Fan mods

controller.jpgModders get all sorts of ideas for their various modding projects. Almost all parts of a computer is fair game when it comes to these enthusiasts. The more common mods that you will see are on the case itself as well as the innards of the case – that is the cable management. Then there are the more exotic modifications that straddle the line between functionality and art.Of course there are also mods that you would not really think about anymore – these are the mods that fall in the category of “why didn’t I think of that?”. One mod that comfortably falls in this category are the various fan mods that have been thought up by enthusiasts.

One very useful mod that is being discussed at ocforums.com is a fan speed controller that anyone can build. A fan speed controller is very useful because you can change how fast and therefore how powerful the airflow is of your fan depending on the situation and the need. For example, if you are not doing anything resource intensive you can turn the fan to a low rpm to minimize noise. But if you are doing something resource intensive like gaming or editing movie files then you can bump up the RPMs in order to compensate for the additional amounts of heat that the computer is producing. This is a really great way of managing your fans. Unfortunately, fan controllers are only found on certain models of fans produced by certain companies. By building your own fan controller you can now use any fan that you want. Nifty, isn’t it?

Dual PSU Mod

PSU6.jpgI have always heard about dual PSUs being used by PC enthusiasts to power their rigs. I have always been intrigued by it because frankly I could not understand why you would need to PSUs. Is this some sort of geek pissing contest? Or is there an actual benefit in using two PSUs?Based on research, there is indeed a bit of a difference as you now share the electrical load of a whole rig between two power supplies, easing the demands for power on both PSUs. In actuality I do find this a bit strange because, in my mind, there is no diference between using two PSUs and using a PSU that has enough juice to power the whole PC with watts to spare. But I think the origins of the dual PSU came at a time when there were still no PSUs that were powerful enough to feed the increasingly resource hungry PC parts that have begun to come out from various manufacturers.

I thought making a dual PSU was easy but apparently it was not. Since I am not confident about my soldering and electrical skills this was a mod that I decided not to do. But I was still intrigued by it so I was pleasantly surprised to see the Dual PSU Mod being discussed in a forum. The pictures were clear and gave you a good idea on what to do (in vaguely general terms of course). Hopefully though the thread starter will also post what he did electrically in order to let the PSUs boot up together and at the same time. This way, other people will be able to start their own projects.

PSU Decisions

psu440.jpgAnyone who buys computers tries to allocate their budget towards the latest, fastest and most feature packed parts that their budget would allow them to. This means getting current generation processors, feature packed motherboards, midlevel to top level video cards, as much memory that they can buy, storage that will enable them to install many resource hungry applications and still leave enough room for gigabytes of files and downloaded goodies on the internet and of course, a case that would fit all of these while also maintaining good looks.Of course, if they can scrimp on a little they would so if they think that a passable product or part would be good enough for their needs then they will go for that and usually this distinction falls on the PSU. Most novice and mid-skill level PC owners usually scrimp on the PSU when assembling a computer. If they can get a generic PSU then so be it. They will even settle for the bundled PSU’s on certain PC cases because it will save them a lot of money.

But this is actually not a good idea and this is best illustrated in this particular thread that I reading today. It is true that you should not get a budget PSU especially if it is going to bring power to such high cost parts. One forum member even said that it should be the most expensive computer part you should buy. The reason here is that good, clean power that is accurately rated will ensure that your PC parts work properly.

Commercial case modding services

casemods.jpgCase modding is one of the most recent iterations of the computer hobby that we have come to know and love. Whereas before a computer hobby consisted of just sourcing and using fast computer parts in order to get the most performance out of your computer and also tweaking each part in order to further get the most juice out of it and make it perform beyond its stated speed. Now, it has spilled on to the actual aesthetics of the computer, most particularly on the case itself.The initial case modding projects actually involved functionality more than aesthetics. The first mods that computer hobbyists made involved providing better airflow in the case – this involved putting additional blowholes in the case (actually drilling holes that would be big enough to accommodate additional fans) as well as better cable management (before the advent of rounded IDE cables, hobbyists actually individually stripped each IDE cable so that they can make their own rounded cables while others meticulously folded the flat cables in order to make it smaller and thus provide more air circulation inside.

But in recent years, modding has become more commercialized with lazy hobbyists now turning to case modding companies to make the projects for them. This recent trend has actually removed the element of these projects being home grown and being a labor of love. There are even forum threads that discuss the services offered by commercial case modding companies that offer “Custom” services to computer owners. I am ambivalent about this development, on the one hand I cannot fault these people for taking advantage of an obvious demand for such services. But I also have to say that modding is really a hobby that you should be doing on your own so that you can feel pride in your work.

Cold Cathode Light Dilemma

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I have been modding my computer cases for the last four years. No really drastic moddings though – more efficient cable management, drilling additional blowholes and more efficient air flow by inserting carefully placed fans inside the case. I am not the flashy type of guy so I hardly put in any “bling” on to my PC in terms of lights and all those UV reactive parts. I just do not think that those kinds of modding ideas are for me. The only light – related accessories I have is my illuminated keyboard and mouse pad (which is quite useful when gaming with no lights on, lest you wake the kid) and my optical mouse with changing lights from Belkin, a giveaway given to my wife by the local Belkin distributor here.I felt that I had no use for cold cathode lighting that is quite popular among other modders who want to transform their drab PC cases into virtual light shows. At one point I did get enticed to at least put one cold cathode light in my rig for more practical purposes – I want to clearly see what is inside the case if I want to check out the fans or find out if it already needs cleaning. But partly through laziness and an inability to find a cold cathode light that is not a garish green, magenta or blue I decided to forego the project.

And it looks like I did the right thing, based on a thread at Casemodgod.com, it looks like cold cathode lighting is a bit of a hazard because the inverter has a tendency to overheat and actually melt down and catch fire, while the light still remains on! I’ve seen one of those infamous pictures where the inside of the case looked like an arsonist had a barbecue and it made me realize that, yes, I made the right decision after all.

Cool it!

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Probably one of the most crucial factors when it comes to modding and overclocking your rig is the issue of cooling. In fact, cooling is one of the prime motivations for modding cases before. There was a need to lower system temperatures to prevent a system from hanging, locking up or from degrading the components and its performance. So a way to solve the problem of overheating is to cool down the system. Thus the first case mods were made to allow users to install additional fans to their systems. From there of course, modding became more than just functional but also creative.Up to now, even with PC case manufacturers already considering ambient temperature in their designs (thus the proliferation of cases with more provisions for fans) cooling is still a major problem because components are now heating up more because of faster speeds. Also of serious consideration is the fact that more enthusiasts are also overclocking their systems in order to suck the most juice of their components. Because of this, cooling is one of the most discussed topics in various overclocking and modding forums. I myself have been looking for a good source for cooling and I haven’t found it… until now.

I luckily stumbled onto to Ocforums.com, which has a whole section just on cooling subjects, problems and solutions. I love going to one stop sites because it saves me a lot of time going from one site to another just to look for one answer. This forum is also filled with experts so that you can ask your questions and be confident that someone who is really adept at the hobby will answer your questions.

Awesome monstermod at Dingka.com

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The PC case modding community is one of the most robust and active on the internet. These online communities are so active and the members so helpful to one another – they practically define community. The reason for this is that their hobby – which is case modding – can be a relatively hard and technical endeavor. There are so many things to consider – mechanical, mathematical, electrical, and creative – that these factors can actually overwhelm a person much more someone who is just starting out with his hobby.The most exciting part of these communities though is that you get to see the various worklogs that case modders post so that you can see the progress of their new projects.

One project that has really caught my attention is the so called Monstermod of Willettfx. This may probably be one of the most ambitious mods I have seen. Basially, the modder is planning to put an animatronic face on his case. Animatronic puppets are used in movies, imagine the puppet in Child’s Play or even the face of the Alien in the Alien movies and you get the idea.

Willettfx has actually made his first monstermod back in 2003. But he said that he thinks that his idea is due for an upgrade so he is building a monster with animatronic features – this baby is going to be rolling his eyes and actually snarling!

Willettfx’s project is just halfway through but it is already creating a lot of buzz in the community. I look forward to seeing the finished mod in the next few weeks.

A few tips on cleaning and maintenance

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In my previous post I talked about how to clean a PC properly as well as mentioned why it is important to clean your PC because of its overall benefits to the PC’s performance as well as protection for the components.You have now assembled your PC and it is sparklingly clean. But there are also some other areas that can be cleaned a different way. There are also some things that you can do to make maintenance of computer so much more easier for you.

Here are some of them:

* You can use a folded paper towel that is dampened with rubbing or isopropyl alcohol to wipe the plastic parts of the case with. This is a great way of making old and dingy looking plastic look shiny and new. You should always refold the towel and exposing a fresh, clear part of the tower and then rewetting that clean, exposed part with alcohol to keep it moist. This is a very simple solution and

* Before you make any kind of changes to your case, try to list it down first and / or sketch it. This way, you minimize the errors or mistakes that you might commit

* A window on the side of the case is a great idea because it becomes easier to monitor what is happening inside your case. You’ll immediately know if your case is already in need of cleaning. Adding some LED lights makes peering into the case easier too.

* Shutdown your computer for three hours before attempting to open it, this way the charges in each of the components are neutralized.

Cable management inside the PC

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Yesterday, I was talking about cable management in your computer systems and how a good cable management system will make your workspace look more attractive, easier to clean and eliminate electromagnetic interference that can affect the quality of you’re your computer’s audio and video.

What you may not know though is that good cable management is not only important on your workspace, it is also crucial and important inside your computer itself. If you will look inside your PC case you will notice that it is also a mess of many wires and cables that snake all around without any rhyme or reason. You may think that since it is not seen anyway then you can leave it as is or that there is no way you can manage the cables inside the CPU. Both counts are extremely untrue. First, even if the cables inside the CPU are not seen (except of course you have a clear acrylic side panel), organized cables actually promote better airflow inside the CPU and this results in lower overall temperature inside the case. Of course, we all know that lower temperatures make your PC work more efficiently and also prolong the life of your PC components. Secondly, it is not impossible to organize the cables inside your PC. It just needs patience, a little creative thinking and lots of cable ties, electric tape, twisties and, for the more serious modder, heat shrinks.

The objective is really simple. Try to remove all of the slack from all of the wires, neatly tie them together and, if possible, put those wires in areas where it will not impede with the airflow of your fans. Once you have done this you will be amazed at just how much cleaner your CPU looks and it will also run at least a degree or two cooler.

Painting a fan: How to do it right

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One of the easiest mods to do is painting the fan used for your PC. It is a project that even a novice case modder can do. The skills needed to do this project is only rudimentary and is a good way to get your feet wet in the case modding hobby.

 

There are two methods used in painting fans. One of them, applying paint manually with a brush, is time consuming and does not really produce great, professional looking results. The better method would be spray painting as it allows you to put even coats of paint on the fan, which results in a more pleasant looking finish.

 

The first thing that you should do when painting a fan is to clean the area to be painted on thoroughly. Make sure that it is free from dust or any other particles.

 

After doing this, put masking tape on the areas that you would not want to paint, leaving only the parts that you do want to paint exposed. Make sure that you also put masking tape on the part where the blade meets the motor so that paint will not get into the motor itself.

 

After doing this, spray one coat of primer on the fan. The primer will ensure that the paint will adhere well. Let the primer dry for a day, and depending on what you want you can sand it lightly. After doing this, apply the first coat of paint. Let it dry and then put another coat if you want to.

 

When the paint has completely dried you can now remove the masking tape – and that’s it! The finished project.