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How to: Convert an old PC into a home video streaming box

Use a powerful and free software called Openelec to help you take control of all your movies and TV shows.

Even with Netflix and Amazon Prime offering plenty of good video, many users still rely on their own collections of movies and TV shows stored on a computer or external hard disk. These files often end up scattered across locations, resulting in a sprawl of media that winds up becoming impossible to track.

Not anymore -- by using a powerful, free media-centric OS called Openelec, you can repurpose any old laptop, desktop (or even one of those palm-sized Raspberry Pi devices) as a dedicated media server. You'll be able to view all of your media in a visual showcase, complete with album art, artiste information, access to trailers and more -- all from the comfort of your sofa. Here's how to install Openelec on an old Intel/AMD laptop or desktop you might have lying around.

Step 1: Using your primary computer, head over to the Openelec website and download the stable release of Openelec for your relevant platform -- for a laptop or desktop it will be the 'x80 Generic Intel/AMD/Nvidia build'.

Step 2: Extract the file you downloaded using a program like 7zip.

Step 3: Insert a USB drive or SD card into your computer--Openelec OS will be installed to this device (remember it will erase the original contents.) Run a program like Win32DiskImager or Rufus USB Image Writer, select the Image file you extracted and specify the target drive letter for the USB/SD card to write the image to the drive.

Step 4: After the write process completes, remove the USB/SD card and insert it into the system you'll be using as your media server. When starting the computer, ensure that the boot sequence prioritizes the USB drive -- you may need to set this in BIOS by hitting 'Del' during startup.

Step 5: Now follow the on-screen instructions as Openelec formats the target drive and installs Openelec on the computer. When complete, reboot the system remembering to remove the USB drive you used to set it up. Openelec should now load, going through the initial setup screens -- remember you can even select shared folders on the network the computer is connected to.

When complete, you should now have a full-fledged media server running. Remember to install 'Kore' or the 'Official Kodi Remote' for Android and iOS phones respectively, enabling you to control your Openelec box right from your phone.

For more detailed information on setting up and installing Openelec on your computer, refer to these resources.

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