Equipment Reviews

I have a love for computer hardware.

That means components as well as the outside cases.

Women tend to love shoes, purses, and things that sine. Well, that’s been my experience at least. (No offense is intended, I’m trying to prove a point)

Me? I like backpacks and computer cases. My wife says that  I use my backpack and my computer to define myself. While that seems like a silly thing to say, I think she may be right.  So, because of this, I think I’ve come up with a plan.

I want to review hardware and computer cases. Hell, maybe even backpacks. But mostly, I want to review the cases.

So, I’m going to approach a few vendors and see what happens. Worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no.

 

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The first step to case modding. (Case Modding 101)

So, most people that are in to gaming on their computers know what a case mod is.

You buy a stock case.

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You punch a window in the side.

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Maybe a blowhole for the top.

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Possibly a custom paint job.

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Stuff it full of amazing components.

And go.

Well, I had always been interested in case modding. I looked at it with a wonder and an awe that I can’t really quite explain. I loved the way cases looked when they were all fancy with all of the fun little trinkets that a case could contain.

My big problem is I had no skill to do such wonderful work. Or at least this is what I told myself. So, because of this, I found myself purchasing pre-modded cases.

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They look okay, in fact, some of them even look downright awesome, but you are aware that you have the same case as hundreds or even thousands of other people out there.

For some people, this is okay. For others, this might be considered partially unacceptable.

Well, after  years of owning pre-mods, of using bland cases, and of using computer cases that were pleasing to the eye but still plain, I decided I finally wanted to go a little bigger and do my own mod.

My first mod.

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In fact, I posted pictures of the results recently. It turned out quite nicely.

Well, the point of this post is to actually encourage you to take that first step.

I started by purchasing a coolermaster Elite 343 for my new computer. It’s a great case. Pleasing to the eye, small enough to tote around, but big enough to hold all of my components nicely. I was happy with the initial case. But I was curious so I started digging around and I found that there are many resources online for case modders. Many videos. Many tutorials. Many places to get good information for taking that all important first leap into the world of actually cutting holes in a $50 piece of steel.

I’ve decided to take a handful of them and put them here. I have also decided to take a few short lists and post them here so you have an idea of what you need to purchase if you want to make your life while modding considerably easier.

So, without further ado, I offer a list, a string of videos, and some verbal encouragement. With a little luck, a little willingness to try new things, and a little bravery that causes you to pick up a jigsaw, you can have something that just screams your name.

Here we go.

The Tools

The following is a list of tools that will make your adventure in modding WAY easier. Not all are required, but all are useful.

-Safety Glasses (REQUIRED!)

-Jigsaw with a 20tpi blade (Cuts steel)

-Handheld drill with drill bits

-Hole Saw

-A rotary tool (Dremel or some other brand)

-Tape Measure

-Masking Tape

-Pen/Pencil

-Hand files

-Handheld rivet gun

-Screwdrivers (Phillips and Flathead)

See? The list of tools are all things that you most likely have sitting in your garage or basement already. Even if you don’t, I think the rotary tool is the most expensive one. Do you have friends? Do any of them have any of these tools? Might you be able to borrow a tool? Possibly bring them over with their tools to help you cut up your fantastic case? Just a few things to consider.

The Mod List

Okay, so there are a number of mods that someone can do to their computer. I offer you the following four suggestions that are super simple. Deceptively good looking. And while they have been done to death, are a GREAT place to start modding. I give them to you in the order of difficulty.

-Case Handles (Four drilled holes. That’s it!)

-Blowhole (Five drilled holes, and 10 to 15 minutes with a rotary tool)

-Case Window (One drilled hole and 20 minutes with a jigsaw)

-Painted Case (3 hours with a can of spray paint)

See, this list is short, but it offers up some great ideas. Almost everyone starts with one of these four projects. Each is awesome because they give you the opportunity to do things how you want to do them in a way that has your own personality and style to them.

Since I do enjoy writing, but I am also notoriously lazy, I am going to post a few links to help you with these projects. While I could explain them in depth and detail, the videos that I am going to share do a much better job since you can actually SEE what you are doing or what is going on.

Lets look at our first mod…

CASE HANDLES

See, this is super simple. Now, you don’t have to purchase your handles from MNPCTech.com if you don’t want to. Believe it or not, I bought mine at walmart out of a clearance aisle. Just look wherever someplace sells drawer handles or gate handles. Simple.

Case handles are the easiest mod you can do to your computer.

Okay, next one…

CASE BLOWHOLE

Case blowholes can be done on the side or the top of a case. While I did my blowhole up top, the video below will instruct you how to do a blowhole on the side.

Again, SIMPLE! It’s not hard at all to do these simple mods.

Okay, so you have handles now. You have a possible blowhole on your computer, be it in the side of the case or on the top of the case. That’s awesome. BUT, how can we go a little bigger?

Well, lets move on to mod number 3.

CASE WINDOW

With a single drilled hole, and a jigsaw (Or a dremel if you feel so inclined), you are about to put a window on the side of the computer. Now, the acrylic (Plexiglass) that they use is available at most any walmart or home improvement store. Home Depot has the perfect size for about $3.00.

But, I digress, on to the video.

… All I can say is that wasn’t hard at all. No, NOT hard. I did this recently even, do you want to know how my case turned out? AMAZING! Straight edges, smooth after I took a file and sandpaper to them, and after putting in the channel edging, it looked smokin’.

But, this leads me to mod number 4.

CASE PAINTING

I like red, blue, green, black, and a handful of other colors. But, my case, while it was black, just didn’t “pop” the way I wanted. So, this is what I decided to do. Icebreaker red.

Well, I thought to myself, I’m not good with a can of spraypaint… is there a way I can learn?

heh…. yes. Yes there is.

Now, I listed tools, I listed some videos, but now I’m going to talk about something that is just as important as the basics I posted above.

TAKING THE PLUNGE

Case modding is an amazing hobby. There are SO many things that you can do. The only limit is honestly your imagination. Recently, I mounted speakers in to my case so I didn’t have to lug speakers around to places with me. I thought that was pretty awesome.

I’m considering mounting a monitor to my case on a swing arm right now. Possibly putting in storage space for a keyboard and mouse. I don’t know. But, regardless, this is what I am enjoying doing right now.

So, this is what I want to say to you as you read this.

Case modding is not hard!

It really isn’t. It’s fun. Sure, we all make little mistakes. But honestly, that is half the fun of learning the hobby. Taking that first step to put a drillbit to the steel was the hardest part of the process.

As I stood in my basement with a fully dissasembled, BRAND NEW, computer case before me, I had my drill in hand and was nervous.

My lines were drawn, my cuts were figured out, and my first hole was ready. I put the bit to the steel, pulled the trigger, and at that point, I was committed. I don’t have skill when it comes to things like this. In fact, I often half-ass them. But I found that once the drill hole was in, I was in for the long haul. I pulled out the drillbit, plunged my jigsaw in to the opening, and pulled the trigger. I haven’t looked back since.

I know the material from the videos and the blogs. I knew that if I followed the lines on the case, or used a piece of wood as a guiding edge for my saw that I could cut a straight line. Once I made that fourth straight line and the plate of steel fell from the case and tinkled to the floor, I knew that ground had been broken.

This wasn ‘t hard. This was fun.

5 minutes with a file to get rid of a sharp edge and I suddenly had a place to put my newly opened plexiglass.

I had modded my case.

You can to. I know you can.

Hell, if I can do it, any untrained monkey with a jigsaw can do it.

I promise you, it’s easy. Just take the plunge.

Jump in.

Mod it till it bleeds!

(On second thought, just mod it… don’t bleed. That usually requires a trip to the emergency room)

It’s Icebreaker Red

Holy Crap. It’s been a while.

I could apologize, but hey, it’s my blog. I can do what I want.

So…. here is the post.

Let me preface what I did and why.

I have never done a mod before. Today was my very first.
There were a lot of lessons learned.
There were a few mistakes.
There were a few moments where I was really glad that I have the job I have.

So, with that in mind, let me show you what I’ve been up to.

I’m in the process of building a new uITX machine and I wanted to go with a tiny case. But after a little debating, I decided to go with a Micro-ATX.

I’m cheap, so because of that, the case had to be cheap.

Enter the Cooler Master Elite 343.

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This case seemed really awesome in my view. Two weeks ago when I settled on this piece of steel and plastic, I said to myself “Garen… That’s a really nice case”.
I figured since it was a nice case that I would wind up putting it on the floor by the desk and just occasionally admire its stunning rugged black beauty.

Then came Bill Owen.
I stumbled on him on the internet and suddenly I had this urge to cut holes in stuff. Paint stuff. And all round be a little more manly.
Thanks Bill… I think.

Anyways… I am in the Coast Guard and I serve on a ship.
The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw to be specific.
See? This is my ship.

Now, being in the military give me access to all sorts of cool stuff.
Wanna install a blowhole? Great. Here is a steel knockout punch.
Wanna cut plexi? Great, here is the bandsaw.
Wanna engrave someone on that plexi? Awesome, here is the engraver.
Wanna cut a freehand hole? Perfect, here is the jigsaw.
You can see that having access to these kinds of toys can be a bit dangerous.

Anyways, you saw the picture above, I started with a fairly attractive case.
However, after watching the MonsterMawd videos, listening to the podcasts, and spending WAY too much time reading this forum, I decided on the following.

-I need a blowhole.
-I want a window. But not something gaudy.
-I need something custom that says… “Me”.
-I have to have contrasting paint colors.

I’m still figuring out what I’m going to be doing for the electronics, switches, and so forth, so those will come later… but with this list of awesome features (Simple ones to start with), I have created the following.

Notice the contrasting icebreaker red and the black? This inspiration came from the colors of my ships hull. You can see a better version of that contrast here…

But enough of the ship… back to what I built.

The blowhole is clearly visible here.

Chrome on Red looks nice if you ask me. I used a hydraulic steel knockout punch to make the 3″ hole. No sharp edges. A touch of sanding. And a perfect circle. No sparks, noise, or metal shavings to deal with.

More view of the backside and the blowhole.


A side profile shot of the case.

My cuts weren’t the straightest on the window hole. However, this was my first time. Next time I’m going to use a jig to ensure straight lines. The window is 1mm plexi. I’m going to use 1/8″ or 1/4″ next time I think.

I wasn’t able to get my hands on the 3M 4010 (Tape of the Gawds), but I was able to find the Loctite equivilent. It works well enough.

Now, if you look close, you can see that there is a little etching on the plexi. This was engraved. The symbol you are looking at is my rating designator. I am an E6 / IT1 in the Coast Guard. This is the badge that I wear on my sleeve (In dress uniform) that tells you what my job is. I figured this was the part that screamed “Me”.

Here is is a little closer.

Okay, so we have the paint, the window, the blowhole, the etching, and the tape of the demi-gawds.

Honestly, I’m happy with my work.

I don’t think I’m done with the project yet though. While the parts for the computer showed up today, and I’m writing this post on the new system, I think the case is going to receive a few more tweaks.

Handles are next.

Here is the info I’m using for that step….


I hope the read was enjoyable.

-Garen