An HTPC (Home Theater PC) has many pros/cons over Tivo, but I believe that the long term cost/benefit of an HTPC is better than a Tivo. For instance Tivo's lifetime subscription is $400 the Tivo HD itself costs $200. Building an energy efficient HTPC initially costs the same but can skip commercials, take HD video where ever you want (online or off), is fully upgradeable, and can replace/consolidate your Blu-Ray and/or your DVD player. And you NEVER pay a subscription fee.

Things You Will Need

An HTPC Case (That accepts Micro ATX motherboards)

80 Plus (Bronze, Silver, or Gold) Power supply (unless included with case)

A Micro ATX motherboard with integrated video

2 to 4 gigs of RAM

500 meg SATA hard drive or larger

A DVD or Blu-Ray Drive

A low thermal power processor dual core or better

An Operating System (Win 7 shown here)

A TV tuner(s)

A Screwdriver

A 7/16 inch wrench

A television

Step 1

Research Your Space
Measure and choose your space wisely. Will your HTPC have enough ventilation? Do you have access to a network cable instead of going wireless? A good go between is to use Powerline Networking.
If none of the Micro ATX cases work you may try Mini ITX which does not have much internal expandability, but has a very small profile.

Step 2

I usually research the case first while keeping my motherboard in mind. Make sure you check the internal (especially for aftermarket CPU coolers) and external measurements of the case. Buy equipment.

Step 3

Processor and Power Supply Efficiency
Get an 80 Plus certified or better (gold, silver, or bronze) power supply (sometimes they are included with computer cases). Get a motherboard with integrated graphics. AMD's 880G series are great and can run Blu Ray! Try to get a 45 watt dual core or 65 watt quad core processor. If you can't afford it just underclock an existing processor.

Step 4

Put It Together-Processor
Start with the processor making sure the triangle matches up with the socket on the motherboard and don't bend the pins.

Step 5

Put it Together-Heatsink & Fan
You can get after market CPU coolers for $30 or less with many of them reviewed at Stock coolers have gotten much better and already have thermal paste pre-applied. Remember you only need about a dime sized amount of thermal paste.

Step 6

Put it Together RAM
This is easy. Just open up the two plastic clips, line up your keys, and apply pressure until you hear a click. Close the plastic clips.

Step 7

Put it Together Motherboard to Case
This can get tricky since even the best motherboard companies don't provide instructions! First change the back plate to what was in your motherboard's box. Line up your motherboard's corner holes to the case's and screw in. Some cases include standoff's (pictured below) you MUST install these into your case FIRST and then install your motherboard.

Step 8

Put it Together Power Supply to Case
Skip this step if your case came with a power supply. This step is easy, just slide the case in and screw in the four screws in the back of the case. Connect 24 pin power cord to motherboard as well as the square 4 pin power close to the processor.

Step 9

Put It Together Hard Drive and DVD or Blu-Ray Drive
This is a three part process. 1) Install the drive to the case. 2) Connect the SATA cord to the motherboard. 3) Connect the flat 4 pin power cord to the drive.

Step 10

Install TV Tuner or Tuners If you have an internal TV Tuner, please install it now. External USB tuners can be added once the operating system is installed.

Step 11

Boot to BIOS

Connect your PC to your TV.

Step 12

Add PC Drives Select your DVD/Blu-Ray drive as the first bootable drive. Make sure S3 sleep is activated.

Step 13

Windows 7 Power Settings (30236)
IMPORTANT: Windows 7 Home Premium Power Settings

Go to control panel and power settings. I select high performance, never turn off display, put the computer to sleep after 10 min.

Advanced settings...don't allow password on wakeup, turn off hard disk after 10 min, slide show paused, sleep after 10 min, allow hybrid sleep, disable hibernate, ALLOW wake timers. Processor power management minimum processor state 2%, max 100%. Cooling state active. Never turn off display and finally when sharing media allow the computer to sleep.
You can also program your HTPC to your universal remote and you are all ready to go!

Tips & Warnings

You can convert recorded shows to your IPod with MCEBuddy.
Commercial skip is done with either MCEBuddy or DVRMS Toolbox and ShowAnalyzer

Windows 7 Media Center has a number of downloadable plugins for HULU, XBMC, Netflix, and YouTube.
If you want to record all HD's the Ceton InfiniTV 4 is the best solution (for now)