Vista Ultimate – Media Center PC for under $400

I have decided to take the plunge and create a Vista Ultimate for my Media Center PC to augment my DVD/Stereo/HDTV set-up. The price of the case to the left was $109 @MicroCenter.

My first attempt to build will be from some left-over parts including:

  • Athlon 64 3000+
  • nVidia 6600GT PCI-E

New parts include:

  • 1GB of PC3200 – $75
  • Foxconn NF4U MB – $65
  • DVD DL/RW Combo Drive – $30
  • Vista Ultimate (Free courtesy of MSDN Subscription)
  • Wireless Keyboard/Mouse – $26
  • Microsoft Remote – $39

Total Price $344

Though I might need to purchase more memory I can get this for another $75 which would put the total price tag to $419, not bad for a new media center PC. I will keep this post updated as to how well everything works out…

Update 4/7/2007

Well I did not check and the motherboard was too large, so I needed to get a MicroATX board from MicroCenter, they did not have any socket 939 boards so I went with AM2 and a new processor and newer memory. The GigaByte board although it came with an SPDIF output, they provided no brackets so this meant I needed a sound card with DOLBY & DTS, which set me back a $100, and of course I needed to get a capture card.

The problems started with these new boards as soon as I installed the new hardware. They (capture card & sound card) said it was Vista ready, but I received a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) while the Media Center was identifying my cable box. Followed by a Black Screen of Death upon reboot. The only way around the Black Screen of Death (Black is the new Blue) was to go into safe mode, remove the drivers for NVIDIA, ATI Capture, and the Sound Card. Remove both PCI cards and add one at a time until it booted without error. I also downloaded some Vista Updates along the way.

I had to manually configure my video card in media center, but it still does not recognize both tuners (Digital TV & Cable) I think there's a know knowledge base article (kb929011) but that does not resolve the issue because they just give a link to tech support. There's another post that people have had more luck with, I will try it and update this post.

But once Vista Media Center was installed, it was VERY COOL. We watched Star Wars EP 1, on it last night and looked at some photos from our albums. One thing that we noticed right away was that all of these digital photos just sat on our PC and we did not look at them, but now we can enjoy our MP3 collection, digital photo collection, and now I can start converting all of our video sitting on 20 some odd MiniDV tapes.

There's also some online movies, online TV, online news that's pretty neat we have not had time to investigate those and we have not tried YouTube'n over media center at this time. The text it still hard to read at 1280×720 (yes you might want to get a 1080p set for this so you can watch at 1920×1080). But most sites are readable, I might just need to tinker with the settings and DPI.