Dewalt Tool Box PC




About: I am a musician, internet developer, and a hobbyist pedal builder.

Dewalt Media Center PC

About 2 years ago, I needed a rough and ready ; road worthy PC, with built in wireless. What to do? Build one of course! The problem was simple - a notebook wouldn't do what we needed it to ; in terms of POWER, naturally - and the only solution was to take a full sized PC with us on the go.

Cases got dented, we cursed just about every manufacture until ....

We built two Dewalt tool box PCs. w000t. It's still exciting. I've (literally) kicked this one around for about 2 years now ; everything from being stacked to dropped pretty hard and it still works great. I should mention the rubber inserts (not contained in this article, I'm sure you can figure out some rubber padding) are a big reason why it still works.

Step 1: The Problem....

The problem for me was fitting the full sized ATX board into a DeWalt Drill Box ; along with an ATX power supply. Keeping a full sized PC cool in a smaller space is always fun - AND it also had to be very quiet in this situation, so fan speed controllers were going to dial in the temp to make it quiet, as well as cool. In the end I drilled installed an ext. fan over the CPU ; and drilled vent holes . You'll have to shop around, and find the smallest components (I used a 3 PCI slot board ; with no PCI-E) ; mini ATX PSU, etc..

It took a lot of returns, but it's worth it. You end up with a really road-worthy PC, that takes the abuse ; and can be stacked just like any other road gear. Plus it's fun to make.

Some things to consider that aren't necessities but I recommend before starting this project are:

  • Wireless USB Mouse / Keyboard (combo)
  • Fan Speed Controller
  • CPU Temperature Display / Sensor
  • Foot switch (so you can throw it under something out of view, hit the side with your foot for on/off)
  • Rubber Inserts (padding from shock)

Also not required ; but suggested:

  • An understanding girlfriend whom doesn't (know) you are crazy (yet)
  • Sedatives.
  • Muscle Relaxers.
  • Booze.
  • A pink tu-tu
  • And an eagle's feather.

Step 2: Tools and Materials


  • A 'Dewalt' Drill ... hahaha (for vent holes)
  • Grinder (to cut out Dewalt Inserts ; holes for the board face & PSU)
  • Exacto Knife (to cut out Dewalt Inserts)
  • Sander (to sand the case bottom smooth)


Dewalt Tool Drill Box / or others ... whatever is free ; preferably empty.

ATX PC Board
CPU / Memory
CD Drive (for install) [ext. recommended]
Hard Drive
Mini ATX Power Supply
Temperature LCD / Sensor (optional)
Fan (external) over CPU
Fan Speed Controller (optional)
Board Standoffs (plastic ones with flat bottoms & double sided tape)
2 Part Epoxy , Gorilla Glue , etc...

[note: don't worry ; you won't be using the double sided tape - but you still need stand off's with flat bottoms]

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Ok, well now that you have all the parts to this puzzle ; let's put it all together.

#1. Start with your Dewalt Tool Box.

Prepare your box for anarchy.

Cut all inserts (dividers) inside of the box out. I've done this with a Utility Knife, and a grinder. Also measure and cut the areas out of your box where your boards ports are going to need to be exposed as well as the power supply area. Importantly on the PSU note - make sure you leave a bit of plastic to screw the PSU to the side of the tool box. Next lightly sand the bottom flat ; because you will have ridges in the plastic dividers still exposed from cutting.

Your Dewalt tool box is going from holding tools, to holding expensive hardware - so clean everything thoroughly after you do this job of preparing your box for the motherboard and hardware.

#2. Decide where it's going to go.

Mapping out where components are going to go is part of the entire mystery in this project. Every component is different, so you'll need to find what works for you. Generally the smaller the better ; and going mini ATX on everything can really make this project go quickly. You won't run into too many problems.

I , on the other hand - choose an AMD board for this project which was small but a full sized ATX motherboard. This made things a super tight fit between the motherboard and the PSU ; so modification to the Power Supply unit housing was required.

#3. Installing the Hardware

{ 3.1 } Mount your motherboard using the stand offs with flat bottoms first. I recommend removing the double sided backings on them if they are there ; and 2-part epoxy, supergluing / gorilla gluing / etc.. to the chassis. It has to be hard core stuff, because you won't want to fiddle with ones that have worked their way loose later. Remember to drill holes over your CPU heat sink & fan assembly .

I like to construct rubber 'shocks' for the bottom of the board, and sides touching the case for extra chaos protection.

{ 3.2 } Mount any PCI cards you need ; half sized ones are A-OK ; but you'll run into problems with full sized ones. Remember to drill a hole for that wifi antenna. Mounting the cards without the brackets is also an art. I just used zip ties in the end.

{ 3.3 } Mount your mini ATX power supply using ALOT of two part epoxy to make it stay (forever!) in the case and not move. This is crucial. Everything has to be stationary. * see video below *

{ 3.4 } Mount the hard disk as shown in the video below. It comes sideways off the handle area ; and is built with an air gap in mind to keep things cool. It also suspends the hard drive ; to avoid shock.

{ 3.5 } Hopefully, you also have a fan speed controller and temp display & sensor to hook up as well. I highly recommend this ; it will prevent you from getting your new box too hot.

But hey, not enough ugly green paper is something I can relate to. If built without one, just make sure you put plenty of holes over the CPU's fan and heat sink ; and a fan over the hard disk area.

{ 3.6} Hook up your on/off switch & LEDs where ever you want ; I installed mine at the base of the box so I could kick it under a table to start the PC up.

{ 3.7} Install (temporarily) an IDE or USB external CD-ROM drive to transfer your favorite OS flavor.

Step 4: Putting a Toolbox PC to Good Use

I've found the most common uses for the toolbox PC to be....

  • Music Recording PC / Gig-read recording unit
  • Media Center (for at home, music collections ; etc.. )
  • Wireless Security / Wardriving (multiple PCI wifi cards anyone?)
  • Itunes Jukebox (wirelessly connecting multiple itunes libraries as a hub to a stereo)
  • Letting people know you are a total geek ; but in a cool way. You can BUILD geek stuff, after all.
  • Dates with intellectually superior girls who think your tool box PC is pretty dope. (uhhhhhh, yah!)
  • Having a PC that's completely out of the way
  • In Car PC
  • LAN Gamers

So yeah, enough said here's some more pics !!

Step 5: Other PC Designs

You can build one of these into just about anything ; including a receiver if you think that will fit in with your home entertainment system better for media pc applications. However, in my experience the most practical, portable, straight forward full board housing has been the tool box PC.

Here is another design Jon and I built, using an old receiver as a housing. That's the PSU mounted internally outside of it's housing so it all fit, which I do not recommend for unsupervised home use ; but it worked fine and we later insulated it from the main board and housing better. This PC was used as a media center / home theatre jukebox to store a friend of mine's CD collection ; and was operated through a big screen TV using a wireless mouse.

Good luck ; and have fun with your custom chassis project.



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    52 Discussions


    3 years ago

    nice build, to make sure it's safe in rough environments, you should use an SSD instead of a HDD. and for battery power, you could probably modify the power supply inside a laptop to match the atx requirements of the board


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I made one of these too, a little more cramped because of my full sized PSU but it's pretty cool, all my friends love it. I only had one problem, my graphics card was too tall, so I got a agp flex cable and placed the card on an angle. Oh, BTW it's a hackint0sh


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You could have an SSD and liquid cooling so you wouldn't have that huge hole in the case for the cpu fan. Less holes means more structural integrity, and nothing would be able to accidentally jam the CPU cooling fan. Also, less moving parts means less potential for failure. Maybe you could even liquid cool the PSU. Another idea: if you are using this in a car, ditch the ATX power supply. PCs run on DC electricity, so you could build your own DC-DC power supply. That way, you could power it off of a 12v car battery without need for an inverter. There are so many possibilities :)

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, great suggestion -- I'd love to make a liquid cooled / SSD one ; it would really cut down on the noise ; possibly making it almost silent which would be great as a recording studio PC. I like your idea for ditching the PSU for DC-DC as well - that would be really useful for folks installing something like this in a Vehicle / RV.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Liquid cooling systems still have radiators that usually requires fans to generate adequate airflow, and still give off heat. A fan and vents would still be necessary.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    i just made one about 2 months ago but i used a bell and howell case and mine doesnt have a disk drive ill post an instructable on it soon

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 5

    currently building my own case. my problem is that i need to fit 5 SATA HDD's, a custom fan controller, a home theater/volume/remote box (2x5.25") and a dvd drive into a case that ONLY vents from the front and back and is less than 7.25" wide by 24" tall. so far i have basically ripped apart a whole buch of old cases that fit one of the criteria but not some others. i have the tray and most of the back, but i still need the top and sides and i need to buy the innards. it will contain an AMD phenom II x4 940 (3ghz), 2x ati radeon 4790s and 4gb 1666 mhz dual channel DDR2 ram.

    9 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    no way your going to fit 5 in there i could only fit one and im still working on the disk drive  but just to tell you how much did that cost you! where did you get that kind of money!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    BTW, I have 4 Hard Drives in that little dewalt case now. Only problem is the heat can't dissipate fast enough, and I fried one. Will probably swiss cheese the box more before I fit another replacement. Using as a file server under the bed, and VNC into it when I need to control it.




    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     the case i am building is not a toolbox. mine is designed for a specific space. it is 7.25"x24"x21" (WxHxD). and i have already built the drive trays for all of these, and they will fit, two of the drives are bolted sideways onto the case door to fit all of them. i have not actually bought the parts yet, i am waiting until february, when the price will probably drop.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    aah i see by the way you want to have some kind of material to protect the hdds because mine sometimes rattles (can reduce its life by 50%) and you might want to check Milwaukee PC they've got them for cheap.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Rubber cubes work great for this ; or you could make 'floating' rubber footed platforms for the HDs.  Think of how the lens / mechanism in a CD ROM / CD player 'floats' inside of the casing with rubber feet ; so it isn't jarred. 

    I'm 95% finished mine here. Capth00k used a DeWalt cordless drill case and I thought that was Great! I took it a step father and used the DeWalt skillsaw case for mine. I threw in a DELL system into mine and there's a lot of room to grow with in there. I tossed out the 250Watt Dell P/S and put in a full sized 450Watt unit. I was able to put in 2 HHDsthere's room for 2 more...SATA maybe?,  as well as the CD reader(Dell didn't like the thought of DVD readers(?)) as well as wireless WiFi and Wireless keyboard/mouse(Logitech MX 5500). I'll be adding a set of logitech speakers to the case, first time I've boughten something JUST to butcher...well...ok...maybe a small lie there, then it'll be complete. (still working on pics ASAP)