A year ago I was shelling out hundreds of dollars a month to the cable company. I got tired of it and started searching for a better way. Sure there is TV over the internet like Sling and Playstation TV, but you end up paying nearly as much for them as you do for your cable. I kept searching and started to piece together my setup. Now I can’t imagine ever going back. I’m now going to show how you too can set up this system
Why do I want this system? What exactly can it do?
In a few words, a lot. In a lot more words, here is a non-inclusive list:
- Automatically download your favorite shows shortly after they are aired (Possibly even before if you live on the Pacific Time Zone)
- Automatically search for and download movies
- Automatically organize and consistently name all of your media
- Stream all of your media to your smartphone/tablet/fireTV/etc
- Watch Live local Television Channels on any TV in your house
- Watch several Live Cable Channels
- Play Steam games
- Much more which I have forgotten
I’m sold and I want one, but it sounds expensive
The total price of all the equipment is actually not as expensive as you might think. I believe all told I spent $600-$700 on my setup, but you can actually get started for much less. Also remember, once you are done you will probably save around $100 month on your cable bill. In that sense it pays for itself. At the absolute minimum, you will need the following:
- SmartTV or Smart Device for each TV you wish to view on. This device must be capable of installing and running the PLEX app. Personally, I recommend the Amazon Fire Stick or even better the Amazon Fire TV.
- An old computer that you can turn into a server. This is where I spent most of my money as I built a new machine that doubles as an HTPC. You can use your general use desktop but a dedicated machine is preferred. Machine specs aren’t too important but I would look for something with at least a quad-core CPU.
- HD Homerun (Only needed if you want Live Local TV)
- HD Antenna (Only needed if you want Live Local TV)
That’s it. Some of that you probably already have reducing your cost even more. I do want to note so it doesn’t catch anyone by surprise, there are a two services which I pay. One of these services has a monthly fee of $19.95. The other has a one time fee of $30
That doesn’t sound too bad. How can I build it?
In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting step by step guides on how to build your own system. I foresee three main subjects that may be broken up into various subsections.
- Setting up your server – Many people probably already have hardware ready or may have no use for an HTPC, so I am going to start with the software side of things. This guide will cover from start to finish on how to setup your server. At the end you will have a working server which will download all of your TV shows shortly after they air, download movies, and stream them to your various devices. This guide is based heavily on a guide by Trent Foxingworth that has laid dormant for years.
- Building an HTPC Server – The second phase of the guide will cover the building of an HTPC. This is for those who want something a bit more than a FireTV. This will extend the functionality of your server going from a Windows interface to a Kodi interface. I’ll also go over PC building for those who are unfamiliar with the process. how to get access to Live broadcast television will also be discussed here.
- Advanced Tips and Trick – The final phase of the guide will be a general catch all. In it I will go over various upgrades I have made and features I have added. This includes being able to stream Steam games to your HTPC server. This part of the guide will never technically be finished as I am always learning new things and looking for things to tweak.
OK, I’m ready to start
Before we begin, let me list a few assumptions I will be making with this guide:
- You are running Windows 7 or higher. I personally completed this setup on Windows 10 so my steps and screen shots will be from that respect. I’m not familiar with Macs or Linux, so unfortunately I may not be able to help.
- You have a basic understanding of networking. I’m going to be doing my best to walk you through this, but every router is different so knowing how to forward ports will be a definite plus.
- You are using a dedicated machine. While I stated earlier that this isn’t a requirement, it does make things easier to start with a clean slate.
With all that in mind get your PC ready with a fresh install of Windows 10 and I’ll see you all in a bit.
Next: Server Guide Part One – Laying the Foundation