Windows-based HTPC and Apple TV

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by albertfallickwa, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. albertfallickwa macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2014
    Any users of Windows-based HTPC's with Apple TV here? Any suggestions or tips as I am a newbie here trying to build out a home theater system?
  2. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Nothing wrong with a Windows HTPC. It can run iTunes just as well as a Mac can. Only difference is that you can't use screen mirroring from a Windows OS to the Apple TV.
  3. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    iTunes on Windows was plenty stable for me for several years . I switched to OSX for storage reasons and can't tell any difference as far as the AppleTV goes.

    Actually I will say that restoring AppleTV was less problematic on Windows. OSX had a hell of a time detecting the unit.

    Oh and there is one thing iTunes does better in Windows. It acknowledges symbolic links in the file system. Which means you can have your iTunes folder pointing all over the computer. For some reason it ignores them in OSX when moving data around.
  4. sulliweb macrumors regular


    Mar 13, 2011
    No problems for me. I have a little Acer nettop that I spent $300 on. All it does is run iTunes, and it works just fine.

    The only gotcha I've noticed is that Apple has put specification limits on buying content. If you're planning on buying HD content, it has to be from a device that can play it. I just buy the few season passes that I get on my iPad. Then, I download them on the computer.

    As far as screen mirroring goes, my PC has an HDMI out and a wireless keyboard and mouse. I just use one of the HDMI ports on the TV for the PC. The text isn't crystal clear, but I can make out enough.
  5. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
    Not that you'd want to use mirroring for HTPC.
  6. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    Yes, I learned this the hard way. I bought a TV episode on my phone while heading to the house so that by the time I got home it would already be downloaded and ready to go. I got the SD version and it looked terrible. When I went to iTunes store on the AppleTV, there was no discount or anything for HD version, just full price.

    So the lesson there is NEVER buy a video on your phone if you ever plan to watch it on the TV. Unless it's a music video, because all of them are crap quality (picture quality that is).
  7. matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    That sucks. You should be able to selectively buy HD version on your phone, with just a warning that the file might be too big to view on the tiny screen.
  8. charlien macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2006
    Interesting. I'm looking at doing the opposite to use the disk pooling available in Windows 8/Server2012. What does OSX offer in storage you can't do in Windows?

    Thanks in advance.
  9. sulliweb macrumors regular


    Mar 13, 2011
    Huh, I've had the opposite experience. My iPad 2 is capable of buying HD content that my computer won't allow me to buy, so I've been buying there. I suppose it depends on the model iPhone/iPad you have.

    I'm still unsure why Apple puts restrictions on the PC. I'm not buying it to watch on my computer. I'm buying it to stream to my ATV... Seems a little silly.
  10. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    ZFS filesystem. I used a hardware RAID card in Windows and was happy with it. Then I started reading about ZFS and I started to really like what it could do. But Windows does not allow "foreign" file systems. So because I wanted to use iTunes I had to make a choice. Either continue running Windows and have a separate computer running Unix/Linux to run the ZFS a NAS. Or switch over to OSX and run ZFS somewhat natively.

    Also, as someone who uses Unix/Linux on a daily basis at work, OSX is valuable to me because of the underlying Unix environment. I like the command line.

    It was also nice being able to use the Mac to make an older non-airprint printer work with the iDevices in the house. But then the printer went dead and we replaced it with an airprint enabled model.

    But other then that, if your in a Windows heavy environment, trying to get OSX to be friendly takes some work. Starting with 10.7 Lion, Samba (Windows file sharing) got messed up so I had to use a 3rd party program which has been fine. Apple also deviated from the VNC standard so you couldn't use any 'ol VNC program to log into the computer anymore. In the beginning I used a 3rd party VNC server (Vine), but eventually I moved to using TeamViewer as it supports all the OS's I have (OSX, Windows, Windows RT, iOS) and it works over the Internet...something VNC can do, but you get hit with random authentication attempts all day long.

    So if you are comfortable with Windows, and the above things do not sound of interest to you then I would stick with Windows. But for me using ZFS was a big enough draw. It is the future of file systems....if Microsoft and Apple can both get off their high horses :D


    That was on an iPhone 5. I have only used the AppleTV as an alternative to buying Video content.

    Music doesn't matter, and in fact I absolutely love that I can buy music on my phone and my computer at home automatically downloads it and puts it into the library. That's a HUGE convenience factor in my opinion that I don't think anyone else offers. Well, I have Amazon Cloud and it will export songs you buy on Amazon to iTunes, but I don't think its automatic and again it's just sending it to iTunes, so may as well use iTunes to begin with.
  11. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Could you provide a bit more detail as what you mean by a home theater system? Is it just for one room or multi-room?

    If one room only, you don't need the ATV just the HTPC. What home theater equipment will you be using? (AVR/receiver, how many speakers etc.).

    It is hard to give you any ideas, opinions or data without a bit more understanding of your goals.
  12. albertfallickwa thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2014
    I am trying to build a small system for a single server HTPC, 2.1 sound or bluetooth headphones all visually outputted to a single 23" monitor. This is for a small apartment bedroom.
  13. Bayshun macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2014
    If all you want to do is watch movies on a monitor then any modern PC will do it for you. You can pretty much build the cheapest one you can find. Just make sure the processor has integrated graphics, the motherboard has HDMI output (cheapest way, or you can use a video card), and that you include a Bluetooth card or USB dongle for the Bluetooth audio. You won't be able to do Airplay (without additional programs), but you shouldn't need it with this setup.

    If you want something a little easier you can buy a Mac Mini, run Windows via Boot Camp, and use a remote. This will likely cost more, however.
  14. matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    For a small bed room Apple TV is more suitable. Your movies need to be in a format it recognizes though.
  15. albertfallickwa thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2014
    I think that I'm going to build my own HTPC from scratch. I need to be able to house a 4 TB drive (which I already have from a scrapped gaming rig) so that I can house all of my iTunes stuff.
  16. deluxeshredder macrumors 6502a

    Nov 30, 2013
    A Windows-based HTPC will definitely be more flexible, but it will also be much louder, hotter and more maintenance-heavy.

    Also note that iTunes is terrible on Windows.
  17. matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    Your requirement is not much. I guess any PC nowadays will do. I'm using it with no problem but I'm about to go all Mac because it's more elegant. I will miss a lot of apps on PC though., especially Windows Media Player Classic for HT.
  18. albertfallickwa thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2014
    Yeah but unfortunately Mac OS X is a closed system that forces you to use their hardware. And I prefer to use to build my own hardware. I won't go the Hackintosh route for the HTPC either.

    So iTunes for Windows it is :D
  19. charlien macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2006
    I've been using a Mac for my audio and video needs but am looking at Windows. Would you mind sharing what some of the Windows apps are you use?
  20. kelub macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2010
    I've been running a home media server on a Windows box for a couple of years. I started off about 5 years ago with an old macbook (white one, really old) with a broken screen, then moved to a midsize desktop with Windows, before moving to my current box: a retired HP Compaq desktop box that work was throwing out. Point being: all of my home servers have been several years old in terms of processing power, but still plenty capable for being an HTPC.

    Current server runs Windows 7 Pro & iTunes, and that's about it - oh, I do run AirVideo HD on it as well. It has the AMD equivalent of a Core2Duo for a CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 2TB WD green drive, and is wired to my Airport Extreme. I let iTunes manage the storage - I used to use an external drive & manually managed all of the file names, locations, etc. It's been SO MUCH EASIER since I let it go and just let iTunes do it all. It renames the files based on the metadata, keeps it all stored neatly on the drive, etc.

    All clients are wireless. I have the following devices streaming video off the server, often times simultaneously:
    3x Apple TVs in separate rooms
    3x iPad's of various generations
    5x iPhones of various generations
    2x iMac's with Home Sharing
    1x Windows PC with Home Sharing

    There's never a stutter or buffering issue. The hard drive never struggles to meet the demand of a 5-person household with multiple devices streaming. I run the box "headless" and just RDC to the box either from my iMac or from my iPad.

    I've setup 4 other boxes for friends and family using the exact same configuration, all without a hitch. I have space in the box to add another HDD if I wanted to for backup or whatever, but have never bothered - mostly due to the cost (my servers have always been leftovers, so there's nothing more than the cost of a HDD invested.) I have pretty much the same content at my in-laws (one of the boxes I mentioned above) so we can go visit / send the kids & have access to the same stuff; I consider that my off-site backup, so I don't worry too much about another backup. I have around 400-500 movies and about 20-30 TV shows on there.

    So yes, Windows will work just fine.
  21. matrix07, Mar 25, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2014

    matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    The one I will be saddest to part is IDM (Internet Download Manager). This program save my ass too many times I couldn't count. Basically it downloads everything on the internet. YouTube. Flash video. MP3 streamed on website. Anything you can play on the web, you can download. How's about that?

    For video I have:
    AnyDVD HD just for a peace of mind. This little program takes out all DRM craps on DVD and Blu-Ray. And it allows you to watch DVD/Blu-Ray from every regions.
    Of course, how can I live without MKVMerge GUI and MKVExtract GUI. One is to compose MKV and another to extract it.
    And if you want to rip your Blu-Ray to MKV another program you need is tsMuxeR who will extract everything from m2ts file to feed them to MKVMerge GUI.
    In the same vein, for DVD you need DVD Decrypter.
    For watching video, all you need is Media Player Classic Home Cinema. It plays everything, with extremely good result.
    Sometimes you need to work with subtitle. Create or correct it. SubtitleWorkShop is the only one you need.

    And a lot of times you need to work with image file. To mount DVD/Blu-Ray image as disc, just use VirtualCloneDrive and to burn it to disc. there is ImgBurn.

    Too many time you need to work with compressed files. 7-Zip comes to the rescue with its ability to decompress everything, with just one right-click.

    Now the audio.
    To rip: who else other than EAC (Exact Audio Copy).
    To convert FLAC to M4A for iTunes, Looking for a little program called dBpweramp Music Converter. This little gem can even convert 24/192 FLAC to 24/192 M4A with just one click, and no quality loss.
    For anything else that dBpweramp Music Converter can't convert, Media Monkey can.
    Also, sometimes you got CD as an image file and you need to split it up to songs. Looking for Medieval CUE Splitter.

    I will miss all of these when I go all Mac. :(

    Disclaimer: I'm using Windows 7.
  22. StinDaWg macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2012
    Not if you get the right components. I built my htpc around a $40 G1620 and I can't hear it at all. CPU idles at 32 degrees.
  23. albertfallickwa thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2014
    Should I try to go Core i3 or can I get away with a Pentium for a HTPC build? Also contemplating a AMD build as well.
  24. bearcatrp macrumors 68000

    Sep 24, 2008
    Boon Docks USA
    Anyone processor with at least 2 cores will be fine. Have been running itunes on my dual hex system for around 3 years with zero issues. Was streaming from my mini but got tired of external drives. I rip blurays/dvd's with it in short time, and crunches WCG. Even the newer dual core pentiums will work fine but if your going to be ripping movies, get at least a quad core. A 3770k or 4770k will rip movies nice.
  25. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    IMO you should run all this in Parallels and use OSX for all other stuff. I still fire up my Win7 box remotely when I want to deal with audio and video manipulations - nothing to beat it IMO for the range of software.

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