without any changes. Get Good RAM Now, Avoid Headaches Later !

Power Supply: CORSAIR SF SF450 Series 450W

how to build a great pc media center

Power supplies are another part that is prone to failure, so it’s important to choose the right one and get something trusted right from the start. Corsair is a highly respected brand for power supplies, and this offering for microATX systems is well-received by novice and professional reviewers alike.

Hard Drive: Seagate ST3000DM003 3TB

how to build a great pc media center

For HTPCs, storage is important. You want somewhere to store your movies, series, music and other media without worrying about running out of space. One 3TB drive is enough to get you started, and you can always buy an extra drive in time if you fill it up completely.

With the above details, you should have a fully functional media machine! However, several additional components which can improve your experience. depending on your requirement.


how to build a great pc media center

Solid state drives (SSDs) are now ubiquitous in computing, and it’s easy to see why. An SSD speeds up your computer so much that it can breathe life into older machines. Although there are some considerations to take into account when upgrading, generally any SSD will give better performance compared to a standard HDD. The real trick when it comes to storage is to keep your operating system on an SSD. saving your files on a much larger hard drive.

Blu-ray Drive: Pioneer 4K UHD Blu-ray burner

how to build a great pc media center

If you need Blu-ray, be sure to get the latest version. This drive is capable of reading and writing Full HD Blu-ray and should support your DVD/Blu-ray collection for the foreseeable future!

Video Card: GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1070 Ti

how to build a great pc media center

A graphics card (GPU) can add a huge amount to your system, but they are always worth the price. The GTX 1070 Ti is a well-known and reliable card for gamers and cryptocurrency miners. This card provides full 4K HDR output and will allow your system to play most games, but at its current price, it puts a lot of pressure on this build’s budget. Fortunately, the card can always be added to your system later.

While this system will take care of the needs of most people, building computers is always fraught with differences of opinion and different results at different price points. If at any point you’re not sure how much to spend or what to get, spend some time reading reviews of any part you want to get and researching alternatives. Special offers on parts or luck and finding a fairly new second hand part can save you a decent amount of money!

Also, be sure to check out the PC parts picker if you’re building for the first time. and how to choose the right components for your PC.

Media Center Software

Now that you have your hardware setup, you need a software solution to give you access to your streaming services and locally stored files. Even an old computer and laptop can have a new media server lifespan, and while you won’t be able to enjoy full 4K quality with it, the right software can make that dusty old computer useful again!

Windows used to have its own software for this, called Windows Media Center. but the service has been discontinued and is not compatible with Windows 10. Today, Kodi and Plex are widely regarded as the best pieces of HTPC software, and many systems use a combination of the two.

The software is similar in functionality, with the big difference being that Kodi is designed to store and present media on a single device, while plex is a cloud service that streams video from a server to a device.


Kodi started life as Xbox Media Center in 2002 but has been developed over the years as an open source media solution that will run on almost any platform. For the purposes of this guide, we’re assuming your HTPC will be running Windows 10, although it’s widely used on Mac and Linux systems and can even run on a Raspberry Pi. !

how to build a great pc media center

Kodi will play just about any file you throw at it, and it’s a great way to keep your media library on one device. Kodi can be customized with various skins and backgrounds to suit almost any sense of aesthetics.

Different profiles are also available, which means your shows can be kept separate from the other people you share the TV with. You can control Kodi remotely using Kore, the official app for Kodi. Because this remote works through your home network, any smartphone or tablet can now be used as a remote.

how to build a great pc media center

Kodi also has a collection of user-created add-ons. giving access to a huge amount of online content. Users are advised to use a VPN when accessing these services, and in the past, people have received copyright notices for illegal broadcasting in their region.

Make sure you understand what is legal and what not before you start here! Unfortunately, even with legitimate Netflix or Amazon Prime accounts, Kodi no longer supports these streaming services, although they are available through a web browser or Windows app.

Kodi is the undisputed king of media centers at one point. Considering it’s free and open source, and with a level of customization, it’s no surprise that Kodi is the most popular front-end software for custom media centers.


Plex is similar to Kodi in many ways, although there are a few important differences. While Kodi is a closed system designed to serve media on a single device, Plex works as a media server that transcodes videos before sending them to one or more devices.

how to build a great pc media center

Another important difference between Plex is its price. Plex has a free option that works similarly to Kodi, although many Plex apps require a Plex subscription. These applications include several features of the device, as well as the ability to watch and record live TV broadcasts. Plex subscriptions are cheap, with monthly and yearly subscriptions only $4.99 and $39.99 respectively.

how to build a great pc media center

Unfortunately, Plex also suffers from a lack of Netflix. Many users have reported that the original Netflix app for Plex stopped working in 2015 and it doesn’t look like any solution is close due to Netflix changing the way they distribute their services.

With Plex’s intuitive design that allows anyone to create their own cloud media system, as well as the great design and Kodi experience, it’s no wonder they are often used together. Luckily, both services make it easy to pair the two, and the Plex for Kodi add-on makes it easy to access your Plex server from within the Kodi app.

Completion off

Building your own media center on a budget is a great way to get away from the standard TV networks. Whether your media is stored digitally or in the cloud, a single point of access gives you a great sense of control over your own media. If you want to control streaming media services from your smartphone, try these essential mobile apps made for cord cutters.

While there are many other options for streaming media to your TV, the PC in the living room is the perfect solution for captivating entertainment systems. Replacing an old set-top box with a computer offers benefits that go beyond simply enjoying your favorite shows. HTPC can also bring all the functionality of a computer into your living room.

If you want to use a Linux-based installation, choose one of these great media center distributions for your HTPC

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