Someone please 'splain me

I want to set up a hard drive system so that my wife can enjoy uninterupted music as she is working downstairs. I'm somewhat familiar with the steps involved, but have several specific questions. Here is our setup:

One room upstairs:
Cable internet connection with PC connected to wireless router

Other room upstairs:
Audio system - CDP has digital input with USB-digital converter

Networked PC

1) Which 250GB external hard drive should I buy? I'm hearing conflicting opinions about what works/doesn't work with PC
2) Should I simply hook up the external hard drive in the audio room to a laptop, or....
Should we put a wireless Squeezebox on the router in the computer room upstairs, and is it even worth the expense to do so?
3) What cabling will I need?
4) Can my wife control the music from her computer downstairs?
5) Is iTunes the best music organizer for our needs?

And finally, do you think we need to install $1100 PC's on all of the CPU's? Only kidding, cable flamers...

Thank you,
Hi Howard -

An old laptop should have the poop to do it assuming that's all its doing.Certainly won't take much to figure that part out. If that is the case, hooking the external HD to it makes fine sense, and will also make a good place to rip. (BTW I agree with my friend Prpixel but did not mention SATA because I don't know if/how it works with a laptop... )

That said, sooner or later somehow the data needs to get from the laptop to the preamp. If you don't have Airport or an SB that means that you have to use USB. It also means you will need a DAC. If you have a DAC you can also use a sound card - not recommended - to provide SPDIF or Toslink to the DAC. But somehow the data needs to become audio input again. So pick your poison.

Seems like it would make things nicer for your wife to get a small self powered pair of speakers (Klipsch sells refurbed ones very inexpensively) and let her have all the interface and control where she is working. Nothing worse IMHO then having to run upstairs to turn down the volume because an important call came in...

I will monitor this for a few days in case you have any other questions.
Sorry, Ckorody, I should have explained further:
We have a CD player, and I'm having a digital input installed into it in a couple of weeks. We will also have the modder (APL) make us a USB-SPDIF converter. So...the DAC will be/already is connected to the preamp.

If she has iTunes at her computer downstairs, will she be able to turn down the volume from there? I guess that's what the SB or Airport Express would be for, yes? And finally, we would only be using the laptop for running iTunes upstairs, yes. I can put a wireless adaptor on it and connect it to our network. She'd be sitting pretty if she had a Palm to control everything from downstairs, but alas, I'll have it with me as I'm out visiting customers.

Thank you again for the input. This is so helpful.

Any old Mac laptop will do. But as others say, backup your music! I use Glyph drives designed for hard use in the pro music biz. I'm trying to get a wireless AE network going as that's the simplest for me, but it still drops out periodically. Need to get that resolved. Then I'm set. Would prefer a USB DAC, but too much clutter in the living room having a computer and drives set up there.

I just changed from an old iBook to one of the new Mac Minis and prefer it. Faster and more convenient. Already had keyboard, mouse, and small, cheap LCD laying around.
Ckorody, I have to say that is one of the better posts on using an HD for your source. Thank you.

I agree that Ckorody's post was a good one. I almost hate to interfere... but, Howard, yes, you would be able to control volume from iTunes running on the downstairs computer. And that's regardless of whether you have AXpress (I would assume same holds true for SB) or a laptop feeding your CDP/DAC. (Actually, AX probably isn't an option by itself since its digital out is optical and I assume your digital in is S/PDIF.)

If you go with a hard drive in your audio room upstairs and you intend to use it while you're listening there, be sure it's quiet enough not to annoy you.

There are several ways using iTunes to wirelessly serve up music files under the control of a remote computer. Probably the most obvious is using iTunes' music sharing feature. With music sharing, in my experience dropouts are truly rare. Budrew, are you using music sharing?