Discrete Windows 7 Workstation for the Living Room

Small, discrete, usable Windows 7 Workstation Project

We have had a need for a small, out of the way computer for some time. My wife’s netbook runs Ubuntu, but she misses some of the Windows-based applications like the software updater for her Android phone. And the netbook can be painfully slow at times. We also had a list of other requirements, beyond running windows:

  • Small footprint: our flat is very small, we didn’t want to waste space in our living area
  • Quiet: The sound of a fan running while we’re not using the machine would be irritating
  • Low power: While our electricity is inclusive, efficiency is important for an always on machine
  • Low key: My wife and I have an almost pathological desire to hide all of the technology in our apartment
  • Quick: We are both impatient with slow user interfaces

With this in mind, I set out to build a family workstation. After some research and consideration, the parts list below came together:

  • Mobo: Intel D525MW, Atom D525 Dual Core, Mini-ITX (SFr.75)
  • Case: Jou Jye NU-057Wi, Mini-ITX, Vesa Halterung, 250 Watt (SFr.104)
  • System Drive: Intel SSD 320 Series 40GB, SATA-II, 2.5 Zoll (SFr.99)
  • Data Drive: Samsung HN-M101MBB, M8, 5400rpm, 8MB, 2.5 Zoll, 1TB, SATA (SFr.99)
  • Memory: Kingston ValueRAM, 2 GB, DDR3-1066, CL7, SODIMM (SFr.32)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit, OEM (SFr.94)

Total damage? ~SFr.510.

The Intel Atom motherboard was selected because of both the low cost and the passively cooled CPU heat sink. While the case Jou Jye is not cheap it did offer the most interesting option to reduce the technical clutter in our living space. Even with the relatively slow Atom CPU, the 4GB of RAM and SSD system drive make this puppy feel as fast as any workhorse system…as long as you are not running FFmpeg or any other CPU intensive application.

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Matching this new kit with existing keyboard, mouse, and monitor gives us a working system.

  • Keyboard & Mouse: A Logitec keyboard that has been laying around for ages, and a company mouse from xtendx
  • Monitor: A 19″ NEC 1980SX (1280×1024) which I bought off ebay.co.uk in 2003 ago for £400. It was a professional photography display back then so it still looks better than average even today.

Add in a some time down at the local hardware store, a jigsaw, and a bit of elbow grease…and presto! A nice and tidy workstation. The desk is 40cm x 75cm at its widest, with a footprint of under 1/3rd of a meter. The computer case itself is built into the lower shelf. All of the cords are secured to the underside the the shelf including the power strip and ethernet cable.

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Sweet.