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.

Comments

  1. Sonny says

    Pls help me with tips on how to turn my Desktop PC into a Radio Broadcasting Station in my rural community to create awareness on Drug and Crime free environment. a radius of 1kilometre will be okay.

  2. rock95seven says

    Sonny,

    Please visit the links section of my website.
    There you will want to look for the links to part15.us

    You will be able to get all the answers your looking for there. There is plenty of free software out there to help setup a radio station.

    I realize this is an old thread. If Sonny doesnt respond , feel free to delete my post . thank you

  3. Remote PC Access Software says

    my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at unique end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

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