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MacBane - A worklog/modding guide for a new way to convert G4 Towers to ATX


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#1
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Hi everyone, I'm a long time lurker of the forums and thought I would share my latest project.

I have had an old "Sawtooth" PowerMac G4 lying around my office/man-cave for a couple of years just being used for website and Flash testing. It is now ten years old as of January and it’s about time to retire it forever as the ancient and completely obsolete guts it has now make it next to useless when compared to the quad core Hackintosh tower that replaced it. I do like this case as it's a classic but its time as a PowerPC based Mac is over. And I am sure that there are a lot of people here who would love to see a way to fit a full sized tower cooler into a G4 case, consider this guide a way to do it. Looking in my parts bin I found more than enough (somewhat) modern components to put this thing together. Please note that this is my first mod, all input is welcomed. :D

Motherboard & CPU: Asus P5QL-EM and an Intel Pentium Dual Core E6300.

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Video Card: BFG GeForce 9800GT 512Mb with AC Accelero 1 Rad.
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Memory: 4Gb of OCZ DDR2-1066.
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CPU Cooler: OCZ Vendetta 2 that I grabbed for $12
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HD: A WD 320Gb SATA with a stock Intel heatsink thermally glued to it (it was part of my old folding box).
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PSU: An OCZ 400W "Fatality" that I picked up for about $25 last summer.
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And finally, a wireless card with a pretty good antenna as this machine will be used all over the place.
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Here's what I am starting with:

The Victim
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Arrrgh ancient PowerPC, AGP and IDE!
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Specs
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Rear end
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Not a lot of connectivity here
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The G4’s old motherboard is approximately the same size a Mini-ATX board with four standard spaced expansion slots, the motherboard posts do not line up with ATX standards so they will have to be removed and replaced. The rear panel will have to be altered to accommodate an ATX IO plate, and the optical drive bay will have to go as in its current location will hit the RAM and likely the tower style CPU cooler too when the side of the case is closed using its new M-ATX internals.

So let’s tear this thing apart.

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All of the plastic panels covering the steel interior are secured by the acrylic handles and feet using flat hex head socket caps, the whole thing came apart fairly easily and I was surprised by a few things I found. Considering that this thing is a decade old it was interesting to find a wireless antenna running from the motherboard section to both sides of the case, I’ll keep this to see if it can be put to use later in the project.

Apple hid a bunch of the system controller chips under the motherboard including a made in Canada system controller using the case itself as a heatsink, and an Intel AGP controller. Though kind of nostalgic all of this old junk has to go.
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So with the machine stripped of its plastic shell and old PowerPC and IDE components I am left with this:

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Here's where the big differences between my project and all of the other G3/G4 case mods start.

Now I have seen many examples of this type of project before, but to be blunt most G4 case to ATX conversions look like real hack jobs. One of the sources of problems with retrofitting this case for modern ATX components is that every single mod I have come across uses the old PSU mounting bracket that runs the whole length of the case, this greatly restricts the height of the CPU cooler (as seen in the image here from someone else's project) and provides a potential cable routing nightmare as ATX power supplies are not made for this type of case layout as the distance between the PSU and the MB changes between the open and closed positions of the case.

So I started with a seemingly easy solution; remove the old optical drive/PSU bracket and relocate the PSU.

The most logical position considering what else has to fit in there is to put it somewhere in front of the case and having it exhaust out of the bottom as the old PSU exhaust location will be fully occupied by the CPU tower cooler.

Another difference between MacBane and other G4 mods is where the hard drives are located, Apple originally left room for drives to be mounted onto the bottom of the case using some steel plates. I will use a custom aluminum bracket that will hold both the hard drives and the PSU to be located in the front of the case.

Now all I have to worry about is clearance for the video card when the case PSU/HD bracket is mounted as the 9800GT with the Accelero S1 cooler needs about 10" to fit from the expansion card slot opening.

My next step is to remove the old PSU/Optical drive bracket seen running along the middle of the case. I have a USB DVD-R if I ever need to used optical media down the road:

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All that is required to remove it is to drill out a few rivets, super easy:
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Looking better already:
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Now to size up a M-ATX board using a junk board filled with PCI Cards for alignment to get an idea of how much of the back plate has to be edited.
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So after a little measuring it looks like the easiest solution is to remove the entire backplate from the red line (drawn in the picture below) over to the right. Of course all of the expansion slots use the same piece of metal as the backplate and had to have a new rivet added to prevent any warping or wandering that might cause the motherboard to be mounted incorrectly later on in the project.
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This tab has to go too if I want to use my audio jacks:
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Rivet location:
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Now for some sparks:
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And the end result of two cuts and a few rivets being drilled out; a nice open IO location ready for a new MB.
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The standard ATX IO plate won't be used, instead I plan to build a custom one out of either Acrylic of Aluminum sometime soon.

Next up it's time to figure out where the new motherboard standoffs are going:
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Used a Popsicle stick with a dab of paint to mark the holes.
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Nice and easy to see where to drill now.
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I also figured out where I will be making a few edits to door latch mechanism that fits under the motherboard as I have new standoff locations to contend with.
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Planning out the bracket dimensions using a POS power supply (the magic smoke left it long ago).
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Time to give this case some real ventilation by ditching the grill on the side 120mm fan and adding another 120 to the bottom of the case.
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The old PSU location is getting a face lift too as it will now be home to twin 80mm exhaust fans that will help keep this machine nice and frosty by comparison to the toaster oven it used to be.
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After a marathon cutting session this thing is ready to breathe easy.
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Time to tap the motherboard standoff holes.
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And finally the construction of the HD-PSU bracket starts:
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I test fitted it with the dead PSU and I am happy to report it fits perfectly, if it didn't I would be seriously ticked off.
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Rails for two hard drives added
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I used a pair of ancient 1 and 2Gb drives from the 90's for test fitting, so far looking good and there won't be many cables visible when I am done...awesome :)
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Next components:

Cheap but decent Acrylic Panels:

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Clear Polycarbonate 6mm thick and bullet resistant

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Time to put this stuff to work.

As for other plastic components of the case (referring to the outer shell of the machine) I picked up some Krylon Fusion in Gloss Black, Flat Black and Flat White. And for the metal parts some good old Tremclad and some translucent red.

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As for the case progress I removed the last section of the old IO panel as it will make adding a custom one much easier later in the project.

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I will be building the motherboard standoffs and modding the latch panel next.

Time to get the motherboard standoffs installed, I am using some 6-32 x 3/4 machine screws inserted from the backside of the case into the holes I tapped several steps ago.

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I am keeping this as simple as possible and used some PVC tubing to make some 8mm non-conductive spacers to keep the motherboard suspended above the door latch.

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Nice and easy.

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Next up was to mod the sliding door latch that goues under the motherboard using a 3 amp rotary cutter.

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Two minutes of work later the latch pane now fits with the new motherboard standoffs.

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I then started to fit the test motherboard onto the new standoffs to make sure everything was aligned properly.

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Looks secure to me.

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Now its time to attach the HD-PSU rack to the case, you probably get a pretty good sense of where all of the cables will be going from the shot below.

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Now comes the fun part to see if I measured everything correctly, the rack is designed to be mounted 25mm above the base of the door, you can see the riser supports below.

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One tool I think will be very handy is my laser level, by lining it up with the HD-PSU brackets outermost edge I see that I have a few millimeters of material to remove from the door catches on the front of the case.

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More to follow shortly ;)

Any comments or input is welcomed.

#2
apple apple

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Looks awesome. I'm sorry if I missed it, but will there be no dvd drive? I like that rack you made, do you think it will need any added support? Do you see any problems fitting the plastics back on with the cables like that?

#3
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I have a USB External DVD Drive for installing the OS, just like the MacBook Air.

#4
MarioMac

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It's smells like a very good mod project !
Interested to see the final product !

N.B actually I modding my G4 QS too to fit a full ATX mobo. Its very hard, but the mobo fits good, needs just some adjustments for closing the case well.
Your hard drive cage give me some ideas fo my two HD and SSD, thank you ;)
I'm interested with your paintjob too (I think to paint the plastics in white and the interior in black or metalgun grey)

Sorry for my bad English.
Best regards.

#5
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The building of the HD-PSU Rack is done and it is mounted to the case by machine screws. All that's left for the bracket is some sanding and finishing work before I finally get to start the painting and cosmetic side of the mod.

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I did have time to do a little bit of paint testing, I want to make sure it's going to look good before doing the real deal after all. Below is a bit of the translucent red that is supposed to look like anodizing. It's not fully hardened yet but it looks great on the aluminum.

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If people are wondering about the paint colors and cosmetic next steps;
  • The interior of the case will be a flat black with red accents such as the PSU rack
  • The outer sides of the shell will be flat white with the logos painted gloss black
  • The covering for the center of the machine will be a combination of gloss and flat black
  • The handles will be white of the outside and black inside
  • The case will have lighting, I am thinking white.
  • And I plan to reuse the original power switch and LEDs after a bit of soldering of course to work with an ATX board.

Now all I need is a bit of sunny dry weather to start painting ;)

#6
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Alright now for an update. All metal parts are complete, metal component fabricating and painting is all wrapped up. :D

Before painting started there was one last addition to the project; front mounted USB and e-SATA ports that will be accessed through what used to be the Zip drive opening.

Aluminum bracket material, plastic drive cover, and the USB/SATA cables.

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Front bracket almost finished, this was made with a drill, a Dremel cutoff wheel, and a small file.

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Now here's the bracket mounted in its new home.

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All of the PCI Slot covers, CPU Cooler, Ram Cooler and bolt through CPU mounting kit ready for painting.

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And the same box of parts now with a shiny coat of transparent red.

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Here's the case after its first coat of primer, I used Tremclad primer for galvanized and zinc coated steel as this case has a lot of zinc over the steel and wanted to make sure the paint would stay on forever.

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And here's the case after three coats of flat black.

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CPU Cooler had it's top plate painted.

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And the HD-PSU bracket and some fasteners get a candy red coating (yes I see that drip on there, some sanding is in my near future).

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Next step will be modding the motherboard. Below I am starting to enhance the cooling ability of the NB cooler by replacing the bubble gum TIM with some MX-2 and ditching the silly Asus sticker plate. All I have planned for this coming week is to make and add some custom made MOSFET coolers, I'll post pics for sure.

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And on a different note my I will be taking next week off of modding (for the most part) as I will be taking my wife and kids down to see a couple of events the Olympics. And no, I didn't get any hockey tickets :censored2:

Go Canada!!!

#7
MarioMac

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The flat black and transparent red are a very good combination… Congrats !

Your are lucky, I worked my full ATX G4 convertion too, and after a mATX and full ATX work, the case is to damaged, the door not close as well, the screws of the plastic panel are damaged (I cant retire the screws)…

All hardware fits great, but I do some mistakes on my work… finaly I think the case is inestetic and dead… :censored2:

Now I purchase a full atx p.c case… Like the Fortress FT02S, I think he is so "Mac" but he is very expensive on my opinion…

Continue your interesting work ! and one more time, congratulation !

P.S I think you can fit a sloat-loading laptop DVD drive in my opinion… Or use that http://farm3.static...._4136f0bfde.jpg , if you paint the plastics like that DVD obviously…

Cheers.

#8
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Hey Mariomac, feel free to send a few images of your case as I might be able to suggest fixes for the issues and thanks for the feedback.

A lot has changed in the last week; all of the original hardware except for the video and wireless cards have been replaced as I sold the initial hardware to a neighbor who's PC had died.

My wife has a rule; no new computers in unless an old one leaves the house first.

She qualifies the sale of the components as one leaving and that has partially funded the following upgrades:

CPU: Intel Core i7 860

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Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 with a Noctua 140mm NF-P14FLX for a fan

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Motherboard: Gigabyte P55M-UD4

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Ram: Corsair XMS3 4GB DDR3-1600

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Power Supply: Corsair TX 750w

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Now all I have to do is wait for UPS to arrive :(

#9
banini_jeque

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Still not how I think it should be done, but I like it. I didn't do mine the way I think it should be done either though. Guess I'll have to do another one soon.

#10
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Still not how I think it should be done, but I like it. I didn't do mine the way I think it should be done either though. Guess I'll have to do another one soon.


There is no one way to do anything, my main goal was to fit a full sized CPU tower cooler into the case allowing me lots of overclocking headroom. What did you do with your mod?

Slight change of Ram choice, the Corsair has been switched to G-Skill ECO DDR3 1600 8GB (2GBx4) CL7-8-7-24 1.35V kit. These will run quite a bit cooler than standard 1.65V DDR3 which is a good thing as I can see that the ram cooler I had originally planned to use will not fit; it will collide with the videocard. In addition to not needing a cooler the same way I'll save around 16w of power consumption at stock speeds and still have lots of overclocking headroom when I need it. Plus being relatively low profile they should fit under the 140mm Noctua fan. Hardware Canucks has a pretty good review here if you are interested.

These X 2:
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Now for some Plastic painting prep work :D

#11
MarioMac

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Hello Photograph, nice upgrade :D

For my case the solution is to find a new lock system for the door… I cut the locks of this plastic plate (under the mobo) to fit the full ATX mobo… The door close, but on the sides of the front and on the back don't fit correctly…

The srews, I have a barbarian solution, but, first I need new semblable screws…

If you interested, I give you some fotos of my mATX convertion :

Mobo : http://tinyurl.com/yeh3tmv

Backside with custom panel : http://tinyurl.com/ydsfp3w

Frontside with home-made PWR button and white LED : http://tinyurl.com/yfsgz52

Back with cables, all connect well : http://tinyurl.com/yaacupt

And the slim slot-in DVD drive : http://tinyurl.com/ya5z4gv

Hardware list : Mobo : DFI Lanparty JR P45-T2RS - CPU : QuadCore Q9550 - 4Gb Ram - 1.5 Tb Hard drive - GPU Geforce 9800GTX+ - SSD Kingston 64 Gb - Bluetooth, fans etc…
This first convertion will be a success…

For my full ATX conversion, it's the same harware, just the mobo is now the DFI lanparty dk p45-t2rs plus, If I have the time to do some fotos with my some "problems" I did the pics…

My english is catastrofic, sorry.

Cheers.

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#12
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That case has lots of options to make it better, give me a little time and I am sure I'll come up with a solution or two :)

As for my project Plastic work has begun! :D

Here are the body panels prior to any work starting.
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Front and rear panels:
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Warming up the soldering iron to take the front panel apart.
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The Power, Reset and Programming (that's what the third one was) buttons are attached to the face plate by some little posts that I just have to melt the ends off of.
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The small Apple logo at the top of the front panel just pops out, I want to keep this in good shape as it will be acting as the light for both power and drive activity (White and Blue LED).
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And the last thing to go is a thin sheet of reflective plastic, won't be needing that anymore.
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Now it's time to remove the big Apple logos as painting will be much cleaner, you can also get an idea of how scratched up the panels are. Everything is getting wet sanded with 400grit sandpaper and washed in TSP before painting tomorrow.

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The logos on the side of the panel are held on with a lot of super strong adhesive and the logos are recessed so it is impossible to get them off without damaging them or the panel from the outer side. However inside there is a small hole that I used a thumb screw to slowly and carefully pop the edge of the logo up.
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Door latch, Buttons, logo, and door hinge bar.
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Then I used some rubbing alcohol and a plastic tire lever from a bike tool kit to ease the logo off.
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Tools used and results.
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Next up is making a few edits to the rear panel in order to provide airflow and room for the new IO panel. You can see the light through the area that will be removed to allow the two 80mm exhaust fans to go.
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This plastic is damn tough stuff, its polycarbonate for sure as it grabbed my cutting bit snapping it off and sending it into my hand.
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Being a lefty it just has to hit me in the finger I use when driving. :wacko:
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Taking a look at the panel from the non-doored side of the case I can see where the old 120mm fan was drawing it air supply from (see dirt below).
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So I made a bunch of hidden vents along the bottom edge of the panel using my Dremel. The blobs of poly have been sanded off like the one vent below.
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So next up I thought I would see how everything looked together as the new PSU was availible.
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It was here where I realized something...
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:D :D :censored2: :censored2: :censored2: :censored2:

The TX750 is about an inch longer that what I had designed for and overlaps the hard drives. So looks like I will be solving this little problem while paint is drying tomorrow, I am thinking that short of buying a few 2.5" SSDs I may have to settle for a single drive mount.

More to come soon.

#13
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Took a little time out tonight and sketched up the idea I had to fix the little issue caused by the bigger PSU. What I came up with is actually a lot more secure and stable than the original idea, the only question was would it fit?

So I made a little scale drawing:
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Even if I am off a few millimeters on the drawing it appears I will have some wiggle room to play with if needed ;)

#14
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And in other news; Painting has begun on the exterior panels, and yes I am keeping it classy :D

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I have been painting and wet sanding between coats for two days now, the scratches and scuffs on the case are non-existent now.

Clear-coat is my next step, more to come.

#15
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Nice colours :wacko:

#16
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Nice colours :wacko:


Thanks, it will be a black and white Tuxedo Mac when I am done.

Below is the front panel pieced together as it currently looks before the final sanding and clear coat.

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The outside of the machine will be while while the core is black :(

And one final update for the day, here are the feet and handles of the case painted to match the side panels in matte white.

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#17
mishkakow

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Ah man, great build. I have a mint case I bought off ebay 10 yrs ago waiting for a similar project. It's really a great build up with lots of useful information. It's really too bad that you didn't go for a stock DVD drive implementation, but you do have the external so to each his own.

One thing I would change...I noticed you're painting OVER the plastic? There is a technique to dissolve the paint on the interior of the panel. That way you get clear plastic and can paint the inside panels and have that stock looking plastic albeit with a custom paint job.

Great work so far, and thanks for taking the time to write it up!

#18
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Ah man, great build. I have a mint case I bought off ebay 10 yrs ago waiting for a similar project. It's really a great build up with lots of useful information. It's really too bad that you didn't go for a stock DVD drive implementation, but you do have the external so to each his own.

One thing I would change...I noticed you're painting OVER the plastic? There is a technique to dissolve the paint on the interior of the panel. That way you get clear plastic and can paint the inside panels and have that stock looking plastic albeit with a custom paint job.

Great work so far, and thanks for taking the time to write it up!


Thanks for comment :( I wanted to paint the back of the panels initially but because the plastic was scratched and scuffed in a lot of areas I had to go the tougher route of painting over the panels. Plastic is not easy stuff to paint properly, wet sanding between coats is a must to get rid of the "orange peel" effect seen on the black front panel above. I am looking at picking up a second case and hoping that it is in better shape for my next project, and on top of that I have a Quicksilver G4 that is currently on loan to my parents that is in mint condition (ie no painting needed).

#19
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Parts have started to arrive! One thing that surprised me was how small the Hyper 212 was, I am used to the TRUE 120 being my go to cooler for builds.

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And damn this is a nice little board!

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Now all I need is some memory to show up to start testing this thing :D

#20
supermx3

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inspiraton +1, got one of these cases and never did anything with it, might have to start again





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