Introduction: Multimedia PC / Low-Power File Server, Recycled

Picture of Multimedia PC / Low-Power File Server, Recycled

Use a small formfactor motherboard that may be collecting dust in your garage, a handful of other components from your PC junkbox, and some simple HTML and script code, put together the "Midnite Boy" (Mb).

My Mb sits next to my TV, is controlled by my TV/DVD/Stereo/Mb universal IR remote, can play Internet radio stations, MP3s, AVIs, show info from the web, and sit there just as a low-power, full-time, file share.

Step 1: The Guts

Picture of The Guts

Find some parts. In my case, I'm using a VIA EPIA M10000 motherboard (mobo), an old Quantum 30GB harddrive, a US Robotics USB/WiFi adapter, an IRA-3 IR receiver, and a neat little ATX power supply from my junkbox.

The mobo's overall size is about 6-3/4" square which happens to fit nicely on top of the power supply.

The IR receiver module is epoxied to the inside of the front panel. The IR sensor of the receiver module sticks through a hole drilled in the panel.

I put an acrylic sheet between the mobo and components on the back for electrical isolation and some structure to mount things to.

The USB/WiFi adapter is zip-tied to the acrylic sheet.

The harddrive is bracketed to the mobo and power supply using hand cut and bent sheet metal brackets.

The front panel USB connector is epoxied to two small wood blocks and the front panel through a square hole in the front panel.

The LED is hot glued into one of the grill holes in the front panel.

Step 2: Making the Front Panel

Picture of Making the Front Panel

The enclosure is made from 1/4" hardboard which is cheap and easy to work with. A 2' x 2' sheet was more than enough for $3 at the local hardware store.

The overall dimensions of my front panel is 9-1/4" x 5" with cutouts for the IR port, USB connector, and grill. Tip: Design the grill on 0.1" centers then use a piece of perfboard as a drilling guide. I've used this technique several times with excellent results.

Next, use your favorite image editor and do something cool. The second image is an overlay printed on glossy stock with an inkjet printer. You can look around the web for photos of differnt types of wood (even inlay work) or photograph some yourself and layout a cool looking panel over the dimensions.

The printed overlay can then be glued to the front panel with 3M spray adhesive, or similar. Then take care of the cutouts with a sharp blade. I used a drill bit manually to cut the small grill holes out of the overlay.

Step 3: Mounting the Front Panel

Picture of Mounting the Front Panel

Two brackets secure the front panel to the guts. Each are hand bent and cut. You may need to be patient with adjusting them for fit.

The first is an 'L' screwed to a corner mount on the mobo and epoxied onto the front panel.

The second is a 'C' screwed to the power supply and epoxied onto the front panel.

Step 4: Mounting the Harddrive

Picture of Mounting the Harddrive

The harddrive is bracketed to the mobo at one point at the top of the board. It's secured to the power supply at two points along its bottom edge.

I bent up two similar brackets (one for the front of the harddrive and one for the back). Each of these brackets secure the harddrive, mobo, and power supply to each other at one point.

Step 5: Finishing the Box

Picture of Finishing the Box

The enclosure (minus the front panel) is a simple 4-sided box (I left the back open) of the same 1/4" hardboard glued together using wood glue.

Just like for the front panel, glossy stock prints of wood are glued to the sides of the box.

Four small rubber feet are stuck to the bottom.

Two pieces of hardboard are glued to the inside of the box to give a more snug fit for the power supply.

Step 6: Software

Picture of Software

The rest of the project is software: install an OS, install the IR command application and configure it to understand commands from your universal remote, go to DeviantArt and hack the Windows bootscreen, setup Winamp to start up with Windows, set it up to find your WiFi router and share its drive on your home network, ...

The menu is based on HTA (HTML for applications). Google it. Some code's attached. I had some concerns early on about HTA performance. But, it runs wonderfully and is simple to work with.


jensenr30 (author)2013-12-22


pipechaves (author)2010-01-09

Is there some sort of issue with the app?

on the part for the  it gave an error.......
also trying to figure it out it doesn't seem that it grabds the radio.vbs and do the split because a always contain 2 names that are not passed anywhere

like a little test i do the following on thet listActivate()

wshell.Run ('cmd /K cd  C:\\Documents and Settings\\All Users\\Documents\\My Music\\Sample Music & CLAmp.exe /PLCLEAR /PLADD  "mpehere.mp3" /REPEAT ON /PLAY  ' );    it that way im able to load the song....... but how to make it work the way is supposed to be

thnks for the help and great idea :) sorry if this is an old post.

Shomen (author)pipechaves2010-01-11

How about trying an alert in listActivate()? Like this:

function listActivate() {
 if(listStep > 0) return; = "hidden"; = "hidden";
 a = '"' + listItemActions[setIdx] + '" "' + unescape(listItemParams[setIdx][listIdx]) + '"';
 var wshell = new ActiveXObject("WScript.Shell") 

Then, it will show you the parameter. Then try running it manually like you did before. It could be the way you're referencing your data in theme.xml, or, the way CLamp is being referenced in album.vbs.

Let me know what you see.

pipechaves (author)Shomen2010-01-12

It shows the the path and the  paramPre, sorry I didnt post this from the beggining, i think its not grabbing the radio.vbs on the theme.xml......

, was this program working from the beginning?

Shomen (author)pipechaves2010-01-12

Yes, I ran it for a couple of years.

theme.js runs loadTheme() which does: listItemActions[i] = path +"\\"+ b.getAttribute('action');

As long as theme.xml has this in the list: <set name="radio" path="theme\radio" action="radio.vbs" paramPre="http://">

radio.vbs will run when selected. That is, as long as you have the Windows Script Host installed...

Try typing "cscript" in a dos window.

Skater_j10 (author)2009-10-10

Cool Idea, i've never seen a PC in a wooden tower and I like the fact that it was recycled. So I was looking around Instructables and found a few more people doing these kind of projects, so I ended up making a group that's called "Small Form Factor ". It's a group devoted to sharing info. on small DIY computer projects/concepts. Please Join if you are interested. I forgot to mention that I have added your instructable to the group along with a bunch of others. I hope you don't mind.

Shomen (author)Skater_j102009-10-12

Cool! I don't mind at all. That's a cool collection. I have a couple others I am tempted to post now...Thanks.

bwpatton1 (author)2009-10-06

Hmmm..I just might have to build one of these and change it ever so slighlty, I just ordered an old Dell Optiplex GX150 that has a kind of scratched up case and I want it to become a meida center computer. So this will work perfectly Great Job!

Shomen (author)bwpatton12009-10-07

Cool. You may want to take a look at my second attempt too: here. Be sure to post your results.

LasVegas (author)2007-05-12

Incredible job! Did you leave the back open? How well does it keep cool?

Shomen (author)LasVegas2007-05-12

Thanks! Yes, the back's open. Cooling's no problem. The power supply I used has a 2" fan pulling air thru the front grill exhausting out the back and the EPIA has a CPU fan. Plus, the EPIA M10000 is said to consume about 10W. I can believe it.

Phoghat (author)Shomen2009-07-16

without a back it's easy to stick the old vacuum nozzle in and clean it without taking the case apart. I have a cat so I might look into some window screening fastened with Velcro

foobear (author)2007-05-12

Where did you get the wood print to stick on to it? I think it's brilliant.

Shomen (author)foobear2007-05-12

I searched the web for textures and wood sellers. One of my favorite finds was in searching for wood inlay sellers. Those guys do some awesome stuff and sometimes have great images on their sites. I hadn't tried this particularly but I'd bet you can find something looking at furniture sellers sites.

Phoghat (author)Shomen2009-07-16

Contac paper would be good too. I'm building 2 of these as we speak. One's for me to use as a Boxee box in my bedroom, and one's going to one of my grandsons as a dipshit computer he can wail on and not destroy daddy's toys.

gurtek (author)2009-04-12

Nice Work.....................

Hycro (author)2009-01-16

Well, I'd leave the back cover off for improved ventilation.

VitaminCM (author)2008-06-29

Here is an article with a <a href=""step by step video on Reusing an old PC as a server</a>. There are even printable instructions.

Transquesta (author)2008-05-03

THAT'S pretty!

siloraptor (author)2008-04-28

Cool! Excellent use of recycled material and yet a professional looking end result.

Mr. Rig It (author)2008-03-23

Would love to see you add this to my new group.
Hope to see you there.
Home Repair, Refurbishment, and New Projects

schimmi (author)2008-03-09

that's not real wood? fooled me.

Noodle93 (author)2008-02-02

I want to get an old pc, not necessarily great specs. Then add a 80-160GB Hard Drive, about 12 USB ports, and use one of them for a Crossbox we have one at home here between a PC and a laptop. Then feed that to all of our other computers. It will make it basically a massive storage/USB hub.

>: D

Shomen (author)Noodle932008-02-04

Nice. You might try networking it instead of using the Crossbox. It could give you more connectivity.

Noodle93 (author)Shomen2008-02-04

Admittedly, that'd be better, we've just had a horrid time with our networking. D:

TheMadScientist (author)2007-07-23

me, personally, i'd have built this into my entertainment center [I have an old little thing that used to be used as a bookshelf that my tv sits on, but its meant for a tv, cause it swivels. :D]. anyhow, another suggestion would to be to put your dvd player, or just a dvd drive, and adapt the case for use with other things... such as game systems you have laying around [pre-hacked please. if you dont know what your doing, dont go around tearing up your xbox 360 ect... I just made a custom inclosure for my ps2...] or your ipod/zune dock.. this kind of project has many, many possibilities... and yeah, I like the vintage spin on new tech look.. nice burning the usb port symbol into the wood, did you do that by hand? or did you buy it?

Shomen (author)TheMadScientist2007-07-23

Good point. This kind of project can be spun a billion different ways. I'm building another one now using a unit with a 5" LCD panel and an integrated xscale mobo running WinCE that I found in salvage. I like using recycled parts it adds more little puzzles to solve. About this project, the front panel is not really good quality wood with inlay like it appears to be. It's cheap hardboard with a photo glued to it (see step 2). The USB symbol is just an image.

TheMadScientist (author)Shomen2007-07-23

tells how well i'd do at an apphrasial service... anyways, yeah... what your doing sounds like a window kit.. and its been awhile since i've done one of those, hope you have fun. on another note, do you know if... damn, no model number... but anyhow, i'm trying to get this minipc i ran across to run on windows xp.... i'l eventually be buying a "better" one, to work as a full time server, and I was wondering if you knew any possible problems... I can run slax, slackware, and Fedora on the thing, but can't seem to get windows xp to run on it.... any suggestions?

heres the motherboard I was talking about ->

Shomen (author)TheMadScientist2007-07-24

I can't see why it wouldn't work. What happens when you try running the XP install? It might just be an incompatible piece of hardware that you can fake-out until you find a driver.

TheMadScientist (author)Shomen2007-07-24

well, if you look on the site, you'l see that the specs of the board itself are limited to windows 2000 and below, but I intend to find a way around. when I try to install xp, it freezes up when loading files, and If I transfer a hd with xp already on it, it flashes up to the xp loading screen, then blue screen of death, then reset, looping until you kill the power

ha... wow, it can support more ram than my beater pc... I might see if I can do a bit of modification to this... until then, i'm looking for some 512 sticks of 168 pin ram... gotta get this baby up to 1024 before I try anything... who knows, I might just get this thing running as well as my old computer.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-05-12

Very cool! But it prob. gets heated up real hot!

that depends, again, hes running on low power. also, it depends how his ventilation is set up, the strength of his fans, how fast his drive platters spin, and even the type of wood... its not definately going to heat up, but if it does, it isn't too hard... also, with no back panel, theres a great chance that that is excelent ventilation.

Shomen (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-05-12

See my earlier reply to Las Vegas. It seems the Mini-ITXs really don't consume that much.

hondagofast (author)2007-07-12

This is cool, but be a little less lazy and make a back cover for the thing!

HamO (author)2007-05-13

Excellent idea and exection, well done!

sdallesasse (author)2007-05-13

Love your design of the enclosure!

robot (author)2007-05-12

i think it' s nice project. what about noise? is it less then aluminium case? btw. sorry for my english

Shomen (author)robot2007-05-12

Actually, I think the hardboard damps sound a bit better than sheet metal. If you mean RFI (electrical noise), I thought of that while I was building it and decided I would cover the inside with aluminum foil and connect it well to the power supply chassis. However, I didn't need it. Of course, depending on the parts you use you may want to shield it.

kenbob (author)2007-05-12

Very pretty. good instructable. how is the sound level? My thought was to add a layer of non vibration conducting foam 'tween the parts and the case. Hard drives can be really noisy.

Shomen (author)kenbob2007-05-12

I have the on-board stereo output (speaker level) plugged into one of the stereo channel inputs on my TV. Works great. I have the Mb's volume at about 90% constant and I just use the TV's volume to control it. Good idea about the foam. I actually replaced the 2" fan in the power supply with a quiet one for the same reason. The rubber feet had a similar effect keeping vibration from transferring into my stereo cabinet.

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-05-12

I really love that vintage-style case

lemonie (author)2007-05-12

It has a nice look L

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