The previous Tech Tip took a look at a few items that may be high on the wish list of computer game players. Although those items may make the functionality of games better, one thing that seems to go hand-in-hand with a gaming rig is a system with a unique appearance. The rising popularity of LAN parties has elevated the interest in customized computer cases, and what once was left to highly creative/skilled individuals, is now so mainstream that it might not be considered custom.
Go back just a few short years and the appearances of pretty much all computers were slight variations of the same theme. Boring beige boxes dominated the industry, and people looking to express their individuality with the style of their computer had to take matters into their own hands.
The term "modding" may not even be a real word (I know MS Word's spell checker is upset with my use of it), but it is appropriate for loosely describing the broad field of modifying a computer system to give it a personalized style. This tip will proceed by looking at some of the basic items, tools, and accessories used in modding.
The old school case modders may be more likely to find their gear at hardware, automotive, and electronics stores than they would at a computer store. They might take a plain case like this and turn it into something even more unique than this one, with just a bit of creativity and a steady hand.
For those who take pride in doing the job themselves, there are certain tools that should be included in the typical modder's toolbox. The Dremel has to be considered a must-have. This high-speed rotary tool can be used for cutting, drilling, shaping, grinding, polishing, and more on anything from wood to plastic to hard steel. A Dremel can help take the most mundane case and open up new vent holes for fans, cut out a window in the side panel, or create intricate decorative cut outs.
A hole punch may not be as popular now that Dremels are so widely available, but they are excellent tools for punching perfect circles into thin sheet metal. For those who have access to one, these make easy work out of adding a fan hole to any case with less than ideal air flow.
A nibbler is another tool that may have lost some appeal with the popularity of the Dremel, but it is another manual tool that can be handy for cutting thin metal or plastic. Somewhat like a heavy duty pair of shears, the nibbler gets its name due to the fact that it takes small bites out of the surface in question, and allows the user to slowly cut the desired pattern.
A soldering iron will come in handy for those who want their electrical modifications to be a little more robust (and tidy) than wire nuts or electrical tape alone will allow. Adding a custom lighting scheme including LEDs, switches, and other items requires running some wires, and most likely joining them in a neat and secure manner.
Custom cases are a lot like hot rods, except for computer geeks. Some may have the super-charged (overclocked) engine and some serious performance hardware, but what will first grab someone's attention is a sharp appearance. Paint is key to a finely finished, modded computer, just as it is to a hot rod. You can transform a case into something with classic style, into a tribute to your favorite game, or into something whimsical with just a bit of paint.
The things serious case modders can create with their tools and creativity wind up looking less like computer cases and more like art or props from a movie. Things like the Matrix Regenerator or Rebirth projects may be beyond the skills (and patience) of most, but they are awesome to see.
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