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How to build the computer into the desk

In this school, you learn how to take out a desktop computer’s motherboard, graphics card, DVD burner, power supply and more and stuff the whole thing into a cabinet insert from the Expedit furniture series, from Ikea. With the finished cabinet computer neatly tucked away in our Ikea shelf with accompanying desk from the same series, we hope to raise many eyebrows.

Let the result be both a guide and inspiration for your own construction.

Step 1:
When it comes to building your own computer, there are a number of things to consider. First of all, you should think about what type of computer you want to enclose in a piece of furniture. A graphics monster for a computer, for example, needs significantly more space for cooling and fans than a word processing and surfing computer requires.

Here, it is also important to, when the computer build is completed, carefully check the temperatures of the components you have chosen to slide in so that they do not exceed flammable temperatures.

In relation to this, you should also carefully consider where all components fit best in terms of both space and air flow. As you know, warm air rises and therefore it is important to both get cold air in while directing the very warmest winds outwards.

A simple but effective way to test the placement of the components in the furniture you have chosen is to make paper models of the most important parts. They can then be easily moved around and taped where you feel they fit best.

For our part, it is important that the computer has a good air flow because it must contain a relatively hot graphics card (Geforce 8800GTS). Therefore, the layout looks like this, with two fans pulling in cold air from the front and a fan plus power supply and graphics card blowing it out at the back.

Dummy. A prototype with pieces of paper shows whether all the parts fit.

Step 2:
Once planning for component locations is complete, it’s time to begin the next phase of construction. To begin with, the plate that is supposed to act as a fastener for the motherboard must be cut and adjusted to fit in our chosen box. We scraped the plate with the associated back piece from an old worn-out chassis (see picture under What you need on the right).

As soon as the fit feels good enough, it’s time to drill and cut out holes both for the I/O plate (plate on the computer where all the cables exit), power supplies, fans and DVD and card readers. Be sure to measure and map out exactly where your chosen components are intended to be placed so you don’t cut into the furniture unnecessarily.

To remedy the problem of ugly edges where the saw blade pulls forward, the idea is to cover these with thin strips, which hopefully also creates a nice visual impression on the front of the box, around DVD and card readers.

Rough work. Sawing is in full swing.

Then the really hard work was done and after some small adjustments all components fit nicely in their respective places during a first test. We have also set up screws for both DVD players, card readers and power supplies so that they do not fall into the computer.

Folding. The door is attached with standard cabinet hinges from Ikea.

On the front, we glue white painted strips around the DVD and card reader to hide all the saw marks. The front fan hole is covered with a thick cardboard sheet that rests on small strips with a large opening at the bottom edge. In this way, the fans, while being effectively hidden, can draw in enough air from the underside of the cardboard.

Body. The moldings and everything on the walls of the box, except the computer components, mounted.

Hidden. Here are the holes that the fan cover hides.

Step 3:
Then it’s time to place all the components in the chassis. We start by attaching the rear fan with elastic bands and an elastic surface to the wood to dampen any vibrations.

We also attach the hard drive in a similar way, with elastic bands between four screwed angle irons. This means that the dishes hang freely in the air and do not spread any unnecessary clatter to the rest of the furniture.

The fans on the front of the box are mounted in the same way as the one on the back, with the difference that we also install a couple of filters in front of the fans so that they don’t blow the computer full of dust.

Stretchable. We attach the rear fan with elastic bands so that it can hang freely and does not create unnecessary vibrations.

Hanging freely. The hard drive is also attached with elastic bands and thus avoids creating noise through vibrations against the edges of the box.

To be able to start the can when everything is ready, we have invested in a nice button from Clas Ohlson, which we solder together with the power cable from our already half-disassembled chassis.

We also want to minimize the air resistance inside the box and are therefore relatively careful to let all the cables run along the walls of the cube and not hang freely in the middle. With great care and a little fixing, we eventually manage to get everything in place.

Mounted. This is what our computer case looks like with all components installed.

Neat. Graphics card and motherboard at the bottom. Above is the DVD player.

Step 4:

Done. The cabinet computer is in place on the shelf and doing well.

All done and it’s time to place the box in its furniture and plug in all the cables. With great excitement, we then press the start button, whereupon the computer actually starts exactly as it should.

After a few hours of playing and testing, we happily do not manage to raise the temperatures to levels exceeding the components had in their previous chassis (Antec Sonata III).

Nor is the noise level particularly high, and no noise or vibrations are heard from either the fans or the hard drive. We note that we succeeded quite well with the cooling, and of course the box turned out delicious!

Compact. With the computer on the shelf, we free up space under the desk.

The temperature measurements were partly carried out using the computer’s bios (press on Delete, F2 or F10 during start-up depending on the motherboard), partly with the programs Speedfan (free, www.almico.com/speedfan.php) and Lavaly’s Everest Extreme Edition (paid program, also available in trial version, www.lavalys.com).

Practically. You can fold down the cover to access the inside of the computer.

Step 5:
This guide is meant to inspire. You can of course follow your own creative whims and needs for the best possible placement of the computer.

During the work with our computer, new ideas for possible places to build the components were constantly emerging, everything from dresser and desk drawers to wall-mounted shelves, waste bins, wooden document holders, worn-out large screens and of course the old PC for All classic, in a deep board (see PC for All 10/09, or read on here).

There are really no restrictions when it comes to the placement of your computer and its components. However, we want to raise a finger of warning for insufficient cooling. A piece of furniture made of wood is significantly more flammable than an aluminum or sheet metal chassis, which is also designed with the well-being of the components as the sole purpose. Always keep that in mind when building your own.

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