Building a Media Center PC Part 1


My decision to build an MCE

I got this wild idea in my head a few months ago that I wanted to build a Media Center for my bedroom.  Our digital cable doesn’t extend that far, so basically we only have a DVD player in there.  Which is fine, but if I want to catch up on the latest episode of Lost or House, I have to leave the room and go to the living room or my office to watch it.  Sometimes I would rather just lie in bed and rest my weary old bones.  So that’s when the idea came to me that I should build a media center.  There was a small problem with it thought, I had no idea how to build one.

I can build a computer with no problem.  I’ve been doing it for years.  But a Media Center is a whole  nother animal.  It is, as the name implies, all about the media.  Games are entirely possible, but why waste the drive space?  I planned on ripping my DVDs of Rob & Big and hitting up on the regular.  So obviously I had to make this thing WiFi enabled to access the web.  It had to have a DVD-R on it.  Lightscribe would have been cool, but who really needs more than one of those in their house?  So the Lightscribe is out.  I searched around my office for anything that would give me a decent start at a media center without having to dump a ton of money into it.  (We are in a recession, after all.)

After a little while, I came across a processor I had gotten from Alan a few months back.  He had no use for it, and frankly neither did I at the time.  So it went in a drawer in my desk.  A 1.8Ghz Celeron LGA775.  I don’t plan on ripping HD or anything of that nature, so this should more than handle streaming media and DVD playback.  Then another problem presented itself.  I don’t have an Intel motherboard.  I’m typically an AMD user.  So I got on eBay to see what I could find that would match up to this processor.  I had a cube-style case here, so I didn’t need one of those.  However, if I wanted to use the case I had to have a micro-ATX motherboard.  No problem.

Except that every motherboard I saw on there was around $75.  More than I wanted to spend to watch television in my room.  And I still had a few other things to buy for this thing as well.  So after about an hour of fruitless searching I came across a motherboard on that might do the job.  It wasn’t the best of models, but like I said before, I’m not trying to build a gaming system either.  I didn’t like the fact that it used old DDR RAM, but what can you do?  Anyway, I still had a 512MB stick tucked away in a box of hardware, so that was one less thing I would have to buy.  Doubts still flourished though, even as I punched in my credit card information and clicked the confirmation button.

Fast forward three days later.  I come home from work to find a UPS box sitting on my doorstep.  I hate when they do that.  So I took the box into my garage and opened it up to see where I was.  Everything looked nice, no bent or broken pins.  No burn scores.  It looked good.  So I broke out the thermal paste and put everything together.  I decided to put an Antec Earthwatt PSU in it to do my part for global warming.  Not to mention keeping my electric bill to a minimum.  So with 380 watts of electricity pumping to it, all the plugs and cords connected, a 160GB SATA HDD in place, I hit the power button.  It’s Alive!!!!

Wait.  No… no it wasn’t.  The power came on, but nothing happened.  I double checked everything, but could find nothing wrong.  AGP video card was in place and seated properly.  Memory was good, I had already checked it.  The computer was powering on, but there was no video and no beep from the motherboard speaker.  I waited to see if there was simply a delay in the POST, but there was nothing.  I think I have a dud.  I took the memory out, took the CPU out, and unhooked the HDD and DVD-R drive.  I then powered it on again.  It ran, and continued to run until I turned it off.  Yeah, this was a crap motherboard.  Back to Geeks you go, you ass.

Currently, I sit waiting on the next motherboard to arrive at my doorstep.  This time it’s upgradeable to Core Duo and takes DDR2.  I managed to arrange a deal with a friend of mine on eBay and got it for around $30 including shipping.  I ordered a 1GB stick of DDR2 as well, and as I wrote the last sentence my doorbell rang.  UPS just dropped off my MCE Remote Control.  I am a little more excited and antsy that this thing is going to come together properly than I was with the last motherboard.  For now, I am going to sit back and play a little Warcraft and wait for the goods to come in.

Don is an avid gamer, writer, screen writer,part time game maker, film director, and horror film fanatic. You can check out his book "How to Survive Zombies and Other Disasters" on Amazon.