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April 24, 2007 by Edward McKeating
Edward McKeating is a retired construction worker who likes tinkering with things. His favourite saying: "When all else fails, read the instructions." He thinks that says a lot about him. Edward's project started not as an exercise in reusing and recycling junk but because he wanted to move his media PC into the living room to watch TV and videos more comfortably. The problem was that the PC was ugly and very noisy. He thought about upgrading with quiet components but decided instead to modify what he had with junk cluttering his garage. The end result is a unique and successful DIY media PC case/system that cost only a can of paint, some time, and rid Edward's garage of a bunch of junk.
Mike Chin, Editor
This article is intended for people like me who already have a noisy
system they want to make quieter. For someone shopping
for components to build a media center from scratch, the part about fan
control is irrelevant as most decent mobos already have thermal fan
control built in, as do modern PSUs. In general, the cooler you
can keep your PSU and components, the slower the fans will run and the
quieter it will be. So this style of box is still worth thinking about.
I believe that many of the people who assemble their own
computers are already fairly handy and able to make what is really just a wooden box. That's
carpentry 101. So this won't be a set of step by step instructions on
how to make a box. The pictures should be self- explanatory.
The finished HTPC.
I decided to use the wooden
surround of an old TV set and
other junk cluttering up my garage as the basis of a wooden case for a HTPC. There is a
lot of junk in my garage, while my car lives outside at the mercy of
the Irish weather. Besides the old TV, I had....
- an obsolete AT case
- an old stereo amplifier with nice knobs and buttons and an array of handy switches. One of the switches was a double pull double throw that I used as a
toggle for switching voltage to the fans.
- a pair of aluminium door
plates adapted for the front panel
- an old spark guard provided a fine
mesh to cover the fan openings
- other bits and pieces that I'll
describe in time.
I regret not taking a photo of the
assembled junk before I started. But the idea of writing an article about it only came to
me after I had begun.
The bits to be housed were:
- Shuttle AV49n motherboard
- Intel Northwood 2.4Ghz 533FSB CPU with stock heatsink fan
- 512Mbs crucial DDR ram PC400
- nVidia GeForce MX400 video card
- Hauppauge PVR 350 TV card
- Codegen 300W power supply
- Lite-On DVD burner
These were the basic assumptions I started with:
1. Wood is better at dampening sound than metal
2. My old noisy PSU could be isolated in its own chamber, and
only having to cool itself, it could safely have its fan connected to the
3. A fan with a given output will completely change the air in a
small compartment much more quickly than in a large one, especially one
with lots of nooks and crannies.
A mention here of what kind of wood to use: I would stay away
from solid timber. The reason being that if you build the box correctly, you
will basically have a wind tunnel with a heat source in the centre.Because of the heat and airflow, humidity and moisture content on inside of the board will
be zero, while on the outside it will be normal. This would
probably result in cracking and warping over time. Plywood or block board should resist
the cracking; I'd go with veneered chipboard or
fibreboard. They are much more stable. The old TV surround was veneered chipboard and it stood up to similar
conditions for many years.
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