Projects  |  Guides  |  Gallery  |  Articles  |  Contact

Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5

Project 'TroyBoX' - Mini ITX HTPC Mod

    Cleaning out my modding/PC parts closet never fails to get my gears turning, creative juices flowing and inevitably it always leads to the throwing down of design sketches - completed projects normally follow about a year later... this one however won't take that long since I've already done most of this once before.  The mod closet inspiration this time was an EPIA-MII12000 Mini-ITX motherboard, a USB CDRW/DVD drive, WD SE 320GB hard drive, 200W mini-power supply, 256MB PC2100 memory and a 6" TFT LCD monitor - just about every bit of hardware I should need to create a kick ass little HTPC computer.

    Since the system will also need a keyboard and mouse for executing tasks wirelessly I bought a small wireless keyboard with a built in mouse, $25USD from the Egg... the reviews for it are a mixed bag but they mainly complain about it having short operating range.  The keyboard/mouse is really small and the built in LCD screen will only be 6" so I figured at a usable distance it would likely work fine for this project.

07/23/08 Update...

    Like I said earlier, this project is still being thoroughly planned out.  I found and bought a fun little car and driving it around has given me time to think up some better ideas... like making the system a living room entertainment PC to hook up to my 46" 1080P LCD TV and also to make it very small and definitely modular instead of building it as an all in one arcade style unit.  As part of this new thinking I have decided not to use the originally planned 200W mini PSU and will instead be using the small 225W PSU shown in the picture below.

    I decided to add a laptop DVD/CD-RW drive to the build, I had planned on just using a USB CD drive back when this PC was going to be mainly a MAME, but since it will be the living room computer it really deserves a built in dedicated drive.  I had to order a Slim CD-ROM IDE adapter, but I already had the Slim slot load DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive on hand so that made it easy.

    I plan to fill the single available mother board PCI slot with something better than wireless and I don't really have any USB connections to spare so I decided that since the motherboard sports it I'd buy an 802.11g PCMCIA Wireless Adapter and get online that way.

    A friend of mine hooked me up with an 100GB 2.5" laptop hard drive and a USB 2.0 HDD enclosure, I ditched the shoddy USB enclosure and bought a SATA to IDE adapter so that the small HDD can be used within this project.

    I mentioned that the PCI slot wouldn't be used for wireless because it'd be occupied, I intend to plant a BFG Tech 256MB DDR GeForce FX 5500 video card in it.  The card is necessary due to the motherboards onboard graphics not being able to display wide screen resolutions.  The BFG card supports up to 2048 x 1536 Max Resolution.  I also decided to ditch the weak old 256MB stick of RAM in favor of some 1GB Crucial DDR memory, because more is always better.

    I already have the parts layout and basic build set in my head, I could even forego using Sketchup and just start building it... of course if I did that then how would anyone know if the finished mod looked anything like my original design idea?  I'll work on throwing down a quick sketch or two of what I'm planning before I begin so that there can be a final comparative... ok, done.  The following sketch shows my basic plan...

    Here are a couple Google Sketchup renders of the exterior, they are quickies but they should help to get the basic idea across.  In the picture below the 6" LCD is right up front and the slot load DVD/CDRW combo drive is on the side.  Since I have a piece of custom etched acrylic I'll be adding a backlit gluttony logo to the top of this build.

    Next up is the view from the back, everything will port out on this side, the power button will also be located on the back.  The gluttony logo on the side will be a mirrored 80mm acrylic fan grill that will be used to spruce up the side panel where the video card fans vent hole will be located.

    Before I start building here are a few more pieces of the puzzle... from the top left going clockwise in the picture below.  A wired and sleeved SPST momentary switch that will be used as the power button, next to it a small fan that will be worked into the back.  Top right corner is a 7 port hub and below it is the audio cable that will connect to my 46" LCD and in the bottom corner is a two port USB header and a male to male S-video to RCA adapter.  Across the bottom is a 4GB CF card, two white lazer LED's and two blue 10" rounded ATA cables.

09/07/08 Update...

    Below is my pop riveter, assorted rivets and a couple of corner clamps inside a plastic microwave cupcake pan (best small parts separator/cupcakes ever).  A small chop saw, some Alum Angle, my pencil and ruler round things out.

    The small chop saw is too small for the 3/4" outer Alum Angle pieces so I broke out the big gun, a 10" compound miter saw... it made quick work of cutting the aluminum, all the pieces needed to frame the outside were cut.  I'll use the small chop saw for the skinnier 1/2" internal Alum Angle pieces and maybe even break out the Dremel and nibbler for the finer detailing.

    The following picture shows the (necessary) safety glasses I used when cutting the Alum Angle and it also shows the bottom of the case framed out using the corner clamps.  I am so far using the same basic design as I did for Hell's Illusion, but it's smaller and I'm using rivets instead of JB-quick to hold it all together this time.  All of the outer cut pieces still require some serious hand filing to remove any burrs and to size everything up proper.

09/11/08 Update...

    For the last project I broke out the table sander to make quick work of sizing the cut Alum Angle, this time I just filed like crazy.  In the picture below you can see that the pieces are sized up and they fit together well, I used a couple of drafting triangles in the corners just to be sure.

    I had some AC Ryan MeshX that I didn't use for the last project, I measured and marked out the section to cut with a silver Sharpie, fired up my Dremel and set about cutting the bottom panel/motherboard tray out of the MeshX.

  The picture below shows the bottom panel dry fit, right before it got too dark to see outside I also finished drilling four holes into each of the inside corner edge pieces for the rivets.  Tomorrow I plan to buy a bunch of 1/8" nuts and bolts, they will be used during the fitting stages, once the cutting and fitting together of all the Alum Angle pieces is finalized they will be replaced by rivets.

09/14/08 Update...

    The MeshX was a little too big and the sides I had cut weren't perfectly straight anyway, so I used a piece of Alum Angle clamped tight to it as a straight edge and trimmed up both sides.

    The Dremel got really hot, I let it cool down and then went to turn it on again and got nothing... it was dead.  I removed the speed chuck and LED light attachment, gave a quick eulogy and then buried its lifeless corpse in the trash.

    No time to mourn, crying is for pansies.  Looking to get over my loss as quickly as possible I went to the hardware store and bought a new one... $59 later and it's like nothing bad even happened, totally back in business.

    I used a silver Sharpie to mark out the spots to be drilled onto the MeshX bottom panel, I also used a nibbler and files to notch out the Alum Angle where the motherboard stand offs will be located.

    I freaking jammed today.  I started out by stacking all the components up inside the bottom framework just to see if everything was going to fit... it's really tight but it all does.

    The following picture shows the bottom Alum Angle pieces that need to be altered to allow the motherboard back plate and LCD to fit.  I drilled the holes in the MeshX for the main board stand offs and also for connecting the MeshX to the Alum Angle.

    I cut the Alum Angle for the main board back plate first, I used a nibbler so that the lines would be straight, what a pain in the ass... pain in the forearm and hand is more like it, I wore a glove to help keep the bruising to a minimum.

    I also nibbled out the bottom Alum Angle for the 6" LCD and then set it in to test fit, there is a little left right play so it isn't a tight fit, but that's a good thing for later on.

Project 'TroyBoX' - Mini ITX HTPC Mod -  Page 2