M-ITX DIY case with 120mm fan / now with HD3450 mod!

Show off your quiet rig.

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N-K
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M-ITX DIY case with 120mm fan / now with HD3450 mod!

Post by N-K » Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:37 am

Whoa, this got longer than I thought.

I used to have a fast computer that was absolutely silent. Then it got boring.
There was nothing else to do with it so I started to plan my next computer.

It had to be M-ITX with picopsu and C2D processor and I wanted to do the case myself.
Why M-ITX? Because that way I wouldn't need a lot of material to the case.

I didn't have a huge workshop or a lot of materials and tools.
This had to be done cheaply because I'm a cheapskate. I only used some excess materials from my apartment renovation and some scrap parts I found lying around in my parents ' garage. The main structure is made of wood and the sides and top are blocks of laminate flooring. Aluminum on the edges.

I actually did make plans for the case but they went out of the window when I got an old motherboard tray from my friend. The height of it was perfect. I could fit a 120mm fan next to it so I decided to modify my plans.
In the end, I just made it based on the current situation and it turned out pretty good. Even though I didn't have any parts when doing this, the motherboard and other parts still fit nicely.

Specs:
Motherboard: Intel DG45FC (new)
Processor: Intel e8500 (used)
Memory: Kingston 4GB low profile 800MHz Cl5 (new)
CPU cooler: Noctua NH-C12P
Case fan: Silverstone FN121 @5v ~500rpm
PSU: Picopsu 120W 12-25V wide input (used) with 120W brick (free and used, from an old laptop)
HDD: Seagate Momentus 5400.2 (free and used, from an old laptop)
Graphics card: Nvidia Quadro NVS 290 (got it for free but had to buy the DMS-59 -cable)

Total cost slightly over 400€

Here's some pics:

Image
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No direct openings on any sides.

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The top is easy to open. There's a block of aluminum attached to the cooler with aluminum tape just to force the air to go through the fins and not over them.

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Here's the top part from inside. I put a 4mm thick bitumen sheet to it.

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The bottom. I covered it with duct tape because I was bored. Looks better this way, too. You can see the two intake holes there covered with dust filters. I had to make another air intake next to the graphics card because it ran far too hot. I'm glad it was just wood and easy to modify.

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Here's the fan, HDD and Picopsu. I put some of the bitumen to the HDD and case floor too.

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My ingenious HDD dampening. Some hollow soft rubber thingies and soft foam under it.

Now for the parts:
The motherboard has some annoying chips on the backside so that normal backplates don't fit. I had to customize the mounting system.
Image
The Noctua cooler package lacked the springs needed to secure the cooler so I used the included plastic thick red washers. Later on I got the springs but they actually made the temps go up a bit so I changed it back.

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I used some screws with washers to secure it from the back.

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Those big blocky steel nuts are from the mounting kit of my old Thermalrigth HR-01. I put an aluminum cooler to the ICH later on too.

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I sleeved the PicoPsu just for fun. I used the sleevings from an old broken PSU so they were also free. Later on I also sleeved the remaining power wires and swapped the molex to a black one. I also changed the floppy power connector to two fan connectors. 12V and 5V.

I almost forgot. Where's the power button?
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Here it is. It's the lower right hex socket screw. The other screws actually secure the front panel and it can be removed.

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And here's my whole 3m wide desk and all the necessary peripherals. The CRT TV is not in use...
I have made the desk (excluding the drawer) and the speaker stands myself, too.

The computer draws about 48W idle and ~80W with 3Dmark06 running.
71W with Furmark and 81W when both Furmark and Everest stability test are running.
3Dmark06 ~900 points with Intel IGP and 1400 points with the Quadro.

I installed Windows 7 RC1 and it has worked well. The only problem I had was with the HECI driver. I couldn't see the temperatures without it. After I found a working driver, everything was ok. (occasionally I have some problems with the graphics driver)

Temperatures: idle-load (GPU load with Furmark, others with Everest stability test)
CPU ~44-67C
GPU ~54-73C
ICH ~61-71C
NB ~58-76C
HDD ~37-41C
ambient 24C

The only fan is constantly running @5V and about 500rpm.

It's quiet but not as quiet as I would like. I used to have the Noctua P12 fan there as a case fan but it didn't seem to move a lot of air and the noise was annoying. I had this Silverstone fan from my old TJ-09 case so I put it there as a replacement. It's better than the Noctua, but I still have to find a better one.
The HDD is surprisingly quiet. Without the fan I can't hear it at all.

I probably forgot something but I can always add things later.

Edit: Tested power consumption and temperatures more accurately. They are now corrected.
Last edited by N-K on Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:11 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Post by Jipa » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:30 am

Very nice! Wouldn't mind having a small, powerful and quiet thing like that in the living room...

Also, it took me ages to figure how the hell you got the Quadro in there, I mean you can't really see any expansion slots in the images :) Is that a x4-connector or..?
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N-K
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Post by N-K » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:46 am

It's pci-e 1x.
Image
You can see the DMS-59 -connector in the picture showing the back/bottom of the case.

It's almost impossible to put it there because of the limited space.
I have to take that ~3cm wide aluminum bar off if I want to take the card off or put it back. Not the most practical solution but it makes the case more rigid.

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Post by bonestonne » Sun Jun 07, 2009 2:28 pm

that's an absolutely stunning case, it really is. I've wanted to do something similar, but i just don't have the means...money, or skill.

I've been thinking of trying to work with plexiglas, and set it up in a 2 or 3 piece case, just bent properly (by a local hardware store or heat gun of sorts).

My best option is an old socket 370 system with a VIA C3 @ 866mhz...nothing to brag about, but it runs fanless effortlessly...it's never given me any heating worries.

with that back panel on your ITX board, it's almost as if that Quadro is pushing the limits.

had you thought of using a slipstream as the exhaust fan?
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Post by qviri » Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:44 pm

This really does look very nice, and the pictures themselves are also impressive. Your desk setup looks very clean, too.

If you're willing to take requests, could you show a one or two more pictures of the insides and another of the bottom? I'm curious how you've laid it all out. I'm also not sure where the vents are -- my best guess would be at the front along the motherboard side, and then an elongated one along the side edge of the motherboard away from the fan? Do you have any vents in the sides?
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Post by Nathan » Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:27 pm

The stealthed power switch is quite elegant, I'm impressed.

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Post by N-K » Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:19 am

bonestonne wrote: had you thought of using a slipstream as the exhaust fan?
Either a slipstream or a Nexus fan. Both are fine.
I think I'll first just wait and see if I can get something for free before I buy it.
qviri wrote: If you're willing to take requests, could you show a one or two more pictures of the insides and another of the bottom? I'm curious how you've laid it all out. I'm also not sure where the vents are -- my best guess would be at the front along the motherboard side, and then an elongated one along the side edge of the motherboard away from the fan? Do you have any vents in the sides?
I don't have any images from the current state but I found an older one and drew the modifications I have done.
Image
That hole on the left was clearly inadequate so I cut it bigger and carved the wood too.

I didn't want any visible openings so I put all the intakes (and the fan) either on the bottom or in the back.
Last edited by N-K on Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by blackworx » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:51 am

Wow, good job! I especially like your power switch - little touches like that really do it for me.

Thanks for taking pics and the time to post. :)

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Post by qviri » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:22 am

Thanks!

Have you considered/tried a smaller still case volume - perhaps using a smaller fan and placing it above the motherboard backplate - or was that not a priority?
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Post by N-K » Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:13 pm

qviri wrote:Thanks!

Have you considered/tried a smaller still case volume - perhaps using a smaller fan and placing it above the motherboard backplate - or was that not a priority?
My original plan was actually a smaller case with 120mm fan at the top. That would have been around 20cm x 20cm x 16cm or so.
At some point I considered an 80mm fan but I simply couldn't find space for it with those dimensions.
One 80mm fan probably wouldn't have been enough.

I don't have a need for a smaller case so this was a good solution.

I'll probably try something slimmer next time.

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Post by Rebellious » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:12 pm

Love the hidden power switch, not even Bill Gates could start that put0r. If you like disguising things why not put the PC inside one of the speaker boxes, and then make it so that it starts when you boink the cone with your finger.

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Post by Mr. B » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:27 pm

Lovely case, sort of reminds me of the vintage alarm clocks I collect.

What's the story on those speaker stands?
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Post by SteveRCE » Fri Jun 12, 2009 7:15 am

If you want to avoid dust at the intake(s), a small piece of fiberglass screen door mesh works wonders (or two pieces stitched together.) A roll of the material is inexpensive.

Nice work! I'm tempted to do the same in the near future :) Always nice seeing this sort of thing.

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Post by N-K » Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:23 am

Thanks for all the comments.
Mr. B wrote:What's the story on those speaker stands?
I made them couple of years ago when I bought those speakers.
Things went sort of the same way as with this computer. I made plans and then did it differently anyways.
I bought a 1m x 17cm x 2,8mm piece of wood and cut it couple of times and there it was. Painted it black and later on put aluminum L-profile to cover the sides.
I didn't have the speakers with me when doing these but the size was perfect.
SteveRCE wrote:If you want to avoid dust at the intake(s), a small piece of fiberglass screen door mesh works wonders (or two pieces stitched together.) A roll of the material is inexpensive.
I already have dust filters on the bottom of the case. I took them from a Thermaltake case (or something similar). They were originally attached to the 5,25" bay covers. They have worked fine so far.

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Post by deruberhanyok » Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:41 am

N-K, system looks great!

And thanks for posting the power numbers, I was looking to put together something very similar spec-wise and it's a big help. :)

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Post by N-K » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:11 am

A small update.

The quadro seemed a little slow so I decided to overclock it a bit.
Couldn't find any software that could support it or Win7, so I just modified the bios.

Original

idle / load (MHz)
GPU: 208 / 459
Shader: 416 / 918
Memory: 100 / 400

First I tried to OC and UC it, but the idle clocks might have been a bit too low for Aero to work properly. The 2D clocks weren't on unless i waited for some time. It idled with the 3D clocks.
Then I just bumped it up a bit and works OK now.

idle / load (MHz)
GPU: 320 / 500
Shader: 450 / 1000
Memory: 200 / 440

What a HUGE overclock! I get an unbelievable score of 1523 points in 3DMARK06 now!

Aero still seem a bit sluggish but I wouldn't want to OC it more.
This didn't seem to have any impact on power consumption.

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Post by N-K » Mon Jun 29, 2009 10:25 am

Again, a small update. This isn't related to the computer itself, but the keyboard.

About 3-4 years ago I bought Hiper Clavier aluminum keyboard. It was fantastic and beautiful. The only bad thing about it was the sound that the keys made. It was sort of hollow and somewhat unpleasant.

Last year I tried the black version of it and for some reason it's a lot quieter. I had to buy it. This time, the only thing I didn't like about it was the color. It blended far too well to my black desk, and it didn't look as stunning as the silver one.

I have no idea why I didn't get this idea earlier, but now I switched the aluminum bezel from the other keyboard and it looks fantastic!

Image

Image

I thought this deserved to be shown here.

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nice info !

Post by jan_chu » Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:51 am

nice looking =)

what i realy appreciate is the Power consumtion information :) I myself is plaing on building same MOBO with e8400 and picopsu. But was unsure if it could be done (powerconsumption wise....)

I will be using 2xwd10eads wich should draw about 10watt each (MAX at spinup) .. and about 4-6watt when in use... so i hope it can be done :)

Where did you buy your picopsu ? ive tryed a few places, but they are all out of stock....

Thx for the pictures and info. most helpfull.

//Jan Chu

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Post by Shamgar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:15 am

N-K, Your computer build belongs together with the all time greats. The fact that you did it with relatively little cost is something to appreciate. I wouldn't mind to own a case like you have built. Even though I do not possess such workmanship skills, you have given me some helpful ideas for the future.

Your workspace is tidy. I also like the ergonomic chair. Something I would buy for myself if I had the money. Alas, I live with an uncomfortable although well manufactured office chair from the 1990s.

Not all is rosy through my tinted glasses however, because I dislike the black painted desk and walls. I would have gone for a wooden colour for the desk and a lighter shade for the walls myself. But I see that you like striking contrasts.

The Noctua NH-C12P is almost as big as the motherboard. I feel sorry for the motherboard.

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Re: nice info !

Post by N-K » Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:59 pm

jan_chu wrote:Where did you buy your picopsu ? ive tryed a few places, but they are all out of stock....
I bought it used from huuto.net so I can't say much about this..
LinITX seems to have them in stock.
Shamgar wrote:Your workspace is tidy. I also like the ergonomic chair. Something I would buy for myself if I had the money. Alas, I live with an uncomfortable although well manufactured office chair from the 1990s.
The chair normally costs about 1200€ and it's easily worth it. I got it for 600€ witch was just low enough for my student budget. The chair weights about as much as my sofa.
Shamgar wrote:Not all is rosy through my tinted glasses however, because I dislike the black painted desk and walls. I would have gone for a wooden colour for the desk and a lighter shade for the walls myself. But I see that you like striking contrasts.
The desk is not actually painted, it's just a black laminated worktop. I glued some aluminum L-profile on both ends.

The walls are not painted either - it's dark grey metallic wallpaper. It doesn't look THAT dark irl. I like dark colors 'cause they are relaxing for me.
This is what it looks like in certain lighting.
Image
Yes. I made a wallpaper out of my wallpaper...

While I'm at it, I could also mention that there's still no dust inside my case.
The combination of dust filters and low airflow seem to work well.

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Re: nice info !

Post by Shamgar » Sat Aug 01, 2009 7:33 pm

N-K wrote:The chair normally costs about 1200€ and it's easily worth it. I got it for 600€ witch was just low enough for my student budget. The chair weights about as much as my sofa.
Unfortunately, a bit out of my pricerange. Thanks for the eyeopener though: normally 1200€?! I guess if you treat it as an investment and preventative health measure, it is worth the initial expense.
N-K wrote:The desk is not actually painted, it's just a black laminated worktop. I glued some aluminum L-profile on both ends.

The walls are not painted either - it's dark grey metallic wallpaper. It doesn't look THAT dark irl. I like dark colors 'cause they are relaxing for me.
This is what it looks like in certain lighting.
(...link...)
Yes. I made a wallpaper out of my wallpaper...
Thanks for shedding some light on the matter for me. It's not black after all, but it doesn't look dark grey in the photo either; more of a bronzish colour? Anyway, whatever colours and combinations help you to live and work better are the ones to go for in your environment.
N-K wrote:While I'm at it, I could also mention that there's still no dust inside my case.
The combination of dust filters and low airflow seem to work well.
Looks like you have built yourself a low maintenance system. Less time servicing, more time using.

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Post by N-K » Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:43 am

Update!

I bought a new HDD 'cause I got it cheap. 160GB Seagate Momentus 5400.5.
It's quite a bit quieter and it doesn't vibrate that much.
The old HDD was pretty lousy performer. I got about 39MB/s with it. The new one reads ~68MB/s. It's a HUUUUUGE difference.

I also swapped the Silverstone fan 'cause it had annoying bearing noise.
Now I have a Gelid Silent something fan. It cost me only a couple of €€.
It's definitely silent when it's on 5V, but it basically moves no air at all.
At 12V it does move air but with an unbearable noise level.

I tried to connect the Silverstone fan to the MB once, but I couldn't get it to adjust the speed at all. Now when I connected this fan, it suddenly worked!
(I did update the BIOS at some point. Perhaps that's why it worked)
And it didn't just work - it magically knew how fast I wanted the fan to spin!
Is that great or what!?

It spins now about ~600rpm. Temperatures are the same as they were with the Silverstone. The Gelid might be a bit louder but it doesn't have that annoying bearing noise.

Since this is a general gallery, here's my current desk.
Image
I sold my old speakers and bought nicer ones. I also made the new speaker stands from aluminum and wood.
Shamgar wrote:Thanks for shedding some light on the matter for me. It's not black after all, but it doesn't look dark grey in the photo either; more of a bronzish colour?
It is dark grey. The yellowish light makes it look like that.

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Post by N-K » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:26 am

Even more updates!

I got sick of that damn Quadro NVS graphics card. It was simply too slow for my needs.
It was the only pci-e 1x card that I knew of at the time.

Well, I had to try something different. I sawed a bit off from an extra (free) GF7200 graphics card so that it would fit in the pci-e 1x slot. Tested it and it worked!

That was only a test to see if this kind of mod would work on my MB.
I later on got an ATI HD3450 low profile graphics card with passive cooling.
It didn't cost me anything and there wasn't any warranty so I could mod it without worrying.

Here's a pic of the result:
Image
I just took a bit off from the right place.

It's a huge improvement over the sluggish Quadro. The power consumption should be the same.

The 1X bandwidth doesn't limit the power of the card that much 'cause this is just a basic card.

Anyway, I'm happy with the result.

Edit: Got the name wrong. It was hd3450, not hd4350. Damn numbers!

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Post by frenchie » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:03 pm

Are you saying those pins are useless ?????? :shock: :shock: :shock:

I think this is SO weird...
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Post by mark19891989 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:00 pm

that does look very cool :D
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Post by N-K » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:25 pm

frenchie wrote:Are you saying those pins are useless ?????? :shock: :shock: :shock:

I think this is SO weird...
Only those first pins are actually needed. The rest are just extra bandwidth.
This kind of mod would cripple any gaming graphics card, but the effect isn't that big on one of these "regular" cards.

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Post by niels007 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:57 pm

The power 'button' and pci express ' mod' make this whole thing a big thumbs up in the originality dept! :D
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Post by Shobai » Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:07 am

you know, the other way to effect the same outcome would be to carefully slice out the end of the PCIE slot, modding it to be like some are made. that way any card you put in there will still be able to be used to it's full potential in the event you remove it..
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Post by RoGuE » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:53 pm

hey..does that bottom right screw click in? or is it sensitive to touch? or what..

(if it's the latter, I'll be really impressed lol). Either way, cool idea tho to use the screw!

Also, a word about the chips on the back. On small boards like this, its a neat little trick that the EE's do to free up some space on the top of the board.

Cheers!

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Post by N-K » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:39 pm

Shobai wrote:you know, the other way to effect the same outcome would be to carefully slice out the end of the PCIE slot, modding it to be like some are made. that way any card you put in there will still be able to be used to it's full potential in the event you remove it..
I know this, but that would void the warranty of the motherboard.
The HD3450 was free to me and doesn't have a warranty so I can do whatever with it.
Shobai wrote:hey..does that bottom right screw click in? or is it sensitive to touch? or what..
It clicks like a normal power button. The system itself is way too complex (it has 2 springs and an extension for the screw made of 3 parts), but it still works fine so I guess I made something right.

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