Cooling an Enclosed Computer Desk - Ikea Alex

Introduction: Cooling an Enclosed Computer Desk - Ikea Alex

This is my first Instructable.

I bought a desk from Ikea, it has two legs on one side and a cabinet on the other to house the PC tower with a shelf for accessories (model name - Alex - ).  After having the desk for a couple of weeks the weather got really hot, and so did my PC in the cabinet, It would get so hot it'd shut itself off.  It would be fine with the door open.  I thought about taking the door off, but i liked the clean look of the cabinet.
I started to look into this problem, searching around the net for some solutions. It seemed like a few other people had the same problem.  I took a few different methods people had used and mashed them together with a few of my own and came up with my method for cooling my PC cabinet.

I had a few requirements:
- It had to be powered by the computer
- It had to turn on and off with the computer

Step 1:

First step was to source all the parts:
Electrical components
 - 3 Pin fan extension cables 24"
- 3 Pin external back plate adapter -
- 2 120mm Fans ( i went with these becuase they move more air than the cheaper ones)
- 2 120mm grill covers

Total  - $27.50

8 bolts (50mm/2"), 8 washers, 8 lock washers, 8 rubber washers, 8 nuts  - #8 or #10 (US) M4 or M5 (metric)
I used black to match the grills, and Allen heads because i like the look.

Total - $9.00

Step 2:

Fan Location:
I read in one of the articles that the best places to put the fans would be at the bottom at the front of the cabinet and the top on the back of the cabinet. Meaning the air would enter at the bottom and be expelled at the top.  This was the same in my computer case.  If your computer has a different set up maybe you could rearrange the fans.

Make sure that your fan locations are not going to interfere with any structural pieces in your cabinet (the 'cams' in the Alex cabinet).  The location doesn't have to be exact.

Step 3:

Cutting Fan Holes

Once i determined roughly where my fans were going to be, i covered the area on the inside and outside with painters tape, you could use masking tape.  This was so i could draw where to cut and to prevent too much splintering of the laminate surface.

I used the grill to help measure out what needed to be cut, it was the same size as the fan.  However i didnt just simply draw around the grill.  The grill itself was 120mm (4 3/4") square.  I reduced the size of the hole to 115mm (4 1/2") so that the grill covered the edges of the hole.

I used a square to make sure all of the lines were square.

Step 4:

I then ran into the issue of where to screw through if i cut a square hole.  I decided to leave the corners of each intact so i could later drill a hole for the bolts.

I just measure down 25mm (1') on each of the corners and just joined up the lines.

Step 5:

I then cut out the two holes using a jigsaw. The corners were a little tricky, but if you take your time.  I drilled a hole to get the jigsaw started.

Step 6:

I then used the grill  and the square to mark out the holes for the bolt.  Making sure that all of the cut lines were covered.  I used a bradawl to make sure that the hole would be where i wanted them and didn't slip in the surface when drilling.

Step 7:

3 Pin back plate adapter.

I didn't know such a thing existed until i started researching this project.  It was super easy to install, just found an unused Molex connector from my power supply and plugged it right in.

I used the extension wires because the wires attached to the fan would not be long enough to allow me to move the PC in and out of the cabinet if needed.  Some fans have much longer wires. You can also get various lengths of extension.

Step 8:

Securing the fans to the cabinet.

The bolts would need to be a minimum of 50mm (2")  and i wouldn't go any longer than 65mm (2.5") so they don't get in the way.

I used a washer on the outside of the grill so i didn't crack it when tightening.

The rubber washer was to try and reduce vibration/noise from the fan.  Placed in between the fan and the cabinet.

The lock washer was to stop the nut from vibrating loose.  You could also use a nylock nut.

WHEN CONNECTING THE FANS MAKE SURE THEY ARE ORIENTATED THE RIGHT WAY - Bottom one blowing in, and the top one blowing out.  I found that out the hard way.  

It's a bit of a stretch tightening up all of the bolts on your own, you may need a helper.

Step 9:

Connect everything together, hopefully everything still works and your cooling issues have been solved.  Mine were.


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    2 years ago

    I have the same ikea cabinet just like you, i take off the back panel for now but the problem is dust. I'll try using ur idea, thank you


    3 years ago

    Good work, I've done similar, instead of a side fan I've got multiple holes on the front door with vent louvres to cover them up.

    I'm definitely going to be taking your guidance and switching to bolts and rubber washers for attaching fans shortly as I've currently got the fans directly attached to the cabinet, and it vibrates badly.


    4 years ago

    Why didn't you just take off the back panel of the ikea alex


    4 years ago

    Perfect - I have exactly same issue (and the same Ikea cabinet!) - many thanks!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great idea. I would only change one thing here: The air intake near the floor will pick up more dust than an air intake near the top. However, you are right in wanting cold air in at the bottom, hot air expelled at the top.

    So, you need a backward chimney!

    Continue your design, but add an external duct from the front-bottom-left to front-top-left. This would relocate the actual "in" away from the floor, yet still give you cool air at the bottom

    Change the location of the fan to the front-top-left, and then duct it internally down to the bottom.