ITX Build Guide


Table of Contents
I. Getting Started
II-1. The Build • Section 1 – The Case Fans, and Power Supply
II-2. The Build • Section 2 – The Solid State Drive, DVD-ROM, and Motherboard
II-3. The Build • Section 3 – RAM, and SATA Cables
II-4. The Build • Section 4 – Power Connections, and Cable Management
III. The First POST
IV. Final Thoughts

II-1. The Build • Section 1 – The Case Fans & Power Supply

The PC Case Selected
Figure 3: The Case!

This is the Chassis (PC Case) I picked, a Corsair Obsidian 250D Mini ITX Case. This actually is a larger-than-the-average ITX chassis because I wanted to make sure I had decent airflow inside the case, and this one had very good reviews and information as to how the airflow acted within. One can get smaller chassis for ITX PC’s, but with a smaller case, usually means a smaller cooling system and/or an automatic change over to liquid coolant, which is not what I wanted to do. The huge bonus with this chassis is if I wanted to add a full-sized GPU, I could have. Small note, Corsair brand in general make exceptional parts, and I have been recommending them to people for quite some time now. It is possible to get the occasional lemon, but that is possible with any part from any manufacturer. If one does get said part, do not be discouraged, and go get a replacement part to try again. Let’s open this up and examine the innards.

Open Case
Figure 4: The Open Case!

I’ve moved off the attached cables to hang outside of the case to get a good view of the inside. What is visible is the 120mm case fan off to the right with the motherboard plate in the middle. One can always tell where the motherboard is to be mounted due to hex-shaped screws being on the plate with thread in the middle of them for accepting the anchor screw for the motherboard. On more complex motherboards and cases, one might need to add some of these screws to the plate for anchoring and/or grounding. Both the motherboard manual and chassis manual typically touch on the subject and let the builder know which spots to place them at. In the lower right, is the area for where the Optical Drive is to be placed. We’ll get into more detail of each area of this case as I proceed through the build.

Back Panel
Figure 5: The Back Side.

Just wanted to show this, which is the back side of the case. The top is for 80mm case fans, the lower left is for hard drive mounting, and to the lower right is for the Power Supply.

Cougar 120mm
Figure 6: Cougar Brand 120mm Fan.

Now, as I pointed out previously, there’s a 120mm mounted case fan already in the system. This is the replacement for that fan and an additional one for the other spot. I picked Cougar because it’s one of the best case fans one can purchase because it’s a type of fan often called “Liquid Bearing,” or “Fluid Bearing” fan. These guys can last for up to 300,000 hours at low temperatures and are capable of being mounted both vertically, and horizontally without penalizing their lifespan.

There’s normally 3 very common types of PC case fans that can be purchased:

  • Sleeve Bearing – The most common, and cheapest fan to purchase. Lifespan averages about 50,000 hours, but is highly reduced when mounted horizontally and also at higher temperatures. Typically when they go out, it’s just like a light bulb. One day the thing works, then the next, it’s busted. Their noise level is pretty darn quiet when first utilized, but as their bearings age, they begin to whine more and more till it gives out. They come in a huge variety of styles and colors.
  • Ball Bearing / Double Ball Bearing – These guys have a far longer lifespan than the sleeve bearings do, but at the cost of more noise. They’re also affected by temperature, but not by mounting and can be mounted both horizontally and vertically. Their lifetime averages about 75,000 hours of use. I must emphasize that they are quite noisy though, especially at smaller sizes. They come in a few colors and varieties, but nowhere near as many as the sleeve bearing brand.
  • Liquid/Fluid/Hydro Bearing – These are the more uncommon and pricey of the types of case fans that are capable of being purchased. The bonus is these have the longest lifespan (100,000 to 300,000 hours depending upon system temperatures), and can be mounted both horizontally or vertically with practically no noise whatsoever. They come in a few colors, but nowhere near that of a sleeve bearing either.

If one can swing getting all Fluid Bearings, especially if this PC is to last a very long while, then I would recommend the Fluid bearings and especially the Cougar Brand.

There’s a few common uniform chassis fan sizes as well: 80mm, 92mm, 120mm, and 140mm. If one acquires or needs any of these sizes, it’s universal on how they will mount no matter what chassis or part they are to be fitted upon. The final size is 200mm, but this one varies in how it is mounted, but the nice thing about 200mm is the amount of air they can more as well as they’re normally very quiet. I have grown tired of messing around with 200mm sized fans due to their inconsistent mounting regulations, so I go with 120mm or 140mm when needed. Over the years, the standard fan size has shifted from 80mm to 120mm, and I expect that might change again depending on how technology continues to evolve. If one is unsure as to what fan size(s) are needed, just looking at the mounting bracket can be sufficient enough, or can always consult the chassis’ manual and specifications as they should be listed there.

Over time, one can immediately, or near immediately tell the difference between the sizes on a chassis. To be fair though, I do tend from time to time to goof up and mistake an 80mm for a 92mm and a 120mm for a 140mm spot.

Current Side Panel
Figure 7: Side Panel with Original Fan that came with the PC Case.

This is the chassis’ fan brackets location for both of the 120mm fans on the side of the PC. That corsair is coming out and the nice Fluid is being put in its place, along with another one to go next to it. Now, Corsair does make excellent fans, but they are sleeve bearing, and I didn’t want those in this build. If one notices, there are four holes around the corners of the vacant spot for another fan, and the existing fan’s four screws can be seen. They’re just simple Phillips Head Screws, and they come out pretty darn easily.

About the orientation of chassis fans, which affects how they push/pull the airflow in a case, which is pretty important especially in a fan-only set up. Airflow for case fans usually goes as follows:

  • Side Chassis FansIntake Fans usually
  • Front Chassis FansIntake Fans
  • Top Chassis FansExhaust Fans
  • Bottom Chassis Fans – This one can vary, I usually make it an Intake
  • Back Chassis FansExhaust Fans

The airflow is also dictated by which side of the label is facing where. If the label is facing outwards of the PC, that is an exhaust fan. If the fan label is facing inside of the PC, then it will be an intake fan. Another way to tell is where the fan’s structural framework is: the framework facing outwards (cross-beams in front of the blades in an “X” shape are typical) is an exhaust, while facing inwards will be an intake. Once it’s all built and unsure still, when it’s powered on, can check it by holding a sticky note in front of the fan.

On a quick note: rule of thumb for all four-point screws in a PC build – ALWAYS TIGHTEN THE SCREWS IN A DIAGONAL OPPOSITE CORNERS MANNER! This helps keep the parts evenly tightened, and is critical for mounting the CPU’s cooling fan.

Cougars in Place
Figure 8: Cougars in Place!

There’s the spots with the Cougars in place. Normally, I would make them intake fans, but for this build I made them exhaust fans to help out the smaller back exhaust fans. All it takes to mount them (and remove the existing) was a Phillips Screwdriver and some elbow grease. You’ll continue to utilize both for the entire build as that will not change. Sometimes fans will have a little resistance, and sound like a grinding noise; that is perfectly normal as they weren’t tapped during construction so when they’re being mounted for the first time, the screw is actually threading them in the process, which causes that noise to happen.

80mm Hydro/Fluid Bearing
Figure 9: 80mm Arctic Fluid Bearing Fans

Okay, since I solely wanted Fluid Bearing, this was practically the only brand that made 80mm fans with that requirement. Arctic Brand are Fluid Bearing, and they come with an extra wire, too. If I recall, I didn’t utilize that extra wire option. There’s a piece of paper that came with the fan that explained what to do with it if not being used. I needed two of these for the back of the PC. I followed the normal rules for the back fans, and did make them exhaust.

Back Side with no 80mm
Figure 10: Back View with no 80mm’s in place quite yet

This is where the 80mm fans are supposed to go, and just like last time they screw into the chassis at the four corners.

Back Side with 80mm fans installed
Figure 11: 80mm’s in Place!

There they are! Nice and in place! Yes, this shot came out blurry a bit.

Corsair AX 760
Figure 12: Corsair AX Power Supply.

Onwards to the Power Supply (PSU)! The PSU is how electricity gets from the wall to all of the components in the PC, and it doesn’t matter whatever type of PC is being built, it will have a PSU of some kind of wattage. This is a Corsair AX series, which is one of the higher quality power supplies that Corsair makes. They make a wide variety of them, and each is designed with a certain purpose in mind as well as being fully modular, modular, or standard.

  • Fully Modular – Every cable can be removed or added to a fully modular power supply, even the motherboard’s main power cable. Can be handy if only specific types of cables, including the motherboard’s, are needed.
  • Modular – Another name for this is Semi Modular. Everything, but the motherboard cable, can be either added or removed from a semi modular power supply.
  • Standard – I don’t really know what the actual name of it is, but basically all of the cables are already attached to the motherboard and can only have set amount of items connected to it.

I honestly don’t know what the benefit of a Fully Modular is over a Semi Modular since one must have the Motherboard’s cable to power up a system, but maybe there’s a reason that I have just never explored. I just picked fully modular for this build since it was an ITX and it was in a much smaller chassis where less cables are a better thing in the long run, and the cost made it more appealing than a Semi-Modular at the time of acquiring the PSU.

The little silver badge in the lower right corner is it’s energy star rating. There’s four ratings: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, and as the rating goes up the more energy efficient it is. Normally the higher the better, but that is also at an additional cost. This one is a platinum rated power supply. Now the giant 760 is how much output in watts the PSU can dish out. You absolutely NEVER want to max out a PSU all of the time, as it will heavily reduce it’s lifespan and it could potentially cause some very severe problems up to and including fires. Depending upon the PC’s usage, depends on how much wattage one will need. Gaming rigs that utilize high-end graphics cards will need a much higher PSU than a PC that is only using the onboard video chip.

I can’t recommend a wattage to anyone, but what one can do is when picking out a motherboard, the manufacturer will put a minimum PSU requirement for it to function. There are also great wattage calculators on the internet that can help one decide on a final wattage number to sit at. nVidia I know has one as well if one is seeking out on of their cards to be used for gaming purposes. There’s also more advanced things like SLI/Crossfire (multiple graphics cards linked together to act as one) that up the wattage requirements quite a bit. If one is planning on SLI/Crossfiring during the life of the PC, then I would suggest making sure one has enough power for that, and those calculators are out there as well.

Why I chose a 760 is because based on the recommended minimum wattage of 550, I didn’t want it to sit near or around that number. I would have picked a 750 watt, but I couldn’t seem to find a nice modular one so 760 was the next one up. Having an absurd amount more wattage than necessary is never a bad thing either, as it can (possibly) be carried over to a new upgraded system if the wattage is high enough, or allow for some higher end upgrades to the current system without having to worry about over-taxing the PSU. The system will only pull the amount of wattage that is needed, so the PSU may never reach anywhere near it’s max usage, and that is a good thing.

PSU's Modular Connections
Figure 13: The Modular Side of the PSU with all of the optional connections.

This is the modular side of the PSU, notice how it has the connections labeled. The connections will only fit into their section and none of the others due to the small corners being the shape they are, and this makes sure that one cannot connect any of the connectors incorrectly. The fan control is personal preference, if the PSU has one. I left it as “hybrid,” which means the PSU’s internal fan won’t kick in unless it has to pull over 70% of its maximum wattage. Basically, if it’s not planning on being under heavy loads all of the time, then hybrid would be the way to go.

PSU Being Installed
Figure 14: PSU being installed into place.

Here’s the PSU being installed into the chassis. The frame I’m holding is not a common thing, but in this chassis’ case, it’s part of the structure so the PSU actually is fully enclosed into the system whereas in most PC cases, it just slides in and then screwed into place in the corners.

Modular PSU's Perks
Figure 15: Perks of Corsair’s Modular PSU’s.

One big reason why I like Corsair, they have a nice little bag for all of the cables that won’t be used in a PC.

PSU Installed
Figure 16: PSU Completely Installed!

There’s the PSU all installed, and ready to be hooked up to all of the internal components when the time comes!

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