I need some fileservers for the various offices at work and a DIY Linux server is the best option. They will only do a few tasks (hold files, back them up to the cloud and maybe some extra services) so I don’t need a massive spec. Moving files around doesn’t take a lot of power, and a lot of NAS devices operate with quite low-power ATOM CPUs. However I’d like this to have potential for other tasks/projects so a slightly higher CPU is a good plan. Intel CPUs overclock really well, run pretty cool as standard and tend to benchmark better than AMDs while using less power. DDR4 is a good plan also, and lots of storage is needed, but the two key factors are that is has to be very small and incredibly cheap.

Case: RAIDMAX Element Green mini-ITX
PSU: Xenta 400W
Price: £23 (bundled together)

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Side panels off, and the PSU is an easy fit inside the case. The hard drive is fitted in the top bay and the back panel for the motherboard is snapped onto the case.

Storage: Toshiba X300 HDWE140 4TB
Price: £104.95

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Now it’s time to prep the CPU fan. It’s always a good idea to remove the thermal paste that comes with a component and replace it with some of your own. The stock stuff tends to be really low quality. A tube of paste is only a couple of pounds and will last a while. Once the cooler is cleaned, a little drop of paste in the middle should be spread evenly and thinly with the little paste spatula (a credit card is pretty good for this, too)

CPU: Intel Skylake G4400 @ 3.3Ghz socket 1151
Cooler: Stock Intel
Price: £53.99

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Then it’s time for the CPU. Once it’s set in the motherboard a drop of paste can be added and spread (thinly).

Motherboard: ASUS H110 OI Plus LGA 1151 DDR4
Price: £64.99

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These stock Intel fans are really easy to fit. There is no back plate and nothing needs screwing or fixing. They just click into place. I have several more of these to do (6 in total)…

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Now we can put the motherboard, CPU and cooler into the case, making sure that the motherboard fits tightly against the back panel and sits flush on its risers. We can also add the memory at this point.

Memory: Kingston 8GB DDR4 2133Mhz
Price: £21

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The final stage is to connect the power cables, the cables for the front panel (power, reset & HDD LEDs etc.) and the fans. It’s important to plug the CPU and case fans into the proper sockets – although they will work in any fan socket, the motherboard will only recognise them if they are plugged in using the correct order. So FAN0, FAN1 and FAN2 will all work but to get the BIOS diagnostics you’d use FAN0.

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Now it’s ready to turn on and test. The CPU fan isn’t picking up here because I put it in FAN1, but the chassis fan is picked up and the hardware looks good. Now it just needs something to boot into.