How To Build A Data Vault With Hardware-Based Data Encryption

Lock up data with a PC that packs big security features and high performance into a small, stylish package.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 1, 2006

4 Min Read

Hardware Assembly for the Mini-ITX

Assembling a mini-ITX box follows all the same principles as a standard ATX PC build, but requires special attention to space and some different-looking parts. For example, while mini-ITX mainboards may support a PCI card, most cases are styled too flat to support the card's full height. To address this issue, cases come with a horizontal riser to reorient the card horizontally. It's clear that most mini-ITX cases are built to take full advantage of the small format to present a correspondingly small footprint. This means that, as with PCI cards, components like media drives are frequently located directly over each other and perhaps the mainboard as well. This presents a dense configuration of parts and close quarters in which to work. The end result, however, yields a powerful, compatible system in a small and stylish package that looks and works great.

Mini-ITX is cool and quiet. One interesting difference from standard ATX formats is that mini-ITX components are designed to run cool. Unless you have a special application—for example, constant drive access or limited access to outside airflow—systems can run with either minimum cooling or, in many cases, no fan at all!

Now let's move on to the 13 steps for assembling our mini-ITX data vault. But first, prior to beginning assembly, download VIA's detailed product manual, as only "Quick Start" directions come packaged with VIA's mainboard. Once you have the manual, dig in:

  1. Install Memory: Unlock the DIMM socket by pressing the retaining clips outward. Align a DIMM on the socket with a notch over the break in the socket. Firmly insert the DIMM into the socket until retaining clips engage. (Repeat for second DIMM.)

  2. Install IDE Cables: Connect the drive cable with a red stripe aligned with pin 1 on the socket. (Repeat for second device.)

  3. Remove the case cover and drive filler panel.

  4. Remove the media drive holder from the case, and install the media drive on the holder.

  5. Remove the hard drive holder from the case, and install the hard drive on the holder.

  6. Install the mini-ITX mainboard and I/O gasket (back panel) in the case.

  7. Connect the pinheader.

  8. Locate the mainboard in the chasis to connect LEDs, reset switch, etc.

  9. Connect the power supply.

  10. Connect and mount the media drive with holder.

  11. Connect and mount the hard drive with holder.

  12. Inspect all connections carefully and replace the cover.

  13. Connect the PS/2 keyboard, biometric mouse, and monitor.

Software Installation for the Mini-ITX Data Vault

After loading Windows XP Professional, you should download and install VIA's StrongBox application. Your clients can use StrongBox to create virtual disks of various sizes for use with their favorite applications. Here are the two steps for downloading and installing VIA's StrongBox utility:

  1. Download the StrongBox software from VIA Technologies' Web site

  2. Double click on the file named "downloaded exe," and follow the prompts.

And here are the four steps toward creating a virtual disk with encryption:

  1. Provide a base filename and where you want it to be stored.

  2. Assign the virtual drive a letter.

  3. Estimate the size drive you will need for your encrypted data.

    These first three steps are illustrated in this screenshot:

  4. Set up a password. StrongBox will also ask you for a reminder question and password hint. Be sure to instruct your customer to remember their password and that their reminder question and hint are effective ones. As with any good encryption, there is no way to undo the encryption without the password.

Here are five steps to installing the APC biometric mouse BioM34's software and password management utilities:

  1. Plug the mouse into an available USB port, then insert the APC software CD. Note: APC calls its mouse software OmniPass.

  2. When installation completes, restart the system.

  3. Upon start-up, the OmniPass will ask to verify your Windows Username, Domain and Password.

  4. Select the APC Biometric device icon to begin the process of "finger enrollment." Place your finger on the sensor on top of the mouse. The software will then repeat the scanning eight times to unsure a flawless reading. Use a flat finger; a fingertip contains insufficient print information for identification. OmniPass can register up to 20 different users or individual fingerprints.

  5. Reboot the system.

From the software's system tray icon, you can manage users, enroll new fingers, and change settings. Biometric Mouse Password Manager enables mouse usage, password management, wave-file audio prompts, and even some powerful software file encryption.

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