Mac mini is a little wonder and I have never regretted its extra cost compared to a standard PC. However, there is a thing I have never liked about it: the USB ports on the back. In my case, I keep the unit a bit far away from the monitor so every time I need to plug in a USB device I have to stand up. Not a big deal doing some work out, but sometimes it’s just annoying. So, since my monitor was sitting on my desk too low for my taste and the speakers were free to move around as they wished (another thing I didn’t like) I had this idea to build a monitor stand with a built in USB hub and speakers. Of course this monitor stand isn’t just for the Mac mini, so you can build one for your pc, your TV, etc.
This is the result of few hours of work and little cost.
- Foam Board (Size depends on your project.)
- Old USB sockets and Audio sockets (I got mine from old hardware)
- USB HUB (better if self powered and with front sockets, but even a unpowered one will do.)
- Speakers (mine are connected to a big 2.1 unit under my desk, so I just glued the satellites to the side of the stand.)
- Hot Glue Gun
- Utility Knife (big to cut the box edges, small to carve the usb ports.)
- Soldering iron
- Drawing (The shape of the box on the foam board.)
- Cutting & Gluing (Knifes are very sharp and hot glue burns the skin.)
- Soldering (This might be the hardest part if you are not accustomed to it.)
- Patience (Building a nice looking box needs time and experience cutting/modelling foam board.)
Step 1: Drawing & Cutting the Stand
Of course the size and shape of the monitor stand depends on your project, but I wouldn't suggest using the foam board for monitors bigger than 32'', though you end up with a nice and pretty solid box. You can start drawing the shape of the box on the foam board or using computer software to do it (but then you'll have to transfer the drawing on the foam board.) When you're happy with the result -keep in mind to add an extra space in order to glue the corners seamlessly (look at the pictures), you can use the big utility knife and with the help of a ruler, cut it precisely along its edges; with the small knife, instead, carve out all the sockets you need. Then, using the hot glue gun, glue all the pieces together without gluing your fingers in the process (you might end up with nasty burns and you don't want them.)
Step 2: Glue in the USB Hub & Outlets
After you are done with the box (don't glue the lid on top) take apart the USB hub and glue it on the front of your computer stand. Mine has a green LED that turns on when the computer is powered so I made sure to add a nice little extra hole for it. It will make your stand look more professional. When I finished, I added a sticker with the Apple logo I had previously found in a drawer. If you drew and assembled your box with a taste for details, you ended up with a lid that fits on top and snaps in, so you'll never have to glue it in place and it will always be ready for inspection or upgrades -that's why I told you to add an extra space to your design. Again, look closely to the pictures to have an idea of what I mean.
Step 3: Solder the USB Hub to Outlet
As I mentioned before, you need solder skills in order to do this, and the ability to read some electronic schematics. The only suggestion I have for this step is that not all the USB cables respect the color standards. What I mean is that the data cables (white and green) might be inverted, as in my case. Nothing happens if you accidentally invert them -it simply won't work, but I strongly advice you not to invert the +5 power cables (red and ground) because you might end up blowing something inside your computer. If you are not an expert or if you don't have any skills whatsoever in electronics, please ask somebody to help you out.
Step 4: The Monitor Stand Completed & Final Thoughts
This is my computer stand completed. No need to stand up to plug in USB drives or other devices into the back of my Mini. Plus the speakers are glued to the side so they won't move around anymore. I am sorry I didn't guide you through every single detailed step, but this project is very easy to complete (if you have the proper skills) and it is just a suggestion to give you an idea of what you can achieve. You might end up with different results depending on your needs. Good Luck!