Introduction: How to Build a Mini Home Computer
I will tell you how to make a mini atx home computer that can surf the Internet, preform office work, and even play some low requirement games. For this computer you will need a mini itx or micro atx case and motherboard, an AMD APU or CPU, two sticks of ram, a hard drive, a power supply and an operating system. You can also add a disk drive, a solid state drive, or a video card.
For a mini atx computer you can get away with a 300w power supply. Because of it’s size you will probably want an APU. An APU is a CPU and a GPU (graphics processing unit) all in one small package. If so, you will need an AMD processor because Intel doesn't make APUs. The use of an APU eliminates the need for a graphics card so you can use a much smaller case. Most mini atx/itx cases support two motherboard sizes mini itx and micro atx. Micro atx motherboards have extra PCI card ports. Mini itx motherboards usually have just one card slot, two ram slots and one CPU/APU slot. The number of Hard drives, solid state drives, and disk drives you can use will be limited by your case and your motherboard. I am writing this on a computer with one disk drive and one hard drive. It doesn’t have more because the motherboard, a MSI AM1I only has two drive connectors. For an operating system you can buy a version of Windows on their site or amazon.com and have the disk shipped to you. I use Linux, an open source operating system, instead of Windows. With Linux you can buy a disk or download it and make your own disk.
You can find cheap computers at thrift stores with reasonably good hard drives power supplies cases disk drives and sometimes even CPUs for under $20. If you are not on a budget you can buy better parts. If so I recommend shopping on line instead of at stores like Fry's Electronics. The reason is that on the Internet you will have a much better selection and a cheaper price. One very costly mistake is not getting a CPU/APU that fits in your motherboard. To avoid this, make sure the CPU or APU has the same slot (in my case am1) as your motherboard.
Step 1: Put It All Togeather
Once you have purchased all your parts you will need to put your computer together and install the operating system. The first thing you should do is make sure the case and all the other parts are fully disassembled and as clean as possible. If you are using expensive parts that you really don’t want to ruin you should ground your self. No, don’t go sit in a corner, purchase a grounding wrist strap, and bolt it to any bare metal on a plugged in power supply. If you got most of your parts at a thrift store you don’t need to ground yourself. The order in which you install each part doesn’t matter as long as you can get everything into the case. To install your power supply, guide the wires through the hole at at the back of its mounting spot; then fit it in and fasten it. You should now have the power supply fully installed and the wires coming out the back of the case. To install the motherboard I find it easier to install the CPU, cooler, and ram first. The method to install the CPU or APU will be different depending on the slot. Follow the Manuel carefully or put it in the way you took it out. The same thing for the cooler. To install the ram flip the catches on the slots to their outward position and just pop it in. Next make sure the I/O shield (metal plate that came with your motherboard) is secured in your case. Lay the case flat and set the motherboard in so that the holes in the motherboard line up with the mounting points in the case. Fasten the motherboard to the case with the screws that came with your case. If you have a disk drive remove the drive bay cover of your case, slide it in through the front of the case, and screw it in from the side. The hard drive will go in either a smaller drive bay like your disk drive or onto a suspending panel in your case. Screw it on and make sure there is nothing blocking the air flow around it. If you are using a video or sound card, unscrew the long thin plate at the back of your case behind the slot in which you intent to install it, carefully push it down onto the motherboard, and screw it onto the case.
Now that you have everything installed it is time for cable management. First thread any USB/audio cables from your case through the hole nearest to them and along the back of the case and then through the hole nearest the ports for them on your motherboard, plug them in, and make sure you are tangle free. Do the same with the motherboard power cables, if you have extra length you need to wrap them up behind the motherboard tray. Connect all case fans and secure the wires as neatly as possible. Feed your drive power cables through the nearest hole to the ports in your drives and connect them. Connect the power cables to your video card in the same way as you did with the motherboard. Next plug the data cables into your motherboard. Use the neatest rout possible to get them to your drives and plug them in. Consult the motherboard Manuel as to where to plug the power switch, power led, hdd led, and reset switch.
Step 2: Install the Operating System
Now you should have everything connected. Go a head, plug your computer in to the wall, keyboard, mouse, and your monitor. Press the power switch. If you did everything right It will display a message to the affect of “Insert a bootable medium”. This is when you insert your bootable DVD or USB drive. Then you can push the reset button on your case or control+alt+delete on your keyboard. This should bring you into your OS installation which is pretty easy, but takes a long time. Once that is done it will either ask you to reboot or do it automatically. When It is finished remove the disk, reboot again and you are done!
You can download linux by going to linuxmint.com or ubuntu.com and burn it to a DVD on a Windows pc with iso image burner. download iso image burner at isoimageburner.com