DIY M-ITX slim case with a twist & KB mod

Show off your quiet rig.

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DIY M-ITX slim case with a twist & KB mod

Post by N-K » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:09 pm

Hi all.

Time to start 2010 with a new computer.

So here it is.

Specs and cost: (Yes, I'm such a cheapskate)
MB: Intel D945GSEJT ~60€
Cpu: Single core Atom 1,6GHz
Mem: 1GB DDR2 so-dimm ~25€
Wireless: Wlan ~free from and old laptop
Bluetooth (usb) ~12€
HDD: 2,5" 160GB Hitachi SATA ~free from an old laptop
all other parts: free (leftovers and such)
OS: Ubuntu 9.10 ~free of course

Case dimensions:
30cm x 20cm x 3,8cm

Power figures:
Idle: 13W
Load: ~18W max
(I guess wireless keyboard and mouse helps a bit here)

Some time ago i happened to have a chance to buy an Intel D945GSEJT motherboard very cheaply. It had been some demo model or something so it only cost about 60€.
I immediately knew this was my chance to make a slim computer. I had been planning something like this some time ago.
Before the motherboard arrived, I was already making the case. I just cut some wood and thin plywood, glued and screwed them together and hoped that the motherboard would fit inside it. The design was such that the motherboard would slide into the grooves I had made on both sides.
I first planned to fit a slim DVD-drive into it too, but that would have made the case too big. Instead, I drilled quite a big hole to the other side. There was just enough space for a fan. I wasn't sure if it would be needed but JUST IN CASE.

When the motherboard arrived, I tested it to work and fit into the case. It was just perfect.
After that I made the front of the case from 2 Lian Li 3,5" aluminum covers. I cut the sides off and put them together by gluing a piece of transparent acryl on the other side between them. That piece held those parts together and acted as a support for the power button too. The part between those aluminum pieces is there intentionally so that the power led can glow there.

The case seemed a little dull so I wanted to make it a bit more exciting.
I happened to have some leftover wallpaper so I used that. It's fairly thick with a rubbery grey coating. The black shiny parts are a bit thinner. I just glued it on and it now looks a lot nicer and has some personality.
Here's a view from the side.

The motherboard has a built-in DC-DC converter so I only had to get a 12V transformer. I used a (free) 12V 2A transformer that's mainly used with an external HDD. It worked fine. Actually, even a 1,25A transformer worked. I just wanted to get something bigger JUST IN CASE.

A lot of other stuff was made too but I guess pictures will make more sense than my mumbling.
As you will see, the whole case is just one big ghetto mod dressed up nicely.

First off, here's the transformer.

Here's the computer functioning nicely. Blue led and all!

The computer can be held horizontally or vertically any way you like.

Here's a view from the back. There is a USB Bluetooth module and a Logitech wireless receiver connected to the back.
The back is open for a reason.

This side reveals the horrible secret! There's a fan in there!
The fan is actually from and Asus motherboard. Some of you might have some experiences with this. It has a horrible clicky bearing noise.
Now for the good part: There was a setting in the BIOS to set the fan OFF on light loads. I've never seen it actually go on no matter how hard I've tried to torture the CPU and GPU.

Now, let's have a look inside.
I've covered some parts with black duct tape just for the looks. There's the usb-port -thingie under it. There's some aluminum tape on the back 'cos I wanted to try if could somehow get a small boost on the wlan. For some reason the signal strength sucks quite badly.
Probably the hardest part here was to find a SATA-cable that would fit there. It's only about 2cm distance but there is no way to get a cable that would fit there like that. I had to use a long and flexible cable, and creatively route it so that it would fit.

This is where the HDD lies. The whole front part is filled with soft rubbery foam. I carved a bit off from it to put the HDD into.

Under the HDD there are bit's of the same soft foam to dampen it further. I also put 4mm bitumen to the top of the drive. I've noticed it to be a very efficient way to make any HDD quieter.

Here the computer is hanging out nicely with my current main computer (also M-ITX)

And here's the whole set again. The case has a nice camouflage. Hard to notice on certain lighting conditions.

And that's it!
Oh yeah, it's quiet.

I have a couple of things still to do:
1. find a black dust filter for the fan
2. improve the wireless lan antenna.
3. find another HDD. Okay, I cheated a little. The HDD was free 'cause it has bad sectors. It will fall apart some day. The computer has worked well so far despite of this.

One last thing. I never did have any actual use for this computer. I just love doing this kind of things.
Last edited by N-K on Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:40 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by infrasonic » Fri Jan 01, 2010 3:40 pm

Quite the curios those mini-ITXs :)

Out of interest, what was your design considerations for this choice of form factor?

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Post by N-K » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:48 pm

infrasonic wrote:Out of interest, what was your design considerations for this choice of form factor?
This particular motherboard made it easy to "design" the case.
It has most components integrated and it's really small so I could use any scrap materials I could find.
Most design choices were made on the fly. I have a problem X and then I start looking for some excess materials I could use to solve it.

I've been really lucky with both of my cases. For example that 3,5" bay cover just happened to fit on that gap. My original plan was to use wood on that part but I kind of destroyed the piece accidentally so I had to come up with something else.

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Post by xan_user » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:08 am

Nice. love the wall paper two-tone look.

Believe it or not, I actually sketched an idea for a very similar case before bed last night . Basically I envisioned a thinner, but also wider version of the m350 that has room next to the mobo for a hdd or two.

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Post by whispercat » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:17 am

Just curious, what kind of monitor is that on the desk ?

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Post by N-K » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:57 am

whispercat wrote:Just curious, what kind of monitor is that on the desk ?
It's a BenQ FP241VW. 24" with a good MVA panel.
I bought it about 2,5 years ago mainly 'cause it was different and unique looking. (and it has brushed aluminum on the sides of course. mmmmm brushed aluminum...)
It cost a fortune but it was worth it.

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Post by mark19891989 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:04 pm

wow that looks very nice !

im still on matx right now, but my next build will be a mini-itx, probably an ssd, and hopefully completly passive

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Post by hybrid2d4x4 » Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:32 pm

Very nice system! The wallpaper looks really good on it, like some of those factory decaled laptops. I wasn't aware that there were any non-ION atom boards with DVI (and integrated DC/DC), nice find...
If I happen to come across such a deal, I'll probably build a mITX system inside my old Nintendo just for the hell of it.

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Post by N-K » Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:18 am


I swapped that crappy Asus fan for a better one. It's from some laptop and it has maglev bearing so it's pretty quiet.
The problem was that it runs on 5V. I tried it on 12V and it went nuts.
I put some of those Noctua ULNA adapters to it and it seems to run fine with that. Still, it never starts running because of the BIOS setting but JUST IN CASE!
The fan was a a lot flatter than the previous so I could fit a 1cm thick dust filter between it and the hole.

The Dinovo keyboard that I'm using with this computer is pretty good and quiet, but when I use it in winter, the wrist rest can get a bit cold. (it's aluminum)
I still had some wallpaper left so I made a quick mod to the KB.
The wallpaper is thick enough to make it comfortable to use. It's only attached from the back with black duct tape. Holds well and it's easy to remove.

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Post by SteveRCE » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:35 am

Really like the small case, quite artistic as well.

I recently commented on the same motherboard from another build, and thought it might be relevant to your build.
Adding hardware video acceleration to your board on the cheap, while remaining slim:

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