Section 6.5. Building the Media Center PC

6.5. Building the Media Center PC

Figure 6-3 shows the major components of the media center PC. The Logitech diNovo keyboard and mouse are on top of the Antec Fusion case at the rear, with the NEC ND-3550A and the Seagate Barracuda hard drives at the left front, and the Gigabyte video adapter at the right front. The Intel D946GZIS motherboard is in front of the Antec Fusion case, surrounded by the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and CPU cooler to the left, the Kingston HyperX memory modules in front, and the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 and pcHDTV HD-5500 tuner cards to the right.

Figure 6-3. Media center PC components, awaiting construction

Before you proceed, verify that you have all of the necessary components. Open each box and confirm that all items on the packing list are present.


You needn't follow the exact sequence we describe when building your own system. For example, some people prefer to install the drives before installing the motherboard while others prefer the converse. The best sequence may depend on the case you use and the components you are installing. For example, some case and motherboard combinations make it difficult or impossible to connect the ATX power cable after drives have been installed. Use your best judgment while building the system and you won't go far wrong.

Choosing a Work Surface

We build systems on the kitchen table because it provides plenty of work room, easy access from front and rear, and plenty of light, all of which are important. Barbara isn't happy about having her kitchen table thus occupied, but when Robert explained that the alternative was using her antique dining room table, she grudgingly agreed that the kitchen table was the better choice. Whatever location you choose to build your system, make sure it provides sufficient workspace, easy access, and good lighting. Spousal approval is optional, but highly recommended.

6.5.1. Preparing the Case

The Antec Fusion case is extremely quiet and well ventilated, but with those virtues come more complexity than is usual for a PC case. The Antec Fusion divides the components into three chambers. The motherboard resides in the largest of these chambers, with the hard drives in another and the power supply and optical drive in the third. This means, as we found by experience, that it pays to think through what you're doing before you do it.

For example, Antec uses a sliding door pass-through to route cables from the power supply chamber to the motherboard chamber. Once you install expansion cards in the motherboard, access to that pass-through is constricted. We actually installed the expansion cards twice before we got it right. The first time, we forgot to pass through a Molex power cable, thinking that the only component that required a Molex connector was the optical drive, which is in the same chamber as the power supply. Alas, we'd forgotten the case fans in the motherboard chamber, which also require a Molex power cable. So we had to uninstall all the expansion cards, route the Molex cable into the motherboard chamber, and reinstall all of the expansion cards.

Avoid Fireworks

Before you do anything else, make sure that the power supply is set to the correct input voltage. Some power supplies, including the unit bundled with the Antec Fusion case, autodetect input voltage and set themselves automatically. Other power supplies require moving a slide switch to indicate the correct input voltage.

If your mains voltage is 115V and the power supply is set for 230V, no damage occurs. The system simply won't start. However, if your mains voltage is 230V and the power supply expects 115V, you will see a very short and expensive fireworks show the first time you plug the system in. The motherboard, processor, memory, expansion cards, and drives will all be burnt to a crisp within a fraction of a second.

To begin preparing the Antec Fusion case, place it on a flat surface and remove the single thumbscrew at the top rear, as shown in Figure 6-4, and then slide the top panel to the rear and lift it off, as shown in Figure 6-5.

Figure 6-4. Remove the thumbscrew that secures the top panel

Figure 6-5. Slide the top panel to the rear and lift it off

Like most cases, the Antec Fusion comes with a generic rear-panel I/O template. Generic templates never fit any motherboard we've ever used, so we're not sure why case makers bother to include them. Removing the generic template simply adds one more task.

To remove the generic template, press gently inward on it with a screwdriver handle, as shown in Figure 6-6. Don't worry about bending the template, because you'll discard it anyway. Do take care not to bend the cutout area of the case, which would make it very difficult to install the proper template. Support the edge of the cutout area with your fingers, and press on the generic template until it snaps out.

Figure 6-6. Press gently on the generic I/O template until it snaps out

Every motherboard comes with a custom I/O template that matches the ports on its rear I/O panels. The included template is nearly always correct, but we have infrequently received a motherboard with an incorrect template. Before you install the custom I/O template supplied with the motherboard, compare it against the motherboard I/O panel, as shown in Figure 6-7. If you received the wrong template, contact the motherboard manufacturer to request a replacement.

Figure 6-7. Compare the custom I/O template with the I/O panel of the motherboard

To install the custom I/O template, first make sure that it's oriented properly relative to the motherboard ports. Working from inside the case, align the template with the cutout. Using a screwdriver handle, start at one corner, as shown in Figure 6-8, and press gently until the template snaps into place. Run the screwdriver handle around the edges and corners of the template to ensure that it's fully seated.

Figure 6-8. Press gently to seat the custom I/O template

After seating the I/O template, hold the motherboard aligned in position directly over the case, as shown in Figure 6-9. Compare the positions of the motherboard mounting holes with the standoff mounting positions in the case.

Figure 6-9. Determine which positions require standoffs

The Intel D946GZIS has eight mounting holes. The Antec Fusion case has six standoffs preinstalled, all of which correspond to mounting hole positions in the motherboard. Locate and note the two positions that require standoffs to be installed.

Install a brass standoff in each required position, and then use the motherboard again to verify that a standoff is installed at each of the required eight positions. Although you can screw in the standoffs using just your fingers, it's much easier and faster to use a 5mm nut driver, as shown in Figure 6-10.

Figure 6-10. Install a standoff in each position that corresponds to a motherboard mounting hole

Be careful not to overtorque the standoffs as you install them. The standoffs are made of soft brass, and the motherboard tray, although steel, is relatively thin. Applying too much torque can strip the standoff or the screw hole. Finger-tight is good enough.

Warning: Make absolutely sure that every standoff installed corresponds to a motherboard mounting hole. An extra standoff can contact the bottom of the motherboard, causing it to short and possibly damaging or destroying the motherboard and other components.

6.5.2. Populating the Motherboard

It is always easier to populate the motherboardinstall the processor and memorywhile the motherboard is outside the case. In fact, you must do so with some systems, because installing the CPU cooler requires access to both sides of the motherboard. Even if it is possible to populate the motherboard while it is installed in the case, we always recommend doing so with the motherboard outside the case and lying flat on the work surface.

When the motherboard is flat on a firm surface, it's completely supported. When it is installed in the case, it's supported only by the standoffs. Installing a CPU cooler or memory may require significant pressure, which runs the risk of cracking an installed motherboard. Play it smart and populate your motherboard before you install it in the case.

Warning: Each time you handle the processor, memory, or other static-sensitive components, first touch the power supply to ground yourself. The power supply needn't be connected to a receptacle for this to be effective. The power supply itself has sufficient mass to serve as a sink for static charges. Installing the processor

To install the Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 processor, begin by unlatching and lifting the socket arm, as shown in Figure 6-11. Swing the socket arm past vertical until it reaches the end of its travel.

Figure 6-11. Lift the socket lever to prepare the socket to receive the processor

With the socket lever open, the retention plate is unlatched and can be lifted upward, away from the socket, as shown in Figure 6-12. The retention plate has a black plastic cover that protects the delicate contacts inside the socket when no processor is installed.

Figure 6-12. Lift the retention plate away from the socket

Snap this protective plastic cover off, as shown in Figure 6-13, and store it in a safe place. If you ever remove the processor from the motherboard, reinstall the cover to protect the socket until you install another processor.

Figure 6-13. Remove the protective plastic cover

Figure 6-14 shows the LGA775 socket prepared to receive the processor. In this state, the delicate contacts of the socket are fully exposed, and the socket is easily damaged. Take care to avoid touching the contacts or dropping anything on the exposed socket. If the socket is damaged, the only alternative is to replace the motherboard.

Figure 6-14. The socket prepared to receive the processor

The processor is also protected by a plastic snap-on cover. When you are ready to install the processor in its socket, remove the plastic cover, as shown in Figure 6-15. Handle the processor only by its edges, and make sure the contact surface of the processor does not touch anything except the socket. If you ever remove the processor from the socket, reinstall the protective cover before you store the processor.

Figure 6-15. Remove the protective plastic cover from the processor

Pin 1 is indicated on the processor by a small golden triangle and on the socket by a beveled corner, both visible at the lower-right corner of the socket in Figure 6-16. The processor also has two keying notches that correspond with two nubs in the socket, both of which are also visible in Figure 6-16.

Figure 6-16. Align the processor with the socket and drop it into place

Hold the processor by its edges, align pin 1 of the processor with pin 1 of the socket and drop the processor into place, as shown in Figure 6-16. The processor should seat flush with the socket without any pressure being applied to it. If seating the processor requires more than a gentle nudge, the processor is not aligned properly with the socket. Remove the processor, align it properly, and drop it back into the socket.

After the processor is seated, lower the retention plate into place, as shown in Figure 6-17. Note the lip on the retention plate and the matching cammed section of the socket lever. As you press the socket lever down to latch it in place, make sure that the cammed section engages the lip on the retention plate and presses it firmly into position, as shown in Figure 6-18.

Figure 6-17. Lower the retention plate into position

Figure 6-18. Make sure the cam on the socket lever engages the lip on the retention plate

Processor Markings

In case you're wondering, normal Core 2 Duo processors aren't labeled with a felt-tip pen. The processor shown in Figure 6-16 is an early Engineering Sample provided to us by Intel before the Core 2 Duo processors were officially released. Ordinarily, it's possible to identify an Intel processor by the S-Spec number on it. However, at the time we received this processor, Intel hadn't yet published S-Specs for the Core 2 Duo. Our contact at Intel kindly hand-labeled the processor before sending it to us.

With the retention plate closed, press down firmly on the socket lever and snap it into the latched position, as shown in Figure 6-19. Once the socket lever is latched, the processor is secured in the socket and protected by the metal socket body.

Figure 6-19. Close the socket lever and snap it into the latched position Installing the CPU cooler

The Intel Core 2 Duo is a low-current processor, but low current is a relative term. Under heavy load, the Intel Core 2 Duo consumes about as much power as a 60W light bulb and turns that power into waste heatabout as much heat as a 60W light bulb produces. To prevent the processor from overheating and shutting down, that waste heat must be removed by a CPU cooler. Intel supplies a good CPU cooler with the retail-boxed Core 2 Duo processor. The bundled cooler isn't quite as efficient or quiet as the best after-market coolers, but it's not far behind. We received a stock Intel CPU cooler with the processor, so we decided to use it. If we later decide we want a better CPU cooler, we can always buy and install one.

Polish the CPU heat spreader to remove any foreign material. If there is no thermal pad installed on the heatsink base, polish it as well and apply thermal compound to the CPU heat spreader. Orient the CPU cooler above the processor, as shown in Figure 6-20. The cooler base has four expanding posts for which the motherboard has four corresponding mounting holes. Position the CPU cooler so that the posts are aligned with the mounting holes. You can orient the CPU cooler in any position that matches the square mounting hole pattern.

Figure 6-20. Align the CPU cooler over the four mounting holes

We recommend positioning the CPU cooler to minimize the amount of slack in the fan power lead. With the expanding posts aligned with the motherboard mounting holes, press down each post, as shown in Figure 6-21, until it snaps into the locked position.

Figure 6-21. Press down each locking post until it snaps into place

Don't Forget Thermal Compound

The stock Intel CPU cooler comes with a thermal pad already installed. If you use a CPU cooler that does not include a thermal pad, apply thermal compound before you install the CPU cooler. Follow the instructions supplied with the thermal compound. A CPU cooler used without a thermal pad or thermal compound cannot cool the processor properly.

Warning: Intel recommends installing the CPU cooler after the motherboard is installed in the case, but more than one person has cracked a motherboard by following that advice. Usually, the expanding posts seat and lock easily, but at times it requires significant pressure to get them seated and locked.For that reason, we prefer to install Socket 775 CPU coolers with the motherboard outside the case. With other sockets, we prefer to install the cooler with the motherboard on a flat, firm surface, but it's not possible to do that with Socket 775 coolers because the expanding posts protrude through the motherboard. The safest way to install a Socket 775 cooler is shown in Figure 6-21. Support the underside of the motherboard with your fingers as you press each expanding post through the motherboard.

Don't forget to connect the fan power lead to the fan power header pins on the motherboard, as shown in Figure 6-22. (We did forget until after we installed the memory, which is why you can see one corner of a Kingston HyperX memory module peeking out at the upper-left corner of the image.) If there's excessive slack in the CPU fan power cable, secure it to make sure it can't foul the CPU fan.

Figure 6-22. Connect the CPU fan cable to the CPU fan connector

Warning: If you remove the CPU cooler, you must use new thermal compound or a new thermal pad when you reinstall it. Before you install new thermal compound, remove all vestiges of the old thermal compound or pad, using friction from the ball of your thumb or another means. Follow the directions supplied with the new thermal compound precisely when you install it. Installing memory

Installing memory in the Intel D946GZIS motherboard is easy. There are two memory modules to be installed, and two memory slots available. Pivot the white plastic locking tabs on both sides of both DIMM sockets outward to prepare the slots to receive DIMMs. Orient each DIMM with the notch in the contact area of the DIMM aligned with the raised plastic tab in the slot and slide the DIMM into place, as shown in Figure 6-23.

Figure 6-23. Orient the DIMM with the notch aligned properly with the socket

With the DIMM properly aligned with the slot and oriented vertically relative to the slot, use both thumbs to press down on the DIMM until it snaps into place. The locking tabs should automatically pivot back up into the locked position, as shown in Figure 6-24, when the DIMM snaps into place. If they don't, close them manually to lock the DIMM into the socket.

Figure 6-24. Seat the DIMM by pressing straight down with both thumbs until it snaps into place

With the processor and memory installed, you're almost ready to install the motherboard in the case. Before you do that, check the motherboard documentation to determine if any configuration jumpers need to be set. The Intel D946GZIS has only one jumper, which sets operating mode. On our motherboard, that jumper was set correctly by default, so we proceeded to the next step.

6.5.3. Installing the Motherboard

Installing the motherboard may take as long as all other assembly steps combined, because there are so many cables to connect. It's important to get all of them connected right, so take your time and verify each connection before and after you make it. Seating and securing the motherboard

To begin, slide the motherboard into the case, as shown in Figure 6-25. Carefully align the back panel I/O connectors with the corresponding holes in the I/O template, and slide the motherboard toward the rear of the case until the motherboard mounting holes line up with the standoffs you installed earlier.

Figure 6-25. Slide the motherboard into position

The I/O template has metal grounding tabs that make contact with various back-panel I/O connectors. Make certain that the tabs are positioned correctly and do not intrude into one or more of the port connectors. More than once, we've mounted a motherboard, inserted all the screws, and connected all the cables before we noticed that there was a metal tab sticking into one of our USB or LAN ports. Before you secure the motherboard in place, verify that the back-panel I/O connectors are mated properly with the I/O template, as shown in Figure 6-26.

Figure 6-26. Back panel connectors should mate cleanly with the I/O template

Once the motherboard is positioned properly and you have verified that the back-panel I/O port connectors are mated cleanly with the I/O template, insert a screw through each motherboard mounting hole into the corresponding standoff, as shown in Figure 6-27. For the first two or three screws, you may have to apply pressure with one hand to keep the holes and standoffs aligned while driving the screw with the other.

Figure 6-27. Securing the motherboard

At times it's difficult to get all the holes and standoffs aligned. If that occurs, insert two screws into easily accessible positions but don't tighten the screws completely. You should then be able to force the motherboard into complete alignment, with all holes matching the standoffs. At that point, insert one or two more screws into less-accessible standoffs and tighten them completely. Finish mounting the motherboard by inserting screws into all standoffs and tightening them. Don't put excessive force on the screws, or you may crack the motherboard. Finger-tight is plenty.


With cheap motherboards and cases, it's sometimes impossible to get all of the mounting holes aligned with the standoffs. With high-quality products like the Antec case and Intel motherboard, everything usually lines up perfectly. But if you find yourself unable to insert all of the motherboard mounting screws, don't despair. We like to get all the screws installed, both for physical support and to make sure all of the grounding points on the motherboard are grounded, but getting most of the screws installedsay six or seven of the eightis normally good enough.

If you are unable to install all of the screws, take the time to remove the brass standoffs where no screw will be installed. A misaligned standoff may short something out. In positions where you cannot use brass standoffs because of alignment problems, you can substitute white nylon standoffs, a few of which are usually included in the parts package. (If not, you can get them at most computer stores.) You may have to trim the nylon standoffs to length to make them fit. Jim Cooley suggests using double chopsticks, which are the right thickness to support the motherboard and are made of nonconducting wood.

It's particularly important to provide some support for the motherboard near the expansion slots, where significant pressure may be applied when installing cards. If the motherboard is unsupported, pressing down may crack it. Connecting the front-panel switch and indicator cables

Once the motherboard is secured, the next step is to connect the front panel switch and indicator cables to the motherboard, as shown in Figure 6-28. Although Intel has defined a standard front panel connector block and uses that standard on its own motherboards, few other motherboard makers adhere to that standard. Accordingly, rather than provide an Intel-standard monolithic connector block that would be useless for motherboards that do not follow the Intel standard, most case makers provide individual two- or three-pin connectors for each switch and indicator.

The only essential front-panel connector is the power switch, which must be connected for you to be able to start the system. You'll probably also want to connect the reset switch and the hard disk activity LED (shown in Figure 6-28). Your case may have front-panel cables for which no corresponding pins exist on the motherboard. For example, many cases include a speaker cable, but most motherboards have embedded speakers and so may not include pins to connect to the case speaker. Conversely, your motherboard may have pins for which the case has no corresponding cable. For example, the Intel D946GZIS motherboard has pins for a Power LED, which the Antec Fusion case does not provide a cable for. (Instead of using a traditional power LED powered by the motherboard, the Antec Fusion uses front-panel illumination powered directly by the power supply. When the system is turned on, the front panel is illuminated.)

Figure 6-28. Connect the front-panel switch and indicator cables

Before you begin connecting front-panel cables, examine the cables. Each should be labeled descriptively, e.g., "Power SW," "Reset SW," and "H.D.D. LED." Match those descriptions with the front-panel connector pins on the motherboard to make sure you connect the correct cable to the appropriate pins. Switch cablespower and resetare not polarized. You can connect them in either orientation, without worrying about which pin is signal and which ground. LED cables may or may not be polarized, but if you connect a polarized LED cable backward the worst that happens is that the LED won't light. Antec cases use white wires for ground and colored wires for signal. Most cases use a black ground wires, and few use green.

When you're connecting front-panel cables, try to get it right the first time, but don't worry too much about getting it wrong. Other than the power switch cable, which must be connected properly for the system to start, none of the other front-panel switch and indicator cables is essential, and connecting them wrong won't damage the system. Connecting the front-panel USB ports

The Antec Fusion case provides two front-panel USB ports with cables that terminate in one Intel-standard dual-USB connector. Locate that cable, which is labeled USB, and connect it to one of the dual-USB motherboard connectors located near the left-front edge of the motherboard, as shown in Figure 6-29. The motherboard connector is keyed with a missing pin that corresponds to a blocked hole on the cable connector, so it's difficult to connect the cable incorrectly. Note, however, that it is possible to offset the cable connector against the motherboard connector and still seat the connector.

Figure 6-29. Connect the front-panel USB cable to a motherboard dual-USB connector Connecting the vacuum fluorescent display and volume control

The Antec Fusion case provides a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) and a volume control knob that work with Windows Media Center and (we hope) other media center applications. The VFD/volume cable terminates in a standard external USB connector. Antec supplies an adapter to convert the external USB connector to an internal 4-pin single USB connector. (The adapter is visible as the large black item at the bottom of Figure 6-30.)

Figure 6-30. Connect the VFD/Volume cable to a motherboard USB connector

Where's the FireWire?

The Antec Fusion case provides a front-panel FireWire port, but the Intel D946GZIS motherboard does not provide a FireWire interface. Tie off the FireWire cable neatly and tuck it out of the way. Alternatively, if you have a free expansion slot and want FireWire support, install a FireWire expansion card. All such cards provide one or more FireWire ports on the back panel, but many also include an internal FireWire port, which can be connected to the Fusion front-panel FireWire cable.

Unfortunately, in our configuration we have no available PCI slots. We do have an unused PCI Express x1 slot, but weren't able to locate a FireWire adapter that would fit that slot. Perhaps that will have changed by the time you build your media center PC.

The VFD/Volume connector is a 4-pin single-USB connector that can be connected to any available motherboard USB connector. Note that the 4-pin connector is not keyed, so it's easy to connect it incorrectly. Orient the cable connector as shown in Figure 6-30, with the GND pin nearest the missing pin on the motherboard connector, and press it into place. Connecting the front-panel audio ports

The Antec Fusion case provides two front-panel audio ports with a cable that terminates in an Intel-standard front-panel audio connector. Locate that cable, which is labeled Audio, and connect it to the yellow FP Audio motherboard connector located near the left-rear corner of the motherboard, as shown in Figure 6-31. The motherboard FP Audio connector is keyed with a missing pin that corresponds to a blocked hole on the cable connector, so align the cable connector and motherboard connector properly before you press the cable connector into place.

Figure 6-31. Connect the front-panel audio cable to the motherboard FP Audio connector

In addition to the Intel-standard monolithic front-panel audio connector block, the Antec Fusion front-panel audio cable provides seven individual signal wires that match the signals on the connector block. You can use these individual wires to connect the front-panel audio if your motherboard provides a front-panel audio connector block that does not conform to the Intel standard.

If you don't need these individual wires, we recommend taping them off to the cable. We neglected to do that initially, and those tiny wires made things very difficult when we installed expansion cards. Connecting the serial ATA data cables

As long as we're connecting cables to the motherboard, we might as well connect the Serial ATA data cables for the hard drives. The Intel D946GZIS motherboard provides four S-ATA data connectors, which are located on the left-front corner of the motherboard. Intel properly labels these connectors SATA 0 through SATA 3. (Some motherboards begin numbering at SATA 1.)

Locate two S-ATA data cables, which may be supplied with the motherboard, the hard drives, or both. Connect two of those S-ATA data cables to the first two motherboard S-ATA ports (SATA 0 and SATA 1), as shown in Figure 6-32. Align the cable connector with the motherboard connector, making sure that the L-shaped keys on both connectors are oriented properly, and then press the cable connector straight down until it seats in the motherboard connector.

Figure 6-32. Connect the Serial ATA data cables to the motherboard ports

Warning: Both ends of an S-ATA cable are identical in terms of pin assignments and keying, so it usually doesn't matter which end you connect to the motherboard and which to the drive. Many S-ATA cables have simple plastic connectors on both ends, but some, including those supplied with the Intel motherboard, have metal latching connectors on one or both ends (visible in Figure 6-32) that are designed to lock the cable to the connector.If you subsequently remove such a cable, make sure to press the latch to disconnect it before you pull the cable or you may damage the motherboard connector and/or the cable. Back in the days when latching S-ATA connectors were still very uncommon, we once pulled an S-ATA cable from a motherboard without watching what we were doing. We heard a loud cracking noise. Fortunately, it was the cable we damaged rather than the motherboard, but it might easily have been otherwise.

6.5.4. Route and Connect Power to the Motherboard

The next step is to route the necessary power cables from the power supply chamber to the motherboard chamber and connect those cables. Locate the sliding access panel between the power supply chamber and the motherboard chamber. Loosen the screw that secures it, as shown in Figure 6-33, and slide the panel all the way toward the rear of the case.

Figure 6-33. Loosen the screw that secures the access panel

You'll need to route most or all of the following cables through the access panel:

  • Main ATX power cable (always needed)

  • ATX12V power cable (needed for most modern motherboards)

  • Serial ATA power cable (always needed)

  • Molex (hard drive) power cable with Berg (floppy drive) connector (always needed)

  • PCI Express power cable (needed if your video adapter requires it)

Unfortunately, we spent too much time doing and too little time thinking, and it cost us. It took several iterations until we got the correct group of cables routed through the access panel.

The first time, we didn't route a Molex cable to the motherboard chamber because the optical drive is located in the same chamber as the power supply. We forgot we'd need a Molex cable in the motherboard chamber for the fans.

The second time, we routed a Molex cable to the motherboard chamber, but we chose the longer Molex cable, which doesn't include a Berg (floppy drive) connector. We later realized we needed a Berg connector for the front-panel illumination.

The third time, we finally got it right. Unfortunately, each time we'd already installed all of the expansion cards, and we had to pull every card to get to the access panel. Arrrrghhh.

Once you've routed the proper power cables through the access panel, slide the door closed and tighten the screw, as shown in Figure 6-34. If you forget a cable, don't say we didn't warn you.

Figure 6-34. Route the necessary cables from the power supply chamber and resecure the access panel

If you're paying close attention, you may have noticed that we forgot yet one more cable. Yep. The ATA ribbon cable has to be routed from the optical drive in the power supply chamber to the ATA motherboard connector in the motherboard chamber.

We'll confess that we actually did forget about the ATA data cable, but we couldn't face ripping out the expansion cards for a fourth attempt. Once is unfortunate. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. Four times begins to look like rank stupidity. Fortunately, we're very good at rationalizing.

If we'd had a round ATA cable, we probably would have bit the bullet and pulled all the expansion cards again (although we were beginning to wonder how many insertions their connectors were rated for...) But we had a flat ATA ribbon cable, and it seemed a bad idea to route it through that roundish hole in the access panel. As a matter of good practice, we try to avoid folding or crimping ribbon cables, and getting a flat ATA cable through that access panel would require crushing it severely. So we decided just to route the ATA ribbon cable over the top edge of the divider that separates the chambers. Once the side panel is reinstalled the ATA cable will be wedged between the divider and the side panel, but that will do it no harm.

Once you have the cables routed from the power supply chamber to the motherboard chamber, the next step is to connect the main ATX power cable, as shown in Figure 6-35. Align the cable with the motherboard connector and press down firmly until it snaps into place. Examine the connection visually to verify that the connectors are fully mated. A partially seated Main ATX power connector can cause subtle problems that are very difficult to troubleshoot.

Figure 6-35. Connect the main ATX power cable

The next step is to connect the ATX12V power cable, as shown in Figure 6-36. The ATX12V motherboard connector is located between the CPU socket and the rear I/O panel. Orient the ATX12V cable properly, and press down firmly until it snaps into place. Examine the connection to make sure that the latch is engaged.

Figure 6-36. Connect the ATX12V power cable

6.5.5. Installing the Expansion Cards

The next step is to install the expansion cards and video adapter. We're installing the pcHDTV HDTV tuner and the Hauppauge dual analog tuner, each of which uses a PCI slot, and the Gigabyte video adapter, which uses the PCI Express x16 slot. To begin, remove the screws that secure the three slot covers, as shown in Figure 6-37.

Figure 6-37. Remove the screws that secure the expansion slot covers

Align each expansion card carefully with its corresponding slot. Press down firmly with both thumbs, as shown in Figure 6-38, until the card seats completely in the slot. Verify visually that each card is fully seated. Video adapters are particularly problematic. The video adapter may appear to seat. You may even feel it snap into place. That doesn't guarantee that it's completely seated. Always verify visually that the video adapter is fully seated and level in the slot, with the top edge of the video adapter contacts flush with the top edge of the slot.

Figure 6-38. Align each expansion card with the slot and press firmly until it seats

Warning: PCI Express video adapters (and the earlier AGP models) use a plastic retention mechanism to secure the video adapter in the slot. When you install a video adapter, make sure the retention mechanism latches. When you remove a video adapter, make sure to unlatch the retention mechanism before you attempt to remove the card from the slot.

After you seat each expansion card, reinsert the screw to secure the bracket to the chassis, as shown in Figure 6-39. After you've screwed in the retaining bracket, double-check to make sure the card is fully and completely seated in its slot. (Sometimes, driving the screw into the bracket can twist the card up and out of the slot slightly.)

Figure 6-39. Reinstall the screw to secure the expansion card to the chassis

With both tuner cards and the video adapter installed, the back panel of the media center PC is quite crowded, as shown in Figure 6-40. Also, this image doesn't show the break-out "octopus" box that we'll later connect to the analog tuner card to split out the audio/video I/O ports.

Figure 6-40. The back panel of the Media Center PC

6.5.6. Installing the Optical Drive

The next step is to install the optical drive. The Antec Fusion case provides a dedicated optical drive bay with a universal drive door that conceals the bezel of the optical drive itself, so you can use any color of optical drive without concern for matching the front bezel of the case. To begin installing the optical drive, pivot the drive bay upward, as shown in Figure 6-41, and then lift it free of the case.

Figure 6-41. Remove the optical drive bay

Warning: Although the optical drive bay apparently has room for two optical drives, you can install only one drive, in the lower position. The upper position is unusable because the VFD protrudes back into the drive bay assembly. Note that at least early revisions of the Antec Fusion manual correctly said to mount the optical drive in the lower bay, but used an illustration that incorrectly showed the drive being mounted in the upper bay.

Slide the optical drive into the bottom opening of the drive bay. Align the drive screw holes with the rear set of screw holes in the drive bay, as shown in Figure 6-42. Once the drive is aligned properly, secure it to the drive bay with four screws, as shown in Figure 6-43.

Figure 6-42. Align the drive screw holes with the rear set of screws holes in the bay

Figure 6-43. Secure the optical drive with four screws

The next step is to connect the cables to the optical drive. Before you proceed, check the jumper on the back of the optical drive to make sure it's configured properly. This is the only parallel ATA device in the system, so it should be jumpered as master. Our NEC ND-3550A optical drive was set as master by default, but some optical drives are set as slave by default. Check the jumper and change it if necessary to make the drive master.

Once you've verified that the drive is configured correctly, connect the ATA data cable to the drive, as shown in Figure 6-44. We used the 80-wire UltraATA cable supplied with the motherboard, which works properly but is a better cable than the drive actually requires. A standard 40-wire ATA cable is sufficient for an optical drive, so don't hesitate to use a 40-wire cable if that's what you have. Before you seat the cable, make sure that pin 1 on the cable (indicated by a color stripe) is aligned with pin 1 on the drive (usually toward the power connector, and always labeled). Once the cable is aligned properly with the drive socket, press firmly to seat it completely.

Figure 6-44. Connect the ATA data cable to the optical drive

Locate a Molex (hard drive) power cable, and connect it to the optical drive, as shown in Figure 6-45. Molex connectors are keyed with beveled corners on the plug and socket. Align the plug with the socket and press firmly to seat the connector, which may require significant pressure.

Figure 6-45. Connect a Molex power cable to the optical drive

After you've connected the data and power cables to the optical drive, replace the drive bay in the chassis, as shown in Figure 6-46. Align the front posts on each side of the drive bay with the corresponding notches on the chassis, and pivot the drive down into the latched position, with the rear posts fully seated in the chassis cutouts.

Figure 6-46. Reinstall the optical drive bay in the case

The next step is to install the hard drives. The Antec Fusion case uses a unique method for mounting the hard drives. Hard drives are usually mounted rigidly, secured by screws on both sides or on the bottom. The Fusion case instead allows the hard drives to "float" by suspending them from only one side.

Please Be Seated

Make sure the optical drive bay seats completely. When we first assembled our media center PC, we were unable to reinstall the top panel. As we tried to figure out the problem, we finally noticed that the optical drive bay was protruding just a couple millimeters too high to allow the top panel to slide into place. With the drive bay reseated properly, the top panel slid easily into place.

To begin installing the hard drives, remove the four screws that secure the hard drive mounting plate, as shown in Figure 6-47.

Figure 6-47. Remove the four screws that secure the hard drive mounting plate

With the screws removed, pivot the hard drive mounting plate upward, as shown in Figure 6-48, and pull it free from the case. Note the soft silicone grommets, visible as small white doughnuts in Figure 6-48. The four grommets on top of the hard drive mounting plate isolate the hard drives from the mounting plate, preventing hard drive vibrations from being transferred to the chassis structure. There are four corresponding grommets at the bottom of the drive bay, two of which are visible in the image. The hard drives are not screwed to these bottom grommets, but rest freely against them.

Figure 6-48. Pivot the hard drive mounting plate upward and pull it free of the case

Bass Ackward

Note the orientation of the hard drive mounting plate relative to the chassis. The hard drive mounting plate appears to be symmetric, but it's not. The position of the screw holes for mounting the hard drive makes the mounting plate chiral, like a glove. If you reverse the mounting plate, the hard drives will not fit properly. When properly oriented, the hard drive screw holes are offset toward the front of the case, as shown in Figure 6-48.

Locate the special hard drive mounting screws in the parts bag supplied with the Fusion case. These screws have a very wide flange that bears against the silicone shock-mounting grommets. Align the drives with their connectors facing left when the mounting plate is oriented normally relative to the case. Secure each drive with two of the special hard drive mounting screws, as shown in Figure 6-49.

Figure 6-49. Secure each hard drive to the mounting plate with two screws

With the hard drives not yet installed in the case, now is a good time to connect power to the VFD. (The VFD is controlled by its USB connection but does not receive power from it.) Locate the short cable coming from the front panel that has a Berg (floppy drive) power connector. Route the power supply cable that has a Berg connector through the access hole to the hard drive bay area and connect power to the VFD cable, as shown in Figure 6-50.

Figure 6-50. Connect power to the VFD

The next step is to connect the data and power cables to the hard drives. Antec recommends connecting these cables after the hard drives are installed in the case, but we found it easier to connect them first. (Make sure to route the data and power cables through the access hole to the hard drive chamber before you connect the cables to the drives.)

Align the data cable with the hard drive connector, making sure the L-shaped keying notches match, and then press the cable connector firmly until it seats on the hard drive connector, as shown in Figure 6-51. Repeat this process to connect the power cables to the hard drives, as shown in Figure 6-52, again making sure that the keys are aligned properly before you seat the cables.

Figure 6-51. Connect the Serial ATA data cables to the hard drives

Figure 6-52. Connect the Serial ATA power cable to the hard drives

The final step in installing the hard drives is to reinstall the mounting plate, as shown in Figure 6-53. Make sure that all four tabs on the mounting plate seat in the corresponding cutouts in the chassis, and then secure the mounting plate with the four screws you removed earlier. When the mounting plate is correctly installed, the drives should be vertical, as shown in the illustration, with their lower sides resting on the silicone grommets at the bottom of the hard drive chamber. (If the hard drives are tilted, you've installed them backward on the mounting plate. Remove it and start over.)

Figure 6-53. Reinstall the hard drive mounting plate and secure it with four screws

6.5.7. Finishing Up

Only a few steps remain to complete your media center PC assembly. We haven't yet connected the optical drive data cable to the motherboard interface, so do that now. Align pin 1 on the cable (the side with the color stripe) with pin 1 on the motherboard interface, and press the cable connector firmly into place until it fully seats in the motherboard socket, as shown in Figure 6-54.

Figure 6-54. Connect the optical drive data cable to the motherboard ATA interface

Locate the Molex cable with the blue and white wires coming from the front-panel area. This connector supplies power to the front-panel LED. Connect this cable, as shown in Figure 6-55, to one of the Molex connectors on the cable coming from the power supply.

Figure 6-55. Connect power to the front-panel LED

Finally, connect the two side fans to the power supply Molex cable, as shown in Figure 6-56. Each of these fans has a selector switch on the end of a short white cable. By default, the switch is set to run the fan at low speed, which should suffice. For better airflow, you can move the switch on one or both fans to the medium or high setting. On low speed, the fans are nearly inaudible. At medium speed, they move considerably more air, but produce noticeable (although not intrusive) sound. At high speed, they move still more air, but produce more noise than most people will find acceptable.

Figure 6-56. Connect power to the two side fans


The Antec Fusion case includes a black plastic air baffle, visible in Figure 6-25, near the rear I/O panel that is designed to direct air across the CPU cooler. That baffle as supplied worked fine in our system, and will probably work well in most systems that use different components.

We could have installed the baffle extensions provided with the case to route more air directly to the CPU cooler, but doing that would have reduced the air flow around the expansion cards, which are very tightly grouped. The Core 2 Duo processor is a low-current, cool-running processor anyway, so we elected not to extend the baffle.

All that remains is to dress the cables, configure BIOS Setup, and reinstall the top panel. Once you have the cables dressed, take a few minutes to double-check everything one last time before you apply power to the system. Use the following checklist:

  • No loose tools or screws (shake the case gently)

  • CPU cooler properly mounted; CPU fan connected

  • Memory modules fully seated and latched

  • Front-panel switch and indicator cables connected properly

  • Front-panel cables connected properly

  • Hard drive data cables connected to drive and motherboard

  • Hard drive power cables connected

  • Optical drive data cable connected to drive and motherboard

  • Optical drive power cable connected

  • All drives secured to drive bay or chassis, as applicable

  • Expansion cards fully seated and secured to the chassis

  • Main ATX power cable and ATX12V power cable connected

  • All cables dressed and tucked

Once you're certain that all is as it should be, it's time for the smoke test. Leave the cover off for now. Connect the power cable to the wall receptacle and then to the system unit. Press the main power button on the front of the case, and the system should start up. Check to make sure that the power supply fan and CPU fan are spinning. You should also hear the hard drive spin up and the happy beep that tells you the system is starting normally. At that point, everything should be working properly.

Only the Good Die Young

When you turn on the rear power switch, the system will come to life momentarily and then die. That's perfectly normal behavior. When the power supply receives power, it begins to start up. It quickly notices that the motherboard hasn't told it to start, and so it shuts down again. All you need to do is press the front-panel power switch and the system will start normally.

Turn off the system, disconnect the power cord, and take these final steps to prepare the system for use:

Set the Setup BIOS Configuration jumper to Configure mode

The BIOS Setup Configuration jumper block on the Intel D946GZIS motherboard is used to set the operation mode. This jumper is located near the center of the left edge of the motherboard, near the front edge of the expansion slots. By default, the jumper is in the 12 or "normal" position. Move the jumper block to the 23 or "configure" position.

Reconnect the power cord and restart the system

When the configuration jumper is set to configure mode, starting the system automatically runs BIOS Setup and puts the system in maintenance mode. This step allows the motherboard to detect the type of processor installed and configure it automatically. When the BIOS Setup screen appears, choose the menu option to clear all BIOS data and then reset the system clock. Save your changes and exit. The system automatically shuts down. Disconnect the power cord.

Set the BIOS Setup Configuration jumper to Normal mode

With the power cord disconnected, move the BIOS Setup Configuration jumper block from 23 (Configure mode) to 12 (Normal mode).

Replace the side panel and reconnect power

With the jumper set for Normal operation, replace the side panel and reconnect the power cord. Your system is now completely assembled and ready for use.

Building the Perfect PC
Building the Perfect PC, Second Edition
ISBN: 0596526865
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 84

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