Case Mods, Wild and Wonderful
Case mods: Few may do them, but many gawk at the crazy creations coming out of enthusiasts' basements, garages, factories, and laboratories. These mad scientists of the PC world strive to find new ways to present a common computer in a unique--and often awesome--light.
Sometimes they build their computers as teddy bears; sometimes as liquid-immersed creations that are two parts fish tank, one part refrigerator. But no matter what the theme, you can bet that case mods are going to be just a bit more creative than your average vendor system.
Join us as we explore 15 of the coolest (and craziest) mods to be found on the Internet today!
The Toaster PC
Adam Bertram's classic modification of a desktop system into an actual toaster won’t give you perfectly browned bread in the morning, but it does offer a great way to hide a kitchen PC in plain sight.
The specs aren't particularly impressive--the system is built around a VIA M9000 motherboard, and offers 40GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. But it also offers an internal TV tuner, a DVD drive, and a wireless network card to keep cable clutter to a minimum. You won't get much heavy lifting done, but the Toaster PC is a novel approach to fitting a low-power, wireless computer into a tight space.
Photo: The Toaster PC
At first glance, [H]ardForum user jjsky5000 has come up with an innovative method for cooling his custom system--encase the entire rig in a giant block of ice. Alas, the "Intel Ice" mod actually consists of an Intel Atom-based system housed in a block of plastic resin.
While the mod is still a work in progress, jjsky5000 hopes to craft a decidedly different take on the home media server. The effect is already rather convincing, offering sub-zero chic without the subsequent puddles.
Photo: jjsky5000, at [H]ard|Forum
Project: Away Team
Modder Richard “DarthBeavis” Surroz shows off a case that boldly takes the case mod where few have gone before, drumming up an acrylic-infused rig that's two parts warp core, one part desktop.
This Star Trek-inspired rig actually houses a pair of systems, equipped with nVidia's 3D Vision technology. It might not be the best fit for the Enterprise, but if you're looking for the holodeck experience for your own starship, it doesn't get much better than this.
Photo: DarthBeavis, at [H]ard|Forum
LegoMan666's Mineral Oil PC
It wouldn’t be a case-modding slideshow without the proverbial “mineral oil” PC. [H]ardForum user legoman666 has opted to dunk his red-themed system into a giant vat of the liquid in an effort to achieve a combination of wicked cooling and killer aesthetics on his desk.
The end result offers a pair of ATI Radeon 5850 graphics cards and a Core i7-860 CPU in a setup that barely breaks 65 degrees Centigrade when operating at peak levels--leaving quite a bit of room for overclocking.
Photo: legoman666, at [H]ard|Forum
Of course, mineral oil is not the only liquid one can use to cool one’s system, immersion-style. Modder BrainEater here shows off a submersion concept that uses pure alcohol (anhydrous isopropanol) to drop the system’s average temperature to a theoretical minus-80 degrees Celsius.
The ThinkTank 2.0 is impractical for a number of reasons--besides being a design that puts PC components in an extremely flammable liquid, the machine consumes roughly 50 pounds' worth of dry ice for every 4 to 8 hours of operation. But obscene cost and extreme danger are all part of the fun, right?
Photo: BrainEater, at [H]ard|Forum
razer121's Plasma Ball PC
Case mods don't always need to be pragmatic--or attractive--to be noteworthy. While his mod isn't likely to win beauty pageants, razer121 delivers one of the more unusual chassis designs we've come across.
The embedded plasma ball lends a mad scientist vibe to the colorful case. And the included working cigarette lighter helps to keeps things classy. Though the picture quality isn't great, the custom tubing and the lighting effects reveal a passion for a system that some onlookers would feel a bit squeamish about displaying on their own desks.
Photo: razer121, at Hexus
Cheapskate's Teddy Bear
Cardboard--it's inexpensive and readily available. What better use for it than housing delicate PC hardware? And while you're at it, why not instill terror into the hearts of passing children and pets by crafting a case into the shape of an evil teddy bear?
Bit-tech user Cheapskate might not be employing functional hardware, but his unnamed case-modding project is comprised of three interlocking parts, making future upgrades theoretically feasible. And yes, those eyes do glow a sinister red when the system is powered on.
Photo: Cheapskate, at Bit-Tech
zAAm's Weighted Companion Cube
Tributes to video games are always popular in the case-modding community. In honor of the recent release of a teaser trailer for the much-anticipated Portal 2 game, it’s only fitting that we feature this custom creation by user zAAm.
Not only is it a fully accurate recreation of Portal’s best supporting character, the Weighted Companion Cube, but it also comes in two different LED flavors to fit your mood: red and blue!
Photo: zAAm, at Tech Power Up
CustomPCMAX's Project Panzerbox
Let it not be said that a PC can’t function as a desktop system and as a way to fend off hordes of invading supernatural enemies.
This killer (literally) chassis from CustomPCMAX has been designed in homage to the remake of the classic first-person shooter, Wolfenstein 3D. It's a lovingly crafted endeavor, with impressive detail right down to the bullet-shaped thumbscrews and the machine's peripherals.
Saibot's PocketBike i7
It’s not quite a lightbike--sorry, Tron faithful--but Extreme Overclocking forum user Saibot’s faithful recreation of a desktop system built within a miniature motorcycle's frame is the ultimate mashup of speed and processing power.
Packed inside the 40-inch long "PocketBike i7" is a Core-i7 920 processor, a 1TB hard drive, and an Evga 9800 GTX graphics card--and "lots of lights." Now, if only there were a way to get your work done and (legally) cruise about town…
Photo: Saibot, at Extreme Overclocking
Scanning the friendly skies of the universe is the master modification from user sunnyXtremist, who created a functional PC in the guise of a futuristic-looking satellite.
The Satella started life as a humble bucket, painstakingly altered with traditional case fans, LEDs, and a fair bit of skill. The detail work on this glowing system is impressive enough, even if you’ll never actually see anything like it flying in a low earth orbit.
Photo: sunnyXtremist, at PCModz
The Witch King PC
It would be great to get some additional details on this beautiful tribute case mod, but user Notorious_F.A.T hasn’t posted a worklog for what can only be described as “The Witch King PC.”
The end product of six months of work and a hefty price tag, his machine bathes the Lord of the Nazgul in a menacing red light as he perches atop the colorful chassis. The presence of one of The Lord of the Rings’ most fearsome characters adds a touch of distinction to this beautifully painted PC.
Photo: Notorious_F.A.T, at Bit-Tech
The detail work on this huge system by user P0Pe is easily its most outstanding feature. Not only are all the handcrafted designs impressive in their own right, but the wicked glowing effect created by this system’s LEDs superbly accents the sharp features of the “PC-Beto,” as it’s named.
The construction of this liquid-cooled leviathan has been tracked with painstaking detail at Tech Power Up's forums. Green, blue, and red LEDs accentuate the internal components, as well as bathing P0Pe's entire workspace in its eerie glow.
Photo: P0Pe, at Tech Power Up
Rameses23’s case modification isn’t so much a mod as it is an exercise in painting perfection. The look and feel of this case evokes ancient Egypt to the extreme--it’s a beautiful example of what one can accomplish when trading in a soldering iron or a dremel for a paintbrush.
The internal components are as ancient as the style: It's powered by an Athlon XP2100+ processor, and it offers a meager 1GB of RAM and a pair of 40GB hard drives. Specifications aside, it's an impressive piece of artistry.
Photo: Rameses23 at Tech Power Up
There’s a soft spot in our hearts for anyone who fashions a unique, beautiful system out of one of nature’s most basic elements: wood.
Karam has done just that, recreating a working system in what looks like a minimalistic, 1940s-style radio. The power supply is external, which helps to keep the unit's size small while adding to the home-appliance motif. Simple and elegant…but not easy!
Photo: Karam, at Tech Power Up
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors