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Home >> Cases & Fans  >> Resources - Cases >> BYO: Build Your Own >> 


How to build a Mini-ITX PC - A Step By Step Guide




By Sean Palmer

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends

In this manual I will walk you through the steps required to build a mini-ITX computer system. This tutorial will be a pictured one that goes through the steps of building the machine from out of the box to completion. This tutorial will be set up in sections for those who would like to skip forward. On most pictures, you can click on the pictures to get a zoomed in view.

  1. Introduction
  2. Start with the Case
  3. The motherboard
  4. Lets put it together
  5. Case options
  6. Video Connections
  7. Note Section


Introduction

Today we are going to put together a mini-ITX system with the Black Winsis WI-08-BK Mini-ITX computer case, w/ Slim Optical Drive bay and use an Intel BOXDQ45EK LGA775 mini-ITX motherboard. This system is perfect for office professionals that are looking for a space saver and still want high performance.

Start with the Case


We first start with the WI-08-BK case. Here we have the front of the WI-08-BK, you see it has a slim optical drive bay and two front usb ports and audio mic and headphone jacks. The power button is the small, half circle; shape to the left of the silver front and to the far left you will see a clear plastic for the hard drive LED. The back of the WI-08-BK we have thumb screws for the top lid and a 200w power supply that comes with the Winsis case. Remove the lid and you see what the WI-08-BK provides. There is the 200w power supply, mount bracket for the slim optical drive and hard drive, a box of various screws, and a power cable.



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The Motherboard


We are going to use the BOXDQ45EK mini-ITX motherboard by Intel for this system which comes in a box which comes with the I/O shield, SATA cables, and driver disc. Here is a aerial view of the DQ45EK mini-ITX, you see is has two mem slots, a LGA775 socket for Intel processor, 4 SATA ports(3.0Gb/s) for hard drives/optical drives and has the onboard Raid 0/1/5/10.



Here is the Input/Output of the DQ45EK, here we have dual video with either two DVI or a provided adapter for DVI to VGA, 6 back 2.0 USB ports, 1 eSATA Port (3.0 Gb/s), Intel 82566LM Energy Star-ready 10/100/1000 onboard Network connection, and onboard audio in, speaker out, and mic.

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Lets get started


First, take all the parts cables and parts box out of the WI-08-BK and set them aside for later, set the usb, audio, fan, and power supply connections and move them out of the way best possible to give yourself some working room.


Next, we need to remove the front cover of the Winsis case. First gently life the tabs of the front case and loosen them from the metal chassis.Inside the case you will need to squeeze the case lock to let it pass through the Wk-08-BK case chassis to be able to remove the front cover.

Gently start to remove the front cover and guide the usb, audio and power button cables through the front chassis and pull it away from the front. You do not have to remove it completely, just enough to remove the optical/hard drive mount.


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Mounting the Optical Drive


To remove the optical/hard drive mount, lift the red tab and unscrew the red thumb screw. When done, slide the mount up and out of the case, slight jiggling helps a bit.

The Winsis Wi-08-BK provides a mount assistance with optical drive and 3.5 hard drives. It is spring loaded so flip the tab and it will rise slightly from the mount.

Here we have a slim SATA optical drive for our system. carefully slide the slim optical drive into the mount. carefully guide the slide drive in and flip the tabs on the mount assistance, make sure that the tool less assistance inserts into the drive to hold in place.


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Mounting the Hard Drive


Here is the hard drive that we will be using for the system. Slide the hard drive into the mount and close the flip tab on the mount assistance and insure that the guides insert into the hard drive. On the other side there are screw holes to secure the drives.
If wanted you can use a laptop size 2.5 hard drive, there are guides and screw holes on both sides. There are no mount assistances with the spring-loaded guides. But it does have chassis mount guides that will hold the hard drive in place while you secure the hard drive screws in place.

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Mounting the Motherboard


Now that the mount is complete with an optical drive and hard drive, set it aside for later and let us start with the DQ45EK mini-ITX install. First letís take the I/O shield from the BOXDQ45EK and snap it into the WI-08-BK.


Slowly guide the DQ45EK mini-ITX into the Winsis chassis, A slight tilt helps place the motherboard into the WI-08-BK case. There are 4 mounting holds to secure the mini-ITX into the case.


The Winsis WI-08-BK has pre-cut holes in the side of the case so that a screw driver can be used to mount the mini-ITX.


The Winsis case has one expansion slot which has a flip chassis which has two uses. Flip it open to get to the last mounting point for the DQ45EK, and for sliding the expansion slot shield if you are adding a card. Close it down when finished.


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Installing the Processor


Now letís put in the processor. For this mini-ITX build we are using the Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 Wolfdale 2.80Ghz processor, socket LGA775 45nm, 1066MHz Front side bus.

First lets remove the plastic cover for the processor socket on the DQ45EK, flip open the lock handle and open the processor mount.


With clean hands, hold the processor from the sides WARNING! Do not touch the contacts ( bottom of processor) Doing so distributes oil from your fingers on the contacts making the connection with the pins on the motherboard less effective. Carefully place the processor in the socket LGA775, Use the arrow on the corner of the processor to a line with the arrow on the socket.


With the processor inserted correctly, close the mount and lock it in place.


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Now for the CPU FAN


Place the CPU Fan in position over the processor, (on the DQ45EK mini-ITX, there are four mounting holes for the Intel CPU Cooler), try to make sure where the CPU fan power source is on the mini-ITX to make it easy to plug in.


Either use your thumb or a flat-head screw driver and push down the locks for the cooler to secure in place, you will hear a small click when it locks in place. You can try to jiggle the cooler, to see if it is secure, if it moves, try to make sure that it is locked in place.


The case fan can be plugged in next to the CPU fan power source, just make sure the cable is not in the way of any fans of other devices way, best to move it to the side of the mini-ITX to be clear of the CPU fan and the case fan.

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Installing the Memory


Now for the memory, Here is a RAM stick of DDR2 memory. For this build we are using a single stick of 2GB DDR2 memory. The DQ45EK has the memory spaces for 2 sticks which is recommended to use for Dual-Channel memory.


On the DQ45EK mini-ITX, open the tabs to the closest memory slot to the processor. Place the memory in the slot and carefully snap it in. Please take in mind that the memory can only be placed in one way, so there is an indention marker on the slot and ram, line those up together so that you see the correct position of the RAM. Make sure that the tabs are closed completely and holding the ram in place.

On the DQ45EK mini-ITX, open the tabs to the closest memory slot to the processor. Place the memory in the slot and carefully snap it in. Please take in mind that the memory can only be placed in one way, so there is an indention marker on the slot and ram, line those up together so that you see the correct position of the RAM. Make sure that the tabs are closed completely and holding the ram in place.

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Installing the Optical/Hard Drive Mount


Now lets get back to the optical/hard drive mount. Carefully place the mount inside the WI-08-BK chassis, lining the top of the mount with the mini-ITX chassis. Screw in the thumb screw and youíre done. There is an optional spot to screw the optical/hard drive mount, there is a spot to put one more screw at the bottom of the mount for extra secure.


For the slim optical drive, the front cover for the WI-08-BK case will need the optical slot cover to be pushed out, there are two tabs that are holding the slot cover on the front cover, carefully move the tabs in and the slot cover will be able to come out.


To put the front cover of the Winsis chassis, slowly feed the front USB, AUDIO, and power switch cables into the chassis. Make sure that the optical drive lines in place and snap the front cover onto the chassis of the WI-08-BK chassis.


A View of the front cover put back on the case.


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Plugging in the front USB/Audio


To plug in the front USB, route the cable on the side of the WI-08-BK to the USB headers on the DQ45EK and plug it in on either sport. There are 9 pins, the red cables of the USB are to be on the first 2 pins of the USB header, and The ground cable (black) is towards the 7th and 8th pin closed to the alone 9th pin.


Route the AUDIO cable to the back of the case to the yellow audio pins (9 pin connection) which can only be plugged in one way, there is a block that is placed to make sure that it is plugged in correctly. And move the cable to the side of the mini-ITX to be out of the way.

Look in the manual or the reference guide of the DQ45EK mini-ITX and see what the front power switch, power LED, and the hard drive LED pins are for the front connectors. If that is not an option, the other is to look at the pins and they are color coded for easiness to fin which is which. The color wire is the power and the white wire is the negative so if you look at the 9 pin block, you can see blacked out plus ( + ) signs to signify that positive of the two pins. Place the three plugs on to the appropriate pins and move the cables to the side of the mini-ITX motherboard to have them out of the way.

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Hooking up the other connections


Now to plug in the hard drive, take one of the provided SATA cables out of the BOXDQ45EK and plug it into the drive. While you are there, plug in the power SATA cable. Route the SATA cable to the side of the DQ45EK mini-ITX and plug it in to the SATA ports on the motherboard.


To plug in the slim optical drive, a separate cable is needed to connect the SATA and power cable. This cable comes in two lengths, 8 inches and 18 inches. Both are usually around 6 dollars.


The connector has the plug in for the optical drive, plug for the SATA port, and a MOLEX connector for power.


Plug the connecter into the optical drive, and the SATA connector into the SATA port.


Next take the MOLEX connector and plug it into another MOLEX connection from the power supply.


For cable management purposes, take a zip tie and tie up the floppy power connecter since we are using a SATA slim optical drive, this cable is not needed.


Tuck the cable to the side of the DQ45EK mini-ITX and have them out of the way.


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Plugging in Power


Take the CPU power cable (Black and Yellow cable with 4 pins) from the power supply and route it to the towards the back of the case. Have the power cable go around the already plugged in AUDIO cable and plugging it in front of the already plugged in front USB cable helps keep the USB cable from moving toward the CPU fan and general helps keep the cables in an orderly fashion.


For the power to the DQ45EK, take the power cable for the power supply and have it go over the optical/hard drive mount, make sure that all 24 pins are going to plug in correctly.


When you see that you have it set in place, push it in all the way and make sure it is secure and folder down the power cable of the optical/hard drive mount

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Closing up the Case


To complete the installation of the Winsis WI-08-BK mini-ITX case and the BOXDQ45EK Intel motherboard with the Intel 2.8GHz Wolfdale, take the side/top cover of the case and slide it on and take the thumb screws provided and lock it in place.


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Case Placement Options


The Winsis WI-08-BK can be placed as a desktop style pc or a mini tower pc. Winsis provides little feet to attach to the outside of the case,
For our installation, we are going to make this mini-ITX into a mini tower, remove the 3M tape cover, (carefully, otherwise you will remove the entire tape and not be able to tape them down) take the feet and place them on the circle spots marked on the WI-08-BK case. Hold them down for a few seconds to make sure they stick.


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Video Connections


The DQ45EK comes with two video out puts, DVI-I (blue) and DVI-D (white). DVI-I has the option of using a DVI to VGA adapter that is supplied by the BOXDQ45EK mini-ITX motherboard.


DVI-D can not use a VGA adapter so this one any only be used by a DVI connection.


Conclusion


Now you have a completed Mini-ITX system built and ready to install the Operating System of your choosing. Please take a look at the Note Section when installing Windows XP due to the driver CD supplied in the BOXDG45EK.

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NOTE SECTION


When installing Windows XP Pro for our demo build, we came to an issue when installing the drivers that are supplied with the DQ45EK, we ran into a problem with using the express installer. The problem we ran into is that when the drivers started to load, and the system would automatically restart and log back in and start on the next driver. The system followed this routine but when it got to the log in screen, it did not log in and the keyboard and mouse were disabled. Shutting down the machine and restarting it did not help. Also changing keyboards and mice had no effect. The only solution is to re-install windows. DO NOT DO A REPAIR INSTALL. We came across the repair install and the system still wanted to log in even with the driver disc removed. The suggestion is to start the system and only EXPLORE the disc and load the drivers per the Windowís properties device manager. Adding the drivers manually proved to work and only too a little longer to finish the set up than using the express installer.


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