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Published on December 20th, 2012 | by John I.


A Beginner’s Guide to HTPC Software

This third post on HTPC’s sums up everything you need to know about the best and most popular programs you might want to use to interface with your home theatre computer. When it comes to HTPC’s after the hardware used to build them and the operating system you might want to install on them, there comes a final choice. Which program should you use to navigate through all your viewing options? Certain operating systems have them pre-installed  the best example of this scenario is Windows 7 and the powerful Windows media centre.

Media centre is by far one of the most popular choices of HTPC software, apart from the very nice and efficient design, it has many other pros. Firstly most HTPC remote controls are designed to work with this program. Some of the most common ones even have a “Media centre button” this means that with a simple push you can launch windows media player without needing to use a mouse, furthermore, WMP without a doubt has a wide variety of plug-ins making it one of the most customisable.

Furthermore windows media centre allows you to add videos, music and pictures from multiple libraries and then combines them all into one. This gives makes the whole set up much more organized. You can even add libraries that aren’t on the PC, so if you are running only a small SSD to speed the HTPC up and make it quieter you will not have anywhere near as much storage space, making It necessary to import media from other places on your network ( such as a NAS box).

The second largest contender on the Media centre market is XBMC. Due to the fact that this runs on pretty much any OS it has also become quite popular. Its method of navigation is not unlike that of Windows media centre, and therefore is compatible with most media centre remotes. XMBC is also quite versatile as far as Inserting directories is concerned, and furthermore since its open source there are quite a few add-ons that you might want to check out to personalise your HTPC more to your needs.

Other alternatives such as Hulu Desktop are more useful if you are more into streaming, whereas the first two give more all-rounded functionality.  Media portal on the other hand turns your PC into a digital recorder thanks to its advanced TV tuner support, however it should be noted that XBMC and WMP are also capable of this and furthermore WMC is capable of streaming to other devices about the home such as your Xbox if you own one.

The technology news website recently published a post on what you need to focus on when building one of these machines from a user’s point of view, which pretty much sums up all three articles written here.

The main point of these articles is that there is no perfect media centre; you have to build it to your needs, and viewing habits. It takes quite a bit of planning, however as far as these programs mentioned above are concerned trying can do no harm. Test a few out and see what can do the most for your set up.

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