Step 1: Materials required
- empty metal heater housing
- mini-itx motherboard
- 160 gb hard drive
- 300w power supply
- DVD combo writer
- wireless PCI card
- momentary switch
- two LEDs for the front panel
- two IDE cables
- internal speaker
- 1gb PC2700 memory (maximum for this motherboard)
- software (operating system, hardware drivers, application software)
- miscellaneous nuts, bolts, and washers
The tools used were:
- drill & bits
- jig saw with a metal cutting blade
Step 2: Determine layout
Since the heater housing came apart in two separate pieces (front and back half), I had plenty of room to work, even though when assembled very little space was wasted.
Please note that the parts shown in the photo are for reference only, and not the actual parts I used (a mini-itx board is significantly smaller than the ATX board shown).
Step 3: Install the power supply
I first covered the side of the housing where the power supply was to be mounted with tape to prevent the shoe of my jig saw from scratching the paint, then I marked the exact dimensions of the required cut-out onto the tape using a fine line marker (1st photo).
Because the corner of the heater housing was curved, I had to make a wooden spacer to go between the power supply and the opening. I made a paper template and drew the spacer onto a piece of 3/8ths inch plywood (photos 3 & 4). I cut out the spacer and sanded the lower corner to match the curve of the heater housing. Next, I tested the fit and kept modifying the curve until everything fit snugly (photo 4).
Then I painted the spacer black and set it aside to dry.
Step 4: Install the motherboard & memory
I mounted the motherboard on some wood shims that I carefully sanded until the fit was perfect, then I attached the wood shims to the housing with screws, and then attached the motherboard to the shims using the board's mounting holes (photo 2).
By now the spacer for the power supply was dry, so I also mounted it (photo 3).
Step 5: Install the optical drive
Step 6: Install the hard drive
Step 7: Install the wireless card
Step 8: Connect everything
Next I attached an internal speaker (photo 2) and wired it to the motherboard. I also installed a case fan (photo 2).
The final step was to connect all the other cables (IDE cables for the hard drive and optical drive, and power cables).
Step 9: Put the halves back together
Step 10: Load the operating system, updates, and software
This turned out to be a pretty slick little computer. It is quiet and takes up very little space. It's motherboard uses a fairly low-powered processor so it certainly isn't a gaming machine, but it works very well for email, surfing the web, word processing, and submitting Instructables!
This is the third computer I've built where I engineered the housing from scratch, but it is the first one I've done in an all metal housing. Assembling the parts for a computer and installing them in a computer case is not a difficult task -- the challenge comes when you put the parts into something that wasn't designed to hold them. With a careful approach to layout and careful cutting of the required cut-outs, however, this can be a fun and interesting challenge.