How to Build a Mini PC

by Larry Simmons

A mini PC is a small desktop computer tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Despite its size, it is still as powerful as most full-sized desktop PCs. Building a Mini PC requires careful planning to choose and combine the necessary components. Using the Mini ITX architecture, you can create a Mini PC that utilizes an advanced multicore CPU with dual channel memory, combined with onboard audio and video capable of running robust application and gaming software.

Check that all of the parts purchased are compatible with use in a Mini ITX system. Mini PCs use smaller power supplies, typically less than 100 watts, so parts connected to the system should be low wattage. Search the packaging of parts for labels proclaiming Mini ITX compatibility. Set the parts, still contained in their antistatic pouches, out onto your work area within easy reach. Place any installation manuals near the components with installation diagrams opened fully.

Place the antistatic wrist strap around your wrist. Connect the clip on the end of the strap to a metallic surface to ground yourself and prevent static discharges from damaging your PC.

Lay the motherboard in the center of your workspace with the component connectors facing up. Pull the lever located next to the CPU port on the motherboard upwards, releasing the protective CPU slot cover. Remove the CPU cover from the CPU port and install the CPU to the motherboard. Align the arrow on the CPU with the arrow on the CPU slot. Place the CPU carefully to the slot, taking care not to touch either the face or rear of the CPU. Lower the CPU lever on the side of the CPU slot, locking the CPU in place.

Remove the coolant patch protector on the bottom of the CPU fan and lower the fan into place atop the CPU without using any force. Clip the fan to the motherboard. Plug the power cord from the fan onto the marked CPU fan pins on the motherboard.

Install the two matched RAM chips into the dual RAM slots located on the motherboard. Align the notches on the bottom of the chip with the slot and gently push the ram into the slots until the small clips at the side of the slots click into place against the side notches of the RAM.

Set the motherboard aside and place the Mini ITX case in the center of the work area. Open the case by unscrewing the case cover with a screwdriver and set the cover aside. The size of the case used determines the number of drives your Mini PC holds, with most desktop cases only capable of holding a single disc drive while mini-tower cases hold up to three or four.

Remove the small metal foil I/O cover from the slot at the rear of the case where the motherboard Input/Output ports will be located. Turn the I/O cover that comes with your motherboard so that the small frame surrounding the edge of the port is facing the opening from the inside. Press this frame snugly into the opening to install the cover in place.

Install the motherboard inside the case by aligning the I/O ports at the rear of the motherboard with the installed I/O cover. Push the ports through the cover hole while gently placing the motherboard onto the case bottom. Make sure the screw holes on the bottom of the motherboard align with the mounting holes on the bottom of the case. Screw the motherboard to the case using the small case screws that came with the motherboard.

Following the installation diagram for the motherboard, connect the cables from the case to the motherboard. At the minimum, there will be both power and reset connectors, as well as a power LED connector.

Install the disk drives desired for your system into the case. Push the drives into the mounting slots so that the data and power connectors point to the rear. Align the screw holes on the drives with those on the mounting slots, and screw the drives securely into place. Connect the data cable from the drive to the motherboard, and then connect the power cable from the power supply to the drive.

Connect the power supply to your motherboard by locating the appropriate motherboard connector extending from the supply and then pressing the connector sockets to the sockets on the motherboard. Check your motherboard diagram for the connection location.

Replace the cover to the Mini ITX case, screwing it into place.

Items you will need

About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera mini pc image by Tribalstar from Fotolia.com