Cutting the Cord Hardware Guide – Part 1: So You Want to Build a Computer

In our last guide we discussed how to setup a server to download movies and TV shows. At the beginning of that guide I mentioned that you can use any old PC for that task. With this guide I’m going to show you how you can build a new PC for your server. In this way the computer that houses your server will have exactly what you want and you won’t be paying for stuff you don’t want. The difficulty with that (and the reason this guide took so long to get started) is that there are an infinite number of ways to build a PC for an infinite number of different tasks. So you need to ask yourself one question before we begin.

What Do You Want the Computer to Do?

There are many different answers to this question and none of them are wrong. If you simply want a machine to set the server up on that can then be stuck in a closet, a NAS (Network Attached Server) is what you are looking for. Maybe you want HTPC that connects to your TV and displays everything there so you don’t have to worry about streaming your media elsewhere. You might possibly want a kick ass gaming rig that doubles as a machine that downloads your media. As you can see, the possibilities are endless and this guide cannot possibly go into them all. In that way I am only going to focus on three different setups: a NAS, a HTPC, and a hybrid of the two. If there is something else you would like to do, I will answer any questions you have to the best of my ability

So What Exactly are You Running?

This is probably the best place to start, with my own machine. Now keep in mind, I built this machine back in July of 2017, so it is most likely a bit dated at this point. However, it still performs all the tasks I’m looking for it to do very well so I am not looking to upgrade it at this time. My machine is largely an HTPC/NAS hybrid. It sits in my entertainment center and controls the main TV while still having ample storage to serve as a NAS. So what can it do?

  • Stream Live Broadcast TV
  • Run the Complete Server as Depicted in the Server Guide
  • Play Video Games Through Steam*
  • Serve as the Front End to my Main TV
  • Serve as a NAS for my Network
  • Watch Live NFL Games
  • Play Stored Music through my Stereo
  • Probably Something Else I’m not Thinking of Right Now

Here is a parts list for my machine.

Component TypeComponentPrice as of 4/28/2019
ProcessorIntel Pentium G4620$179.99 ***
MotherboardASRock FATAL1TY Z270 Gaming-ITX Mini ITX Motherboard$321.34 ***
MemoryCrucial 8GB Single DDR4 2133 MT/s (PC4-17000)$68 ***
System DriveSAMSUNG M.2 2280 128 GB SATA IIINone Found
Storage Drives3x Western Digital 4TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s Hard Drive$128.89 ***
Power SupplySilverStone Technology 300W SFX Form Factor 80+ Bronze Power Supply$54.99
CaseSilverStone Technology Milo Series ML03B$88.05
TV TunerHD Homerun Connect$67.62
HD AntennaNot sure--

I know that looks expensive, but I did not pay anything near that price. Everything marked with *** is an item that is no longer made and has exorbitant prices. There are cheaper items out there that may actually be faster.

How do the different types of PCs differ in hardware?

The answer is not a lot. Every PC is going to need the following:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Memory
  • Storage
  • Power Supply
  • Case

Everything else to add some functionality you are looking for. Among the required items, they will vary depending on what you are looking to do. If you are looking to build an HTPC, you will be looking for something small that will look good in your entertainment system. As such you are going to want a smaller motherboard and may have fewer hard drive. With a NAS, you don’t care about looks as you are most likely going to shove the computer in closet where no one sees it unless something goes wrong. In this case you may want something that has hot swapable hard drives and dual processor motherboards to make sure your system is always up and running.

I had originally planned to list here three current builds for a NAS, an HTPC, and a hybrid build. If you are reading this line, I wasn’t able to complete my research on current hardware. Rather than half ass it, I will delay the post of the builds. By the time I post next week, I will have the builds posted here, as well as the second post of the guide up where I will discuss what to look for in a processor as well as some build tools.

Until then, Happy cord cutting.

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