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Carpc or Carputer Complete Guide

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  • Carpc or Carputer Complete Guide

    DISCLAIMER: I am no tech guru but when i started my carpc project it took me awhile to understand all the intricacies of carpc setups. I just wished that there was a newbie guide to carpc specifying recommended equipment as well as reasons for recommendations. Now after 3 months of hard work i have 99% completed my install in my mazda rx8, so i am writing this guide for newbie's who start from scratch like me.
    There are some elements in this guide which cater specifically to rx8 installation but by and large the guide should prove helpful for any car owner.

    What is CARPC:
    A CAR Pc is simply put a pc installed in your car.

    What can i do with it
    Whatever you can do with a standard home pc but some important highlights are:

    1. Play Music
    2. Watch Videos and Movies
    3. View engine information such 0-62 mph times, 1/4 mile times etc
    4. Install front, back, side etc cameras
    5. View Navigation and GPS.

    For Details you can watch the following videos
    Video 1
    Video 2
    Video 3

    Thankyou everyone. It took me a lot of time to learn about how carpc work so in order to save other people the hassle please find the following links which i assure you would prove extremely help. Read them one by one in order listed below and you will never need to ask a single question about carpc again

    CARPC 101 by

    Guide to Building Car PC Pdf file

    Amazing Spoonfeeding Guide from Extremetech about Carpc's
    Sample Rx8 Carpc Project

    Getting Started:What Equipment do I need:
    CARPC is different from your standard home PC in many aspect because four things are a must for car pc.
    1. The carpc should shutdown/start automatically based on your ignition status.
    2. The carpc should consume extremely extremely low power.
    3. The carpc should be extremely small .
    4. Boot Times should be extremely less.

    So what do I need and How much is it going to cost:
    Carpc's can cost as low as 300 dollars and as high as 2500$ depending upon what you need. Below I will discuss all the components that you might want alongwith their expected prices.

    1. Motherboard and CPU:
    For a carpc you can choose any motherboard and cpu you like (just as in case of desktop) but the preferable way is to select a low wattage cpu + motherboard combo. Furthermore, you should be better suited with a small size motherboard so mni-atx, micro-atx or pico-atx shall be the way to go.
    There are several option for motherboard + cpu options available which you can found here:
    However Intels Intel BOXD945GCLF2 Mobo+Cpu is the recommended choice. It has a dual core 1.6ghz processor and can play upto 720p content or easily handle most of carpc taks.

    Power Supply:
    This is one of the most crucial components of a carpc because ideally a computer should shutdown/start with ignition. For this you have two options
    1. Use a standard pc psu, 12v dc To 110v/220v ac converter and shutdown/start controller
    2. Use a automotive power supply with builtin Shutdown/Startup Controller
    The second option is preferable because these automotoive power supplies only convert 12v dc current available in car to 5v dc that is required by the computer components and hence there are minimal power losses.
    The first option is only preferrable if you really want to incorporate a monstrous quad core cpu in your car.

    This seems like a straight forward choice for desktop pc's; The More the Better.. Well not for cars. Well in a car pc when you will turn off your ignition, your pc will go into hibernation and dump all the memory on the ram onto the hard disk. Similarly on starting car, the computer shall come out of hibernation and transfer all the memory from hard drive to ram.
    Result being that more the memory, more time it would take the computer to come out of hibernation. So choose carefully. 512 mb seems to be the ram of choice for car pc enthusiast.

    Hard Drive:
    The hard drive of desktop is not recommended for carpc's due to all the movment and jostling.
    Notebook harddrives are the recommended option. However some people go for high end flash based hard drives to eliminate chances of hard drive failure.

    OBD Interface:

    OBD Interface is essential a piece of equipment which connects to your car's ecu to the computer and relays information back and forth.
    Well if you want to view engine information on your carpc screen such as oil temperature, mpg statistics, 0-60 mile time or quarter mile time. You need an OBD Interface. Furthermore you can use this to read engine error codes and troubleshoot enginer troubles.
    Please check when you buy an OBD interface if it is compatible with your car. Two options in this regards are available namely

    1. Expensive Ones: Based on original ELM 327 chipset and are priced upwards of 100$.
    2. Cheap Ones: Based on Chinese replica ELM 327 chipset. These can be found at or ebay for about 40$.
    Edit: I have been testing the chinese ELM 327 and it works like a charm for me.

    I can't comment on which one is better however i have ordered the chinese one and shall report about this once i install it.

    LCD Screen:

    It is recommended to have a touchscreen LCD. Touchscreen allows you to control your pc directly from your lcd monitor and adds additional wow factor.
    Two companies are considered to be market Leaders in this category. Xenarc and Lilliput. And their LCD Dispalys cost about 180-300 dollars. Ebay is your best place price wise to shop for these LCD Touchscreens.
    However in direct sunlight these screens are not very readable so some people go for really expensive Transflect Touchscreens which cost around $500. One Option in this category are

    Generic webcams do not work because they have problem working in bright light environment. They are made for indoor use and hence are usually crap outdoors. I blew my money on a generic webcam because during bright light all the camera showed was bright white light. Logitech Quickams are a good option but they are generally very expensive. However there is a cheaper alternative also present. Playstations Eyetoy is what people recommend and it can be had for around 10$ .

    The detailed instruction on how to use these cameras as webcams can be found here:

    Labtec Noise Cancellation Mic are recommended and can be had for less than 10$. The Mic is used to Navigate your PC Via Voice command or for use of your phone handsfree. For use with phone, you shall be able to dial your phones directly from your touchscreen.

    Bluetooth Dongle:
    Buy any generic one.

    GPS Reciver:
    Satglobal Bu-353 is rated highly. You can find it for less than $40 dollar.

    Softwares Needed:
    1. Windows Xp (How to Remove Unnecessary Bulk):
    Your Options are:
    1. You can use Nlite software to remove much of the un-needed Bulk from windows xp. This is necessary because by removing bloatware and un-necessary services you can reduce boot times of computers significantly.
    You can read more about it here. A guide of how to do it is here
    2. Or you can get a copy of tinyxp from torrents or here. It is an already n-lited version of xp. You just download it, burn it on a cd and you are good to go. Yes it is illegal but saves a lot of hassle.
    3. There is another option available and that is xplite. This is different from nlite because it removes the "unncessary bulk" after the installation is completed.
    4. Yet another option is installing the complete windows and using this guide to stop the unnecessary services.

    The first two options did not work for me. After i had numerous failed or unstable installation, I went with the third option (although fourth option is essentially the same as the third one). The computer is very fast and very stable now and i strongly recommend either going with the third or the fourth option.

    2. Centrafuse or Road Runner.
    This is where all the fun is. Centrafuse and Road Runner are the two most popular front-ends used in carpc.
    You might be thinking why do i need a front-end if i have windows media center but these softwares are optimized for use in carpc using lcd touchscreen. You can checkout the demo of centrafuse at their website.
    Centrafuse costs around 120$ whereas Road Runner is free. They both have their pros and cons and all i can say is that you should checkout both before you decide.

    3. Bluesoleil
    This software is needed to integrate your phone to your carpc via bluetooth. Centrafuse software has bluesoleil integrated so you don't need to install it seprately.

    4. Voice Navigation:
    Centrafuse has builtin support for voice navigation however you can you use PowerVoice to integrate voice navigation in your car.

    5. GPS Navigation Software
    The software for doing this are:

    1. Destinator comes embeded in centrafuse.
    2. Iguidance
    3. Garmin Mobile PC
    4. Microsoft Street

    For further reading go here.

    Okay i am 95% done with my install so I will continue the guide now:

    What Equipment I bought:
    Total Cost 450$.
    1. Intel d945gclf2 Motherboard + CPU
    2. M2-ATX Powersupply.
    3. Desktop 250 GB Harddrive
    4. DVD-Rom
    5. Elm (China) OBDII
    6. PS2 Eyetoy
    7. Gabtec Mic
    8. Generic Bluetooth Dongle
    9. Lilliput eby-701 screen
    10. 512 MB Ram
    11. Satglobal by-353
    12. Ground Loop Isolator

    What Software I have:

    Total Cost: 170$
    1. XP.
    2. Centrafuse.
    3. Garmin Mobile PC (As in my country only garmin maps are available)

    Where Can I put my CARPC in rx8:
    You basically have four good options:

    Glove Box :

    The cpu+mobo will have to be mounted without case. This is the easiest mode of installation in rx8 but in summer your glove box can become very hot leading to probable cpu failure.
    Under the seat (With Case):
    Also very easy to install but has the same problem as above
    The Rear Seat Center Pass through (Without Case)
    Stealth Install but very very difficult and time consuming
    Only recommended if you have a full-blown pc which won't fit into pass-thru or glovebox. Trunk is relatively cooler than "Under the Seat" or "Glove Box".

    I chose the rear seat Center Pass Through option. I mounted the Hard-drive, Mobo and PSU on the center Pass through and mounted the DVD-Rom just under the Center Pass Through where the stock navigation dvd-rom is located. But in order to mount your pc there you need to open the whole center panel (to hide wires) and it is (very,very) big hassle. In order to view pictorial details please see the attached pdf.

    Where Can I put my webcam:
    You don't have many options in this regards. The best place for a rear-view camera in my opinion is the center trunk light. Just remove the Center Brake light and replace it with a rear view camera. Sure, you won't have the center brake light but you will have a cool rear view camera. Please see the attached picture to know what i mean.

    How to connect PSU with Car Power:
    On M2-ATx there are three connectors. One is for "Contant On", Second one is "Ignition" and Third is Ground.
    "Constant On" means that current should be flowing through this wire regardless of the ignition status. "Ignition" means that current should only flow through this wire once the ignition is brought to "on" situation.
    Just find a good bare metallic surface and connect your grounding wire to it.
    Ignition On:
    You can connect it to postive of the cigarette lighter.
    Constant On:
    This has to be taken directly from Battery and there is no alternative. The car's ecu cuts the power supply to the main power relay during cranking(ignition) and your pc would restart if you take the constant on wire from any place within the car e.g. fuse box. Furthermore, it is essential to place a "fuse" in the constant "hot wire" and use a good quality power wire. I learned this the hard way after my wire got heated and almost burned down my car.

    Where Can I put my LCD:
    You have two good options in this regards:
    Metra Kit:
    This is a kit which replaces your center console panel (i.e. where your cd player is located) and provides you with a place to put your lcd display. You can read about it here
    Stock Navigation Screen Replacement:
    If you have a stock Navigation Screen then this option should be definately used. If you don't you can still get a stock Nav holder from ebay and place your lcd in it. Many people on this forum have gone down this route just search the threads but an example is:

    My car came with stock nav option so I simply replaced my stock navigation lcd display with lilliput one and i was good to go. Please see the attached pdf titled stock navigation lcd replacement for details

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Q: I am experiency noise from my speakers? What should i do?

    Ans: Buy a ground loop Isolator to begin with. If that doesn't solve the problem search about Ground Loop Isolators, do your research and then troubleshoot. Some people say that USB sound card sometimes also solve this problem so check that out as well.

    Q: MY GPS takes a lot of time to lock satellites? What should i do?
    Ans: Change the position of your gps. The idea is that your gps mouse should have a 360 degree view of the sky, so try to place it in center of your Front or Rear Windshield. Eliminate any usb extension wire that you might be using. Even if this doesn't solve the problem, try to pull out as much as GPS Reciver USB wire as possible and keep it adjacent to your gps reciever (for me this solved the problem and my lock time reduced from 3 minutes to 2 seconds).


    Q: How to enable hibernation in windows xp.
    Ans. Start the Power Options control panel applet (Start - Settings - Control Panel - Power Options)
    Select the Hibernate tab
    Check the 'Enable hibernate support' box
    Click here to view image
    Click Apply then click OK

    Q: How to disable welcome screen after hibernation"
    Ans. Click Start > Control Pane> Performance and Maintenance
    Select the Power Options control panel.
    When the Power Options Properties multi-tabbed dialog box appears, click the Advance tab.
    Uncheck Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby.
    Click OK to close the dialog box.

    Q: I have a lot of questions about setting up centrafuse? What should i do?
    Ans. Go here

    Q: I cannot see some settings in centrafuse?
    Ans Go to Centrafuse->Settings->and press the "+" icon for six settings. The advance settings menu shall appear. For some reason beyond me centrfuse creators have creators require you to do this to activate advance settings. It is dumb if you ask me.

    Q: How to replace Centrafuse Logo with RX8 Logo?
    Ans: Go to c->Program files->centrafuse->skin->replace splashlogo and logo with these files.

    Q: How to import my contact into centrafuse?
    Ans: Centrafuse can only read contacts in "Vcard" Format. Use this nifty little utility called parrot vcard convertor to save your contacts into vcard format. Now go to centrafuse-->setup-->phone-->import contacts and import the vcard into centrafuse.

    Q: How to play avi, .mov, mpeg2, .mkv and other video formats?

    Ans. Install Klcodec. Open this file with text editor: C:\Documents and Settings\<Your User>\Local Settings\Application Data\Centrafuse\System\config.xml
    On the 4th line you can read:
    Change it to
    <VIDEOEXT>avi|qt|mov|mpg|mpeg|m1v|wmv|mkv|mp4|divx |rm|ram</VIDEOEXT>

    Q: How to change windows boot and login screen?
    Ans: Go here and here.
    For Pre-made Rx8 login Screen Go here.

    Q: How to automatically login to windows?
    Ans. Go here
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Nicely done, this should be a sticky. Added are the quick reference calculators in my sig.
    Check out my CARPC: Project Diamond Plate

    Quick Reference:
    CPU Electrical Specs
    Power Supply Calculator

    Video Connections for newbies
    Temperature Converter
    Voltage Calculator


    • #3
      Thanks man .


      • #4
        Nice write up, I wish this would have been here when I started mine last month.


        • #5
          Nice write up!


          • #6
            Originally posted by flnole78 View Post
            Nice write up, I wish this would have been here when I started mine last month.
            That is exactly my feeling. I had to work so hard to gather necessary information and took me about 1.5 months to complete the install.

            I would suggest that you people may kindly go through this thread and suggest/recommend any corrections/additions/deletions and I shall incorporate it into the main threads.

            Lets try to make it as detailed as possible.


            • #7
              Nice work


              • #8
                I'd add StreetDeck in there as a frontend option.


                • #9
                  Thankyou bemenaker. Added StreetDeck. What else.


                  • #10

                    I am a n00b, just trying to figure out what all this means - this was a very big help. Now I just got 2 figure out which way I want 2 go.

                    Thump Thump Bumpity Bump!!!


                    • #11

                      Thankyou. I think this thread should be stickied but that is me and i wrote this thread


                      • #12
                        - -This is a very good write up. Well done.- -
                        - -Take a good look at yourself while at the computer, if your in a t-shirt and talking [email protected] on the internet. Chances are you fall in the "Internet Tough Guy" catagory.- -


                        • #13
                          Wow. It took me less than an hour to find all the info I needed for my RX8. I checked clubRx8 first, but found this here.

                          Thanks man. I appreciate the tut!


                          • #14
                            awesome! wish i would have read this 2 months ago!! all of my research has led me to these answers of course but it could have saved me a lot of time. thanks again


                            • #15
                              Didn't read the whole thing, but one thing I did notice is the suggestion to pull the center brake light for a camera. In the US at least cars are required to have working light bulbs in all bulb sockets, so you could mount a camera in the same housing but you would still need a bulb.

                              Not to mention most cars have the third brake light in the rear window, with the trunk below it, blocking the view of the curb, other cars bumpers, etc.