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Case Modding

A system built this well should not only feel good on the inside, but also look great on the outside. Like the automobile hot rodding revival portrayed in the Fast and Furious movie series, case modding has now gone somewhat mainstream. This is a good thing, because increased demand means that competition and quality have also increased, while prices have dropped. When it comes to case modding, you can really get bizarre or creative. From liquid nitrogen–cooled CPUs to robot mods, you're limited only by your imagination.

Before starting, have an idea of what you want to accomplish with the mod. In this case, we're going to build a combination UV and cold-cathode windowed mod. We'll stick to a blue lighting theme, which will look good against our black aluminum case. Most components now come conveniently packaged in kits, and prices are competitive. As you can see in Figure 3, good case window kits now have the weather strip and locking strip combined into one piece. On the right of the picture is the narrow side, which fits into the aluminum case window. On the left side of the strip is the wider groove, which articulates with the acrylic window.

Figure 3Figure 3 Highlight of the case-window mounting strip, showing the greater and lesser grooves.

Before cutting your window, consider various positions that will best accent your design. Don't get too close to the case crossbars, or the weather strip will prevent you from being able to close your side panel. When you're ready, tape your acrylic window to the aluminum case side. It's important that you read and follow all the instructions from the window kit manufacturer, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you're a beginner.

You'll need to cut exactly half a centimeter around the acrylic window in order to leave room for the weather strip. The trick here is to use a large steel washer. Place a pencil inside the washer, and then trace around while letting the washer roll along the window edge. This ensures a precise half-centimeter buffer zone. After darkening the pencil line with a marker, you're ready to cut. I prefer a jigsaw.


Be sure to wear goggles; metal filings don't feel nice against the cornea.

A polishing wheel will help take the razor edge off the case after your cut (see Figure 4) Also, make sure that none of the metal filings make it back inside the case. Short of relieving yourself directly into a powered case, there's nothing more damaging to your system than this shrapnel.

Figure 4Figure 4 Use a polishing wheel to smooth and de-burr the edges of the case where you cut it.

For the top lighting, I chose a blue, circular, cold-cathode case fan. Not only does this add an extra fan for cooling, but it provides a brilliant light right at the level of the chrome Jet fan, which is the centerpiece of our mod—and it's the place we want to show the best. A 12-inch UV light goes across the bottom, just out of sight of our window. The graphics card actually works as a shield to cast a shadow from the glare of the cathode fan above to the UV level below. Thus, we have a twin-layer effect: cathode lighting on the top and UV on the bottom, both in blue. Add ultra blue UV reactive cables at the bottom, and add a triple blue laser LED bank on the right side of the window to finish the effect. The completed case is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5Figure 5 The result provides a cool blue effect against the black aluminum case. My digital camera doesn't pick up the UV effect at the bottom very well, but seen in person the mod is quite spectacular.

I say "finished," but a case mod is never truly finished. You'll want to keep tweaking it as long as you own it. This case has a lot of work to go, including glue gun work to clean up the cables; it also needs a good blue analog fan monitor mounted in the front bezel to really make jaws drop. I'll keep tweaking it as I move on to the next case, which will likely be a water-cooled special, or even a PDA mod. Meanwhile, send me your questions or comments (contact@airscanner.com); better yet, send me some pictures of how your own case mod is coming along.

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