Introduction: PC Case Mod / Redesign / Overhaul

Not too long ago I became obsessed with personalization and customization of every thing I could get my hands on, and it didn't take me long to realize my boring old computer case could use a  "make-over," so that's exactly what I did.

This Instructable will be an "in-depth overview" of all the modifications I made to my Dell Dimension E520 case, to either help you along the path of customizing your own case, or just by giving you some ideas that you can tweak to your own preferences.


1. Case Window
2. Faceplate Re-Coloring
3. LED lighting
4. Wiring
5. Replacing Power button
6. Miscellaneous Adjustments

Tools Needed: (At least the ones I used, you may be able to be to make do with whatever you have available)
-Phillips Screwdriver
-Dremel/Rotary cutting tool
-Metal grinder
-Orbital/Belt sander
-Sand-blasting cabinet
-Soldering iron

Parts List:
-Spray Paint (primer, color, clear coat)
-Glass/Plexi-glass window
-1 meter LED strip
-N/O toggle switch
-momentary push button
-5 meters automotive molding trim
-Circular UV Cold Cathode Fluorescent Light w/ inverter
-a couple feet of extra wiring
-Silicone caulking
-Cosmetic putty
-4 rubber feet
-any additional fans you want to install

Step 1: Some BEFORE Shots

This is what the computer looked liked before I did any real modding. The only extra thing is the fan screwed on the back of the case.

Step 2: Disassembly

To begin, remove the panel from the side of the case and place it off the side (not too far if you plan on cutting a hole in it later). Now that you have access to the computer's innards, it would be wise to keep yourself grounded from this point on (wearing a wrist strap, using an anti-static mat, staying far away from carpet, etc.) Next I unplugged all the cables I could and then removed my hard drives and CD drive, then out came the graphics card, the sound card, the RAM, and any other cards I had installed.

After carefully unscrewing all the screws that held it to the side of the case, I lifted the motherboard up and out and kept it in a safe place, with the CPU heatsink disconnected. Now that the sensitive components were out of the way, I unscrewed the power supply and removed it (there's always a chance it could still hold a charge so I'd recommend pressing the power button to purge it of any electricity that may have been stored, and even so, you can never be too careful with high-voltage items, so I can't condone sticking your fingers in this thing). After that, I popped the fan out of place, and then loosened all the clips holding the plastic face-plate in place until I was left with nothing but a bare metal chassis. During this process it would be a good idea to put the screws somewhere they can't be easily lost.

Step 3: Case Window

A pretty standard computer case mod is the good ol'  "window in the side of the box" trick.

To start off, I obviously removed the case panel from the main chassis to be able to work on it. Then I covered the exterior with masking tape to protect the nice white finish. With the tape in place, I put the panel against the side of the case to measure where I would like the window to go. I chose a nice area that would give a nice view of the motherboard. You may have to accommodate for any cross-braces that are reinforcing the panel. After measuring and sketching out the area I wanted removed, I went back and straightened out all my lines and rounded off two of the corners. (I had originally planned on doing something with the "DELL" letters but decided not to, that's why I had them outlined)

Now that I knew where I wanted to cut, it was time to actually start that cutting, so I drilled an entry hole in one of the corners so the jig-saw blade could enter and then I loosely cut out the area that was soon to be a window. I avoided cutting too much out and was left with a margin that also had to be removed so I just went back and carefully cut out the excess.

With the hole the size and shaped I wanted, I took the panel to the metal grinder to clean up the roughness the jig-saw left behind. After it was all nice and clean, I ran a length of the silver automotive car trim inside the cut out area to smooth out the gap.

Before I adhered the glass sheet to the back of the case panel, I decided it would look nice with a frosted design in the middle of it, so once again, I masked off the area, sketched out a design, then took an X-acto blade and cut out what I had drawn on, slapped it into the sand-blasting booth and pummeled it with a spray of silicon-carbide. I removed the tape and cleaned off the glass, temporarily taped it into position against the case panel and then ran some silicone caulking around the edge to permanently hold it in place and just used some electrical tape to cover that up because it was kinda ugly. Voila! I now had a high-quality, personalized window for my computer.

Step 4:

For this next part, I'll be showing you how I made my fan intake grill light up. I used green 5050 smd LED strips that use a 12v power source.

First, I used some small strips of Romex wiring I had lying around to build a frame for the strips that would fit right around the grill. Then I peeled the adhesive backing off of the LED strips and stuck them to the wire frame and soldered the connections of the strips to each other and then into a Molex adapter for the power source

Step 5:

This step will show the I changes I made to the plastic face-plates that cover this case. For the top all I had to do was sand and paint, but the front required a little more work. I removed the stickers and power button and cleaned off the sticky residue that was left on.

There was a Dell logo embedded into it and when I took it off there was a pretty large cavity in the middle of the flat piece. To fill this in I used some bonding putty and sanded that down until there was a seamless finish over where the logo used to be. I drilled a larger hole where the original power button had been so I could put the new one in after the paint dried.

To paint, I used some plastic-rated primer, did a couple coats of that, and then added a few more coats of the color and then finished it off with some layers of clear enamel finish.

Step 6:

This step will show the (less-than-perfect) wiring job I did to hook the grill LEDs and the cold cathode on the fan up to power. I drilled a hole through the 5.25" bay cover that I was going to use as the control center for my extra electronics and fit the pilot ignition switch through the hole.

Once I had the pilot switch grounded, hooked up to the 12v source, hooked up to the LED strips in the grill and the inverter for the cold cathode, there was quite a bit wires so I took the cover off an old broken CD drive so I could use it as a base to stuff my wiring into.

Then I put the hollowed out CD drive with all the wires into the slot in the case and put the cover over it. I included a rough sketch of the schematics I used for my circuit, whereas "S1" is the ignition switch, (which needed to be grounded because it includes an LED that turns on when power is supplied) "D1" would be the LED strips and "D2" is the inverter that supplies power to the cold cathode ring.

Step 7:

This page is for all the little, miscellaneous changes I made that didn't deserve their own step.

After I had lights in my fan grill I thought it would be a nice touch to reflect them over a larger area. I found a small mirror, but it was a bit bigger than I needed it to be so I scored off a few inches on each side so it would fit better and then glued it to the back of the inside of the case.

To switch the power button, I merely soldered wires onto the original connections of the button that was there to begin with.

To uncover the heat sink, I needed to remove the shroud that surrounded it, but it included to mounts for the heat sink so I couldn't completely remove it so I used the Dremel and removed all the plastic I no longer wanted

For the UV reactive fan I had at the back of the case, I just used the small bolts that were provided with it and mounted it to the bad of the vent grid. If your case is different, it probably won't be too hard to find new mounting points.

For the small rubber feet, I drilled holes through the bottom of the bottom of the case and then screwed them in (No photos included)

Step 8:

Here is what it looks like after I put everything back together. (To fit everything in, just follow the first steps in reverse order)
I added a few more buttons and switches to the front plate (a seperate button for the cold cathode, a rocker for fan power on/off, and a pot. to control fan speed), as well as a thermometer to monitor inside temps

Hope you liked what you saw and hopefully it might have even helped you. Thanks for making it through my first instructable