An Introduction to Building a Small Form Factor PC

Published August 4, 2017


If you're looking to build a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and want some help getting started, you've come to the right place! Our comprehensive set of component buyer's guides and hands-on builder's guides will help you create the system of your dreams, whether it's a $500 kitchen PC or a $2,500 ultra-high-end gaming system. We publish these guides because we think SFF systems are the future of desktop computing, and once you've put your own SFF PC together, we think you'll agree!

If you're ready to take the plunge, we're confident you'll find the information you need here. We now profile eleven distinct compact builds - just scroll down to the bottom of the page to select the one that's right for you. Over half of these systems are what we'd call "true SFF" builds, using the mini-ITX, STX, or NUC form factor, and utilizing ultra-compact cases smaller than a shoebox. We also have three options that use mid-sized micro-ATX motherboards, one that uses the full-size ATX format, and an ITX-based build in an extra-large chassis that allows extreme gaming gear to fit. 


For August 2017, we've added several new builds to our guides to respond to reader requests for more specialized systems. Above you can see the $1,300 Stock Trading PC Build housed in the SilverStone SG10 mATX chassis, and to the left you can see the $900 High-End NAS ITX Build housed in the SilverStone CS01 chassis. The Stock Trading system is designed for ultra-responsiveness in extreme multi-tasking, while the NAS system allows for both serious home theater use and large-file streaming capability.

We also have a bit of good news to share, which is that the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining craze that had put a stranglehold on worldwide GPU supplies is finally coming to an end, which means video cards like the GTX 1060 and GTX 1070, the mainstays of our SFF builds for over a year, can now actually be purchased today (or at least backordered!). We're also happy to report that thanks to the wide availability of mATX motherboards for AMD's fantastic Ryzen line of CPUs, a number our larger SFF systems have moved over to AMD's six- and eight-core CPUs, which provide far more multi-threaded processing capability than Intel's similarly-priced CPUs. Alas, the availability of ITX motherboards for Ryzen CPUs is still quite disappointing, despite AMD promising us at CES 2017 in January that Ryzen would herald a rebirth of AMD's SFF aspirations.

As your consider building your own SFF system, keep in mind that every compact case is unique, so no single build guide can tell you exactly how certain components will fit together in that case. SFF cases often arrange components in a way that makes it difficult to install otherwise standard PC parts. That's why in addition to our many SFF Buyer's Guides, we've worked hard to put together a comprehensive set of step-by-step assembly guides covering a wide range of case layouts. We believe these are the most comprehensive step-by-step PC building guides you'll find anywhere!

All of our Buyer's Guides shown below use Amazon's real-time pricing engine to provide up-to-date prices, and we also provide direct links to Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany, with regional substitutions made where necessary. If you purchase any of the components profiled in this guide, please use our links, which helps support continued development of this guide. If you decide to create your own SFF masterpiece, we'd love to add your build to The Gallery - just contact us to get your system listed.

Scroll down to choose your dream system!