Turn an Old VCR in a Desktop PC




Preface: my wife needed a new desktop PC, and I had a powerful Mini-ITX ASUS fanless motherboard lying around, bought some time ago for research purposes (I'm a software and embedded systems specialist).

So... i could have just put the motherboard in a standard micro PC case, but, where is the fun?

Just the time to go in my basement, and voilà! An old small VCR I kept for component salvage, that has the right size for the new contents ;)

Needed materials:

  • an old VCR case;
  • a Mini-ITX form factor motherboard;
  • a Flex-ATX power supply (it's smaller than standard ATX power supplies);
  • a 2,5" hard drive;
  • LEDs and USB/Audio connectors from other old PC case;
  • rotary tool (such as Dremel, or a cheap tool);
  • hot glue gun;
  • glue, zip ties, some pieces of scrap plastic or wood;

Step 1: Find the Right "case"

I've found this old small Toshiba VCR in my basement, that perfectly fits my needed dimensions.

The firts step consists in removing all unneeded parts from the inside.

Step 2: Motherboard Installation

The motherboard installation is very simple: I've just glued four small pieces of forex plastic (that rigid plastic made of PVC, usually used for signs) I had in my "scrap box", and screwed the motherboard on them.

You can even use some small pieces of wood, also.

The "rear window" for the motherboard was made simply cutting a rectangular area of plastic with a cheap rotary tool.

Step 3: Power Supply Installation

The VCR box had an aperture that almost fitted the size of the Flex-ATX power supply. I just needed to enlarge it a bit with the rotary tool. The power supply is fixed in place with just a bit of hot glue.

Step 4: Hard Drive Installation

Once placed the motherboard and the power supply, there was a free corner where to place a 2.5" hard drive. I've glued a small piece of plastic foam on the bottom of the case to reduce vibrations, and sticked the hard drive on it with two small pieces of adhesive velcro.

Step 5: Motherboard Fan Installation

Although the motherboard is designed for fanless operation, I've noticed a bit of overheating during the first tests. So I've placed a "case fan" on top of it, salvaged from an old PC.

Note: i've done some vent holes in the side of the metal cover, near the hard drive, to ensure air circulation in the entire box and on the hard drive. Sorry, no photo... it's only a grid of holes.

Step 6: Front Panel Connectors and LEDs

The original VCR had audio and video RCA connectors on the front panel. Just the right place for extra USB and audio connectors!

I've salvaged a connector board from an old pc case, trimmed it a bit, and hot glued on the front panel of the VCR (with just a little bit of trimming to give space to the usb connectors, since the original receptacle was recessed).

I've also glued two LEDs for power and hard drive access status in the back of the transparent window where was the VCR display. Note: in the photo you can see a bicolor LED (the type of LED with 3 pins). You cannot use this type of LED, because it has common ground. The motherboard needs to have a separate grounds for LEDs, because it switches power on the cathodes of connected LEDs (+5V lines are always connected).

After tested the issue, I've replaced it with two normal LEDs.

Note: I forgot to take a photo for the power button modification. I've used the original power button, and simply soldered two wires on the original switch.

Step 7: Finishing Step

Almost done!

Connect all the needed wires inside (motherboard power, hard drive power, sata cable, fan cable...), install a SERIOUS operating system on it ( http://manjaro.org/), and enjoy!

Thank you for watching!



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Will a vcr your size fit a MicroATX sized board?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    @PeterK1: no, the VCR i've used is rather small. I've taken the smallest i had, because i had a miniITX board. You could try with larger VCRs, probably you can find a larger one, suitable for microATX board


    4 years ago

    One problem what type of VCR I have Aton


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Fun ,I like it! Did you have enough place to fit a DVD drive behind the tape entry?

    Maybe display some messages on the VCR display, would be fun.

    I agree, CreativeGeek. I'm an Arch user from long time, and i still think this is the best distro out there. But the recent changes to the AIF (Arch Installation Framework) made me moving to Manjaro. AFAIK, this is still the more comfortable arch-derivative distro available. And despite it's name, it's almost 99% still a pure Arch. Have a try ;)

    I did, actually, when I was ditching Fedora a year ago, mainly as I was curious if it really was as bad as its rep, which it was not, and I also tried Archbang, ultimately went with Archbang, stuck with that for a year, and then recently installed vanilla Arch, and am sticking with it, and I'll also install it as my distro on any future hardware, as it's relatively easy to install if you follow the directions in either the Beginners' Guide or the Installation Guide.


    4 years ago

    Now you just need to figure out a way to have the clock on front flash the all too familiar "12:00" that I'm sure we are so used to seeing. :)

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    If he does embedded systems, throwing an ATTINY85 in there to flash 12:00 should be simple. thats a pretty funny joke feature.

    I have an old OLD Sony I've been wanting to do this to. Lots of metal cutting. I mean it's REALLY old...


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    good idea, rpotts2! It's really simple to set up a small circuit with an atmega8 driving the original display salvaged from the VCR unit, maybe adding to it an RTC module (you'll need some spare pins to drive the display). Putting v-usb in the firmware, one can also give to the device the ability to be connected via USB, to set up the clock.

    Good idea, but i think i will never add it to the build, because i've mounted the case under the desk board, using some square brackets, so, the display will be useless, to me...


    4 years ago

    great idea..


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Way to squeeze some life out of that old VCR case. Nicely done!