How to assemble the components for our media server

IMPORTANT: Before we get stuck into the assembly itself I must stress that any time you decide to fiddle around with sensitive electronic components, such as those used in a computer, you must ground yourself first to remove any static build up you may have in your body. Ideally you should equip yourself with an anti-static strap. You can buy a good anti-static strap and indeed all the components used in this guide from my Amazon eStore here or if you're in the UK then you can buy using the links on the left hand side of this page.

So here's the build........

Components have arrived
Whilst I knew the case I'd chosen was big I didn't realise it'd dwarf the components that'd go inside it


Everything unpacked
Now it's all unpacked it really doesn't seem quite such a daunting task to put it all together. The fan in the bottom left of the picture (labelled NF-S12) and the cables next to it are required for cooling the cupboard it's going to live in. More on that later.

Inside the case
There is plenty of room in here. I chose this case because of the superior cooling and the fact that there is plenty of room for hard drives. I’m going to be using all 6 bays for hard drives.

Install the motherboard

Before you fit the motherboard into the case you should check that the I/O backplate on the case matches the motherboard I/O panel. The case comes with a couple of different backplates for different motherboard configurations so simply pick the one that matches the motherboard I/O panel and clip it into place on the case before you attempt to fit the motherboard.

The motherboard is fitted into the case via the use of brass stand-offs. This motherboard has 8 fixing holes so you obviously need 8 brass stand-offs. It is essential that you install these stand-offs into the correct holes in the case. If you get it wrong there's a good chance you'll short the motherboard when you power it up. Not ideal!

Simply lower the motherboard into the case and note which holes in the case line up with the holes in the motherboard. Then insert the brass stand-offs into the correct holes in the case. You'll probably need to repeat this process a few times unless you can remember all 8 holes in one go! The stand-offs and all the screws and bits and bobs you need to assemble the computer are included with the case. The only thing extra you'll need is a Phillips screwdriver and perhaps a torch. I personally use a Head Torch when I'm working inside a computer case since it leaves both your hands free for the exciting bits.

Once you've installed the stand-offs you can now insert the motherboard into the case. You need to ensure that you line up the motherboard I/O panel (which is on the left-hand side in the picture below) with the backplate of the case before you lower the motherboard onto the stand-offs.

Once it's sitting in place fix the motherboard into the case using the screws provided. Do not over tighten the screws, tighten them just enough to hold the motherboard in place.

Motherboard Installed
Motherboard in and there is still plenty of room to work in here. This case has no sharp edges so although you may put sweat and tears into this build they'll be no blood

Install the CPU, fan and memory

Next comes the CPU and fan. It's yet another simple job to install these. The CPU and fan come with thermal paste pre-applied. I figured it was worth going with the supplied paste on the basis that Intel wouldn't use it if it was rubbish and caused their processors to overheat! Having said that, if things do run too hot for my liking I'll simply remove the paste and use some top quality paste instead. The same goes for the fan, I'm going to be using the stock fan. If that turns out to be too noisy or is simply not good enough I’ll just swap it out for a better one.

The CPU simply drops into the CPU Socket. It's hard to install it incorrectly since it only fits one way.

The fan itself has four legs and these legs "snap" into place in the pre-drilled holes on the motherboard. It does require a bit of force to insert them but don't go too mad trying to push them in! It's easier if you try and insert opposing legs at the same time.

Installing the memory sticks is another simple job. These only fit into the slots one way. Use the yellow slots.

Processor Installed
CPU, memory and stock fan installed. Now, if you know anything about this particular motherboard you’ll notice I’ve plugged the fan into the wrong fan connector!
A simple schoolboy error. I misunderstood the manual and only realised it after I'd powered up the computer. Doh!

Install the Power Supply Unit

Once the motherboard is installed it's time for the PSU. Most cases have the PSU at the top. This case requires the PSU to be installed at the bottom. This is yet another hard job to mess up. It only fits in one way and is fixed to the case using the screws supplied.

Now's a good time to fit the front case connections. Both the connectors themselves and the motherboard sockets are clearly labelled so you'll know what goes where.

PSU Installed
PSU installed and case front connections made.

The PSU I've chosen has loads of connectors which can seem a bit daunting at first. However, if you separate out the cables you'll see that many are identical. i.e. SATA cables, peripheral cables. You'll need to connect the cable with the 24-pin connector to the motherboard. This cable only fits one way.

The other cable you'll need to connect to the motherboard is the 8-pin EPS12V cable. This connects to the top left of the motherboard as shown in the picture below. This particular cable could have done with being a little bit longer to enable me to fasten it neatly around the edge of the motherboard instead of having it go across the top of the board. A minor gripe. For those cases which have the PSU mounted at the top you'll not have this problem.

Other connections needed are for the CD/DVD drive and for the hard drive. My DVD drive was an IDE type so I needed the IDE ribbon cable. Once again, this cable only goes one way round. Power to the drives is straight forward too.

Powered Up
Everything connected up and powered on. I must confess to feeling more than slightly chuffed with myself when it whirred into life first time. Tidying up the cables will come later. I was too keen to see if the thing worked!

It boots!
As mentioned previously this server will run headless in a cupboard so an old CRT screen will suffice for now.

The PSU has more cables than I was ever going to need but fortunately there’s space at the bottom of the case to tuck them out of the way. When I’m happy the server is working properly I will cable-clip all the SATA cables and the like and make a nice neat job of it.

Just one last point, even tho I'm never going to see inside the case (despite the case having a clear Perspex side) it's worth spending time getting all the cables tidied up and tucked out of the way. Doing so will improve airflow within the case so it will be time well spent.

More drives installed
Cables tidied up a bit, a couple more drives installed and the tuner card installed. I'll tidy up the cables more later.
Ahem, CPU fan plugged into correct fan socket!

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