Introduction: Insane PC Case Overhaul
In this instructable/video, I will be making a relatively simple modification to get a radically different look for an old desktop PC.
But it is not only for the looks. Airflow for the inside components will be miles better too. And that will allow pushing the system to its max limits by overclocking the components (CPU, RAM, GPU).
Provided Amazon links are affiliates.
- 12V drill: https://amzn.to/2U5QQmL
- 20V drill https://amzn.to/2MY3GRt
- Blow torch https://amzn.to/39acVY3
- Jigsaw https://amzn.to/2rg4uXx
- Router https://amzn.to/2DVXXZC
- Rotary tool https://amzn.to/2MWaP4H
- Multimeter https://amzn.to/2MTl4Xs
- Wire stripper https://amzn.to/3baZ99r
- Soldering kit https://amzn.to/2H00WAt
- Speed square https://amzn.to/2Ee6lDh
- Clamps https://amzn.to/2YKWmRS
- Tape measure https://amzn.to/2rfS4Ph
- Step drill bit https://amzn.to/31tRZst
- Wire wheel brush https://amzn.to/382rJIe
Main Components & Materials:
- Old desktop PC
- Momentary button https://amzn.to/2tvHOHi
- Rubber feet https://amzn.to/3b8CpXP
- Neodymium magnets https://amzn.to/2UuWlhw
- Dust filter mesh https://amzn.to/388gIW0
- Linseed oil https://amzn.to/2OvMYdT
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2twN6lT
Heat shrink tubes, screws.
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Step 1: Preview
Before and after preview shots.
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First of all, I should clarify what I meant by the term - relatively simple. Basically, I call this modification simple, because it is just adding decorative sheets of wood on top of the existing PC case. There aren’t any big changes in the inside, and that makes this mod easy to make for everyone.
I started by cutting lots of wood blocks. I bet nobody has done that many repeated cuts on a jigsaw table, like I did making this project.
These blocks, one by one will go into the jig that I made, to cut all the pieces at an angle.
Cutting these was probably the most difficult part, as those wood boards weren’t planed and were slightly different thicknesses. I needed to hammer in the thicker parts, and after the cut, hammer them out. And it takes quite some time.
After I had all the pieces for two panels, I literally just stopped for a minute to admire the work. But another challenge lies ahead. At least I was thinking like that. But it turned out that the gluing all parts together was easy. You just need a table, a big sheet of paper which protects it from glue, few straight edge pieces and four clamps.
Next, more cutting for the top and front decorative parts. Again, this is a pretty long process, what helps a lot is that this is pine wood and not something like hard plywood. I was happily surprised that my cut parts fit perfectly to size. To this day I am amazed how much precision you can get with such a simple jigsaw table.
Now it’s time to trim the side panels to size. It was important before to glue the blocks that the top or bottom would be perpendicular to the sides. With quick assembly, everything looked right like I planned.
I started to glue the top part. And here the first mistake was made. The smaller pieces should have been shorter to form the continuous lines with a front piece. But whatever, it will be easily fixable with a jigsaw.
On the front parts, I routed 45-degree angles to improve the airflow. As right behind these parts will be two 120mm fans. They will give vastly improved cooling compared to the original computer case.
With all the parts glued, I went where using a torch won’t be a fire hazard issue. This is, how you probably quested it, the wood-burning technique. It is achieved through a controlled burning of the wood surface. I never thought it could be so calming and satisfying to do it.
But even more satisfying is the moment when you start to see the color and the patterns with the removed top charcoal layer. One thing to note here - sanding the parts more would give a lighter look later. As I went for a dark old look, I just lightly sanded the parts with a wire wheel brush.
Parts now look pretty good, except that they don’t have any contrast. So, to fix that I applied some linseed oil. This later will give a dark matte look. There are so many ways of finishing it, just test and see what you like the most.
Going back to the original case, I made the hole for the power button. I didn’t want to add it where it would be visible, so I placed it in a reachable spot at the back. At the bottom, I made four holes for the new stiff rubber feet, which will give more grip and absorb vibrations.
At the front, I cut off all unnecessary pieces. I didn’t like the original fan grill as it restricts airflow so much. If you will be making similar cuts, just make sure to have enough of those cheap and small abrasive discs for your Dremel like tool (or have better discs, that works too). I used up two discs for these few cuts.
With the case cleaned, I painted the spot with a black color as it will be slightly visible from the outside. I used just a permanent marker as I didn’t feel to mask everything off just to paint this tiny part.
With drilling and cutting done on the case, I started to work on the inside. First the fans. These run at ~2000 RPM and make so much noise. This would be a non-issue on newer motherboards, but this old one has very bad fan controls. So… I had to improvise.
What I did here, I just connected two fans in series, which means, when powered each of them will get ~6V instead of regular 12V. So now the max speed will be twice as low ~1000 RPM. If you decide to do a madness like this, make sure to test first if it properly works with your fans' configuration.
Also I just glued two fans together, instead of making mounts for the second fan, I know, I know.. Ha HA!
The old panel already has a power button and required wires, so I used them on the button which is easy to install into the case. You can reuse everything if you want, but I will keep as minimal as possible, just because of the design decision.
Finally, it’s time to attach all decorative parts. Securing the top is the easiest of them all. I just clamped it and fixed it with four screws.
The front will be removable for easy access to clean the intake filters. I added a few screws in the bottom, which will latch on the bottom gap.
Meanwhile, the top will be held with two glued neodymium magnets.
Securing the side panels will be harder as it needs to be measured where those will go and only then secured at least with four screws.
Not much left to do. I just need to add all rubber feet, the power button, and fans. One thing that I don’t have at this moment is intake dust filters. Later when I get them, they will go in front of the fans.
Finally, with all parts back inside, I can add all covers. And that’s it - the project is finished.
For those who are interested in what’s inside – the CPU is Intel’s Quad-Core Q9300. As it is my first CPU that I bought 12 years ago, overclocking is necessary for squeezing most of the performance it can offer.
When paired with an 8-years old Nvidia’s GTX 660 graphics card, it makes quite a nice combo for older games to play.
Other parts here are 6GB of RAM, Asus P5Q Deluxe motherboard and 480W PSU. I also have thrown in a 240GB SSD to speed everything up.
So… some would say this was just a waste of time and that such old parts should just go straight to the bin. But when it comes down to me - it was bringing some life to an old system which had horrible airflow. Now the CPU can actually run ~40% faster when overclocked without overheating, and it is huge performance improvement. And when combined along with a sufficient video card and SSD, this PC is back to a new life.
Step 23: END
I hope this instructable / video was useful and informative.
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