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 Post subject: HTPC case mod (now with cabinet cooling!)
PostPosted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:50 pm 
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Backstory:
Back in March 2007, I built me a proper Media Center - one that had room for improvement & expansion, and could do its job - well. Since 'expandability' (especially in the tuner department) = 'ATX', that's what I built around. It went in a midtower case, and was placed in the laundry room, headless.

Fast-forward to now, and the 360 in the living room (formerly the means of using said Media Center on that TV) has, for various reasons, moved out of the living room (it wasn't my Xbox.) Time to move the HTPC to the TV.
Problem 1: when I built the TV stand (yes, I built my own....), I built it to house standard A/V gear: 17"Wx13"D.
Problem 2: I've only found one HTPC case that'll fit in that space, and it's mATX. Every ATX HTPC case is at least 16" deep or more. :(

So, I chose an nMediaPC 2000B - I like how it looks, and it looks (on paper, by specs, and in pictures & diagrams) to be, ah, moddable for depth reduction. :lol:
I've had it for about a week and a half. Until today, I've only had the chance to study it - still looks doable.
Today, I (finally) had the time to tear the case apart.
Here's the case, less front panel and drive cage:
Image

The piece of tape on the right side? The bottom line is where the case will be cut; the top line is where the case will actually end. That's removal of just over 3.5 inches. :shock:

And, here's the case fully dismantled (top and bottom panels not shown) (damn, that was a lot of rivets to drill out!):
Image

Plans are to remove 3.5" from the case (at its back end, so as to hide any 'uglies', and 3 of its 3.5" bays for internal clearance (I only need 3 of the 6, anyways.)
My initial measurements & eyeballing say that, with three drive bays removed, my full-height cards (a pair of nVidia DualTV MCE tuners) will just clear the remains of the drive cage.
Phase two (when I can get to it: re-fold the sides, cut them down, and cut to fit; setart reassembly of case (for further fitment work.
The two front fan mounts (which also are structural members, and mount the drive cage) may be a challenge, as I think they may end up sitting on the motherboard (not good.) Might need to clearance those a bit, also might need to go with something slightly smaller than a 120mm front/side fan.

Updates to come, as I get the time to work on it.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:04 pm 
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Whoa! Thats a lot to cut off. :shock: Makes me glad I have room for a full size HTPC case :D (Antec Fusion 430), best of luck with that Cup!!!


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Yes. Yes it is a lot to cut off. The board will still fit; and, I'm fairly certain that the cards will clear what's left of the drive cage when I'm done. :lol:
Speaking of cutting stuff off...... Round one is complete - I got the sides cut down & re-folded today. A bench vise & a body hammer actually make a decent substitute for a sheetmetal brake!

Image

That chunk to the right isn't even all of what was cut off - that's just how much had to be cut off to fit the side panel in the vise. I then cut off another ~.75" after the end was folded over.

I had wanted to put the fan mounts back on the side panels, and start playing around with re-fitting the motherboard tray, but, I lacked in a key ingredient: I haven't bought rivets yet. :oops:
I'll take care of that tomorrow after work, and probably head up to the shop on Saturday to do some serious work on it.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:57 am 
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A sheet of plywood and a couple of 2x4s work great as a brake as well if you are bending something wider then the vise can handle.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:11 pm 
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I did make it up to the shop today. And, much work was done. I actually would have finished it, but had one car to work on - that took the hour I needed to finish it.

Partial reassembly:
One problem that I had been thinking about: the front fan was originally mounted on the right side of the case. This would be a problem, as the fan mount wil now overlap the motherboard slightly.
Solution: swap the left and right sides of the case. Easy to do, as they're perfectly symmetrical!
Image


Here's the main body of the case (almost) fully reassembled. The markered area on the fan mount (at bottom left) will be removed for mobo clearance.
Image


Now that the main body is done, I can drop the drive cage in, eyeball it, and figure out just how much needs to go for card clearance:
Image


And, as you can see, I whacked off two drive bays, as well as a portion of a third.
I figure this should provide just enough clearance for my full-height PCI cards:
Image


Bottom panel cut down, feet remounted, and panel installed:
(sorry, no pics of the process - I was on a roll!)
Image


And, the near-finished product:
Image
Image



I did realize something, once the drive cage and front panel were back in: with the loss of 3.5" of case depth (which works out to nearly 270 cubic inches of volume), cable management is going to be a bitch!
I'm also going to get me a new optical drive - my DVD drive is IDE, and I do NOT want to deal with trying to work that cable into this wee little space.

More to come later. And, I promise some pics of the modding of the top (which will be the same as the bottom was.)
I do need to remember to bring a piece of plywood up there for my "sheetmetal brake" - the carpenter's square wasn't quite long enough to fold the bottom (easily.)

Once that's done, we'll get to see just how well an ATX motherboard, 5 cards (three of them full-height), three HDDs, and one optical drive, all fit into a seriously shortened HTPC 2000B. :P


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:33 am 
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I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Looks like some tricky stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:38 pm 
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Actually, not as bad as you might think. But, I may have a couple of advantages here:
1: I'm a dealership tech - it's my nature (and, day job) to take things apart & put them back together (10 years now);
2: My initial career path was as a heavy-collision tech. 6 years of that (before I figured out I really didn't like that), and working sheet steel is second nature. :)

Back to the mods: I got the top panel done tonight. Just over an hour of work, and the case is done! :D


I'm missing a pic here (thanks to Shakey Phonecam Syndrome) of the first cut of the lid (necessary to install the lid for bend measurement)....
So, here's the lid after the second trimming (cutting its side lip down to length, prior to bending):
Also note the main tools of the trade - die grinder, high-speed sander w/ 36 grit Roloc disc, and a hand file.
Image


Lid installed - here, you can see where that side lip will be cut to length (this is actually just prior to the previous pic):
(silver Sharpie was my friend!)
Image


Lid installed, and bend line being scribed:
Image


Poor man's sheetmetal brake (thanks to nsvander for the plywood tip - worked much better than the carpenter's square did on the bottom!):
Image


Bottom bent, installed (temporarily), and marked for final trimming:
Image


And, all trimmed up, screw holes drilled (and, enlarged - I was off a wee bit on them.....), and bolted down:
Image


And, the finished product - it's like a 2000B, but smaller:
Image


I did touch up the broken paint and small bare-cut areas (which were minimal) on the back edges of the case w/ black touch-up paint, only to keep any 'shinies' from being apparent once it's in the TV stand.
Could I have done a better job of finishing it off back there? Of course! But, the thing is going into a solid-side TV stand (which is quite black) - you won't be able to see anything back there.
If it were to be in the open, then I'd have fully repainted the case.

As to the CPU ventilation hole being, well, smaller than it once was:
I'm actually not concerned with cooling, believe it or not. Why? I'll be mounting a 120mm case fan on the left side of the lid (as an intake), right above the PCI slots.
Keeping air moving over the tuners (especially the InfiniTV4) is paramount; and, the placement will also help get air to the CPU cooler.
Years of experience with Media Centers (especially multi-tuner systems) have taught me that, well, airflow in the slot area tends to suck in any case. Therefore, I've been in the habit of placing a 120mm fan on the case floor (attached with Velcro), to keep air moving over the tuners.
This (top-mounting that fan, pointing it down) will have the same effect.


Next up: shoehorning a full-size ATX machine into a space that's quite a bit smaller than it should be. :lol:
And, seeing how well that best-guess drive cage mod worked out.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:00 pm 
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I'd say it turned out good! Almost like you planned it to be that way :)


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:46 pm 
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Thanks, dude! :)
There was a little snag (as you'll see...)

Today was transplant day. Here's why migrating to an HTPC case was needed. This just won't do:
Image


And, here's the insides of the current box (and, everything that has to be shoehorned into the shortened 2000B):
Image


Motherboard and PSU installed. It's looking good so far - I've even managed to get the PSU cables layed out nice!
At top-right, you can see why I had to flip the fan to the other side, and cut down the mount:
Image


And, here's our snag. With optical drive installed in the cage, I can't install the cage. :(
The optical drive ends up overhanging the PSU by over an inch when the cage is in its installation position.....
That actually ended up to be, well, notsobad, as the mounting holes in the cage weren't in the right spot (roughly 0.5" farther back than they should be.)
Image


Workaround: remove ODD from cage. Remove front panel. Unbolt PSU and exhaust fans, notch case rear panel with hacksaw and bend rear panel up & back... :shock: ,
lift PSU out a bit, drop drive cage and PSU into place simultaneously.
Install ODD thru front, reattach front panel. Giant pain in the ass.
Image
While I was doing this, I did reroute the Molex connectors for the rear fans. Two reasons:
1- I still need to be able to connect that tuner-cooling fan later (obviously, I can't get under the drive cage once installed...)
2- should I decide that the fans are too loud (or, should one fail), I'd rather not have to reverse this pain to replace a fan.
I liked (for neatness) where they were before (which was at the front of the case, below the drive cage); but, this leaves it, ah, serviceable.


Fully assembled and running:
Image

Image

That top fan, I'm not quite decided on yet - I may leave it as-is (really, it wedged in rather nicely), securing it with Velcro and/or zip ties;
or, I may install it (or, maybe, a 100mm fan) on the top panel. I'm thinking that the 120mm in the pic will stay, though.

To help with internal space (and cable management), I removed the front-panel eSATA cable (not going to use it; plus, I'm out of SATA ports), FireWire cable (no 1394 header on the board), and front audio cable (freakishly, my soundcard has no front-panel pins; but, not going to use that, anyways.)


I still need to get the front-panel display working right (it should work after one more reboot, though), and move the thing into the stand.
I got killed for time by the fitment issues, as well as losing sound (I may have over-yanked my optical cable....)



One question for all:
does anyone know where (if it even exists) I can get a 90-degree SATA power adapter? That would do wonders for my ODD's clearance to the PSU....


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:44 am 
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I can't believe you hacked and bent the frame!! :twisted: You gotta do what you gotta do! I have been there before even if it was six years ago. not that anything has changed in that time frame. :D On a good note I did find something that might help you out... drum roll please......... :arrow: 90 degree power and SATA adapter. Also if this doesn't work out, here is another option. Although I would go with the first one and cut it to what I needed if it didn't fit any other way that way you can reduce the clutter. Good Luck! :mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:00 am 
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I had to - no choice, shit wouldn't fit. :(

Thanks for finding that cable - as much as I looked, I just couldn't find that. (I ended up ordering the data/power cable, as there's now no way in hell to get to one of the Molex connectors.)


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:15 pm 
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I had a sneaking suspicion you wouldn't be able to do the molex but I figured you might like the option. Are you going to have to cut it though, I wonder? It said in the description that it would be fine for 2.5" and 3.5" drives. :?:


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:49 pm 
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I've had my eye on this build for a while now and I must say... Nice Work!
I especially like the Borg screen shot you got in there at the end.

I have the chills already and not just from seeing her lifeless cold and calculating form.
(Mostly though).
AWESOME CASE MOD!!!


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:11 am 
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Why is it on that box and not sitting on top of the receiver?


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:48 pm 
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Several reasons:
- wanted to evaluate noise level prior to moving it into the stand;
- make sure that the thing still actually works;
- still need to actually mount the top fan;
- need to swap out the power cable for the DVD drive. Due to the aforementioned, ah, clearance issues, I can't *quite* get the ODD all the way into the case (hence the need for the L-cable); therefore, the front panel doesn't *quite* go all the way on. :roll:

Once I mount the top fan (really, zip ties and/or velcro will do nicely), get & install that SATA L-cable, and actually "mount" the ODD (really, it'll be wedged in with adhesive-backed felt pads :lol: ), then it'll go in the stand.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:20 pm 
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is that going on top of the receiver? I would think the heat wafting up out of the receiver would not be kind to your rig.

or is it going under it?

nice job BTW.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:35 pm 
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From what I see in the pictures, it almost seems like you have your own machine shop.
I have debated for a while on how I might modify a few of my cases, but you have actually
shown the practicality of it and, despite the difficulties you've had with clearances, it is
evident that you thought this through and planned methodically. I'd bet you could easily
fabricate your own cases with relative ease.

I feel a bit more confident going forward with some of my own mods now too, just seeing the
success - and frustration - you've had.

Once again, Nicely Done.
:D


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:42 pm 
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CharBroiled wrote:
is that going on top of the receiver? I would think the heat wafting up out of the receiver would not be kind to your rig.

or is it going under it?

nice job BTW.
Thanks! :)
It'll go on top. I'd actually be less worried about the AVR heating the Media Center (the case's bottom panel is solid, not vented) than I would the Media Center being strangled for intake airflow with the AVR on top of it (seeing as the AVR's feet are maybe 1/4" tall, that's not a very big airgap.)


thejake490 wrote:
From what I see in the pictures, it almost seems like you have your own machine shop.
Nope. I'm a dealership mechanic.
Thankfully, the only real frustrations came final-assembly time (and, were due to the seriously tight space I left myself with.)
Honestly, though, there was a lot of eyeballing and 'best-guess' space estimates made - best example being the clearancing done on the drive cage. To be honest, that cleared the cards by less than 1/8" going in. There were no measurements done there, either - it was pure eyeballling, and picturing (in my head) where the cards should be.
I'm just happy I didn't have to do anything truly drastic - like, 'clearancing' the PSU housing. :lol:
Thanks for the compliments.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:55 am 
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CharBroiled wrote:
is that going on top of the receiver? I would think the heat wafting up out of the receiver would not be kind to your rig.

or is it going under it?

nice job BTW.


Mine both share the same space and they don't melt each other. Course I cut large holes out of the back of the cabinet....


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC case mod
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:52 pm 
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cup wrote:
- like, 'clearancing' the PSU housing. :lol:
Thanks for the compliments.



:lol: I won't ask what that involves. Though I can picture the hindquarters of a PSU jutting out the back of the case an inch or so... Or an externally mounted fan.

:D


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