Introduction: Two Complete Computers in One Case

In this instructable I will demonstrate how I installed two complete computer systems in one case. You start with an empty case, an inexpensive, simple mid-tower one will work best. The case must be wide enough to fit the 6.7 inch (170mm) motherboard. The first motherboard is mounted in the usual spot. The second motherboard hangs from 4 long machine screws.

Remove the power supply, you will get at the second motherboard through the hole where the power supply was. If you want optical drives mount them now. If at all possible use SATA drives to hold down cable clutter.

You will need two Mini-ITX motherboards http://www.mini-box.com/Mainboards-Mini-ITX has a good selection of them. I used this board: http://www.mini-box.com/ASUS-J1900I-C. For this board they recommend the picoPSU-90 power supply, http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-90. Mini-box also sells the power bricks you will need. You will need two power bricks suitable for your power supplies, this one worked for me:

http://www.mini-box.com/80w-AC-DC-Power-Adapter-12...

I have one 3 1/2 drive on one system and a 3 1/3 drive plus a DVD drive on the other, if you use other parts your power needs could vary. A larger power supply is always better than one that is too small.

I would recommend staying with rather low power components, Intel Atom or Celeron boards.

These guidelines worked for me, but every situation is different so you may need to make adjustments.

Step 1: The Front Panel

For the front panel Switches and LEDs I pulled the assembly out of an old case, cut off the switches and soldered on some small push button switches I got at Radio Shack.

Remove the floppy drive bay cover and drill 5mm holes for the LEDs and the right size holes for your switches. My switches fit in a 5/16' hole.

Glue the LEDs in place and mount the switches.

Wrap electrical tape a few places along the length of the wires to minimize cable clutter.

Step 2: Getting Ready to Mount the Top Board

Measure carefully, You will find that you have very little clearance.

Use the motherboard for a template to mark the location of the mounting holes. You want it far enough back so you have clearance to plug your keyboard, monitor, etc in, but leave room so you can get at the optical drive and connect any wires. I marked my holes for the front of the motherboard 8 5/8 inches from the back of the case.

Drill the four holes with a 5/32" drill.

For the mounting hardware I used:

4 - of the thingies in the second photo. They have a 6-32 machine screw 4 inches long. I bought them at Ace hardware.

12 - 6-32 nuts

4 - 1 inch nylon spacers.

8 - 1/2 inch nylon spacers.

Insert the four 4" machine screws and tighten nuts to hold them.

Put a nut on each screw about two inches up.

Turn the case upside down.

Put a 1" and a 1/2" nylon spacer on each screw.

Put the bare motherboard on the screws and look through the hole where the power supply was to adjust the height.

Step 3: Final Assembly

Remove the board and install the RAM, power supply, Front panel wires, and drive cables. Everything that plugs into the board must be plugged in before you install the motherboard. You won't have clearance to plug anything in once the board is in place.

Place the board on the for long machine screws and tighten the nuts.

Now the hardest part is done.

The main motherboard and the drives mount in the conventional manner.

Cut holes in the back of the case for the power connectors.

Comments

author
cbw7 (author)2014-12-27

Interesting. What is the intended purpose of this dual computer setup?

author
JRV31 (author)cbw72014-12-27

One for everyday use and one to try new stuff on. I can mess up the second system and not lose anything important.

author
LunaEros (author)JRV312014-12-28

Although this is an interesting concept, couldn't you have just partitioned a drive on a single computer and boot into one system or the other depending on if your trying something out? It would be cheaper that way.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea. It's innovative. I just don't see the advantage over partitioning.

author
JRV31 (author)LunaEros2014-12-28

Part of the reason I did this was just to see if I could. A friend got a fancy case costing hundreds that allowed you to install two motherboards. I wanted to see if I could find a cheap way to do it myself.

author
MichaelR411 (author)JRV312016-10-18

No better reason than that exists !

author
leadchipmunk (author)JRV312014-12-27

Why not just use a virtual machine?

author
JRV31 (author)leadchipmunk2014-12-27

I just don't have any interest in virtual machines.

author
MichaelR411 (author)2016-10-18

Good stuff. I recently built a two systems (PC and Server/NAS) in one case in a (designed for that purpose) Phanteks Enthoo mini-XL case. Even so, with the number of drives (7HDD, 2 SSD, 1 DVD) it wasn't all that easy! Still working on fan control issues...

author
JRV31 (author)2015-11-02

I would like to thank Jill Baptist for placing a link to this instructable on pinterest.com.

author
dan3008 (author)2014-12-28

I've just stuck 2 disks in mine, one with linux (ubuntu for now, thinking of upgrading to arch though) and the other with windoze

Interesting concept, but abut overkill for most people I'd think

author
BMXsquad88 (author)dan30082015-06-08

Get Kali Linux, such a great os

author
dan3008 (author)BMXsquad882015-07-19

not tried Kali... Will have a look, thanks :L

author
PiotrS (author)2014-12-28

instal VNC on them you can connect thru lan or just get KVM splitter

author
cszhaoqm (author)2014-12-27

Two computers share the keyboard and display?

author
JRV31 (author)cszhaoqm2014-12-27

I will be running one of them headless.

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Bio: Most of my instructables will be tutorials for Atmel microcontrollers, Arduino, or Raspberrypi. I try to show concepts that you can use in your own ... More »
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