Introduction: Turn a Broken DVD Player Into an Accessory Enclosure for Your Home Theater PC

For about $30 (Assuming you already have a DVD-RW drive and media center remote control )you can turn an old broken DVD player into an enclosure for your unsightly/ hard to reach HTPC accessories. Have a look at step 2 for a cost breakdown.


We have a Home Theater PC (HTPC) in our living room that tucks neatly out of sight in a corner beside our entertainment unit. The location makes the PC very unobtrusive and even though the tower puts out a normal amount of noise it's barely noticeable. The problem however is the location makes it difficult to access the internal DVD drive to play movies or perform any typical DVD-RW functions. Also there are a number of devices that I have connected to the HTPC which are starting to look a little goofy in and around our entertainment unit (USB Remote IR receiver, USB/firewire hub, External Hard disk, joystick, Wireless keyboard/mouse receiver.) Meanwhile our stand alone DVD player sits unused in a prime easy to reach location (the HTPC has kind of made the DVD player redundant.) This gave me the idea to use an unwanted DVD player as an enclosure for many of those devices.

Step 1: Find a DVD Player to Mod

My initial plan was to find a broken DVD player which had a USB port in front and sufficient space internally for a USB hub, DVD-RW drive, infrared receiver, and wireless mouse receiver. To match my amplifier I wanted to find a silver unit but fate had other plans. The DVD player that I am using is a black Digix 288U and is simply the unit that broke down at the wrong time. The unit is black instead of silver and is a little small to accommodate the features I want. As a result I am starting with the DVD-RW and the IR receiver and will definitely notch out an opening to access the extra USB ports. I will likely incorporate the wireless mouse receiver later as well. A nice feature of this player though is the power supply. Many DVD players are like this and have a standard molex connector (like in PCs) and can provide power to an PC internal DVD drive with no modification.

If you are not just using the player at hand like me then you will probably want to find a full height DVD player with a USB port in front. Many DVD players have a low profile form factor that would not accommodate a normal internal PC DVD drive. You could use a slim DVD drive that is popular in many HTPC cases but these are quite a bit more expensive than your everyday internal drive. Ideally the player will also have a power supply that isn't integrated into the main circuit board of the player and uses a molex connector.

One more consideration is the front DVD tray cover. The Digix unit that I am using has a spring loaded door to cover the dvd tray when closed. If the DVD player you are considering has a front cover that is fixed on the end of the drive tray itself ,and sits flush with the front of the player, then you will need to mount the internal drive much more precisely and find a way to mount the cover on the end of the internal IDE DVD drive tray - probably with an extender of some kind.

Step 2: Gather the Parts and Tools Needed


1. Donor DVD Player - Digix 288U (what do you mean you've never heard of it?)
Free - ECON101 "don't pay people for broken DVD players"

2. Internal DVD Drive - Lite-on SHW-1635S (a little shorter than typical internal)
Not free but you should have one if you already have an HTPC running. A new oem one will run about $25.

3. USB Hub - I paid $13 for a generic 7-port powered hub

4. MS Media Center Remote IR Receiver - Again you will probably already have one but otherwise the oem remotes run about $33 (I think they only come oem)

5. USB to IDE adapter - I paid $14 for a generic adapter with a power supply. The power supply is not needed for this project unless the DVD player power supply is not usable.

6. 4 X 4 length of wire for connecting internal DVD LED and eject button to DVD player front. - free. If you have a soldering iron then you must have wire around. It's the law!

7. 2 X 10 length of wire to supply 5Volt power to USB hub - free (see above.)

8. Appropriate power connector for USB hub - free, if you don't have a connector around just take the connector off the adapter that comes with your hub.

9. misc parts for mounting components zip straps and PC motherboard standoffs worked for me - free, just use what you have around.

Cost Breakdown

$27 (plus tax) if you already have the remote control and DVD-RW.
$85 (plus tax) if you are starting from scratch. Keep in mind that without this project you would still need the $58 worth of remote control and DVD burner to build an HTPC.

Note: you can reduce costs slightly by buying a used DVD drive and/or using a DVD-ROM drive instead of the burner. Also I have seen the oem MS Media Center Remotes for as little as $23 on sale.


1. Screwdriver with appropriate bits (Phillips, torx etc...)
2. Drill
3. Soldering Iron
4. Hammer
5. Punch
6. File or dremel with grinding attachment
7. Digital Multimeter

Step 3: Remove Unwanted Components From DVD Case

I will give specific instructions for the DVD player that I am using just adjust for the model that you have.

1. Remove the 7 screws which secure the DVD player cover to its chassis. Lift the cover from the back and slide rearward to remove.

2. Remove the retaining 4 screws that secure the DVD drive and mainboard (circuit board with primary IO and processing chips.) Disconnect the power, control/LED, and AV connectors (all of the wires) from the mainboard. Lift the DVD drive/mainboard to remove. Examine the circuit board to see if it has information about the leads (wires) which run to the front controls. If it does then keep the board close at hand for later reference.

3. Remove the 3 retaining screws securing the rear AV connectors and remove.

I didn't take a picture of the empty case but you can use your imagination

Step 4: Examine the Circuit Boards That Must Be Connected to Determine Solder Points and How Much Wire Will Be Required.

I did not personally do this step as I had been thinking about the project for awhile and had a pretty good idea about what I would need. I would definitely include this step if I were to do this project again (and I probably will.)

Expose and inspect the circuit board DVD player front control panel.

If you have a good understanding of electronic circuits then determine what parts of the circuit can be reused for your purposes (lighting LEDs, simple toggle switches and connecting the IR sensor.) If you do not understand circuits well enough to do this then simply scratch the copper traces of the circuitboard around the component you want to use to isolate it from the rest of the components of the board. Then plan to solder connections directly to the leads of those components that you have isolated. In all cases that I can think of you would not need to disconnect the ground connection from such a component. As the ground often covers most of the circuit board disconnecting components from ground would often be very difficult.

Step 5: Solder Wires for DVD Activity LED and Eject Button

1. Remove the 4 screws from the bottom of the internal DVD-RW drive and remove the bottom cover.

2. Remove front bezel from DVD drive. Use paperclip to release the DVD tray. Push visible tabs of the front DVD tray cover and pry outward. Slide tray front cover up to release. Press side and bottom clips of front bezel and pull away from DVD drive.

3. Solder appropriate lengths of wire (long enough to reach the front control circuit board of the DVD player) to the positive and ground contacts of the eject switch and drive activity LED. I should have used thinner gauge wire and waited for my soldering iron to heat up properly. Instead I just used the wire I had at hand (dead power supply leads) and went for it. Use a multimeter or some kind of tester to ensure the solder points aren't shorted to adjoining traces.

4. label each wire for connecting later.

Note: If you plan out all of your wiring connections you could likely solder only one ground connection and tie it to the common grounds for the front circuit board and the IR receiver board. I went in with only a rough outline (not a real plan) and therefore soldered what I expected to need.

Step 6: Mount the New DVD Drive

1. Determine correct mounting position in DVD Player case. My donor DVD Player has a spring loaded hinged door on the case. The door is pushed open by the tray and shuts automatically when the tray is closed. Place the internal DVD drive into the player with its tray extending out through the front slot. Measure the distance between the case and the bottom of the drive, noting any obstacles that may exist (holes, vents, raised sections etc&)

2. Fabricate your mounts. I found that some motherboard standoffs I had in my misc. parts bin were just the right height therefore I didn't need any custom fabricated mounts. (If I wasn't so lucky then I would likely just have found either a plastic or wooden scrap of the right thickness, cut small square pieces and bored a hole through the center. I would then secure the Drive with long screws through the bottom of the case.)
Note: As mentioned earlier I would recommend using a DVD player with this type of tray cover as the players which have a front plate would be difficult to mount on an normal IDE drive without a great deal of modification.

3. Determine location for screw holes. Coat the bottom of your mount with a crayon (of a colour that will be easily visible on the bottom of the case. Place the drive with mounts attached into the case in the correct location and press down. When you remove the DVD drive there should be visible marks which will show you where to drill.

4. Use a punch tool and hammer to make indentations where your holes will be located. Drill your holes.

5. Use appropriate screws to mount the drive

Step 7: Mount the USB Hub and Connect the DVD-RW

1. Determine location for the hub based on space inside the case and available holes in the back plate (I used current holes in the back plate for accessing the hub externally but will eventually cut a larger hole to make the rear USB ports accessible too.

2. Fabricate your mounts and determine fastening method. I just used some self-adhesive rubber pads and zip straps.

3. Cut rear access holes if required (add dremel/nibbler whatever to the tools required.)

4. Mount and fasten the hub.

5. Strip small section of 5 Volt power lead and ground near molex connector. The yellow wire should be 12 Volt and the red should be the 5 volt. Test this with your multimeter.

6. Solder a length of wire to each of the exposed sections and then insulate with electrical tape or shrink wrap. Solder the a connector that matches your USB hub power adapter to the other end minding polarity. The polarity of the power adapter that came with your USB hub should be printed on the end that plugs into the wall socket.

7. Test the USB hub power connector. Plug the power connector into the USB hub - make sure it is the only thing that the power supply is plugged into. Unplug anything connected to the USB ports. WARNING... blah, blah, blah ... electricity, Disclaimer, don't hurt yourself.) Really though - be careful. Triple check that you haven't dropped anything metal into the DVD player power supply then plug it into the wall socket. Turn the DVD player on and if the USB hub power LED comes on then your USB power supply is fine.

8. Turn the DVD player off. Use your IDE to USB adapter to connect your DVD-RW drive to the USB hub. Connect the molex connector to the DVD-RW drive and turn the power supply back on.

9. Connect the USB hub to a computer and turn the DVD player power supply on. The computer should detect the USB hub and the DVD-RW drive. If not troubleshoot by connecting things to the PC one at a time. First just connect the USB hub with and without it's original power adapter. If nothing detects then try a different USB port on your computer, a different computer and test the cable with other USB peripherals. If the USB hub doesn't work then, oops, get another one and test the voltages from the power supply before connecting. If the USB hub works right away then connect the DVD-RW to thew hub using the power supply that originally came with your IDE to USB adapter. If you can't get the DVD-RW to detect then test the IDE to USB adapter with other IDE devices. If nothing else works then put the DVD-RW drive back into a PC to test it's functionality. If the drive is blown then once again triple check everything especially polarity and voltages then decide if you want to try again with a new drive. For the record I had to test and rework the IR sensor hookup and the eject button but none of my equipment suffered any damage and the USB peripherals worked immediately.
Note: unplug the DVD player power supply after every test. As never work on the project while the power supply is plugged in.

Step 8: Mod the IR Receiver

1. pry front feet of the IR receiver and remove the 2 retaining screws (T5X25 torx)

2. Squeeze bottom half of case to release clips and open case.

3. remove screw holding circuit board to upper part of case and separate.

4. Desolder IR sensor component from circuit board. Resolder the component using lengths of wire to allow placement in the front of the DVD player case.

5. Solder lengths of wire to the IR activity LED (as my control board LEDs used a common ground I did not need to solder a ground connection.

6. If you have a shorter USB lead handy you may want to solder it onto the board in place of the stock cable. The stock cable is extremely long and would take up valuable space inside the enclosure. The IR receiver would also be very useful repurposed in other projects.

6. Reassemble the circuit board into the case leaving out the semi-transparent front.

7. Firmly mount the IR sensor in the front of the DVD player with the small black circle directly behind the window where the original IR sensor would receive its IR signal.

8. Place the IR receiver unit into the DVD player enclosure. Secure it with tape or zip straps if you feel it's necessary. I did not bother to secure mine as it fit snugly and the unit will not be moved often in the entertainment center.

9. Plug the IR receiver into the USB hub, connect the hub to your HTPC, and then supply power to the system. Test the IR receiver functionality with the remote control. If it doesn't work then troubleshoot. If it works but the remote control has a narrow operating area then adjust the IR sensor mount position to be closer and more central to the IR window of the DVD player enclosure. Unplug DVD player.

Note I originally just soldered leads to connect the IR sensor to the similar leads on front circuit board of the DVD player. I wanted to test whether or not the receiver would work properly with 2 IR sensors wired in parallel (only one would be exposed to the remote control.) The receiver only worked sporadically. Instead of troubleshooting I wanted to get on with it so I just desoldered the IR sensor and soldered it back with about 8 inch leads to be mounted at the front of the DVD player (in front of the DVD player IR sensor.) I expect that it would be pretty simple (and far more elegant) to wire the DVD players original IR sensor to the Media Center remote receiver circuit board properly. That way the original remote sensor would be able to do it's job for you without needing any repositioning.

Step 9: Connect the DVD Drive and IR Receiver Leads to the Front Control Board.

1. Remove retaining screws from DVD player case - front control board.

2. Remove control board (it should have a ribbon cable attached still.) My unit had the leads clearly marked on the mainboard.

3. Connect the ground lead of the front circuit board to a ground point on any of the components powered (and grounded) by the power supply (USB hub, IR receiver or internal DVD drive.) With a multimeter test that the ground has continuity to all of the board components you will be using (LEDs, switches and possibly IR sensor.)

4. Connect the positive activity LED leads from the IR receiver and DVD drive to the appropriate LED supply leads or contacts of the front circuit board.

5. Connect the eject button supply lead to the appropriate contact on the front circuit board. Using a multimeter test that the contact is isolated from ground when the button is raised and has continuity to ground while the button is pressed.

6. Reinstall the circuit board into the DVD player.

7. Power up the system and test the functionality of the front panel. Problem = troubleshoot. No prob = next. Always unplug.

If the tests were fine then you have all the functionality we were hoping for in this instructable. Ir receiver, external DVD drive and extra USB ports.

Step 10: Close Up the DVD Enclosure, Connect It to the HTPC and Enjoy.

1. Make sure all of the components are secure and tape down cables if you like it neat.

2. Place the cover back on the DVD enclosure and secure with the retaining screws.

3. Test all functionality one more time. Somehow things tend to come loose if you don't test. They rarely fail if you test them - but they almost always fail if you don't bother.

4. Install the new enclosure in your entertainment unit, connect the HTPC and IR blaster if necessary.

5. Turn on your TV and enjoy.