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Published on October 28th, 2012 | by John I.


Which OS should you use for your HTPC

If you read my previous post on Simplelize about performance and power requirements for a media centre I am sure you have been eagerly sitting on the edge of your chair for this post. Here, rather than the software I am more worried about the software. With the TV card you got you probably got some software to use to watch live TV, but if my experience has taught me anything on this front it’s that I would rather stay away from these.

However before I go into warning or recommending you a program to use as an interface, let’s talk a little about the OS. Here are the contenders:

Windows XP – Since all this HTPC is going to be only used for viewing videos (as the name implies) you might want to consider XP. Nowadays its cheap, it has fast plug and play for any external media such as card readers , remotes and external disk readers or HDDs. The main downside with this OS is that unlike the newer almighty windows 7 or 8 there is no media centre, but there is an array of innovative and exciting programs that can serve you just as well. We will see these shortly. Also by going into advanced configurations you can turn off many start up services that you know you are never going to use.
Windows Vista – I am sorry but personally I wouldn’t recommend windows vista for anything unless your only alternative is windows 95 or something made by Mac.

Windows 7 – This is where things start to get interesting. On top of containing pretty much everything that windows XP offers you get a beautiful UI and of course the added bonus of Media Centre. Also you can easily add programs into your start-up folder so as soon as your HTPC turns on you can get Media centre to launch, this will actually give our HTPC the feel of a Sky or Virgin Box.

Windows 8 – I have not experimented much with this but if you can shell out for a touchscreen monitor to use as a TV it will add some interactivity if you lose the remote, but personally I would recommend XP if you aren’t going to use media centre (for the price) and Windows 7 if you are going to use media centre as it is still cheaper than 8.

Apple OSX – Apple usually comes in pre-built computer packages so it will not really fit your needs here and furthermore if you can afford an apple to be just sitting round as a TV you don’t need to be building your own media centre.

Linux – There are a great deal of versions of Linux and some that would comfortably fall into the category of HTPC OS. But would I recommend it? No, is the simple answer. Straight off the bat it is going to be a complex world and your command prompt is going to be open for far too long. Furthermore the UI is not quite as sparkly on Linux, it’s a shame but they resemble a NASA control station computer a bit too much for my liking.

Google OS –I have not really had sufficient time to try this out but I doubt it would be apt for this kind of task, unless someone made an app that could easily integrate everything including Movie playing, live TV and streaming from a wide variety of sources. The only thing that might be worth looking into is the cloud storage integration that Google offers. You might be able to run everything from a small efficient SSD and have all your downloaded movies and series in the cloud always readily-accessible.

Once you have got all this down, I would recommend turning off as many start up services as you can (make sure you won’t need them first). This is because in my previous post I recommended some rather low spec components to ensure silence as well as a lower price.
This post was written by Jack Cornwall, make sure you also read my final post on my HTPCs to make sure you have all the information you need before building your own.

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