Introduction: Chromebox Computer in Old Case

Over the past year I've become a fan of Google's chrome operating system. Virtually everything I use a computer for requires that I be online, therefore the thin client approach that the chrome o/s is built upon is ideal for me. The chrome o/s is stable, virus free, and doesn't require the ongoing maintenance of a windows machine. And, the computers are cheap and fast.

A cromebox is basically a stand-alone computer in a small form factor. I originally had my chromebox mounted behind my monitor, but by the time I had added all the cables (USB keyboard, USB mouse, external hard drive, monitor, power, speaker, etc.) it grew into a spider-like maze of cables going everywhere. There had to be a better way, so I started keeping my eyes open for a case I could mount everything in.

Then one day I found it. It was an old Packard Bell computer (from the late 1990's). These old Packard Bell computers had a horrible reputation (1 out of 6 was returned to the seller), but the case had a neat shape. The price was right (it was free) so I brought it home and gutted the insides.

Step 1: Gutting the Insides

I removed the outer housing along with everything inside, except for the old cd rom. I left the cd rom inside because I didn't have a spare panel to cover the hole it would leave in the front of the machine. In gutting the machine, I also drilled out and removed all sheet metal braces except for the one holding the cd rom.

Step 2: Adding a Case Fan

Although the chromebox is fanless and generates very little heat, I decided to add one exhaust fan at the top rear of the machine just to make sure no heat would build inside of the case. I made a wood panel to cover the area where the power supply originally was, attached a quiet exhaust fan, and wired the fan to a 12v wall wart I had in my junk box.

Step 3: Adding a USB Hub

Using a scrap piece of sheet metal removed from the inside of the case, I fashioned a shelf at the back to hold a USB hub, placing it so the ports would be accessible through one of the slots at the back originally designed for a pc card. I made a metal bracket to hold the USB hub tightly against the back of the case, and added some silicone adhesive to the sides to keep if from sliding sideways. This USB hub provides connections for the keyboard, mouse, and an external usb hub (for the camera, a card reader, and future expansion).

Step 4: Mounting the Chromebox

I built a shelf using more of the scrap sheet metal removed from the case and some scrap masonite. I mounted this shelf at the front of the case, positioning it so I could use the original power switch unit to turn the machine on. More on this in the next step.

Step 5: The Power Switch

I removed the electrical part of the power switch, and what was left was the power button, which provided about 3/8ths inch travel when the button was pressed. I then added a 1/4 inch brass tube with a 3/16ths inch steel pin inside the tube. Behind this I added a short piece of spring steel. When the power button is pushed, it pushes against the piece of spring steel, which would contact the power switch on the front of the chromebox. I originally thought about opening the chromebox and tying in the original electrical portion of the switch, but I decided against it, since that would void the chromebox's warranty. My mechanical design works fine, however, even through it was more difficult to design.

Step 6: Hooking Everything Up

I added a power strip in the bottom of the case to plug in the wall wart for the fan, power for the USB port, and the power supply for the chromebox. I forgot to take a photo of the chromebox, but it sets on the shelf made for it, with brackets to hold it in place. The final thing was to plug in all the connections (usb, power, sound, and monitor). I set the external drive on top of the old cd rom and plugged it into one of the chrombox's usb ports.

Step 7: Finished!

The old Packard Bell case lives again! I like the shape of this old pc case, and it now houses my chromebox! Some might ask "Why?, but I would say, "Why not?" I'm old, and most of my stuff is old, so now my chromebox matches its surroundings!

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