Section 7.4. Building the SFF PC

7.4. Building the SFF PC

Figure 7-3 shows the major internal components of the SFF PC. The Antec NSK1300 case is flanked on the left by the Seagate 7200.10 Barracuda SATA hard drive and the NEC ND-3550A DVD writer, and on the right by the Intel D946GZIS motherboard, with the Crucial DDR2 memory, the Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and the Intel CPU cooler already installed. Yep, that's everything. Not many components, but that's all it takes to build an SFF PC with some serious power.

Figure 7-3. SFF PC components, awaiting construction

Before you proceed, make sure you have everything you need. Open each box and verify the contents against the packing list. Make sure all driver discs, cables, screws, and other small components are present.

7.4.1. Preparing the Case

The first step in building any system is always to make sure that the power supply is set to the correct input voltage. Some power supplies, including the unit supplied with the Antec NSK1300, set themselves automatically. Others must be set manually using a slide switch to select the proper input voltage. If your case uses such a power supply, make sure that it's set to the proper input voltage before you proceed.

Warning: If you connect a PC set for 230V to a 115V receptacle, nothing is damaged. The PC components receive half the voltage they require, and the system won't boot. But if you connect a power supply set for 115V to a 230V receptacle, the PC components receive twice the voltage they're designed to use. If you power up the system, that overvoltage destroys the system instantly in clouds of smoke and showers of sparks.

Order Is Important

When you build a standard PC, the exact component installation sequence usually doesn't matter much. With an SFF PC, that's often not true. The small case means there's little room to work. One component may be inaccessible after you install another component. If you forget to connect a cable to the motherboard, for example, you may later have to partially disassemble the system to get to it.

The Antec NSK1300 case is much better than most SFF cases in this respect. The top panel and both side panels are removable, which means the interior is quite accessible, albeit a bit cramped. The disadvantage of the NSK1300 is that it doesn't include custom-length cables preinstalled and routed, as is the case with most "bare-bones" SFF systems. That means you need to take particular care to route and dress the cables appropriately to avoid restricting air flow or fouling a fan.

To begin preparing the Antec NSK1300 case, remove the thumbscrew that secures the top panel, as shown in Figure 7-4.

Figure 7-4. Remove the thumbscrew that secures the top panel

After you remove the thumbscrew, slide the top panel back slightly until the hooks that secure it disengage, and then lift the panel off, as shown in Figure 7-5.

Figure 7-5. Slide the top panel back slightly and lift it off

The side panels of the NSK1300 are secured by plastic latches at the rear center edges of the panels. To remove the side panels, press the plastic latch, as shown in Figure 7-6, to unlock the panel. Slide the panel slightly toward the front of the case and lift it off, as shown in Figure 7-7.

Figure 7-6. Squeeze the latch at the center rear of the side panel to release it

Figure 7-7. While squeezing the latch, slide the side panel forward slightly and then pull it away from the case

The Antec NSK1300 uses a swing-up removable drive bay that secures to the chassis using four posts on the drive bay that mate with corresponding notches in the chassis. To remove the drive bay, pivot the rear end upwards, as shown in Figure 7-8, until the two rear posts come free and then lift the drive bay straight up, sliding the front two posts out of the matching slots in the chassis.

Figure 7-8. Pivot the drive bay upward and lift it free of the chassis

With the drive bay removed, the inside of the case is visible. The brown cardboard box contains mounting screws and other hardware. The white box contains the Cyclone Blower, a supplementary cooling fan that mounts in place of a PCI expansion card.

Nearly every case we've used, including the Antec NSK1300, comes with a generic I/O template. Every motherboard comes with a custom I/O template designed to fit its rear I/O panel. The generic I/O template supplied with the case never seems to fit the I/O panel of the motherboard, so you need to remove the stock I/O template and replace it with the one supplied with the motherboard. To remove the generic I/O template, use a tool handle to press against its corners and edges, as shown in Figure 7-9, until it snaps out.

Figure 7-9. Remove the I/O template supplied with the case

Before you install the custom I/O template, compare it to the motherboard I/O panel to make sure the holes in the template correspond to the connectors on the motherboard. The inside of the template has several grounding tabs that project toward the inside of the case. We found by experience that because of the tight quarters inside the NSK1300 case, it is impossible to seat the Intel D946GZIS motherboard unless you first bend the grounding tab of the Ethernet port slightly upward. (We ended up doing this after the template was installed by using a long flat-blade screwdriver, but it's easier to do it before you install the template.)

Once you've done that, press the custom I/O template into place. Working from inside the case, align the bottom, right, and left edges of the I/O template with the matching case cutout. When the I/O template is positioned properly, begin on one corner and press gently along the edges to seat it in the cutout, as shown in Figure 7-10. It should snap into place, although getting it to seat properly sometimes requires several attempts. As you apply pressure from inside the case against the template, use your finger to apply offsetting pressure on the outside of the template to avoid bending it.

Figure 7-10. Snap the custom I/O template into place

Warning: Be careful not to bend the I/O template when you seat the template. The template holes need to line up with the external port connectors on the motherboard I/O panel. If the template is bent even slightly it may be difficult to seat the motherboard properly. Except, of course, for the grounding tab for the Ethernet port, which must be bent slightly upward to provide room to seat the motherboard.

See the Light

If you simply look at the motherboard, it's easy to miss one of the mounting holes in all the clutter. We generally hold the motherboard up to a light, which makes the mounting holes stand out distinctly.

If your case comes with preinstalled standoffs, make absolutely certain that each standoff matches a motherboard mounting hole. If you find one that doesn't, remove it. Leaving an "extra" standoff in place may cause a short circuit that could damage the motherboard and/or other components.

After you install the I/O template, place the motherboard atop the case, as shown in Figure 7-11, aligned and positioned as it will be when it is installed in the case. Look down through each motherboard mounting hole to locate the mounting positions on the base of the case. The goals are to make sure that there is a standoff installed that corresponds to each motherboard mounting hole, and that no extra standoffs are installed.

Figure 7-11. Look down through the motherboard mounting holes to verify standoff mounting positions

The Intel D946GZIS motherboard has eight mounting holes. The Antec NSK1300, like many cases, is shipped with several standoffs preinstalled. All six of the standoffs preinstalled in the NSK1300 corresponded with motherboard mounting holes, so we needed to install only two standoffs.

The Antec NSK1300 uses a mixture of standard brass standoffs and chrome-plated steel motherboard clips, shown in Figure 7-12. The top of each clip has a small, bent, protruding nipple that is small enough to pass through a motherboard mounting hole. Once the motherboard is dropped into place over these clips, sliding the motherboard slightly toward the back of the case causes the clips to clamp down on the top surface of the motherboard, securing it in place.

Figure 7-12. Insert a motherboard mounting clip in each position that corresponds to a motherboard mounting hole

As the NSK1300 is shipped, there are brass standoffs in two positions and motherboard clips in four positions. For the two remaining required standoffs, we decided to use motherboard clips. They appear to secure the motherboard quite well, and we decided two screws were sufficient to lock the motherboard into place against the clips. If you're uncomfortable depending on the clipsfor example, if this is to be a portable systemyou can replace the motherboard clips with standard brass standoffs, which are provided in the parts bag.

To install the clips, press gently on the sides of the clip and slide it into the mounting position. Make sure that the bent nipple on the clip faces the same direction as the nipples on the clips that are already installed. Robert was able to insert the clips using only finger pressure to compress them, but Barbara found it easier to compress the clips with needle-nose pliers. Whichever method you use, make sure each clip snaps securely into the motherboard tray.

Once you've installed all the standoffs and motherboard clips, do a final check to verify that (a) each motherboard mounting hole has a corresponding standoff or clip, and (b) that no standoffs or clips are installed that don't correspond to a motherboard mounting hole. If you've removed the power supply, you can, as a final check, hold the motherboard in position above the case and look down through each motherboard mounting hole to make sure there's a standoff installed below it.

7.4.2. Installing the Processor and Memory

Even for a full-size system, it's easier to install the processor and memory while the motherboard is outside the case. An SFF system has so little working room that it's almost mandatory to do so.

Warning: Each time you handle the processor, memory, or other static-sensitive components, first touch the power supply to ground yourself. Installing the processor

To install the Core 2 Duo processor, place the motherboard on a flat surface. Lift the socket lever, as shown in Figure 7-13, until it swings past vertical and reaches the end of its travel.

Figure 7-13. 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 7-14. The retention plate has a black plastic cover that protects the delicate contacts inside the socket when no processor is installed. Snap this protective plastic cover off, as shown in Figure 7-15, 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 7-14. Lift the retention plate away from the socket

Figure 7-15. Remove the protective plastic cover

Figure 7-16 shows the LGA775 socket prepared to receive the processor, with its delicate contacts exposed. The socket is easily damaged when it is in this state, so take care to avoid touching the contacts or dropping anything on the exposed socket. If the socket is damaged, the motherboard is scrap.

Figure 7-16. The socket prepared to receive the processor

The processor also has a plastic snap-on cover that protects its contacts when it is not installed in a motherboard. When you are ready to install the processor in its socket, remove the plastic cover, as shown in Figure 7-17. Handle the processor only by its edges, and make sure the contact surface of the processor does not touch anything except the socket.

Figure 7-17. 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 7-18. The processor also has two keying notches that correspond with two nubs in the socket, both of which are also visible in Figure 7-18.

Figure 7-18. Align the processor with the socket and drop it into place

Holding the processor only 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 7-18. The processor should seat flush with the socket just from the force of gravity. If seating the processor requires pressure more than a very gentle nudge, something is misaligned. Remove the processor and verify that it is aligned properly and that the pattern of holes on the processor corresponds to the pattern of pins on the socket.

With the processor seated flush with the socket, lower the retention plate into place, as shown in Figure 7-19. Note the projecting lip on the retention plate and the corresponding cammed section of the socket lever. As you press the socket lever down to latch it in place, that cammed section engages the lip on the retention plate and presses it firmly into position.

Figure 7-19. Lower the retention plate into position

With the retention plate in its closed position, press down firmly on the socket lever and snap it into the latched position, as shown in Figure 7-20. Once the socket lever is latched, the processor is secured in the socket and protected by the metal framework of the socket body.

Figure 7-20. Close the socket lever and snap it into the latched position Installing the CPU cooler

The Intel Core 2 Duo is a very cool-running processor, but it still consumes up to 65W of electrical power when it is running under heavy load. That power ends up as waste heat, which must be dissipated to prevent the processor from overheating. Intel supplies a decent CPU cooler with the retail-boxed Core 2 Duo processor, which is what we used.

Thermal Compound Is Required

The stock Intel CPU cooler comes with a preinstalled thermal pad on the base of the heatsink. As the processor heats up, that thermal pad melts, ensuring good thermal transfer between the processor and the heatsink base. If you use a different CPU cooler, one that does not include a thermal pad, make sure to apply thermal compound before you install the CPU cooler. Follow the instructions supplied with the thermal compound. (We use Antec Silver thermal compound, which is as good as anything and less expensive than many "premium" thermal compounds.)

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 7-21. The cooler base has four posts that correspond to four mounting holes in the motherboard. Align those posts with the mounting holes. (It doesn't matter how you orient the CPU cooler, because the four motherboard mounting holes form a square. We generally orient the CPU cooler so that the fan power lead has as little slack as possible once it's connected to the motherboard fan power header pins.)

Figure 7-21. Align the CPU cooler over the processor

The CPU cooler is secured to the motherboard by four expanding posts that protrude through the motherboard. Align the posts with the motherboard mounting holes and then press down each post, as shown in Figure 7-22, until it snaps into the locked position.

Figure 7-22. Press down on all four locking posts to secure the CPU cooler

Intel recommends installing the CPU cooler after the motherboard is installed in the case, but we prefer to install the CPU cooler with the motherboard still outside the case. If you do the same, note that you can't install the CPU cooler if the motherboard is lying flat on a firm surface because the mounting posts must protrude through the bottom of the motherboard in order to lock into place. Barbara solved that problem simply by raising one edge of the motherboard as she snapped the locking posts into place.

The final step in installing the CPU cooler is to connect the fan power lead to the fan power header pins on the motherboard, as shown in Figure 7-23. If there's excessive slack in the CPU fan power cable, secure it to make sure it can't foul the CPU fan.

Figure 7-23. Connect the CPU fan cable to the CPU fan connector

Warning: If you remove the heatsink, you must replace the thermal compound or pad when you reinstall it. Before you reinstall, remove all remnants of the old thermal pad or compound. That can be difficult, particularly for a thermal pad, which can be very tenacious. We use an ordinary hair dryer to warm the thermal material enough to make it easy to remove. Sometimes the best way is to warm up the compound and rub it off with your thumb. (Use rubber gloves or a plastic bag to keep the gunk off your skin.) To protect the processor, keep it in the socket while you're removing remnants of the thermal compound or pad.Alternatively, one of our technical reviewers says that rubbing gently with #0000 steel wool works wonders in removing the gunk, and is fine enough not to damage the surface. Another of our technical reviewers tells us that he uses Goof-Off or isopropyl alcohol to remove the remnants of the thermal goop or thermal pad. Whatever works for you is fine. Just make sure to remove the old thermal compound and replace it with new compound each time you remove and reinstall the processor.When we replace a heatsink, we use Antec Silver Thermal Compound, which is widely available, inexpensive, and works well. Don't pay extra for "premium" brand names like Arctic Silver. They cost more than the Antec product and our testing shows little or no difference in cooling efficiency.

As Simple As 3, 2, 1

Readers with sharp eyes may have noticed the edge of a memory module visible at the upper-left corner of Figure 7-23, which is odd because we haven't installed the memory yet. That's because the first images we shot of connecting the CPU fan power cable were blurred, so we came back and reshot this one later and forgot to remove the memory module when we reshot the image. Oh, well. Installing memory

Installing memory in the Intel D946GZIS motherboard is straightforward. We have 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 slot and slide the DIMM into place, as shown in Figure 7-24.

Figure 7-24. 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 7-25, when the DIMM snaps into place. If they don't, close them manually to lock the DIMM into the socket.

Figure 7-25. Seat the DIMM by pressing firmly 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.

7.4.3. Installing the Motherboard

Installing the motherboard is the most time-consuming step in building the system 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.

Warning: Before you install the motherboard, tie off the front-panel and other cables to keep them out of the way. The limited working space inside an SFF case makes it easy to lose track of a cable and later find that it's caught underneath the mounted motherboard and can't be pulled free because the connector jams it in place. Seating and securing the motherboard

Before you do anything else, locate the ATX12V power cable from the power supply and connect it to the motherboard. We forgot to do this before we installed the motherboard in the NSK1300 case. Doing it afterward was a royal pain in the petunia because there was almost no clearance. Figure 7-26 shows the ATX12V cable seated and latched (finally). Robert was able to guide it into position with his needle-nose pliers and press the cable into the connector with a flat-blade screwdriver. Next time, he'll remember to seat the ATX12V cable before he installs the motherboard.

Figure 7-26. The ATX12V cable seated in its connector

Once you've connected the ATX12V cable, slide the motherboard into the case, as shown in Figure 7-27, carefully aligning the back-panel I/O connectors with the corresponding holes in the I/O template. As the motherboard I/O connectors seat, the protruding nipples on the motherboard clips should grasp the motherboard. Once the motherboard is in position, examine the rear I/O panel carefully to make sure that none of the grounding tabs are protruding into ports.

Figure 7-27. Slide the motherboard into position


As we mentioned earlier in this chapter, we had to bend the grounding tab for the Ethernet port slightly upward to allow the motherboard to seat. There is very little working room inside an SFF case, so you may have to take similar steps if you use a different motherboard. The important thing to remember is to check the rear I/O panel before you start driving screws to secure the motherboard. If a port is fouled, pull the motherboard out, fix the problem with the I/O template, and slide the motherboard back into position.

Keep pressure on the motherboard to align the two brass standoffs with the corresponding mounting holes, and drive screws into those two standoffs to secure the motherboard in place, as shown in Figure 7-28. After you secure the motherboard, verify once again that the back-panel I/O connectors mate properly with the I/O template and that the motherboard clips are correctly positioned to secure the motherboard.

Figure 7-28. Secure the motherboard by driving screws into the brass standoffs Connecting motherboard cables

The final steps required to install the motherboard are to connect the various signal, data, and power cables. It doesn't much matter in what order you connect these cables, but make sure to get all of them connected.

To begin, locate the main ATX power connector near the front edge of the motherboard. The Antec NSK1300 power supply has a dual-purpose main power cable connector that can be configured as a 20-pin or 24-pin connector. By default, the main ATX power connector is configured as a 24-pin connector, which is used by most recent motherboards. If you're using a motherboard that is socketed for the older 20-pin main ATX power connector, examine the Antec power cable connector. You'll find that it has two segments, one with 20 pins and one with 4 pins, that can be separated. If you're using a 20-pin motherboard, remove the 4-pin segment from the main body of the connector.

Align the main ATX power cable connector as shown in Figure 7-29. Press it firmly into place until the latch on the cable connector snaps into place over the lip on the motherboard jack.

Figure 7-29. Align the main ATX power connector and press it firmly into place

The ATA (IDE) motherboard interface connector is located on the front edge of the motherboard, adjacent to the main ATX power connector. Antec includes a round ATA cable with the NSK1300 case. Ordinarily, we prefer standard flat ATA ribbon cables to the round versions, but for a small form factor system the round cables are unarguably better at fitting in the cramped internal spaces and not blocking air flow.

Align the ATA cable with the motherboard connector, as shown in Figure 7-30, and press the connector firmly until it seats completely. Make certain the connectors are oriented properly. Most ATA cables and sockets are keyed in either or both of two ways: with a missing pin in the socket and a blocked hole in the cable connector, or with a cutout on the socket and a corresponding nub on the cable connector. The ATA cable supplied by Antec is keyed in both ways, as is the socket on the Intel motherboard. If you use a different motherboard or cable, be aware that not all cables or motherboard sockets are keyed. If that's true of your components, make sure pin 1 on the cable is aligned with pin 1 on the socket before you seat the cable.

Figure 7-30. Align the ATA cable with the motherboard socket and press firmly to seat it

The next step is to connect the front-panel switch and indicator cables, as shown in Figure 7-31. The power switch and reset switch connectors are unpolarized, and so may be connected in either orientation, as long as you connect the cable to the correct pair of pins. The HDD activity LED cable is polarized, and should be connected with correct polarity. (If you get it wrong, though, the worst that happens is that the LED fails to illuminate.)

Figure 7-31. Connect the front-panel switch and indicator cables

Each of the front-panel switch and indicator cables is labeled descriptively, e.g., "Power," "Reset," and "HDD 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. The motherboard header pins are color-coded. Figure 7-32 shows the pin assignments for the Hard Drive Activity LED (yellow), Reset Switch (purple), Power LED (green), and Power Switch (red) connectors.

Figure 7-32. D946GZIS front-panel switch and indicator pin assignments (graphic courtesy of Intel Corporation)

The Intel D946GZIS provides four Serial ATA interfaces, which are located in the extreme front left corner of the motherboard, adjacent to the front-panel connectors. Align the S-ATA data cable with the first S-ATA interface, and press it into place until it locks, as shown in Figure 7-33.

Figure 7-33. Insert the S-ATA data cable

Intel begins numbering the S-ATA interfaces at 0. Some motherboards number the S-ATA interfaces beginning with 1. In either case, connect the S-ATA data cable to the lowest-numbered S-ATA interface connector on the motherboard.

The next step is to connect the front-panel USB ports to the motherboard. Most recent Antec cases provide a monolithic 10-pin (5x2) dual-port USB connector that matches the standard Intel USB pin assignments. The NSK1300 instead provides two single-port 5-pin (5x1) USB connectors on the dual front-panel USB cables. We decided to connect both of these cables to one of the dual-port motherboard USB connectors.

The Intel connector block is keyed with a missing pin on one end. The Antec cable connectors have all five pins open, which means it's possible to connect the cable backward. To avoid doing so, note which end of the motherboard connector has a missing pin. Connect the Antec cable with the two black ground wires toward that missing pin (toward the front of the case) as shown in Figure 7-34. If your case uses front-panel USB cables with individual connectors for each wire, refer to the pin assignment shown in Figure 7-35 to get those individual wires connected correctly.

Figure 7-34. Connect the front-panel USB cables to a motherboard USB interface

Figure 7-35. D946GZIS front-panel USB pin assignments (graphic courtesy of Intel Corporation)

The final step in installing the motherboard is to connect the front-panel audio cable to the audio header pins, which are located at the left rear of the motherboard, behind the expansion slots. The NSK1300 case provides a monolithic front-panel audio cable that is keyed with a blocked hole that corresponds with a missing pin on the motherboard connector. Align the cable connector as shown in Figure 7-36, and press firmly to seat it.

Figure 7-36. Connect the front-panel audio cable to the front-panel audio connector pins


In addition to the monolithic connector block, the Antec front-panel audio cable provides individual wires for use with motherboards that don't use the Intel-standard audio connector. If you don't need these individual wires for your motherboard, we recommend taping them off along the body of the cable. Otherwise, they simply flop around loose in the close vicinity of the expansion slots. The wires are quite thin, and if they were left loose one might easily foul an expansion slot.

7.4.4. Installing the Low-Speed Cyclone Blower (Optional)

Antec bundles the Low-Speed Cyclone Blower with the NSK1300 case. ("Low-Speed Cyclone" sounds like an oxymoron to us, but there it is...) The Cyclone Blower occupies an expansion slot, exhausting warm air through the slot cover. It uses a low-speed fan that is so quiet it is difficult to hear it running even with your ear right up against the unit.

Installing the Cyclone Blower is optional. Antec provides it for configurations that require more cooling than the power supply fan can provide. We decided not to install it, because our final system configuration uses a low-current processor and integrated video and we wanted to see how well the system was cooled without the extra ventilation. If you decide to install the Cyclone Blower, Antec recommends the following placement:

  • If no video card is installed, install the Cyclone Blower in the first slot (the slot that would otherwise be occupied by the video card).

  • If a video card is installed but no other expansion card is installed, install the Cyclone Blower in the third slot, leaving one slot open between the video card and the Cyclone Blower.

  • If a video card and one other expansion card are installed, install the Cyclone Blower in the third slot and the other expansion card in the fourth (last) slot.

  • If a video card and two other expansion cards are installed, install the Cyclone Blower in the second slot, adjacent to the video card, and install the two other expansion cards in the third and fourth slots.

To install the Cyclone Blower, use the same procedure you would use to install an expansion card. Remove the two screws that secure the expansion slot cover bracket and the four screws that secure the four expansion slot covers and then pull the expansion slot cover bracket free. Remove the slot cover for the slot you select, and slide the Cyclone Blower into place. Reinstall the expansion slot cover bracket, and connect power to the Cyclone Blower.

7.4.5. Installing Drives

The Antec NSK1300 has one external 5.25" drive bay and three internal 3.5" drive bays. The external bay is for an optical drive, and the three internal 3.5" bays can each hold one hard drive.

To install the optical drive, align it with the guide slots inside the bay and slide it into place, as shown in Figure 7-37. If you are using the universal drive cover, slide the drive into the bay until the drive bezel is flush with the front of the drive bay. This seats the drive deeply enough to provide clearance for the "flapper" cover of the universal drive cover. If you are mounting the optical drive normally, with its front bezel flush with the front bezel of the case, seat the drive only until it protrudes half an inch or so beyond the face of the drive bay.

Figure 7-37. Slide the optical drive into the drive bay

Align the drive screw holes with those in the drive bay. If you are using the universal drive cover, use the rear set of screw holes. If you want to mount the optical drive bezel flush with the front case bezel, use the front set of screw holes. Once you have the screw holes aligned, drive four screws to secure the drive, as shown in Figure 7-38. Insert two screws on each side of the drive, front and back. It doesn't matter if you use the top or bottom set of screw holes. We generally mix them up, using the front bottom screw holes and the rear top ones.

Figure 7-38. Secure the optical drive to the drive bay, using four screws

After you secure the optical drive, mount the hard drive. The Antec NSK1300 provides three hard drive bays, one horizontal underneath the optical drive bay, and one vertical on either side of it. We're installing only one hard drive in this system, so we took Antec's advice and mounted it in the horizontal hard drive bay.

To mount the hard drive, place the drive bay upside down on your work surface. Slide the hard driveagain, upside down, and with the drive power and data connectors toward the back (open) side of the bayinto the drive bay and align the screw holes in the bay and drive. Locate four of the special hard drive mounting screws with black rubber grommets, and use them to secure the hard drive to the bay, as shown in Figure 7-39.

Figure 7-39. Secure the hard drive to the drive bay, using four screws

The final assembly step is to reinsert the drive bay in the chassis and connect the drive cables. To begin, locate the four cables you'll need to connect:

  • Hard drive power cable

  • Hard drive data cable

  • Optical drive power cable

  • Optical drive data cable

Pull these cables toward the upper rear of the system, near the power supply, and leave them dangling outside the case. The goal is to make sure the cables are accessible once you've reinstalled the drive bay. Slide the drive bay into the chassis, as shown in Figure 7-40, but don't seat it completely. Instead, leave it propped slightly open.

Figure 7-40. Slide the drive bay into the chassis

Connect the S-ATA data cable to the hard drive first, as shown in Figure 7-41. That cable has plenty of slack, but the drive connector will soon be obstructed by the optical drive cables, so we want to get it connected first. Connect the optical drive ATA data cable next, as shown in Figure 7-42, and then the optical drive power cable, as shown in Figure 7-43.

Figure 7-41. Connect the S-ATA data cable

Figure 7-42. Connect the optical drive ATA data cable

Figure 7-43. Connect power to the optical drive

The last cable is also the toughest. The S-ATA power cable has almost no slack to work with. To get it connected, first examine the back of the hard drive to determine the orientation of the short segment of the S-ATA power connector key. (With our drive, it was downward and to the right.) Do the same for the S-ATA power cable, and remember the relative orientations, or paint a stripe on both connectors with a Wite-out pen.

Pivot the drive bay assembly downward but not fully into place, until there is enough slack in the S-ATA power cable to reach the drive connector. Orient the cable connector key properly relative to the drive connector key and press the cable connector straight in until it seats, as shown in Figure 7-44.

Figure 7-44. Connect the S-ATA power cable to the hard drive

With all four drive cables connected, seat the drive bay completely, as shown in Figure 7-45. Make sure that all four of the support pins are fully seated in the corresponding notches in the chassis frame, and slide the drive bay into position. Make sure that the drive bay is level and flush with the top of the chassis frame.

Figure 7-45. Seat the drive bay completely

7.4.6. Final Assembly Steps

The NSK1300 case doesn't use a traditional power LED. As a power indicator, it instead uses two blue LEDs that softly illuminate the front panel. These LEDs are powered directly by the power supply rather than from the motherboard Power LED connector. To enable them, locate the Molex connector with a white and a blue wire and connect it to a Molex power supply cable, as shown in Figure 7-46.

Figure 7-46. Connect the front-panel LED power cable

Before you reinstall the side and top panels, we highly recommend putting a warning label on the top of the drive bay assembly, as shown in Figure 7-47. We learned this lesson by hard experience with the Aria SFF system we built for the first edition of this book.

Figure 7-47. Label the top of the drive bay as a warning to yourself and others

A year or so after we built that system, we moved it to our workbench, intending to swap video adapters. We removed the top panel and side panels and lifted the drive bay assembly, intending to remove it. We heard something snap, and realized an instant too late what we'd done. With a sinking feeling, we examined the rear of the drives, hoping that what we'd heard snap was the S-ATA power cable ($50 for a power supply replacement) rather than the S-ATA power connector on the hard drive ($150 to replace the drive). Of course, it was the drive that was damaged, so we learned an expensive lesson: put a warning label on the drive bay or pay the price.

Congratulations! You're almost finished building the system. About all that remains is to dress the cables, configure BIOS Setup, and reinstall the top and side panels.

It's very difficult to dress the cables in an SFF system because there's so little room to work. Do the best you can, bundling and tying off excess cable lengths, tucking things into various nooks and crannies, and so on. The most important thing is to make sure that none of the cables can foul the CPU cooler fan. 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)

  • Heatsink/fan unit properly mounted; CPU fan connected

  • Memory modules fully seated and latched

  • Front-panel switch and indicator cables connected properly

  • Front-panel I/O cables connected properly

  • Hard drive data cable connected to drive and motherboard

  • Hard drive power cable connected

  • Optical drive data cable connected to drive and motherboard

  • Optical drive power cable connected

  • Optical drive audio cable(s) connected, if applicable

  • 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, if you choose to do that

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 (or, better still, a UPS) 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.

Premature Death

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 BIOS Setup 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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