Small Form Factor Build Log

The Resurrection

The first issue I faced was the old case – it was simply too big to fit in the space where our friend needed it to fit. I had an Antec NSK 1380 small form factor case lingering around in a cupboard so the first thing I did was dig it out and then strip the old server down completely, gave all the components a good clean with compressed air, a dry paint brush and some isopropyl alcohol. This included a complete disassembly of the stock AMD heat sink and fan due to the massive build up of dust.

Selection of the NSK 1380 case immediately ruled out some options. I couldn’t use the memory card reader, removable drive bay, Cooler Master 4-in-3 drive cage or the Corsair HX-620 semi-modular PSU. This wasn’t a problem in the grand scheme of things and the excluded parts found their way back into the cupboard.

Here are the boxes of the main parts:

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In addition to what I had, the future owner of this build supplied a brand new Western Digital 2TB Green drive for storage and a Western Digital Elements 2TB USB 2.0 drive for external backups. I had a Samsung 320GB 7200 RPM drive earmarked as a boot drive that had been checked for bad sectors and was still in good condition.

The final specification list for the M-ATX workstation was: 

  • Antec NSK 1380
  • AMD 64 Athlon X2 4800 CPU
  • Gigabyte M-ATX GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard
  • Kingston 4x1GB DDR2 800 RAM
  • ASUS DVD R/W drive
  • Samsung 320GB 7200RPM Boot Drive
  • Western Digital 2TB Green HDD
  • Western Digital Elements 2TB USB 2.0 drive


The Case

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The first step is to take all of the external panels off 

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First the roof panel

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Then the sides come off

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And remove the drive cage above. This is easy as at rotates up and lifts out. Connecting power and SATA connectors once you have the cage loaded with hardware is another matter but we’ll get to that later.

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Antec provide a blower fan to exhaust air out the back of the case. We elected not to use it in this build but its there if you want it.

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With the drive cage removed and we can see the sleeveless spaghetti of power, front panel and USB connectors. I’m going to need some zip ties…

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With the cables out of the way, there still isn’t a lot of room to work with so I have to carefully manoeuvre the mother board in through the side access and set it in place. As usual, I almost forgot to set the rear I/O shield in place but remembered just in time. There are 2 normal screw type standoffs in the base of this case but in this picture, only one is visible. The other stand-offs are clips but these do actually hold the motherboard in place pretty well and it would have been a nightmare to get screwdriver access to traditional standoffs along the back of the case anyway.

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The hard drive and optical device case is nifty. It allows for 3 hard drives and 1 optical device. This is great and you could probably get creative with some double sided tape to extend this to include an SSD. One thing I found was that cabling to these devices needed some planning. If you don’t think about your cable management early, (especially in a small build), you’ll end up with a bird’s nest inside this thing and the crappy airflow and temps that go with it. 

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I installed the boot drive on it’s side (right) and the green drive under the optical drive. Then, when fitting this configuration later, I had extreme difficulty twisting the SATA power connector to be oriented to match the configuration in these photos  so the Green drive mounted under the optical bay had to be flipped ‘upside down’ so that the power connector wasn’t stressed. You can see this in one of the final build photos.

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Also note that you have to connect all the devices to power and SATA motherboard headers after the cage is in place which is not  easy in such a confined space. I realised this during an early ‘dry fit’ and setup the cables accordingly so that they were zip-tied in such a way that the headers were in the right place. 


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