My first mini-ITX build

mini-ITX form factor DIY PCI’ve been extremely pleased with my last PC build. It’s been working so good that I figured it was time to replace the oldest machine in my house – a Dell Dimension that I bought in 2002. The old machine still works great given what it’s used for – primarily email, web browsing, and light document editing. I’ve just gotten tired of waiting the five minutes it takes from power on to ready-to-use. In addition, I figure at 11 years old, the machine is probably an accident waiting to happen given that I’m still on the original hard drive.

About the only thing I would have done differently with my latest build was go smaller. Therefore, I chose to go with a mini-ITX form factor for my latest build. Since I was planning on using the integrated graphics on the CPU, there really wasn’t any reason to go with a bigger case.

As usual, picking the components is the hardest part of the project. Here’s the list of components I ended up buying, along with their price (excluding tax and shipping):

Processor Intel Core i3-4330 $146.19
Motherboard ASRock H81M-ITX $69.99
RAM Kingston Hyper X Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) $64.99
SSD Intel 530 Series 240GB $149.99
Optical Drive ASUS DVD-Writer DRW-24F1ST $15.99
Case In-Win 200-Watt Mini-ITX case (incl. power supply) $44.99
Monitor ASUS VS248H-P 24-inch Full-HD LED Monitor $119.99
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium $79.99
Total Component Cost $692.12

PC components for mini-ITX PC build

I got quite a few killer components all for under $700, including the SSD (which I won’t build another machine without). I’ve had the machine running for about a week, and it works just as well as the rig I built back in March. Power on to operational only takes about 15 seconds, and I haven’t noticed any limitation using the onboard graphics given what it is being used for.

Here are some more notes from the build:

  1. motherboard in mini-ITX PC caseI’m re-using the keyboard and mouse from the current machine, so I didn’t include them in the cost of the components.
  2. I could have saved money by reusing the monitor, but $120 was too good a deal to upgrade from an old school 19-inch LCD monitor to a 24-inch widescreen LED monitor.
  3. I could have also saved by using an Ivy Bridge Intel processor, but since I figure this PC could be in operation for 7-10 years, I wanted to use the latest Haswell architecture.
  4. Since I don’t anticipate doing much media viewing or editing on the machine, I chose to go with 8 GB RAM and skipped the Blu-ray drive. I can always upgrade later if necessary.
  5. I stayed with Windows 7 for this build. I wanted to keep the interface more familiar to the less technically inclined in my house. Plus, I’ve heard that Windows 8 works better on touch screens. Otherwise, it doesn’t offer an improvement over Windows 7. I also decided to go with Home Premium since I didn’t the need the extra features in Professional.
  6. This is the first build using an ASRock motherboard, and I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of use and quality. I’ll definitely consider them for my next PC build. About the only drawback on the motherboard, and this is not a knock against ASRock, is that there are only two SATA connections on the board. I had to use one for the DVD drive and one for the SSD, so I couldn’t have included an HDD, even if I wanted.
  7. I was a little hesitant with the In-Win case given the price, but so far it’s been great. The case is high quality, and no complaints with the power supply (yet). I also like the fact that a chassis fan was included, and there is a mesh opening directly over the CPU to help with the cooling of both the CPU and motherboard. I’ve also found the sound level of the fans to be very reasonable. I wouldn’t say it’s whisper quiet, but it’s not annoying either.

Comparing mini-ITX and a mid-Tower ATXI’ve been spending most of the last week transitioning the key files and programs from the old machine, which has served the family quite well over the years. It’ll be sad to see the old beast go, but it was time. I have a feeling that within a couple of weeks, none of us will realize its gone. In fact, I bet we’ll be wondering why we didn’t upgrade to a new machine sooner!

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