How to build a Media Centre PC

The Build

Componants unboxed

  1. Case
  2. 80GB laptop hard drive. Much bigger than this machine will need, as all data is stored on the network, but it’s pretty hard to find a drive smaller than this any more.
  3. The motherboard, showing just how small it is.
  4. Low-profile heatsink and fan. The stock heatsink is too tall for this case once the PCI sound card is installed.
  5. Processor. The 2.5GHz dual core AMD chip gives excellent performance for a low, low 45W power rating. This will keep both power usage and heat (and therefore fan noise) down.
  6. PCI sound card. Not 100% necessary, as the mobo has sound, but this card gives us an optical output, which means digital sound instead of just analogue stereo. That’s important if you’re plugging into a high quality home cinema.

CPU installedFirst job, install the processor. Note the anti-static strap attached to the mobo. Don’t overlook ESD procedure when handling electronic components, damage from static can and does shorten the life of your components.

Fan and RAM installedAfter applying a thin layer of thermal compound to the CPU, we can mount the fan. I’ve also installed the single 1GB RAM stick, visible just behind the heatsink. The Silverstone NT07-AM2 cooler mounts nice and securely with proper screws, not annoying clips like some coolers.

Into the case she goes!Once the mobo is ready it can go into the case. Best to start putting those cable ties to good use now, as it’s going to be a tight fit! The white object to the left of the power supply is the PCI riser that we’ll be using to shoehorn the PCI soundcard into this tiny box.

Soundcard installedAnd here it is, the soundcard mounted horizontally above the mobo.

Hard drive mounting trayAh, we’ve struck our first problem! This tray is supposed to mount optical drives and hard drives, but it seems to completely block the airflow from the CPU fan out the top of the case, so…

Hard drive "alternate" mounting point...I decided to improvise, and instead installed the hard drive by wedging it in behind the front panel. It’s not actually screwed in, but the wiring does keep it fairly snugly in position. A good thing I decided to use a 2.5″ laptop sized drive…

Ta-da!The final result. You can see here how the CPU fan blows straight out the top of the case (the panel the fits on top is well perforated). I originally intended to fit an extra 60mm case fan, but this build just doesn’t need it. Hot air doesn’t have anywhere to build up. The Terratec PCI sound card is a particularly lucky shape, blocking very little of the airflow off the fan.

>>> Next page: setup and operating system! >>>

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2 Responses to “How to build a Media Centre PC”

  1. Ghost Says:

    Just had to post, I saw the image on your first page – vintage computers, ive still got one of them up in the loft. What a fantastic machine, CBM or PET my first and still favourite PC. Simpler times.lol

  2. Techblog » Blog Archive » How to make a Raspberry Pi media centre Says:

    […] built a media centre PC a few years back and I’ve been happy with it ever since. It’s been running XBMC, which […]

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This page last updated 11 November 2009