Now that you know what you want your HTPC to do, you can start looking for suitable components.
ETR How to Build a 4K HTPC
- PART ONE: GOALS AND CHALLENGES
- PART TWO: CASE, POWER SUPPLY, MOTHERBOARD, AND COOLING
- PART THREE: PROCESSOR, SSD, RAM, AND OPTICAL DRIVE
- PART FOUR: SETUP, TROUBLESHOOTING, AND QUIRKY 4K STUFF
- PART FIVE: SOFTWARE
- PART SIX: PERIPHERALS AND EVERYTHING ELSE
- PART SEVEN: GRAPHICS CARD – THE DEFINITIVE INSTALLATION/UPGRADE/HOW-TO GUIDE
- UPDATED PARTS LIST FOR 2016
- UPDATED PARTS LIST FOR 2017
There are unlimited possibilities and combinations you can choose from to build your HTPC. Deciding what to buy and where to get it from can be a frustrating experience. To take some of the guesswork out of it, a very handy resource and a good place to start is a website called pcpartpicker.com. If you are worried about component compatibility, pcpartpicker.com is a good resource to help you make sure everything will fit/work together in the end. It will help guide you through the process and what parts you need to purchase.
NOTE: ALL component prices listed in this guide are as of February 2014, actual prices may differ, sometimes more, sometimes less.
When it comes to building an HTPC, size is everything. Your form factor will determine much of your build and the components you can use. If you are building a micro PC, you are going to be much more limited in your selection than if you were building a full or mid-size PC. It all starts with your wants and needs. If you require a very small form factor, you are probably going to have to sacrifice a few things, like a discrete graphics card, or a 3.5″ storage drive. They might not fit into your case. So pick a case that is the right size based on your needs.
For my purposes, I went with the very popular Silverstone ML04B. Silverstone is a very popular choice among HTPC builders. It was a good fit for my 6″(H) x 17.75(W) x 16.5″(D) opening in my TV stand. The ML04B won’t leave me a whole bunch of breathing room, but it should be enough for adequate ventilation.
Overall the case is well constructed and very sturdy. The top of the case can be completely removed, leaving an open & accessible work area. For a small form factor case, I found the ML04B pretty easy to work with. Even though some components were a tight squeeze, there was just enough room left over for some expansion, should I need it later on. Overall the case is not perfect, but if you have space concerns, I would highly recommend it.
Now we can finally start building our HTPC. The first thing we should get in there is the power supply. I chose to use the FSP SFX 300W Power Supply. It is nearly silent and should provide more than enough power for my needs. It should also provide just enough power to allow for a bit of expansion later on if necessary. In the Silverstone listing for the ML04B, they say that you can fit a full-size ATX power supply into the case, and you can, but there are some very big caveats if you plan on using a 5.25″ DVD or Blu-ray drive. If you plan on using an internal optical drive, and a full-size ATX PSU, you might have a bad day. Or it might make your build a major pain in the butt. When the two are installed together, they have very little clearance in which to work from. Luckily, I read about this issue (RESEARCH) and decided to make it easier on myself by picking up an SFX PSU. Just think of it as a smaller PSU for smaller cases. SFX PSU’s usually cost more per Watt than traditional full-size PSU’s, but the price difference is worth it, trust me on this.
The FSP SFX 300W Power Supply that I used comes with a mounting bracket that lets you mount the power supply onto a normal sized ATX opening. Installation was a breeze until I realized this particular PSU’s biggest, and almost fatal flaw. Apparently, this PSU is made for builds even smaller than mine, because some of its cables are really short. The main power 20+4 and 4-pin cables in particular. You would normally want to mount your PSU upside down so the fans exhaust blows outside of the case, but, unfortunately, I had to flip the PSU fan side up (blowing into the case) otherwise the main power cables wouldn’t reach their motherboard connectors. It isn’t ideal, but I don’t think it will cause any heating issues. This all depends upon your case and motherboard configuration, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. If you don’t feel like being risky, but you’re OK with spending a bit more money on your PSU, the Silverstone Tek 300W SFX PSU is probably a good alternative.