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How To Build A PC Into Your Car

Using a mini-ITX system, you can build a complete PC, right into the dashboard of your car. Talk about mobile computing!

Let's take a look at some approaches to getting a PC on the road and choosing the right components. Then I'll show you how to put it all together.

Why Not Go With a Notebook?

In-car PC components are similar to those for notebook and desktop systems—power supplies, CPU, hard disk, etc.—but they need to meet much more rugged specifications. The operating environment in a car is vastly different from an office desktop. Notebooks, while closer in size and ruggedness, are still best for home or office use.

Can you simply mount a notebook or desktop and use it in a car? Sure, and many installers have done just that. But there are serious drawbacks. Desperate installers have mounted flimsy desktop cases in the trunk; used inefficient power inverters to supply power; and even have built elaborate trays for input devices. But size, cable runs and cooling requirements make the desktop approach cumbersome to install and unappealing to operate.

Where standard desktop boxes are awkward for the road, notebooks are a better fit. But their power supplies are not specifically built to handle the special demands of the starts and stops of an average vehicle. As a result, an unmodified notebook cannot be counted on for reliable in-car service.

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