Building a custom fit computer

Aspire X-qpack desktopMy wife and I have been remodeling her office for the past several weeks and since we finally got the new floor and cabinets in, I decided to rebuild her computer into a cabinet fit unit rather than the Aspire box case that I originally bought for it. It's been an okay machine other than the Celeron D runs very hot compared to my AMD; but it's bulky and wouldn't fit very well on her smaller desk surface.

I basically trashed the case for parts, keeping only the power button and LEDs from the parts installed. I did pull out the front panel USB, audio and FireWire board – but I didn't wind up putting it back in. Since the motherboard tray just slides out of the chassis, it was easy to keep everything altogether and I did very little cutting. The only part I had to really destroy was the front bezel to get the power switch out in a way that I could reuse the housing. These are the parts I kept, and these are the parts I didn't.

I was originally going to go and get some 1/4 or 3/8 inch plexiglass, and glue all of the pieces together, figuring that would be the easiest way to go about it. I'm glad I decided to use some of the left over good plywood I had instead – because it would have been a huge pain in the arse otherwise. Using 1/3 ply, I cut the bottom and face, plus 2 small corner pieces to add more rigidity to the face of it. After removing the LEDs from the other case, I decided to go to Radio Shack and get some new ones with a chrome casing, the main reason was to get them to fit better, but they look a lot better too.

After cutting the CD slot, slot for the LCD temperature display, two holes for the LEDs and the hole for the power button I set about computer_finishedpainting and going through final assembly. The bulk of the work was done in a single day – I wasn't going for winning any awards – just getting it done really. Pictured is the completed case.

It turned out alright – nothing to really write home about – but it was fun, and I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when doing this sort of thing. First and foremost I learned I don't have the right tools for doing really fine and precise wood work. A coping saw is very difficult to use, and always make sure something is right-side-up before you silicon it into place. After getting it fit into the cabinet as well, I had to make a couple of modifications – in particular I had to add a case fan back into it to keep it cool. I thought having it be open would be enough, but no.

One thing that would have been nice though is to have had a hard drive cage to mount the DVD and hard drive rather than custom fabricating aluminum mounts for everything. I still want to build another custom PC – but right now I have no idea what I would do.