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How To Build the Ultimate Windows Media Center 2005 Machine on a Budget, Part 3

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In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we selected only the best hardware on a budget for our DIY Ultimate Media Center 2005 machine. Now, in the final installment, we breathe life into our new creation. The result is spectacular, and may forever change how your family and guests enjoy time together.

Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series. Be sure to start with Part 1 to join Cyrus at the beginning of his project. If you've already read that one, try Part 2.

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Putting It All Together

The most important thing to remember on this system is that a standalone hard drive should be connected to the yellow nForce 4 Ultra chipset controller at S_ATA0_SB on the mainboard (see Figure 1, the yellow ATA connector at the bottom of the image). Unless you're sure you want to use RAID, don't plug it into any of the red connectors for the Sil3114 RAID controller (marked as SATA0_SII, SATA1_SII, SATA2_SII, and SATA3_SII on the mainboard). You can see this from another angle in Figure 2 (the yellow ATA connection).

The printed documentation for the motherboard is not at all clear on this issue, so save yourself the pain and frustration and do it just as described above. If you place the ATA connector in a red SII connector by mistake, you might not get the BIOS to recognize the hard drive as a boot device after initial installation and reboot. In this case, you'll need to do a complete reformat and reinstall of Windows MCE.

After that, hardware installation is straightforward. Gigabyte has otherwise included adequate documentation for the mainboard connectors. One thing to note: For the VFD display, you should snake the cable through the machine and out the back through an empty PCI slot; then, connect it to the parallel port (see Figure 3, back left, the black connection near the twin rear fans). This is also shown from an internal view in Figure 4 (far left, the black cable snaking out of the hole in a PCI slot).

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