Building a small form factor PC – photo gallery

All the components

I’ve mentioned recently that I was going to build a small form factor PC, and yesterday was the day. All the components had arrived, the stars were in alignment, and unfortunately it was 31 degrees in my kitchen. The whole build took me about 2 – 2.5 hours. You pretty much only need a screwdriver with just a Philips bit, though a long, small-bit Philips screwdriver is incredibly useful as well, as you’ll see.

View the specs and photo gallery after the break.

Small Form Factor PC Specs

So here’s the parts I used, with links to the manufacturer’s sites.

Silverstone SG07 case (comes with a 600W power supply, 80-plus certified)

Asus P8H67-i Deluxe (WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, SATA 3.0)

Intel i5-2500k CPU

2 x 4GB G-Skill DDR3-1333 SO-DIMMs

Powercolor PCS+ HD6850 Call of Duty edition

OCZ Vertex 2 240GB SSD

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB HDD

Silverstone SOD02 Slot-loading slim 8x DVD drive

Prolimatech Samuel 17 CPU Cooler

Zalman ZM-SF3 120mm Fan

The goal here was to build a reasonably-priced gaming system that would have built-in WiFi, Bluetooth (nice to have) that would be reasonably quiet and not take up much room. I already had the SSD and the video card; the rest of the parts I chose after doing research and asking questions on forums where the people were incredibly knowledgeable.

Background

This isn’t essential to discuss, but if you’re considering building a Small Form Factor PC, this might help you. I’ve built my own systems for years; since about 1995 or so. I haven’t built on recently since I’ve used laptops for quite some time, and all of the ones I’ve built have been mini-ATX PCs. I found this far trickier to build than other machines, simply due to the lack of room. It forces you to think somewhat strategically about what order you install components so that you can actually get everything into the case easily. I made a few mistakes and had to backtrack a bit; give yourself time, be patient, and you’ll be fine. Read the instructions – they actually point out useful information.

The Photos

I’ll comment a bit about each step, things to make note of. I ran out of time near the end, so there’s no pics between getting the motherboard in and hooking up all the cables. Enjoy.

Here’s all the components – I ended up not using the PWM fan at all. I substituted that for the Zalman 1500rpm case fan.

Closeup of the SSD and HDD.

Closeup of the video card, CPU, CPU Fan.

This was one of the trickiest parts of the whole build. It’s hard to see in the

image, but the mounting plate is about 2″ under the lip of the slim drive, which is then another 2″ from the edge of the bay. So I needed a tiny screwdriver – the screw was less than 1/5″ across – that had a 4″ shaft just to reach the screw. Trying to actually keep the screw without dropping it repeatedly was a challenge to say the least. As you can see, I ended up using a screwdriver bit on its own. Not optimal, but it got the job done.

Got it in! The case already has fingerprints all over it. Sigh.

This was much easier. Got them in with no fuss, ready to be hooked up. Note the power button behind the cable in the bottom left. This will be mentioned later.

Make sure you put the right brackets on and don’t touch the CPU plate if you’ve removed that sticker! Also, be careful with those fins – they’re sharp. I cut my finger on one while installing it. Slow and steady gets it done.

This isn’t a hard step, but is possibly the most crucial. Be really careful not to bend any pins and to get the CPU oriented correctly before dropping it into place. That’s not a part you want to have to re-purchase.

With the Samuel 17 Heatsink installed, there’s plenty of room between it and the RAM. This orientation was best as it allowed for about 5-8mm between the heatpipes and the GPU (not shown). As you can see, there’s plenty of height clearance, but precious little room next to the heatsink. If you had heatspreaders on that RAM (not common on SO-DIMMs), you’d likely have problems. Plus, make sure you install your RAM first, as there’s no room to do it after the Samuel 17 is installed.

So the board’s now in, the Samuel 17 is installed. I lost some time here as I originally tried to install it with the fan already mounted. That does not work – put the fan afterwards.

Yup, I know it’s a bit of a jump from there to completion. I rushed the last part since I was just so hot and starting to get frustrated, plugging in all those tiny cables and connectors. My cable management leaves a lot to be desired, big-time. I found that part really tricky, especially with how little leeway you have with everything.

Thankfully I had read about this on forums. The Power Supply ships with the switch in the OFF position, and it’s really not very noticeable, seeing as how it’sinside the case. I wonder how many calls for DOAs go in on this case because people haven’t noticed the on/off switch. Anyway, if you’re building with this case, switch that to the ON position and you’re golden. Check out that monstrous 180mm fan on top. It makes the Zalman 120mm look tiny.

Summary

It was a fun, but hot build. I’m glad it’s done, but wish I had taken a bit more time to complete it; I could have continued working on it today, but I suppose I’m just a bit too impatient for that. If I had had experience building a small form factor system in the past, it would have helped a lot. Silverstone attached the front USB port cable to the front of the case, circumventing the power supply – by the time I got around to trying to plug it in, I realized that it was shortened so much that it was impossible to plug it into the motherboard. By this point, I was loathe to disassemble the whole system just for two front USB ports. That’s 2 less for me. Boo.

All in all, it looks like it’ll be exactly what I was looking for – a fast, cheap, small, quiet gaming PC. Hopefully this gallery helps you a bit in your build.

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