Building a custom ITX HTPC computer with wooden case mod

I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time now.

I have been custom-building my own desktop computer for a long time now. It pretty much just comes down to picking the right components and placing them in a good ATX case.

Building an ITX/HTPC computer is kind of the same, except everything is smaller and therefore a bit more challenging. Trying to do this in a custom case ramps up the difficulty level even more.

It took a lot of planning and it seems natural to now write up and document the process, for those interested..

So anyway, here were the requirements I had initially set for my setup:

  1. Small enough computer
  2. Custom case
  3. Aimed for HTPC use
  4. Quiet,

    and, if it is going to be sitting next the tv 24/7,

  5. it’s probably best if it’s not too ugly.


Anyone who has custom-built computers knows it can be a difficult task picking the right combination of hardware that matches performance, budget and compatibility.

The amount of choice for a desktop gaming setup is rather insane these days. Coming from that background the ITX/HTPC setup is a bit of a double edged sword, the range of hardware is somewhat more limited, but so is the performance. The trick is to find the happy trade-off point.

While doing the hardware research the requirements were also slightly updated to add basic indie gaming and blu-ray playback

Updated requirements:

  1. Small enough computer
  2. Custom case
  3. Aimed for HTPC use
  4. Quiet
  5. Not too ugly.
  6. Blu-ray playback
  7. Basic indie gaming (Super meat boy FTW)

Limiting factors

  • One limiting factor imposted by the build size was that there simply would not be room for an expansion card in the case, so advanced GPUs were out.

  • A second limiting factor was trying to keep the thing quiet. Fan-less onboard CPUs were therefore very tempting..

  • A third limiting factor was living in Australia. That might sound stupid but we just don’t seem to always have the latest hardware somehow, even though we live in a futuristic timezone..


Thanks to the limiting factors above, and with the requirements in mind, the choice of motherboard was reduced to a subset of a few option.

There are some pretty decent ITX motherboard out there, some really pack some cool features in such a small space.

Here’s a few that made it to the initial shortlist:

I probably would have ended up getting the Zotac D2700, except – at the time of the research – you couldn’t buy that anywhere.

The ASUS E45M1-I DELUXE pretty much ticked all the boxes (including being actually available) and ended up winning the competition – having the onboard CPU & attached heat sink made it appealing too. Probably not as biffy as some of the other offering but it seems it would meet the requirements.

I ordered the ASUS E45M1-I DELUXE from Scorpion Technology in Australia, & bought a Kingston 4GB PC-10600 RAM chip from them while I was at it. RAM is so cheap these days it’s nuts.




Power was a tricky one. While most desktop cases have big ac/dc power adapters integrated, those are built to sustain quite a bit of power, way more than I needed – particularly since expansion cards were ruled out. Finally the sheer size of them made them impractical for the setup. There are smaller power supplies that exist (slim ATX i think they’re called) but they still take a lot of place.

Enter the PicoPSU. The PicoPSU is awesome. This is what a PicoPSU looks like:

Pico PSU 1 Pico PSU 2

It’s extremely tiny as you can guess. Does that really do all the power you need? Well, no, not entirely.

Where a desktop power supply is an AC->DC converter that will take your mighty powerful Tesla-approved 210/220/110 Volt AC current and turn it into a basic 3/5/12 Volt DC current that your motherboard needs, the PicoPSU is a DC->DC adapter; it takes some existing DC current and turns it into other – lower – grades of DC current. That original DC power needs to be provided by an external source, an AC adapter, the same way it’s done for a laptop, with one of these:

AC Adapter

The PicoPSU is available from their website: PicoPSU computer supply at Mini Box

If you are in Australia, there’s the clunkier website (serviced by Platinum Solutions)

Since being in Australia and to save potential hassle I ordered one through , and despite the clunkiness of the website they have actually been really good, and fast.

Note: Mini-box sells bundled PicoPSU with AC adapters. You’ll need both, get both.

Front Panel Switch

This surprisingly did not actually occur to me before a couple of weeks into the planning.. You take this for granted when using a manufacturer’s case, your case is going to have front panel switches, leds and what-not. All you’ve got to do is plug the right cables on the right motherboard ports.

Since I’m building a custom case, I needed to consider this.


I clearly do not need 5 USB ports, an ESATA-whatever or even a jack for Hamburger Earmuffs on the front of the box, there are plenty available at the back, so ruled those out.

Hard drive LED.. oh yes, yes, yesssss! I definitely need to have a permanent visual reminder that the computer is accessing data on the hard drive.. hmmm, or no, probably not. (Why do they even still have those?)

I don’t think I even need a reset switch when I can just hold down the power button or unplug it, in those last resort situations.

All I really need is an on/off power button and a simple indication that the computer is on.

You can actually get all this in one single component, usually referred to as a momentary illuminated switch. The smallest size I could find for these was 16mm diameter.

If you’re in Australia, GAM Mods has some well priced momentary illuminated 16mm switches, just pick your favorite colour of the rainbow.

I picked white (I know, white isn’t technically a colour of the rainbow, shut up nerds), simply because I thought it would be the most likely to blend with whatever color the case would end up being.

Here’s the little guy:

16mm illuminated momentary switch

One component = Less drilling (more on that later)


The smallest reasonable fan size I could find seemed to be 40mm (edge length). That is quite tiny really and would fit nicely in the case.

Mini box, provider of the PicoPSU, sells 40mm case fans on their website, so I ordered one at the same time.

Optical drive

The optical drive was planned to be fitted inside the lead of the box.

When I started the planning for this build, the hardware list included an existing slot-load Superdrive DVD player recovered from an old Macbook Pro. The slot-load system was really appealing because it would limit the amount of visible cutting into the box.

Plans changed a little while planning the hardware. As mentioned above, the requirements were altered to now include a blu-ray drive.

It turns out it is extremely difficult to find a slot-load blu-ray burner at a reasonable price. I think I found one – only one – and it was alone going to pretty much double the cost of the entire build.

Finally settled on a reasonably priced one, the Panasonic UJ-240.

Panasonic UJ-240

I ordered one from Scorpion Technology along with the Motherboard and RAM: Panasonic Internal Slim SATA Blu Ray Burner UJ-240

Hard Drive

That one was easy, I already had a 2.5″ 500GB drive – a Western Digital Scorpio Black – that I had purchased in case I needed to replace one in one of my laptop – turns out I didn’t need to. Hard drive sorted!

WD Scorpio Black 500GB

Ok, so that’s the basic hardware setup. I’ve omitted a couple of items but I’ll get back to it later.

Continue to Part 2 where I will be detailing further the planning for the box itself.

Creative Commons License
Building a custom ITX HTPC computer with wooden case mod by Dog In The Hat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

4 comments on “Building a custom ITX HTPC computer with wooden case mod

  1. lxz

    Nice project! I also picked the same motherboard and now looking into buying a picopsu for powering my brand new htpc. Just wondering, which psu did you buy? I am not sure how many watts will be needed, do you have any advise?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. bendog

    Hey lxz,


    Yes the wattage isn’t easy to work out. I guess you’ll need to figure out how much power each part will require (I went with the 120 to be safe but it probably was a bit overkill).

    I’ve planned to discuss this further in part 5 or 6 (which I haven’t had a chance to finish yet).

    There are a few things to keep in mind with the picoPSU.

    1. The different wattage variations actually come with different plugs. For instance the 90 watts has a PATA, a SATA and a motherboard P4, but the 120 watts one has a floppy power connector instead of the P4, which I hadn’t realised when I ordered it and had to re-wire it.

    2. The picoPSU is a 20pin motherboard connector. If you’re planning on having an expansion card (like a PCIe graphic card rather than built in), you’ll likely need a power source with 24pins..

    Be sure to post a link back to your project when you complete it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *