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RETIRED MEMBER - PLEASE GO TO HTTPS://GRADIVIS.COM/PROJECTS TO SEE THIS WORK LOG!
The aim of this mod is to shake up the norm of aluminum-silver G5/Mac Pro mods by employing a darker theme for my Mac Pro. I want it to be clean and non-flashy, yet still have the gravitas to make people stop and take a second look.
TO DO LIST
This list is more for my personal benefit than anything, but will give you a good idea of what's to come!
- Install custom front panel with USB 3.0 connectivity (waiting for part)
- Install anodized DVD drive cage (waiting for part)
- Install panel-mount 3.5mm female jacks on the back of the case (waiting for parts)
- Possibly install panel-mount USB 3.0 ports with right-angle adapters (not sure if they will fit...)
- Improve PSU airflow by drilling holes/removing side of enclosure
- Install white LED light strip and inconspicuous power button for lighting (waiting for parts)
- Possibly replace GPU and HDD LEDs with white one (kinda leery of messing around with my only GPU!)
Well, despite having Project Gravitas on pause due to hardware issues, I couldn't turn down an eBay auction for a poorly-described Mac Pro chassis, that was listed without pictures and simply titled "Apple Case". On a whim, I decided to take a chance (they had listed one part number for a Mac Pro fan, so I figured it might be a Mac Pro) - $30 and no other bids later, I had a PERFECT Mac Pro show up on my doorstep. Ebay win:
Despite being mostly empty, the case had only one small scratch on it, and the important parts like the front panel and shelf were included, so I had absolutely no reason to complain.
Here's a quick and dirty shot right out of the shipping box:
I knew that I wanted this mod to stand out. I'm always encouraged to see the sheer volume of G5/Mac Pro mods floating around various communities, and after being inspired by the Gunmetal G5 project from ToddFX on G5Modders (and contacting him to find out how much he paid for his anodizing), I decided to make some phone calls around town and see how much the cost of anodizing a Mac Pro would annoy my wife. She would undoubtedly (and not incorrectly) think that it was superfluous. Well, "superfluous" is not in the vocabulary of most modders, and I was delighted to hear back from "Anodizing Specialists" in Ohio that, yes, they would be interested in me coming down to talk things over. Delighted, I took a trip to the shop to talk with the VP of operations. Being an aluminum guy, I would like to think that he appreciated the hunk of his metal of choice almost as much as I do. Sitting in his office he pulled out some color samples, and I chose a dark gray. I had toyed around with black and even white, but this is to be my last computer case for a little while, and dark gray is my favorite color. After going over the case with magnets, he pointed out the parts that needed to be removed and told me to come on back when I had it disassembled. He very kindly gave me permission to photograph and document the process for informational purposes, which will be released in a forthcoming article on G5Modders.com, and of course will be included in this worklog.
Not having the same experience that I do with the G5, I decided to be overly-organized with my disassembly. Every part/area has its own bag, and in that goes any parts and related screws/fittings. It's annoying, but I'm sure I'll thank myself in the end! (Note: a lot of this full disassembly is applicable to the G5!)
The awesome modular drive bays that I won't be using:
This is perhaps the most intricate and difficult case that I have ever worked with, and that's including old server towers from the 90's! With this more than any other case, TOOLS ARE EVERYTHING. If you don't have the right tools, you're going to have a tough time doing things efficiently, and you'll probably end up cussing.
(T8 Kobalt Bit)
Before picking up the tools above, I was close to giving up twice. "It's not worth it", I thought to myself on those occasions, "just do a regular mod". Once I buckled down and bought the tools, things were MUCH easier, if only slightly faster.
I'm going to hazard a guess that there are around 80 screws that you need to remove for full disassembly, although considering everything I had to take out, that could be an underestimate.
The above screws are the biggest pain the neck. Being so close to the bottom of the case, regular screwdriver handles are simply too big to have space for your knuckles to turn, and of course Apple uses that blue loctite stuff on all of their screws, so pliers just don't cut it most of the time.
Once I had removed all the screws (including the hidden ones…sigh) I carefully pulled apart the handles from the shell. Now I'm not sure if I did it correctly, but using some fabric in between the two parts, I pulled the handle assembly away from the shell, and slowly slid up out and over, taking care not to scratch anything! I don't have pictures of this step as it takes both hands, but I'm here to help if anyone needs guiding!
Here's half the beast, looking like a car door in a gangster flick, riddled with bullet holes:
Here's a close up of the pesky screws that I mentioned earlier. Four would be fine, but 8+ on each side is just a pain:
After that, there were more screws to separate the two halves of the shell as well as some rivets that had to be drilled out, but that was relatively easy with much more space to work in! Still, look at these alternating rivets and security screws:
Steve Jobs meant it when he said he didn't want people rooting around inside Apple products. Finally I removed anything that was not made of aluminum, including all I/O plastic and EMI shields, and several screws and a few other bits and bobs here and there. Pics to come of the thing totally apart! Hopefully I'm dropping this case off to be anodized in the next few days, so we won't have to wait too long for a pic update. I'll have some mod plans drawn up soon as well. Thanks for watching!
I wanted to push watercooling to the most. Silent. Level. possible.
While gaming and also for working.
Quite a challenge and a lot to learn.
Thoughts on water-cooling:
It always depends on the use-case if water-cooling is more silent than air-cooling.
My personal experience:
Air-cooling is more silent in idle load scenarios (when you just do some easy tasks like browsing or office) Water-cooling is more silent for constant high load (e.g. when you are gaming/working for long times)
Tricks to get the water-cooling as silent as possible:
Configure the BIOS to turn off the radiator-fans in Idle load scenarios. That leaves only the pump running. Undervolt the pump (to e.g. constant 7V).
This works best, if you can plug the pump into a fan or pump header and assign a constant (lower that 100%) speed to it in the BIOS.
If your BIOS does not allow that, you could use a resistor-adaptor to slow it down.
This project started before my 26 PowerMac G5 Case Modding Project
So, I am officially crazy...
I bought 26 Powermacs (G5)
And I modded them ALL
They are now ready for ATX and mATX Mainboards…
But why 26?
Did I mention I was crazy?!
(And they were only sold together…)
I modded G5 Cases before – They kind of became my passion.
This time I wanted everything to be perfect:
- Keep as much of the original design as possible
- Cut as less as possible
- Since it is impossible to find a G5 Case without dents and scratches, I wanted to paint them, freshly.
I am done now and it is time to share my experiences:
It was a rough 6 months from start to finish.
The project kept me busy during all of the winter.
I worked every weekend on it, till late.
I need to apologize…
…to my family for occupying their workshop, guest rooms and garages
…to my friends for neglecting them during the last months
…to the dogs and the cat for waking them up from their afternoon nap every now and then (because of the metalwork-noise).
I hope to be able and show everybody that it was worth it - And that someone out there is appreciating the work, as well.
Back me up, guys - Spread the love :-)
I believe in Apples high quality and the unique design of Sir Jony Ive
My mods include a preinstalled power supply (and even watercooling on some)
Countless hours of work and high-quality components & tools were used
Of course, you can come and have a look if you are near the South of Germany (or the North of Switzerland).
I do not have the money to equip all cases with CPU, RAM and SSDs right now.
But it would be so much fun to do it, now that all the hard work is done.
I will definitively equip machines later and build completely custom machines
I already equipped two of the shown modded cases with complete hardware.
One was for a music-studio. One for my brother.
Threads for the finished build projects will be linked here later:
Workstation & Gaming-Beast for my brother:
- ATX- X99-Mainbaord
- 8-Core Intel XEON E5-1660 v3 (Overclocked to 4 GHz - all-core)
- 64GB ECC-RAM (Registered DIMMs) with dual Copper heatsinks & Heatpipes
- 3x1TB SSD RAID5
- Two 1080Ti in SLI (two flexible SLI Bridges were later installed)
Ryzentosh (For music production studio):
o mATX Mainboard
o Ryzen 1700X
o biggest cooler on the market (BeQuiet! Dark Rock Pro)
o 32GB RAM (ECC Unregistered DIMMs) with Aluminium heatsinks
o 3x1TB SSD RAID5
A finished (painted) case from the outside.
The Apple logo is gone after painting…
For the better, I think!
The rear of a finished build
All the planning that goes into modding one case actually affected 26 cases. It had to be perfect. That’s why I planned every step and every purchase of parts, meticulously.
Then I applied every individual operation to all cases, one after another.
This raised the quality of all cases.
The metalwork (Filing, sanding, equalizing, gluing and painting) took a very long time. I don’t even know how many hours it took per case because I always did one individual operation to all cases (e.g. filing or cutting) and then started the next task. It probably took a couple of days per G5.
Then I broke my shoulder in May 2017 (doing something stupid on an Austrian glacier). That made it harder to do the sanding for a couple of weeks.
But even though it was painful, I couldn’t stop...
The different case-types:
The painting turned out very well.
I chose the best 14 cases after painting and decided to finish modding them, completely.
I will call these “Barebones” in the following.
In the pyramid-pictures they are always on top, because they were finished last and taken to the workshop more often.
The 14 best cases got equipped with a 600W PSU, front-panel, water-cooling (for the mATX Barebones), apple power-cables, etc…
They are now proper Barebones. No more hard work needed to finish the build.
Just missing a motherboard (and maybe hard drives) - and done.
12 other cases did not end up perfectly painted, but still good. Some orange peel here and there. Only 4 of them have stronger orange peel. I will call these 12 cases “Empty Ones” in the following.
An “empty case”
What to do with the “Empty Ones”?
They are also clean and modded. Ready for ATX or mATX boards, empty PSU-Enclosure…
One could make furniture or art out of them…
One could finish the mod with a new front panel.
Or one could paint them again in a different colour…
I don’t know…
Let’s start from the beginning:
Delivery: first we sorted the cases from “good condition” to “scratched and scuffed”
This sorting turned out to be useless, later as I ended up sanding, filling and painting all of them. I chose the best ones in the end.
We disassembled everything and sorted the parts – plastics, aluminium, batteries, electronics, etc… then gave everything to recycling. I am an environmental engineer, so this was important to me. I gave away all parts that could possibly be reused - Like fans, RAM and graphics cards.
There are no pictures of the disassembly, because it has been done by many people already and we were also too busy (it took a couple of days).
We ended up making our own tools and screwdrivers for removing the processors and mainboards, because many screws are hard to reach.
All parts that I wanted to keep were cleaned and kept separately. E.g. the fan grilles on the back, the rubber screws for the HDD Caddy or the DVD-drive stand-offs
Planning & Conversion
Then I made a plan for the easiest ATX conversion with the least cutting.
Best thing to do: Cut an opening to the back - big enough for ATX boards I/O and reuse the original PCIe slots for graphics cards. This turned out to be just perfect. I tested different boards. E.g.: ASUS TUF X99 (ATX) and ASrock AB350M (mATX)
Night shift – working with the Dremel
First cut for the ATX Mainboard I/O.
All the Internals are removed. Also, the fan grille with its many mini-screws. So that the plastic is not melting.
Cut-out (before filing and sanding). Sharp edges. Straight cut of the long sides thanks to the big angle grinder. Shorter sides were done with the Dremel for precision towards the edges.
Then the filing and sanding removed all sharp edges.
I removed all the Motherboard standoffs from the inside, cleaned the surface with Isopropyl alcohol and glued the standoffs in the new places for ATX Boards using the 2K Aluminium Epoxy. This took a lot of measure to fit a mainboard in the right position for the PCIe-Slots. I bought test-boards that were placed in the empty case with a graphics card plugged in and then the screwholes werde marked on the stencils.
I made two different stencils. One for ATX Boards and one for mATX Boards:
Putting the standoff through the stencil and securing it with a screw
Cleaning the surface before gluing.
Both stencils with standoffs and fresh glue – right before placing it in the cases
ATX stencil in the case – gluing down the standoffs.
mATX stencil while gluing. It had to sit like this over night to make sure the glue is hard.
Then, the stencil was taken out. There is no tray necessary under the mainboard. All stand-offs / threads are in the right position for standart mainboards, now.
Now that all the disassembly, cutting and gluing was done it was time for some fresh paint.
Before painting it was necessary to fill dents, file edges (there were chips, especially on the feet) and sand EVERYTHING to smoothen the surface and remove unwanted oils.
Fill, file, sand, repeat…
I used 2K Aluminium epoxy to fill dents
The Epoxy is like a cold weld. Hard and sturdy.
Dents before filling
Dents after filling - before sanding
Filled and sanded case.
At first I did not want to paint them myself.
So I bought the right 2K-Aluminium-paint (had to try different ones to find the perfect colour and shade) and handed four cases with the paint over to a professional paint shop (arm-industry - specialized on parts for tanks).
They were happy to try this because they wanted to train their varnisher-apprentices on something that is more difficult than the usual tank-parts.
The results were good, but It turned out that these cases are really hard to paint…
I was not 100% happy with the result. They returned from the paint-shop with some varnish-runs on the bottom of the cases. They also missed some spots that were hard to reach.
So, I changed my mind and decided to paint all the cases, myself (again...)
What a fool I was.
This took a week.
First of all, I needed a cleanroom.
So, I converted a shed in my parents’ garden.
Shed / Cleanroom – Winter-time
Thanks to my brothers’ help, the setup turned out really clean and airtight. Crucial for keeping it warm.
To keep the shed warm, I used a big oven and additional electric heaters. My father even set up a big chimney, so that the smoke was led further away from the shed (as smoke=small particles that would leave marks on the fresh paint).
I had a compressor on hand (with 30m hose) and used a spray-gun for coating the cases with Aluminium-paint. We used the spray-gun for car parts before.
Paint-Shed from the inside
Hanging case before spray-painting
Usually two or three cases were sprayed at a time.
All cases were sprayed at least two times with thin coats.
After spray-painting it was time for drying
The freshly sprayed cases were put in a sauna at roughly 80 degrees Celsius. That sped up the hardening and caked the varnish in.
The fully varnished cases after drying. This is the result:
The cases with the white bar on the back have the original Apple 2x2 Wifi / Bluetooth antennas in them (with two plugs) I installed a second 2x2 Antenna. Now they are 4x4.
The (IPEX? MHF?) connectors are bigger than those I have seen before. They don’t fit the tiny connectors on laptop-wifi-cards.
Maybe someone used the Apple Antennas with a PCIe Wifi-card before and can give me a tip or even post a link?
The “Empty Ones”:
This is what the 12 empty cases look like, that have some orange-peel skin:
Basicaly the underside of ALL cases looks like this - because they were placed on their feet for drying or Spraying. You will never see this when the case is standing on its feet.
An “empty-one” - ready for ATX boards.
Empty PSU-Enclosure is installed. Fan-bracket is in place. Sometimes still with apple fans.
A finished ”empty” mATX case
You can see some orange-peel skin or varnish-runs on the “Empty Ones”
I modded the 12 best-painted cases to create fully-modded Barebones:
Time for re-assembly:
The Apple-fans were removed from the fan bracket. They were loud and needed re-wiring anyways. It is recommended to put more modern fans in there. I renewed the rubber-fixings where necessary. You do not need screws to put fans in. They are held in and decoupled by the rubber. Vibration is not passed on to the case.
I put the PCIe slot brackets back in (they were also painted, of course) using the rubber-headed HDD screws from other cases. In case you want to add more HDDs you have the right screws at hand.
The fan-bracket fits in its original position. That works fine for most Mainboards. If you have a Mainboard with very high VRM heatsinks or high I/O (e.g. with 6 stacked USB-Ports) you can either remove the fan bracket completely (I did that for my brothers build and just clamped some BeQuiet! Silent-Wings 2 - 92mm in) or move the bracket up a bit - by not inserting the hooks under the lip, but rather clamping the bracket above the lip (I did that for the Ryzentosh, it is also very stable).
The bracket holds two 92mm x 25mm Fans
My favourite: Noctua NF-B9 redux-1600 PWM - 92mm
They look like the original ones and are very quiet. (I used them in two projects)
Cheaper Arctic PWM Fans for testing
The Power-Buttons needed to be painted, as well. Over time they lost some of their thin chrome coating due to touching. The 2-K varnish is thicker and will be much more durable.
Secured the power-buttons down using double-sided tape during varnishing
To make them fit perfectly again, I needed to scrape of excess paint from the sides. The buttons would easily get stuck otherwise.
The case without any front-panel board or power-button.
Half of the G5s I bought were “late 2005” models. The front-panel-boards of all G5s have the same size and fit in all the cases.
Only models before “late 2005” have a front panel connector-socket. So, I had 14 front-panels that could be used with BlackCH-Mods-cables, and 14 perfectly painted cases. That’s a match.
Re-installing the power-button board with its securing ring. This took a long time because every button had to be re-adjusted to work nicely again.
Also notice the rubber piece on the right-hand side. This is needed to support the front-panel board when plugging in the cable to the connector:
Installation of the front-panel board.
The housing of the front-panel board has also been painted.
The custom-made front-panel cable by BlackCH Mods. They were not cheap but they work.
I marked all the connectors on one of the cables to make them easier to identify.
Audio works perfectly even though there is a proprietary sensing pin on apples board. I recommend to set the front-panel type to “AC’97” in the BIOS / UEFI instead of the default “HD Audio”. That way the front panel audio is basically ON all the time and you can choose other outputs from the task-bar. I used Realtek drivers for Windows in my last two builds. For a Hackintosh you would need to follow BlackCH Mods manual or ask the community about the best settings.
Plugging in the mod-cable to the front-panel connector.
Securing the plug with the black cap. It is pushed down even further than shown in the picture – so it clipped on to the board itself to give the connector more pressure and therefore stability.
DVD / Blu-Ray drive:
Eject the disc tray with a paper clip.
Unclip the front-plate, so it does not get stuck in the auto-opening Apple-aperture
Screw in the stand-off screws (I saved those)
Finally, slide the drive into the mounting-bracket and close the two little retention arms. Done.
PSU (Power Supply Unit):
I thought a long time about the perfect PSU.
I really wanted to re-use the original PSU-housing, because of the clever placement in the case. It sits flush with the mainboard at the bottom and the original power- socket is a MUST to reuse for aesthetics and stability.
The original Apple power-plug with Apple power-cable.
How do you get a new PSU into the original Apple PSU?
I did not want to crack open a standart ATX PSU and jerry-rig its sensible (and dangerous) electronics into the original PSU-housing.
So, I looked for a server-PSU that would fit inside the original housing completely with own housing and fan. Safe and sound.
Not an easy task setting those up, because server PSUs often have proprietary connectors.
Also, I wanted 600 Watts of output power to drive any overclocked CPU with a powerful graphics card like the GTX 1080Ti.
Soldering on the new -internal- power-cable to the original power-socket in the Apple PSU housing.
Shrink-tube protects the soldered joints.
The cable will be connected to the new PSU inside. As an extension.
The input-filter is still connected to the socket.
The Apple power-cord.
I found the perfect PSU.
A 600W PSU by Supermicro.
Supermicro is a very known brand in the professional server market. So, I can trust those PSUs to constantly deliver real 600Watts. They are designed to run under full load for years. Hence, they can be really expensive.
Many cheap PSUs just claim to be 600W but struggle to hold that power up for longer periods of time (or they degrade). This will not happen with a Supermicro PSU.
The 600W PSU comes with a 80+ Platinum rating.
That is one of the highest Energy efficiency ratings available.
Higher than 80+ Gold, Silver or Bronze (which is kind of the standard right now)
80+ Platinum means 92-94% of the Input-power is delivered as output. Only 6-8% is transformed into heat. That was important to me in order to keep the PSU quiet.
All PSUs before they were put in
It has the 1U form factor. So, you could actually fit two of them in the housing.
The 600W PSU plugged into the extension cord.
Securing the PSU in place
The 2005 Powermac Models have a bigger server power-plug (C19) suitable for higher power delivery of over 1000 Watts.
Almost half of the cases have this kind of plug.
They also have a bigger input filter.
Soldering the extension on.
Finished housing with server power jack (C19) on the outside and standart plug (C13) on the inside
PSU inside the original Apple-Housing
All the cables come out near the back of the case.
I created bigger openings for the cables to feed through.
All PSUs are prepared
The PSUs and their connectors have been tested with a PSU-tester.
These Server PSUs still have some proprietary connectors (and some cables, that are a bit shorter than usual), So, I bought different adapter-cables and extensions for the PSUs to make everything universal.
- PCIe 8-Pin (2x) for graphics cards (over CPU 8-Pin adapter)
- CPU (1x 8-Pin, 1x 4-Pin) – actually there is one more 8-Pin, but it is occupied by the PCIe-adapter. So, it is possible to do a dual-CPU setup with a small graphics-card, that does not need a dedicated power plug, as well.
- Molex (2x) (6x over SATA-Adapter)
- SATA (5x) (over Molex adapter), black sleeved
- 24-Pin ATX (20 Pin is possible) + Extension (black) + Dual PSU connector
- 12V Fan (4x over Molex Adapter), black sleeved
Different types of cables and adapters (in an mATX Case)
You can hide most cables behind the PSU-housing and under the mainboard, as the standoffs that hold the mainboard are quite high. That is the biggest benefit over using one of those tray-adapter-plates that would use up the space behind the mainboard.
The cables in an ATX Case (not hidden / cable-managed)
The original Apple 2-Bay HDD-caddy was glued into its new place to be out of the way. Only necessary in the ATX-Cases to fit the bigger ATX Boards in. Using high-temperature silicone.
Molex Power provided by adapter (if needed for 3,5” drives, most new 5400 rpm HDDs don’t even need Molex anymore)
ATX Case with a bit of cable management and the HDD-caddy in place
Finished ATX Barebones:
Finished ATX case with all equipment and the server power-cord
Finished ATX case with the Acrylic cover
Different finished ATX Case with cover and cable management
Watercooling (mATX Barebones):
Now that the “Empty Ones” and the ATX Barebones were finished It was time to mod the mATX Cases.
I added watercooling to the mATX-Barebones:
Best place for the radiator is the front. Here it will blow the hot air directly out of the case.
This is the 240mm radiator for the watercooling of all mATX cases
To decouple the vibration of the loop from the case I used a foam seal on the front of the radiator and a thick silicone-seal on the sides and the top
Gluing the radiator in with special high-temperature silicone. (This Silicone is usually used to attach the IHS to a CPU or to seal an exhaust pipe) – good for temperatures up to 329°C
Radiator in Place. Thick silicone seal is decoupling the vibration of the water-pump that travels through the loop.
The 240mm radiator fits right in between the PSU and the top-compartment.
The mounting kits for this Cooler Master AiO support all modern processors and sockets (775, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+)
Two 120mm high static pressure fans come with the watercooling loop. They blow out.
You could of course turn the fans around to suck air in (positive pressure).
I saved the important bits and bought cables for all Barebones
Every fully modded Barebone has its own new power-cable (half of them white apple cables, half of them black OEM server cables)
All fully modded Barebones have the acrylic cover
I kept HDD rubber-head screws, DVD-drive standoffs, Pump Mounting Kits in a little bag.
Finished mATX Barebones with watercooling:
Here are some pictures of the internal layout:
Pictures of the outside can be seen in previous posts.
Finished mATX Barebone
Finished mATX Barebone with all equipment
Finished mATX Barebone with all equipment
Types of cases & Barebones:
What I have right now:
12 fully modded Barebones:
6 - mATX - with watercooling
6 - ATX - (eATX boards should also fit)
12 “Empty Ones”
- 8 prepared for ATX (3 of which have heavier orange-peel)
- 3 prepared for mATX (1 of which has heavier orange-peel)
Thats it for now…
What do you think?
Was it worth it?
What hardware would you put in?
Please let me know…
Ok so im looking at doing some upgrades to my input devices and have found some that i like.
Keyboard: Corsair Gaming Strafe RGB Mechanical Keyboard Cherry Brown
Mouse: Corsair Glaive RGB Gaming Mouse - Black
Does the corsair software work on mac yet?
Does anyone use any other above with macOS and have any feedback for me?
Any feedback at all would be appreciated.