Should I use Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 for my home theater pc?
October 18, 2010 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I use Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 for my home theater pc? It will also function as a server.

I want to build a combination HTPC and server that will sit in my living room just below my tv. I want it to be small (like an ASRock Mini PC), have a blu-ray drive, native 1080p, hdmi out to tv, 5.1 or 7.1 audio, a tuner card, extremely quiet. In addition, though, I want to use it as an on-site backup solution for one desktop(Win 7) and one laptop(Vista), and a file/media server. The server functions will only be occasionally used, but I want it always on and available from the road.

Given that I want to use it in the manner outlined above, which OS is a better choice?
posted by dvrcthewrld to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about Windows Home Server?
posted by deezil at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2010

Crap. Enter too quickly.

Basically, it can do the backups, serve as an HTPC, and will be available from the road. Check the chart on that page.
posted by deezil at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2010

Unless you're very experienced with Linux and want to run 0.beta releases of Myth tv and whatnot, stick with Windows. Either Windows Media Center or SageTV will work (I personally uses Sage v6 on an XP system). You can then just share a folder or a drive with full permissions and be done with it.
Obviously max out the memory for the hardware you're planning on.

Also, are you planning to play any games on it at any point in the future?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:57 AM on October 18, 2010

My home set-up is the same as what you want.

I use Windows 7 on the HTPC because it comes with Windows 7 Media Center which is probably the slickest software out there at the moment. It's by no means perfect and took a fair amount of fiddling to get set up in a way I wanted it (hint, install Shark007 codec pack and go with the recommended settings and that'll solve most of your codec related issues instantly) - but the Girlfriend approves of it and that was a key requirement.

For my situation, Server 2008 was overkill especially when all I'm doing is sharing out some hard-drive space and running backup software on the other computers to a mapped network drive.

In the future, I'm going to invest in a NAS and reduce the scope of the HTPC to doing just that.
posted by mr_silver at 8:02 AM on October 18, 2010

Server 2008, which is not cheap, has a slew of features best used in a domain enterprise setting. What feature do you think you need from this product?

Win7 can serve files just fine. You have to deal with a 10 computer limitation on SMB shares, but that doesn't sound like an issue. You can backup easily with the built-in backup wizard. If you buy Professional you can RDP into it from the road.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:26 AM on October 18, 2010

I have Windows 7 Ultimate and the RDP patch to allow multiple users on at the same time. This means I can connect to the box and do general maintenance whilst the GF watches TV uninterrupted.

Bear in mind that unless you purchase a fairly beefy box (I have a similar specc'ed machine to the ASRock you're probably thinking about, which isn't so beefy), then 1080p movies tend to tax the computer a fair bit.

Having said that, if the price of Windows 7 Professional is too much, you could always use something like LogMeIn which will give you remote access for free. Although it will affect anyone who is using the TV at that time.

Also, take a look at Remote Potato. It's a free application which allows you to do remote browsing of the EPG, management of scheduled recordings and you can even stream recorded programmes. Very slick.

Regarding backup, I just have each of the computers back up to a mapped network drive. It means that nothing special has to be run on the HTPC.
posted by mr_silver at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2010

Note that Server 2008 R2 does not contain the necessary files for BDA (which it highly probable your tuner card will depend on). If you go the server route you will have to copy these files from a Windows 7 machine. Just stick with 7 and save the hassle.
posted by Five O'Clock at 3:37 PM on October 18, 2010

5 o'clock is right. Stick with Win7 on the HTPC. Then consider something else like a Windows Home Server for storage. WHS is reasonably priced and really is a nice product. It's brain-dead simple to use. One of it's best features is client machine backup. But it also has pretty nice integration with media services like recorded TV and streaming.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:28 PM on October 22, 2010

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