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Build a HTPC with no moving parts?

MRL

Active Member
Objective: Build a HTPC with no moving parts - no fans, no HDD spinning.
I have 1TB+ of HDD storage on my home gigabit network. I am looking to build a HTPC with no moving parts. Newegg.com has an 8GB solid state IDE disk for about $390. My current HTPC has a nVidia 6800 GT graphics card connected to my Toshiba HDTV via the DVI port.
Has anyone investigated such a build? I assume there are power supplies without a fan and a way to cool the CPU without a fan. I assume there are decent fan-less graphics cards. This HTPC does not need a powerful CPU although I will use it to watch movies from a network hard drive (or I could copy the movie to the solid state disk). I think that 512MB RAM should be adequate. I do not plan to put a DVD reader into the HTPC - no moving parts - period!
 

DavidL

Senior Member
First question is "why?". I assume noise. If you are selective of components, you can build a HTPC that will be very difficult to hear.
Video is very hard on CPU. To cool a CPU without any mechanical parts (fan / water cooling etc) you might look into a Peltier cooler that converts electricty to cool. I believe they are very inefficient. Not sure of their reliability either.
You should look into XPEmbedded if you will be using CF memory for boot drive. You can set it up to not write which protects the memory which has a limited number of Write cycles in it's life.
 

rocco

Active Member
I wish to add to David's post, assuming that the "why" is for noise reasons or for reliability. When I finally build my HTPC, it too will be fan-less and drive-less (though there will be a disk farm in the garage).

Peltier devices are very reliable and can be somewhat efficient. Efficient in terms of cost effectiveness, but they are not power efficient, in that they would use more electricity than a fan would. I have used them to cool CCD chips down to minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with no moving parts. The thing to keep in mind is that the do not actually "cool", but are a solid state "heat-pump". They "move" heat from one surface to the opposite surface.

To get any efficiency from them, you still need to remove the heat from the box. In my application, the Peltier devices simply moved the heat from the back-side of the CCD chip to a large heat sink on the back of the camera, a distance of less than an inch.
 

Mike

Senior Member
I think if that is your objective, I think you are over complicating it. Why does the PC need to remain in the room? IR or RF can be used for the remote, video can be distributed, etc and you can keep it simple and cheap (and in another room, probably a central location where wiring terminates already)...

If no noise was something I wanted, I would consider this route. This way you can keep your equipment cool and happy (and possibly last longer) and avoid spending more money for more exotic solutions.

Just a thought.
 

SkyBolt

Member
Mike said:
I think you are over complicating it. Why does the PC need to remain in the room?
Exactly! - I have all of my HA and MM PC stuff in a closet in the basement. Zero noise and extreamly easy to take care of. Although there are many ways to skin a cat, ultimately you need to remove the heat from the surounding space. MY HDTV is fan less but once enclosed the temp in the enclosuree was out of sight. I had to pull the air out of the area with duct work leading out sode throught the basement with dryer type venting and fans. You just can't win! Let us know how you make out.

-Skybolt
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
I am working on moving my HTPC out of my living room as well, and am seriously considering using the Xbox360 as the extender, since it supports HD outputs and digital audio out.
 

Mike

Senior Member
I bought one for that purpose Electron and am not sold on it completely. The idea is great, and for $300 it is an amazing concept. The quality is great on the playback of recorded or live tv.

A few things I noticed that I am still reviewing:

1. There are delays for the activities, not huge but longer than you would be used to on the main MCE machine. It can be more so if you have something playing and then go look for another type of media. This should not be network related as this was a wired connection.

2. I had a few cases where shows would only play up to a certain point (it would seem a few would do that). I did not trace this out, and have not tried to reproduce it again, but I did play the show on the main unit and it worked fine.

3. The lack of support for my movies without jumping through some hoops was a real negative for me.

4. If you integrate your home & theater beyond MCE (CQC, etc), you wind up with two interfaces.

5. Some local channels are not reported properly in MCE so do not record properly. This is an acknowledged problem by Microsoft (who blames it on the FCC, but when I checked my Tivo's and Sage, they were fine).

Now I had upgraded my computer recently and was going to retest, in case it had anything to do with the older unit. Also for the next 'phase' of integration Sage was more able to be integrated so I have been testing that.

If I do remain on MCE, I was considering relegating the extender to a secondary location (not the bedroom, etc) based on the above (and if the 'bugs' are repeated).

Hope this helps.
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
That's the kind of feedback I am looking for, thanks for posting this!

The My Movies issue is a big one imo as well. Maybe I should look at MythTV instead, and see if it can do all of this, and then use a tiny system (or old xbox) to run the mythtv client.

Did you get the core package, or the full package? Does your MCE remote work with the xbox, or did you have to buy a new one?
 

MRL

Active Member
Decided to leave the family room HTPC as is and build a new as quiet as possible primary desktop PC for my office.

Equipment under consideration so far:

Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz 4MB L2 cache

Intel DP965LT motherboard
Intel BOXDP965LTCK Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard
passive cooled motherboard chip set - no fan

Cooler Master Praetorian PAC-T01-EK black mid-tower aluminum case
has 2 intake fans and 2 outtake fans

GIGABYTE GV-NX76T256D-RH Geforce 7600GT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Silent Pipe II, Lead Free Video Card - passive cooled - no fan

fan less 350W power supply?
 

Mike

Senior Member
MRL > 350 seems possibly small. You might want to consider a larger power supply. Even if you will not fully populate it with drives, you most likely will down the line. However, I do not remember the power draws for all the components, so perhaps I am over cautious. I usually go larger on the supply and then dont worry about it. In your case you want fanless so perhaps someone has more detailed information on how to calculate the load accurately so you can see where you wind up.

Electron > I bought the core package. A regular remote works with it, I was programming another harmony I had. One thing to note: It only comes with a composite cable and composite output SUCKS! I was testing on an older tv so I picked up an s-video cable and it is much better. Just plan on this if you get one as you will hate the composite output.

I agree on the My Movies, while they may fix that, it was too annoying to work around. I'm now wondering if my original thoughts on component video distribution are the way to go. Build two HTPC's and distribute them much like an older modulated coax system. I have two tivo's as well (one with component output) and a hi-def box (obviously can get more there as well) so there would be plenty of content. Just need the wiring and the integration...

By doing this (and adding more if needed) it may be more expensive but it also gives the benefit of distributed media storage and adding storage that way. Now of course if you are going Raid 5 you need a good controller to be able to add drives without a hassle, but most here seem to agree on the controller.

Sage has extenders as well, but I have not really looked at them so I'm not sure if they solve the video playback issue at all. I have not looked at Myth at all either.
 
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