For the longest time I wanted some kind of PC for my media center in the living room. I have a ton of videos (TV series mostly) on CD and DVD, but no way to watch them when away from my computer. Again, the best way I could think of was to build an HTPC. When I got a few extra parts together (mainly from my sister's old computer) I added my old slot-load DVD drive, and set up a system in the living room. The best part was that I already had an ATI All-in-Wonder PCI card that had great TV-out capability/quality. Once I got XP installed, and all the software set up, it was time to make something more appealing to the eye. That, and the little lady of the house didn't like having a computer obviously sitting in our living room.

Putting It Together

Before I began, I made sure that I had the OS and all the software set up--especially the wifi card. After that, I was able to remove all of the internal parts and layout a plan to mount everything in the box. As you can see, the old system was a pre-build blue case, and the new case will be this old-timey, bamboo box that I found at a local mall.

I didn't bother with any pictures during the strip-down, but here you can see all the main parts laid out after I removed them from the old case. I made some basic measurements and started cutting out a hole for the expansion (PCI/ISA) cards. This is where my brand new Black & Decker Wizard came in handy :)

Once I got a hole cut out, it was time to check the measurements again. I did an initial fitting of the motherboard and all the cards. I also sat the powersupply and other parts in the box to determine what else needed to be cut out. This included the hole for the keyboard connection and power button that needed to be cut.

Finally, I made sure the power button was mounted (I recessed the nut for the switch on one site, and pushed through the button from the other side). I also drilled some small holes for some shelf pins--these will come into play later. Now I could clean out the sawdust and start mounting all of the parts inside the box. Notice that the power button is just hooked up via an old CD audio cable.

The Finished Product

The finished box, with all of the internal parts connected. The finishing touches include putting a plexiglass sheet above the motherboard (remember those shelf pins?). But first, I need to make sure everything works, including the power button. Notice the wireless mouse beside the keyboard--this works from any of the chairs in the living room.

Notice myHTPC running on the TV. Media files are accessed via standard network shares on my Linux server. Since everything is working, I can install the plexiglass sheet and hook up the DVD drive and HDD.

Now you can trully see the finished product, both inside and outside, and where it sits in relation to the rest of the media center.

Software, Scripts, & Info

You used to be able to get a copy of myHTPC for FREE from, but now this is a pay-only package from Medio. This software basically just runs as a front-end to multiple media players, and is fully customizable. This works primarily on Windows 2000 systems or above (preferrably XP, since fewer addons are needed for the software to work).

By the way, this system is just a socket7 AMD K6-2 500, with 384MB of SDRAM. The system isn't terribly fast, and sometimes stutters on video playback, but for the most part it works rather well. Hopefully if I get a new system (motherboard, etc) it'll fit in the same box, and probably be even smaller than what I currently have.