Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC - The Hardware
Piecing Together the Hardware
Now that we’ve walked through all the parts to our Media Center, let’s dive into the actual hardware installation. Unboxing the Silverstone case I was happy with the look of it. Nice clean lines and a streamlined front panel will look great with the rest of my home theater components.
Opening the Silverstone ML03B case we find a nice crossbar brace for stability, which is a nice addition if you plan to stack anything on top of it. The case comes with motherboard standoffs pre-installed and I only needed to add one standoff (which came with the case) for mounting of our MSI motherboard.
The Rosewill Capstone 450-M power supply comes with just the 20+4 pin main connector and 4+4 pin 12 Volt ATX connector connected to the power supply. Four out of the five included modular cables (2 6+2 Pin PCI-E, 1 SATA, 1 SATA/Molex, 1 Molex/Floppy) can be plugged into the four modular ports on the power supply.
The full ATX power supply fit into the case without an issue, though you’ll notice how close it is to the mounting bracket for the external 5.25” drive bay, which will give us some issues later.
Just because the MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 is a micro ATX motherboard doesn’t mean it skimps on connectivity options. Everything I could want for a Small Form Factor/Media Center motherboard was available and then some.
Like earlier components, even in the smaller case, the motherboard tucks in nicely and even leaves some room for cable routing around it. I also plugged in the CPU and RAM once the motherboard was in the case and connected all the front panel connectors.
I know it’s a little hard to see, but tucked on the bottom of the case under the 5.25” bay are mounting holes for two 2.5” drives that can be mounted on the bottom of the case and screwed in from underneath. I tucked the Crucial C300 under the 5.25” tray, but the full ATX power supply covered half the holes for the second bottom mount.
For the occasional DVD use, I was planning to install a DVD drive in the 5.25” bay, but found out real quick that with a full size ATX power supply, that was going to be a no go.
Even if I could push the drive all the way back against the power supply (which I couldn’t since I needed to use the modular plugs) it still wouldn't sit flush with the front of the case. Apparently to fit a 5.25” drive, you need to use a “Micro ATX” power supply, of which there aren’t a whole lot of options available. As I mentioned before, I really don’t want to go with some no name brand power supply for a machine that’s going to be on 24 x 7 and our home entertainment hub. Also, Micro ATX power supplies almost always come with smaller 80mm fans which would certainly make a lot more noise than our big 140mm in the Rosewill. Something had to give and the rarely used DVD drive had to go.
Finally I installed the 2 TB Western Digital drive that will store our TV recordings. Sharp eyed readers might notice that WD 2 TB drive in the system isn’t actually the WD AV-GP model, but rather a WD20EARX that I was originally going to go with. That drive was pulled the next day and the 2 TB AV-GP put in its place. Then came the pair of AverMedia dual tuner x1 PCI Express cards that will let us watch and/or record up to four over the air broadcasts at once. Even with all the components now in place I found more than enough room to tuck power, SATA and other cables snugly around the case and keep them off of any major components.
With that, I finished up a little bit of cabling, closed up the case and started digging around for my Windows install DVD’s.
That wraps up this installment of our Cutting the Cord articles. Stay tuned for our next article in the series, Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC - OS Install and Tuning.
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options