How to Build Your Own Custom PC Case

Written by michael carroll
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How to Build Your Own Custom PC Case
Building your own PC case allows you to customise and optimise your computer system. (pc image by Dron from Fotolia.com)

As personal computer components and interfaces became standardised and widely adopted, many consumers found it desirable to build their own PCs. A custom-built PC case can be a fun project for aesthetic reasons; a way to increase performance for users who want to maximise their computer's speed; or the solution for an especially compact or unusual installation situation.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Internal components of a PC

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Instructions

    Early Design Considerations

  1. 1

    Decide what your custom case will do for your computer system that a prefabricated case cannot. Considerations include performance, aesthetics, and affordability.

  2. 2

    Make a list of traits you would like your case to exemplify. Include things like size, noise, temperature regulation, and upgradability.

  3. 3

    Research others' projects online for inspiration and expertise.

    Materials

  1. 1

    List the materials and tools to which you have access for fabricating your case. Wood is usually a good option for most people with a basic set of tools, but others may have access to a machine shop or a CNC router, and may wish to consider metal, glass and plastic. Also consider modifying some kind of pre-existing container to create your case.

  2. 2

    Rate each material or container in terms of cost and construction difficulty.

  3. 3

    Check the materials list against your list of design traits, and note how each material choice will or will not satisfy the traits you want in your case.

    Cooling

  1. 1

    Choose materials, parts, and a form for your case that will keep the parts inside sufficiently cool. Some exotic solutions, such as submerging most of the components in a tank of mineral oil, have produced impressive results. However, the most economical solution usually consists of intake and outlet fans to move fresh air through the case, as most PCs do.

  2. 2

    Consider the heat conduction properties of the different materials available to you. Metals will tend to conduct heat, which can serve to draw heat away from the computer's components and release it to the outside air, while wood tends to conduct heat much more slowly and will tend to keep heat in. Some materials may not be able to withstand the temperature at which your PC operates--15.6 to 23.9 degrees Celsius on average--and should not used.

  3. 3

    Decide how many and what type of fans or pumps your case might merit, and how they can be best arranged to maximise the flow of heat away from the PC components. Cooling fans for PCs are commonly rated by the number of cubic feet of air they move per minute, or CFM. Balancing the CFM coming into the case with the CFM going out will promote a steady and efficient flow, and will mitigate turbulence and "dead spots" where air stands still and collects heat.

  4. 4

    Analyse how the form of your computer will affect airflow if you opt for a traditional airflow strategy. Avoid large cavities, which will tend to form dead spots. Try to arrange for hotter components such as video cards and CPUs to reside in areas of maximum air flow.

    Sound

  1. 1

    Select a material that will dampen sound inside the case if quietness is one of your design priorities. Metal will tend to transmit sounds out of the case with minimal reduction; wood is generally more effective. However, components in contact with a wooden case might cause the whole cavity to resonate like the body of a guitar. For this reason, many case designers try to suspend noisy components inside their wooden case with elastic bands to acoustically decouple them from the wood. The noisiest components are ones with moving parts, such as hard drives, CD and DVD drives, and fans.

  2. 2

    Research commercial noise-reduction products designed for custom PC cases. Most employ foam panels with specific acoustic properties, but many are expensive. Consider how the shape of these products might affect the form of your case.

  3. 3

    Use fans with ball bearings around their axles to minimise noise. Because fans are in direct contact with air outside the case, they often expel a lot of noise. Ball bearing fans are quieter than those without. Read consumer reviews of specific fans to gauge how quiet they are.

    Upgradability

  1. 1

    Design your case to be serviceable, as many computer components will probably break down before the whole system is obsolete. Make sure you can access the hard drive and RAM slots on the motherboard without too much difficulty.

  2. 2

    Consider leaving space in your design to accommodate future upgrades, such as new PCI peripherals.

  3. 3

    Finalise your design by weighing all the considerations and deciding on the final form and material for your case.

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