Ever wonder what to do with a “retired” desktop PC? If it meets a few basic hardware requirements, it might be suitably put to use as a Media Center PVR computer, allowing you to record TV shows (in standard and hi-definition), listen to music, watch videos, watch DVDs, and view your photo collection as a screen saver.
This 3-part series provides details about the set of hardware components, the software packages, and the configuration required in order to build a decent Media Center PVR computer. These items can either be downloaded for FREE, purchased online, or purchased locally at a Best Buy store.
It is strongly recommended that you read through the 3 parts of this series before starting. You will want to make sure that the hardware and software you plan to use is compatible with Windows 7, and also you’ll want to gather up the software and drivers you will need ahead of time. Details on how to determine if your hardware and software is ready for Windows 7 can be obtained by running the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor program.
Part 1 – Hardware in this series detailed the hardware used for our sample Media Center PVR PC build.
In Part 2 – Software, we will outline the software packages you’ll want to purchase or download to prepare for building your own Media Center PVR PC…
Part 2 of 3 – Software Components
Here are the software packages used in our example build:
- Windows 7 Home Premium
We used Windows 7 Professional in our build (it was already available at build time) but Windows 7 Home Premium will work just fine for a Media Center PC. Pay only $99 for Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit OEM version at TigerDirect.com.
- Hauppauge! software
The Hauppauge! TV tuner card comes with an install CD. You can install the drivers from this CD to ensure you get the correct drivers for your particular version of card, or better yet, visit the Hauppauge! HVR-2250 support page to download a drivers-only package for your particular card. If you are going to use Windows Media Center and LM Remote KeyMap (we are), then you’ll want to avoid installing WinTV and the IR32 application; WMC has this support built-in and you might change the default behavior.
- Trend Micro Internet Security 2010
Retail $30 for a 3-user license, available from ComputersWorth.com.
This is a great deal and the software works well to protect your computers from file, email and web threats. When the year’s license is about to expire, don’t worry, you’re still protected but just not getting the very latest updates. Returning to the ComputersWorth.com Trend Micro page will let you download the latest version again for a similar deal. If it is the same version, you can simply go into the program options and update your license key only to renew for another year.
UPDATE: See the comments below for information about a potentially even better deal at BuyCheapSoftware.com!
For newer versions than you are currently using, the installer wizard will detect an older version and prompt you to uninstall it. Follow the on-screen instructions, reboot when required, and you’re off and protected for another year!
- LM Remote KeyMap program
FREE download from LM Gestion.
One caveat: Microsoft Intellitype software – if you install this package, beware that you may experience conflicts with the LMRemoteKeyMap software and unpredictable functionality of your Windows Media Center remote control.
- Windows Live Family Safety Web Filter – Available for free via Windows Update; also part of the “Windows Live Essentials” package.
The Windows Live Family Safety Web Filter is capable of logging any user’s Internet usage. You need a free account on the Windows Live web site, but you can review reports and configure access levels, based on the profile(s) you create.
User accounts on each computer where Windows Live Family Safety is installed are assigned to a WLFS profile. There are general categories available for age groups available, much like those of NetNanny or similar packages. You can configure user program permissions, social networking ability, and even computer usage time limits.
The one thing that at the time of this writing is not implemented is the ability to send regular reports via email.
- Microsoft Intellipoint software
Get it FREE from Microsoft. You’ll want this if you have a Microsoft mouse and want to customize the button behavior. In our test build, it did not seem to adversely affect the performance of the LM Remote KeyMap program.
- Google Chrome web browser – Get it FREE from Google.
Google really shines with this web browser; fast to open, fast to load pages, and the selection of extensions available is impressive and growing. There are extensions for blocking ads, capturing and annotating all or parts of web pages, printing only parts of web pages to save paper and ink, etc. You can find an article discussing Google Chrome with links to download the browser and several extensions here: Google Chrome rivals Mozilla Firefox.
Next: Part 3 – Configuration in this series covers the configuration and set-up of our example Media Center PVR PC…