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Build Your Own Mini-ITX Marvel (Part 1)

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Build Your Own Mini-ITX Marvel (Part 1)

With your components chosen, it’s time to get building

Right, so you have a whole bunch of options when it comes to putting together your own mini PC, including letting someone else do all the hard work for you. But the sense of satisfaction isn’t the only reason to build your own machine; it also allows you to have complete control over what exactly you want to put in your rig without being limited on component choice or preferences of particular system builders. While bespoke rigs can be unique to you and your needs, they all start out the same way: in bits. Luckily, the process for putting your machine together is pretty much uniform across any component combination you choose. For the example build across the following pages, we’re using a larger Corsair mini-ITX chassis to demonstrate how you go all the way and include a discrete graphics card in your build.

Corsair mini-ITX chassis

The actual process will differ slightly with your own build and is mostly dependent on your choice of PC case. Nonetheless, the order in which you assemble your machine should remain the same. The most important thing is not to rush anything. Taking your time ensures that you won’t have to open up your chassis again to attach that wire you forgot about because you were too eager to get the machine up and running. yes, we appreciate you want to see Valve’s Big Picture bubbling up on your living room television as soon as possible, but cutting corners is likely only to push that glorious moment further back.

1. Inside out

Whether you’ve bought the components fresh from your favourite e-tailer, or are using some spare parts, you need to make sure everything is functioning correctly before you start throwing anything into a chassis. Like we said, take your time. Put the case aside for the moment, rest the motherboard on top of the packaging and the anti-static bag in which it came. Drop in the processor, memory and GPU if you’re going discrete.

2. Grease-up

Before you attach the CPU cooler to the board, remember to dab on a blob of thermal grease. This will ensure that there is consistent contact between chip and cooling plate, filling any small scratches and bumps on either surface with thermally conductive goo. A blob roughly the size of a couple of grains of rice will suffice. Don’t worry about spreading it; simply attaching the cooler will ensure that it squidges out in a nice even layer.

Remember to dab on a blob of thermal grease

3. Power play

With the CPU cooler attached to chip and board, you’re ready to attach the cables for the power supply. Do this without the PSU attached to the mains just so you can ensure that everything is plugged in first. You will need to make sure the wide motherboard cable is attached, as well as the 4/8-pin CPU power cable. If you’re following us and using a discrete GPU, you’ll need to attach the 6/8-pin PCIe connectors to the card too.

4. Naked boot

Don’t worry about attaching any separate storage drives at this point; even if the drive is a bust you can get the rest of the physical build completed without it. Plug your screen into the GPU and attach a keyboard. Power up the PSU and start up the barebones machine – if there’s no button on the board itself you can short the pins on the front panel connectors with a screwdriver. Check the manual for the PWRBTN location on the mobo.

Check the BIOS screen

5. Bios

What we’re checking for here is that the machine starts up, its fans spin, it gets to the POST screen and it allows you into the BIOS. When it reaches the motherboard logo screen, hit [Delete] and the open-air rig should enter the BIOS screen. Make sure that the motherboard is reporting the correct CPU and the right amount of memory. We can sort out the right RAM speeds later – chances are it’ll be starting out at 1,333MHz.

 

 

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