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As much as we would love for our computers to work perfectly, the fact is that PCs and gadgets are complex devices that often fall short of exactly what we want. When confronted with this fact, we’re reminded of the old saw that says if you want something done right, it’s best to do it yourself. And who are we to doubt that kind of wisdom? As power users, we’re not content with hardware the way it comes out of the box; we have an insatiable need to hack our electronics in ways that will improve performance, functionality, and ease of use. And there’s no doubt about it, modifying your hardware will increase your productivity and make your life that much simpler.
The following pages contain a wide selection of hardware projects, ranging from novice-level tweaks to expert-only operations. From cable management and case mobility to LED soldering and firmware upgrades, each of these useful hacks has been tested and verified for effectiveness. Still, you’ll definitely want to read through our step-by-step instructions completely before starting, to avoid any mishaps. If you’re prepared to accept the risks—possibly voiding warranties and damaging your hardware—your efforts will yield some sweet rewards. So let’s get hacking!
Noisy fans and rattling disk drives can be a nuisance, especially if you regularly leave your system powered on overnight. Short of confining your PC to a closet, the best (and most practical) sound-dampening solution we’ve found is to apply sound-absorbing foam to our case’s side panels (on the inside, of course). Acoustic PC (www.acousticpc.com) sells dual-layered foam sheets ($50 for a three-pack) that can easily be adhered to case interiors for priceless peace and quiet. The panels are just 7mm thick, which is convenient for densely packed systems where space is limited.
First, measure the dimensions of your case’s side panels. If a fan is permanently attached to the side panel, create a paper template based on the fan’s dimensions and trace that shape at the appropriate place on the foam.
Cut a sheet of sound-dampening foam based on your measurements. Excess material can be used to line other locations, such as the floor or ceiling of your case; just be careful not to cover any ventilation holes or high-heat areas, such as the power supply.
To apply a large sheet of foam, start from one corner of the panel and slowly move to the opposite end. Press the foam firmly against the panel while slowly removing the thin plastic sheet protecting the self-adhesive gum with your other hand. Avoid creases and air bubbles by peeling and progressing patiently.