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Wonky Gibbon Ramblings

Building a Windows MediaCentre PVR from (some) reused parts 0

Posted on April 16, 2009 by danny

I’m a big fan of reusing old kit from the loft (ie tight fisted!) and we’d been wanting a PVR for quite a while. Windows Media Centre PVR’s are often specced to be high performance pieces of kit that can handle the latest games etc… However the actual TV part of the requirement needs next no grunt at all. The spec below is more than capable of recording 2 channels simultaneously whilst playing back a third pre-receorded show – and the heart of it, was recycled from the loft…

Reused bits:

  • Soltek 75DRV2 Motherboard (circa 2002)
  • AMD Athlon XP 1600+
  • 1.0 GB Ram (can run on 512MB – but gets sluggish once you have many recordings to index)
  • NVidia Gforce FX5200 Video card (fanless) with TV output (cost £20 when new).

Additional Hardware:

  • Big Slow Spinning fan to keep it cool quietly (cost about £15 if I remember correctly).
  • Similarly, quiet PSU bought (do you really want a noisy PC in your living room? Nah!)
  • A single Seagate Barracuda drive for storage (again quiet) £50
  • Twin Black Gold TV cards to encode DVB-T (Freeview) signals £50 each.
  • A Silver fronted DVD drive (£20).
  • A nice case. To make it a simple build, the normal PC case height. A Silverstone LC17 – this wasn’t that cheap (almost £100).
  • You will also need a Remote Control and an IR receiver for MCE. These can be found on ebay.
  • If you are going to want to store (or process) the recorded files on other machines, then buy a gigabit LAN card if you don’t have one (£10) so that you can move the files around quickly (they are huge!) – if you opt to do this over wireless you may contemplate suicide.


You will need a copy of Microsoft Media Centre for XP which you probably can’t buy new anymore. Its quite likely that the Vista version may not run on a machine this low spec as Vista is rather more hungry. But the XP version can be found easily on ebay. Would be interesting to see if the equivalent Windows 7 MCE is efficient enough to run on this when that comes out though…
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