I have just built my media center PC. It is now sitting in the living room running 24/7 since its also my file server. HURRAY!
I know there are many options for software and some people will argue Linux over Windows but after doing some research and talking to a few people I decided to go with Windows 7 Ultimate (Home Premium will work also) for its Media Center.
My requirements for my media center were to have a way to share files and an easy way to view my photos, videos and music. It is an ongoing project but this is what i have installed so far:
Media Center Master – http://www.mediacentermaster.com/
This is an essential software for Windows Media center if you are going to be using Media Browser. Media Center Master will scan your video folders and not only rename the video files and folders in an organized matter but also download backdrops and eyecandy that Media Browser can use to display your movie collection. It will also auto torrent shows and video for you if you set it up that way. Install your favorite torrent client and you are on your way.
Media Center Studio – http://www.adventmediacenter.com/
This allows you to customize your Media Center using different themes you can download online. There are many media center theme packs out there if you do a google search.
Media Browser – http://www.mediabrowser.tv/
Great addon for Windows Media Center it organizes movies in a very easy to view format and adds a lot of eye candy. It will change the way you navigate your Video.
AirFoil Airspeakers – http://www.rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/
Apple released a very cool remote speaker option for people who have an Airport extreme. This allows users to stream audio from their computer or iphone to another place in their home. For those of us who dont have an Airport Extreme, AirFoil has a similar software with a lot more options. I have installed the server on my HTPC so that i can stream audio to it anytime i want bigger sound. The stream works very well and it goes through at a very good quality.
We all like to watch Hulu. With the new Hulu Desktop, Hulu can be controlled from Windows Media Center giving users a unified interface.
Logitech Touch Mouse
This is the best free Wifi Mouse keyboard option I have been able to find. It allows me to use my IPhone to control both the mouse and keyboard of my HTPC. There are some downsides to this. Since it is a server running in the background, it will not work when you restart your HTPC. What I have also noticed is that it does not work when Windows UAC pops up and asks for permissions. Overall though it works great.
My HTPC is slowly evolving as I get more use out of it. Im finding new things to do with it all the time and will be probably be installing more software as I go on. I will update this list as it happens.