White box (computer hardware)

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Not to be confused with White-box testing.
The inside of a white box computer

In computer hardware, a white box is a personal computer or server without a well-known brand name.[1] For instance, the term is applied to systems assembled by small system integrators and to homebuilt computer systems assembled by end users from parts purchased separately at retail. In this latter sense, building a white box system is part of the DIY movement.[2][3] The term is also applied to high volume production of unbranded PCs that began in the mid-1980s with 8MHz "Turbo XT" systems selling for just under $1000.[4]

Because form factors like ATX and connectors such as IDE, SATA, PCI, and PCI-Express are industry-wide standards, a whole range of cases, motherboards, CPUs, hard disk drives, RAM and other parts can be obtained individually at many computer shops and assembled at home with a minimum of tools and technical skill. Alternatively, the shop itself may assemble components into a complete machine at a modest additional cost. Similarly, the less-common term "whitebook" denotes a notebook computer assembled from off-the-shelf parts.

Computer professionals and intensive computer users often prefer white box computers constructed with higher quality components which they are able to specify as opposed to the lower cost generic components often found in general purpose PCs. For these users, performance, longevity, and expansion capability take precedence over achieving the absolute lowest cost through the use of the cheapest possible components.

In 2002, around 30% of personal computers sold annually were white box systems.[3]

Operating system[edit]

A typical "white box" ATX mid-tower case as used by a systems builder.

While PCs built by system manufacturers generally come with a pre-installed operating system, white boxes from both large and small system vendors and other VAR channels can be ordered with or without a pre-installed OS. Usually when ordered with an operating system the system builder will use an OEM copy of the OS. Self-building white box PCs are still popular among users of the GNU/Linux operating system to ensure hardware support and avoid the Microsoft tax, though some manufacturers such as Asus, Lenovo, and Dell offer Ubuntu pre-installed.[5]

Whitebook or Intel "Common Building Blocks"[edit]

Intel Corporation defined form factor and interconnection standards for notebook computer components, including "Barebones" (chassis and motherboard), hard disk drive, optical disk drive, LCD, battery pack, keyboard, and AC/DC adapter. These building blocks are primarily marketed to computer building companies, rather than DIY users.

See also[edit]