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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Quetzalcoatl CaseMod

During my first case mod project of the Borg Cube, I took time to explore and compare several different case mod techniques, including window cutting, light kits and water cooling. These procedures are fairly basic in terms of modifying or altering a plain vanilla computer case. But, if you ignore the glued-on pieces of toys and printer parts, no significant changes were made to the double wide Borg system chassis or to its overall construction.

[caption id="attachment_175" align="alignnone" width="218" caption="The Quetzalcoatl case mod - really an experiment with arts & crafts?"]Quetzalcoatl Case Mod[/caption]

Taking a "craft" approach:
After my Borg project, I started compiling a list of other case modification designs that might be fun to do. I think that some of the more interesting computer "mods" are ones that result in a shell that no longer looks like a traditional computer case. This does not mean that you have to build a case from scratch, or that you need extensive experience in sheet metal forming, fiberglass, wood or plastic work (although it never hurts if you do have such hobby experience).

Instead, consider how you could stylize a case using some simple craft techniques such as with foam, hot glue, and paper-mache. The idea for this project is one of an "arts and crafts" approach to computer case modding, and to point out that you do not need to go all "high-tech" or have extensive experience building computers to do your own case mod. The reasons for modifying a computer case only need to be your own.

Keep in mind that any project you come up with needs to work within the environmental requirements of the computer system. You will need to keep air vents unblocked to maintain a cool environment for the system. And I strongly suggest that you need to plan ways to make your design modular, or at least to give you a way to access the inside of the case, not just for maintenance, but to be able to install components.

One thing I really liked about water cooling the Borg case was that the resulting system is very quiet, even if you aren't trying to overclock or improve cooling of the CPU, video, motherboard chipset or hard drives. For this case mod project, I could probably get away with standard air-cooling, and it probably would be slightly quieter because I will be building a secondary shell around the existing case. But I really like the dramatic noise reduction I found from the water cooling setup, so I will be installing a water system; this time it will be based on Danger Den components.

The blank canvas:
For this project, I chose the Raidmax "Virgo" ATX case, which has both front and rear 120mm fans. My first step is to remove parts that will not be used, including the plastic front bezel and to cover up the side window.

Why choose the Raidmax case for this project when I have stripped off or covered up most of the features? The main reason was because of my component selections and my choice to water-cool the case. I could not fit the two Danger Den radiators inside of several other cases I checked out before starting the project. To mount the radiators inside the case, it had to be at least a certain width; several of the cases I examined did not have the extra clearance.

I also wanted to have a minimum number of 5.25" drive bays to mount dual SATA drives in the Danger Den HDD water cooling kit, and still be able to have the top drive bay available for the DVD drive. None of the cases I examined could handle a radiator mounted to the rear 120mm fan either inside, where it was blocked by card slots or system board components, or outside, where it overlapped the rear I/O connections or video slot.

And last, for the top-mount radiator, there has to be a minimum clearance between the power supply and the front drive bay where the DVD drive is mounted.

System Configuration:

  • Case: Raidmax VIRGO ATX Case with 420W Power Supply

  • Danger Den cooling components:

    • Black Ice Xflow Xtreme Radiator

    • Copper TDX Socket 775 Water Block

    • Aqua Drive-2 Hard Drive Cooler

    • D5 12V Water Pump

    • 10-Foot PrimoFlex Red UV Tubing

    • Adjustable Hose Clamp

    • Red Cooling System Fillport

    • Fillport Reservoir

Next time: Tear it down to build it up. Removing parts not needed to make space for the ones that are...

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