Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid with your HTPC Build


Remember the feeling you had when you would pack for a nice long vacation, only to arrive at the hotel and realize you forgot your toothbrush? That feeling can be 100 times as bad when it comes to building out a Home Theater PC (HTPC) where components cost a lot more than $3, not to mention the effort involved with each step.

With the help of the gang at, we have compiled a list of the top 10 mistakes people most commonly make during their build process of an HTPC. I can’t stress that this applies for novice users as well as experts, as its usually the obvious things that are forgotten that cause the most hassle!

1. Buying a case that doesn’t fit your needs

The chassis is one of the most important components of a build, not just stylistically but also functionally. Go to small with a chassis and you may not be able to use that 2nd hard drive, or fit that full size ATX motherboard. If the chassis measurements are too deep, then you have a gorgeous case that’s hanging out the back because your entertainment shelf is only 18" deep and the chassis is 20"!

2. Choosing a video card that is underpowered – so many HTPC’s are
started off with parts that are leftover, and the video card is most
common since it’s one of the most regularly upgraded pieces. But
there’s little more that can cause headaches than an underpowered video
card when you’re trying to playback some high resolution, high
compression video formats and spend the next few weeks trying to find
the culprit.

3. Choosing an antique CPU/Mobo combination – Partly for the same
reasons as the video card complaint above, but the problem around using
older motherboards is more of an issue if you are buying more
components. For example, if you are going to be buying PCI components
(instead of PCI-Express) because your older motherboard has a lot of
them, and then are forced to upgrade, will new motherboards be able to
support all your devices?


4. Not thinking about your Software enough – Just browse around the
forums of every software available and you’ll see people
surprised/disappointed that their selected software can’t do the 1 most
important thing they want. For example, if you must have the extender
model and you must have DVD/Blu-ray playback onto them, then Windows
Media Center is NOT for you, SageTV would be ideal. If you must have
high definition television, know your options–Windows Media Center is
the only one that supports cablecard.

5. Using a cheap power supply – this is valid for almost any system
build and the reasons are obvious. Using an inexpensive power supply
can cause you a lot of headaches with random reboots, freezes, shut
downs…and of course you will assume the problem is everything EXCEPT
the power supply…that is until you replace every piece and figure it

6. Not testing their memory – Memtest86 is free, and now with Windows 7
they have a built in Memory Checker that you can run as well, so the
excuses are getting thin for NOT checking your memory. yes it takes a
few hours, but the time you will save if you find out sooner than later
that you have faulty memory will be well worth it. Faulty memory can
cause blue screens, crashes, freezes and other annoying glitches which
your eyes will tell you is a software issue.

7. Selecting the wrong sound card for your setup – The lack of
knowledge for sound options is pretty high as are the number of people
who still get disappointed that their on-board HDMI device can’t
bitstream high definition formats. Again, this comes back to knowing
what you have to have for features.

8. Not using the latest drivers – Again, a tried & true rule from
regular computer building, so many times issues the user has are fixed
eventually by updated drivers from the manufacturer. If you have any
CD’s that came with your hardware, step 1 is to throw them out! Then go
to that company’s website and download the latest drivers for that
particular device.

9. Not making an image backup – I can’t express the importance of this
one and how many people forget about this. You spend countless hours
installing your OS, tweaking all the settings, installing all the
software…getting things perfect, only to have a random Windows Update
or something else 3 weeks later cause absolute disaster and you need to
start from scratch! Windows7 includes image backup software, if you
have Windows Home Server you can use that, or you can find plenty of
other imaging type software available for cheap. Believe me, if it
saves you a full day of work you will APPRECIATE it!!

10. Not looking into the future with your purchases – This is of course
in reference to actual purchases, not leftover parts which are free.
Take for example the optical drive. You might be telling yourself that
you have absolutely no need for a blu-ray drive since you don’t own any
blu-rays, you don’t have a big HDTV and you’re perfectly fine being on
the cheapest DVD-only Netflix plan. As blu-ray discs continue to come
down in price, as do LCD and plasma televisions, you don’t want to be
stuck having to settle for DVDs or having to crack open your HTPC just
for this upgrade. Not to mention the cost is not that bad. A DVD drive
can cost you anywhere from $20-40, and you can pick yourself up a
blu-ray drive starting at $60. This type of thinking holds true across
every part–try to envision the item lasting through next year. Are you
recording Television shows or ripping movies? If so, you might as well
go for a 1 terabyte drive now instead of that seemingly inexpensive
250gb one.