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Recycling old components with a mini-ITX m/board

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September 11, 2009 1:11:29 PM

I have an old ATX case and PSU which I was hoping to recycle.

The thought I had was to get an Atom 330 mini-itx ion mobo, very low powered, a couple of 3.5" SATA drives and an optical drive, and create myself a NAS / media server, with the bonus of being able to use it as a browser / media player without powering on my main PC if I want.

It's not going to be located anywhere that looks or noise particularly matter, and I can hack around with the case if necessary.

Is it even feasible? My main concerns are:

1) Can an ATX PSU feed a mini-ITX mobo?

2) How much hacking about will it take to get a mini-itx mobo in an ATX case?
September 11, 2009 1:53:31 PM

the main advantage of a mini-ITX setup is its size, by putting it in a ATX case you undo any reason to go with mini-ITX in the first place. also, I don't know if the Atom 330 is a good choice for a low power NAS, I know some tests I've read online showed that the low end Core 2 Duos were just about as efficient as the Atom 270 under load, and more efficient than them at idle since the C2Duo could reduce its power state further. The 330 might have changed this, but I doubt it. As for the PSU, I think mini-ITX conforms to the ATX power standard, you shouldn't have a problem there, but I'd check the board specs to be sure.

As for physically making a mini-ITX fit in an ATX case, it would probably be a big hassle. you'd have to drill at least 3 new standoffs, and maybe cut out expansion slots if you have a card you want to add.

A much better route I think would be to get a micro-ATX motherboard combo with a low end C2Duo. I've seen pretty cheap combos that even included a decent amount of RAM go for well under $200. micro-ATX will fit perfectly in every ATX sized case.

Here's a sizing comparison:
http://www.sizeasy.com/page/size_comparison/5316-ATX-vs...

a Newegg combo that even throws in a low end GFX card and still is under $200:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
September 11, 2009 2:33:16 PM

Thanks for the reply Wathman, I appreciate it.

As you said, the size of the mini-ITX setup isn't a factor for me at all - if there were full size ATX Atom/Ion motherboards about, I'd go for one of those out of ease.

The main reason was the combination of low power usage with a little more computing oomph than the single core atoms, combined with the graphics ability of the Ion chip to make video smooth playing if I use it in that way. My expectation was that the C2Duo, even low end, would compare (or even beat) the Atom/Ion in terms of computing oomph, but lag behind in terms of low power use.

Since I'm really not looking to turn this machine off ever as I want it to be available as a NAS / media server all the time, it's idle / low utilisation power usage is a key stat for me, although that said I'm intending on using 3.5" drives for storage purely based on size which will up the power usage somewhat. Another reason for wanting to recycle the old case is a struggle in finding a mini-ITX case which can take multiple 3.5" drives.

I'll check out micro-ATX offerings though and see if I can find any of those power comparisons.

Still interested in other suggestions should anyone have any.
Related resources
September 11, 2009 3:50:03 PM

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-atom-efficien...

That's the article I was remembering when I read your post. It's a great read, but dated since they are using 2008 hardware. Their test configuration shows that at idle, the C2Duo only used 1 more watt. During performance testing, the C2Duo consumes more power, but since it completes the workload faster, it's able to return to the low power state sooner than the atom.

Something else to consider while you are still weighing options, what OS are you going to use? If you have a little knowledge about Linux, I'd recommend using Ubuntu Server, it's very light weight, and gets great NAS performance once you configure Samba on it to work with a windows network. You will have to install Ubuntu desktop as a package update on it to get a graphical interface, but that's about it.
September 11, 2009 4:28:53 PM

Thanks again wathman - I've learned more from your two posts than a couple of hours trawling the net!

It certainly looks like I have a few more things to consider this weekend.

I'd considered Ubuntu but the only experience I have with Linux was with some Silicon Graphics machines over 15 years ago, so I was edging towards Win7 as I know the programs needed to achieve my key aims:

Media sharing across the network (Win7 can handle it itself, or use TVersity)
Remote control (LogmeIn)
General media playing - 'Media Player Classic' of course!

It's Logmein which is the biggest draw for me as it's a great remote control program which only needs a browser from the client end. Alternative suggestions which work under Linux will be taken on board though as it'd be nice to save the Win7 license cost.
September 11, 2009 4:55:59 PM

Windows 7 is certainly the easier solution I agree, Ubuntu can be configured to do all those things though the drawback is you'll have to learn how to configure it. For my fileserver, I can use putty (free ssh client) to login to the command line interface to the server. I've also used NX Client to provide a graphical remote login similar to Windows' Remote Desktop. Media playing is easily handled by vlc, vlc has always played just about every codec you can throw at it with no hassles.

Since you're relatively new to working with linux, it would probably take you a few days to get things the way you like them. If you don't mind tinkering I'd go with linux. If you just want it to work when it's built, go with Win7.
October 15, 2009 2:05:29 PM

After a bit of research I finally built my system, so I thought I'd come back here and update the thread with what I did.

First of all, I found a mini-ITX motherboard fits perfectly well in an ATX case. It looks ridiculously small, and you have to bear in mind that some of the connectors that came with the case / motherboard may be a bit short given the motherboard doesn't stretch very far, but it fits no problem on the four top left mounting holes of an ATX mobo.

So, I purchased

Mobo: Asus AT-3N7A-I (Atom 330 based with Ion chipset)
4Gb DDR2 800 RAM
1.5Tb Samsung EcoGreen Hard Drive
PSU with a 24-pin plug (my old one was a 20-pin, unfortunately)
DVD-R/W SATA drive

I recyced from old systems:

1 nice Coolermaster Aluminium ATX case
1 Zalman fan bracket
1 92mm fan and rheostat
1 250Gb HDD

The 250Gb HDD became my system drive, with the 1.5Tb drive for data. I did this primarily as I installed Win7 RC1 (64-bit) on it, with the intention of wiping and reinstalling when the official release comes, a process made far easier by having data on a separate drive.

The build was simple as can be as the processor comes preinstalled on the motherboard and there were no graphics or sound cards to install to complicate things. I didn't like the whiny sound the fan on the motherboard makes, hence the installation of a 92mm fan on the Zalman bracket, which is near silent and actually cools better than the nasty 30mm fan screwed onto the heatsink.

No OS/software installation issues at all, though I had pre-downloaded drivers for the Ion chipset and graphics. PS3 is served media by this machine without issue through Windows 7's inbuilt media sharing, I use logmein for remote connection from work, and for the moment I use Kapersky's RC anti-virus/spam/firewall software. Smooth HD video on the machine itself took a bit of fiddling but there's plenty of online resource for the Ion chipset, and 720p video now plays quite happily with under 30% CPU usage (I don't have any 1080p to test).

I'm considering installing Ubuntu, but frankly everything's worked so easily I'm not sure I can be bothered.

Thanks to wathman in particular for the input - it gave me a lot to think about and actually made me consider different options.

October 15, 2009 2:06:27 PM

After a bit of research I finally built my system, so I thought I'd come back here and update the thread with what I did.

First of all, I found a mini-ITX motherboard fits perfectly well in an ATX case. It looks ridiculously small, and you have to bear in mind that some of the connectors that came with the case / motherboard may be a bit short given the motherboard doesn't stretch very far, but it fits no problem on the four top left mounting holes of an ATX mobo.

So, I purchased

Mobo: Asus AT-3N7A-I (Atom 330 based with Ion chipset)
4Gb DDR2 800 RAM
1.5Tb Samsung EcoGreen Hard Drive
PSU with a 24-pin plug (my old one was a 20-pin, unfortunately)
DVD-R/W SATA drive

I recyced from old systems:

1 nice Coolermaster Aluminium ATX case
1 Zalman fan bracket
1 92mm fan and rheostat
1 250Gb HDD

The 250Gb HDD became my system drive, with the 1.5Tb drive for data. I did this primarily as I installed Win7 RC1 (64-bit) on it, with the intention of wiping and reinstalling when the official release comes, a process made far easier by having data on a separate drive.

The build was simple as can be as the processor comes preinstalled on the motherboard and there were no graphics or sound cards to install to complicate things. I didn't like the whiny sound the fan on the motherboard makes, hence the installation of a 92mm fan on the Zalman bracket, which is near silent and actually cools better than the nasty 30mm fan screwed onto the heatsink.

No OS/software installation issues at all, though I had pre-downloaded drivers for the Ion chipset and graphics. PS3 is served media by this machine without issue through Windows 7's inbuilt media sharing, I use logmein for remote connection from work, and for the moment I use Kapersky's RC anti-virus/spam/firewall software. Smooth HD video on the machine itself took a bit of fiddling but there's plenty of online resource for the Ion chipset, and 720p video now plays quite happily with under 30% CPU usage (I don't have any 1080p to test).

I'm considering installing Ubuntu, but frankly everything's worked so easily I'm not sure I can be bothered.

Thanks to wathman in particular for the input - it gave me a lot to think about and actually made me consider different options.

!