Introduction: PC to Portable Workstation/toolbox

Picture of PC to Portable Workstation/toolbox
Here is the back story for my project. (Ignore if you don't like boring "stories")
So i acquired 3 Dell Optiplex GX400 (pretty obsolete) desktops, after stripping it down bare to salvage parts i din't know what to do with the cases. Initially I wanted to toss them out for recycling but i thought I might as well reuse/upcycle it into something better. At the same time my summer break was coming to an end and I had to pack up my tools to be transported back to collage where I stay away from home. So it struck me to put one and one together and build a toolbox out of the old PC case. Its portable enough for me to transport between collage and home, and can be packed up into a really compact formfactor for storage or transport.

Build time: approx 20-30 hours over a few days (i took my own sweet time )
  1. Dell Optiplex GX400 case at MYR 5(bought whole computer as scrap)
  2. Cardboard Calendar stand (free)
  3. Mounting board x2 MYR 4
  4. Mini Plastic Drawer x2 MYR 25 (entirely optional!)
  5. Some fairly stiff but form-able wires (had them laying around)
  6. Shoulder strap ( I got this free from an old bag rotting away )
Cost: About MYR(Malaysian Ringgit) 34 (thats like 11 USD) or about MYR 9 (3USD) if you don't buy the mini plastic drawers
  1. Scissors
  2. Pencil
  3. Ruler
  4. Hammer
  5. craft knife (xacto clone)
  6. Staple gun
So here is a photo of it fully deployed and another of a some (about 80%) of the things i managed to fit in

With the vast variations of pc casings available over the years chances are yours will be quite different, in this instructable I hope to inspire you to breath new life into old "good for nothing" scraps and get organized at the same time. I hope that you would be able to get some tips (like the hook, it works really well) and ideas for your upcoming project.
Any constructive feedback is very welcome and if there is anything you wish to clarify, feel free to ask.
*your vote will be much appreciated too =) 

Step 1: Power Supply Compartment

Picture of Power Supply Compartment

Alright the first compartment is made from an old calender's cardboard stand and is fixed to the case where the power supply was suppose to go.

The first thing i did was to modify the plastic tab adjusting/controlling how much to open it by propping it up.
I cut the channels deeper to allow it to move more easily.

Next is to build the box, I am really sorry but somehow i cannot find the pictures showing the build process. But basically you just need to make a box that is the size of a desktop power supply and attach it to the case as if it was a power supply.

Step 2: CD/DVD Drive Compartments

Picture of CD/DVD Drive Compartments

First start off by making some measurements, you want to know the length, width and height of the box you will be making.
The width and the height will be roughly the same as a DVD/CD drive and the length will be slightly more as it will allow us to use the space more effectively. Here I measured the length such that the box will go all the way in until it touches the "power supply" box

I made all three boxes out of mounting board, First you would want to cut the board to the right size with the dimensions of
Next draw the lines and score the lines at a distance of the height away from the 4 sides,
Then make a short cut from along the line until you reach where the lines intersect
(Please refer to the picture annotations for more detail/clarification)
You can now fold the tabs and staple it together to make the box
I attached mine to the original Drive holders with tape

Step 3: Hard Disk Drive Compartment

Picture of Hard Disk Drive Compartment

The hard drive compartment was basically a box that could swivel out.
There is not much modification needed.
I just hammered out some obstructing metal tabs and used the scrap mounting board to cover up any big holes
Then i just added a "door" with a handle and viola! 

I made the door slightly taller so it would be able to close both the main compartment and the slot for storing paper/sandpaper/fabric

Step 4: Additional Compartment 1

Picture of Additional Compartment 1

This is a compartment i built that goes behind the "power supply" box and is only revealed when the "power supply" box is opened.
This allows the "power supply" box to act as the lid/door for the additional compartment.
It is a bit tricky as there is nothing holding it up initially and i had to add in wires to hold it

It is basically a cardboard rectangle held up by tape and wires.
Please look at the picture annotations for more detail.
However it is quite difficult to detail this process using words or pictures(apologize for poor pictures) and you would just have to go with whatever you can do depending on how the case is.

Step 5: Additional Compartment 2

Picture of Additional Compartment 2

This one goes under the "Hard drive" box and is basically a folded mounting board.
The box is made such that it can only be accessed when the "Hard drive" box is swung out, similar to the first additional compartment where it utilizes a moving box as the lid/door

Step 6: Hooks and Mounts

Picture of Hooks and Mounts

Here in an area beside the 2nd additional compartment, under the "Hard disk" box, i added a few hooks the can be secured and to any part of the fan grill.

The hook is basically a wire bent into 2 "S" shapes that are parallel to each other
remember to make one of the loops tight to ensure it fits securely on the fan grill

I also made a little horse-shoe-shaped wire that holds the staple gun to the floor of the case

Step 7: Mini Plastic Drawers

Picture of Mini Plastic Drawers

For the large empty space below the 1st additional compartment and "power supply" box I added 2 plastic drawers (majority of the project's cost )

This is very straight forward, I measured how much volume I have as empty space and went out shopping for something that fits well

Step 8: Final Step

Picture of Final Step

To ease carrying the workstation/toolbox/pc around, I added a shoulder strap from and old bad

The strap is attached to the back at the padlock ring and I added some wires fixed to the front fan grill to attach the other end of the strap

Although the strap is attached to the bottom of the case at the front and back, it does not show any tendency to flip over as the straps are quite broad and grip the top of the casing

And thats all! we are done!
I hope if you are doing a similar project you would have as fun and fulfillment as I have


JosephR107 (author)2016-09-07

This is the newer version. Any suggestions for imporvments or storsge space? Im not afraid to tear out cabinets and start again.

michaelgohjs (author)JosephR1072016-09-08


Nope, but i suggest getting all the stuff you want in it ready so you can plan out how you want to arrange those stuff then you can build the cabinets accordingly.

JosephR107 (author)2016-09-06

This is the unfinished version using an older PC

michaelgohjs (author)JosephR1072016-09-07

Looks good already. Its a great idea to have a power supply built into it to power all your prototypes or just for testing.

JosephR107 (author)2016-09-06

I made a version of this using a 1.5-12V power supply. Basic thougjt its stull WIP.

tjones74 (author)2014-04-15

great job you got my vote good luck in the contest

HTWTUSA (author)2014-04-06

Pretty cool...not a tech dude (carpenter), but this really struck a vote for you. Nice work.

man1919 (author)2014-03-31

wow, really cool idea

bluumax (author)2014-03-23

Definitely vote worthy, awesome job!
I love toolboxes that allow "Everything in it's place".
Hope it serves you well for a long time :- )

michaelgohjs (author)bluumax2014-03-23

i might need to change/upgrade the cardboard parts after awhile.
maybe aluminium sheets?

jakdedert (author)michaelgohjs2014-03-26

That was my main problem with this project...the cardboard drawers. If you have many cases, you could use the metal out of others to build your drawers. There are instructables to make simple sheet metal brakes (for making clean, tight bends). Pop rivets (which could also hold the strap on) would hold them together. Leaving the power supply onboard is another good idea in these comments. Mod it by way of any number of 'ables to make a portable bench supply built into your tool box.

bluumax (author)michaelgohjs2014-03-23

Plastic is easy to work with and there's a boatload just laying around!

Doc_Cottom (author)2014-03-25

Neat... I used NeXt cube cases for a bookcase.

roowtech (author)2014-03-24

Wow Good idea, i like this

mephisto1969 (author)2014-03-20

Why couldn't you have done this before I threw out my two old cases, darn you. I'll favourite this for when I next upgrade. Voted for as well.

bobster580 (author)mephisto19692014-03-23

My city recycles old PCs at the rubbish tip. Easy to scavenge cases there. Does your city do this?

bobster580 (author)bobster5802014-03-24

>Yes they do recycle electronics but they don't let you take anything.<

I have had that problem. My idea - not tried yet - is to hang around on a weekend and ask the people dumping if I could have it to recycle and re-use. That way, it never quite makes it into the recycle bin. I still expect to be shouted at.

michaelgohjs (author)bobster5802014-03-24

Hmm, that might work. Hopefully some kind folks would be supportive of individuals looking to recycle/reuse or just help out the local frugal tinkerer, after all its junk to them.
Ya, its to be expected, sad but true.

michaelgohjs (author)bobster5802014-03-24

My town (not even a city) just dumps everything to the landfill. But we have a recycling center that environmentally conscious people can sell their recyclable stuff for some money.

But its good to hear you guys live in a city like that

mephisto1969 (author)bobster5802014-03-23

Yes they do recycle electronics but they don't let you take anything. The type of kit I see in the skip is amazing and could probably be easily repaired but again the days of scavenging here are long gone sadly. I might see if I can sneak one but the staff at the waste transfer station are like hawks.

I did it some time ago, too lazy to post hehe.
Well now you got some excuse to upgrade, maybe just a casing upgrade eh?

With XP about to lose support it might happen sooner rather than later. Now to convince she who must be obeyed hehe.

Oh, i thought its no longer support a year or 2 back?
haha, now thats the exciting part eh

pddonovan2011 (author)2014-03-23

I have to admit, when I first saw this instructable, I thought, 'WHY?!?' but then I thought, "Ya' know something! As cluttered as my work table gets, it would be nice to put 'My Stuff' away and not have it spill all over he work table-top if I bump it, which is what I have now." And, I have extra cases all over that will fill the bill very nicely. Thank you for an exceptional Instructable. Not only can I build this, but thanks to my Raspberry Pi, I can still use it as a computer case! I love this idea!

Alderin (author)pddonovan20112014-03-24

Hehe, almost had the exact same reaction, including the "Hey! You could put in a Raspberry PI and it'll still be a computer!". A day late and a dollar short, I guess. :-)


Haha, this keeps things neat and tidy eh (i hope).
That is a very good idea, if I do get a Raspberry Pi (i sure intend to) I know just where to put it, maybe even attach a laptop screen to the side of the casing and run it off the laptop batteries. But I am not proficient enough in electronics to do that at the moment, sure love to see someone do it though.

GeekTinker (author)michaelgohjs2014-03-24

If you can still find one, the Motorola Lapdock can be hacked for use with the Raspberry Pi. It's made to be a keyboard, HD screen, and trackpad for a Motorola smartphone to plug into and has an internal battery that will power it and the Raspberry Pi for several hours. You have to source some parts and hack it a bit for it to work properly.
I paid $50 for mine and it was brand new and came with a power supply (the keys have English and Hebrew letters on them. I think that dropped the price). Make sure to get one that comes with a power supply as and aftermarket power supply is cost prohibitive. The hardest part to find is the Micro HDMI female to female adapter or female to male HDMI adapter. To read more:

michaelgohjs (author)GeekTinker2014-03-24

Thanks for the great info, really appreciate it. This is really a big find for me. I guess i know where my hobby budget and sem breaks will go.
Thanks again

Alderin (author)2014-03-24

Very nice use of an old computer case! I would make the strap solidly held to the top just for sanity, instead of relying on the friction of the wide strap.

I remember applauding Dell's design of this case as a technician. You could open and access everything without digging around trying to find all the various screws that held the various groups together. As a toolbox, this design still has merrit.

Great job!

Pitini (author)2014-03-23

Nice. Could you do one for the iMac?

michaelgohjs (author)Pitini2014-03-24

I can try IF i had a broken iMac

Pitini (author)michaelgohjs2014-03-24

Sorry, I was being glib. An iMac would make a terrible tool case. I was just playing the Mac vs PC thing.

Plus Mac don't break down!.

Good work with your idea, I love seeing all the great ideas.

michaelgohjs (author)Pitini2014-03-24

Nah no prob, was hoping for a "here let me send you an iMac" haha.

just kidding


GeekTinker (author)michaelgohjs2014-03-24

If anybody just happens to be handing them out, please send me an iMac, too. ;)

GeekTinker (author)Pitini2014-03-24

LOL. I liked your initial post. The Macs don't break down, but you still end up with a box due to planned obsolescence. ;)

puddnheadwilson (author)2014-03-24

I have several small drawers crammed with small tools so that I spend way too much time finding the right tool. I just recycled some old cases but the next time I get one I'm making this!

dlindstrom (author)2014-03-24

Very well done sir.

vincent7520 (author)2014-03-24

Nice. Why didn't you dot it with a laptop : carrying your tools would have been much lighter !…

Sorry just kidding ! :))

However you gave us great ideas about how to organize our miscellanies that cluster our lives !… Thanks for posting !…

mwm2929 (author)2014-03-23

just how heavy is this case loaded with tools? Still, very cool idea.

michaelgohjs (author)mwm29292014-03-24

The case its self is pretty heavy.
Since you asked, i just went and put in on a scale. Its 15Kg total with all the tools. Still very manageable as its all in a compact package. I don't lug it around, its basically Uni->car->home and the reverse.

your_dragon113 (author)2014-03-23

I love this! Now I know what to do with a couple of my old cases. It's hard enough finding that one case that suites your needs and computer style, it's a real pain getting rid of the old cases. I think I'll set one up Just for working on computers! ;)


with a few you can stack them up and have various cases for various applications. for example a case for working on computers, a case for working on your car, a case for arts and craft, a case for gardening? and others

Carmelite (author)2014-03-23

if you kept the power supply, you could mod it into a portable test bench!

michaelgohjs (author)Carmelite2014-03-24

I did keep it, and still have about 15 others. Maybe I will do that when i am on my holidays and not feeling lazy

Gunther45 (author)2014-03-23

Props! The Idea is 5 stars , application of Idea is 3.25 stars! But you thought of it so should get all credit for it.

You could keep and modify the PSU and make DC power supply as well but the idea is great.

michaelgohjs (author)Gunther452014-03-24

Thanks! thats really kind. Ya, it could be done better, unfortunately I only had 2 or 3 days to do it. And I am not very good in the cardboard cut/fold aspect.

I kept all the components, everything. I have a box with about 15 PSU(s) from various computers, but I am still thinking of what to do with it

daviddunn2569 (author)2014-03-23

got my vote way cool and innovative bro

bobster580 (author)2014-03-23

My city recycles old PCs at the rubbish tip. Easy to scavenge cases there.

cjs2652 (author)2014-03-23

Very cool.

emerson.john (author)2014-03-23

I just built a new computer in a new case and stripped the old case of plastic, intending to recycle it.

BAM! Here comes a great idea for reuse of the old case, and organizing my most frequently used small tools.

That's why we all enjoy Instructables; sometimes you not only get to appreciate someone's idea, but get to use it as well. Thanks for the idea, michaelgohjs.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am passionate about anything and everything engineering and physics. I am interested in much of chemistry and biology and I enjoy most art and ... More »
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