1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Case Mod - In Progress Darkmac Pro (March 2013)

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by WhatTheTech, 2 Mar 2013.

  1. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG]

    The aim of this mod is to shake up the norm of aluminum-silver G5/Mac Pro mods by employing a darker theme for my Mac Pro. I want it to be clean and non-flashy, yet still have the gravitas to make people stop and take a second look.

    TO DO LIST
    This list is more for my personal benefit than anything, but will give you a good idea of what's to come!
    - Install custom front panel with USB 3.0 connectivity (waiting for part)
    - Install anodized DVD drive cage (waiting for part)
    - Install panel-mount 3.5mm female jacks on the back of the case (waiting for parts)
    - Possibly install panel-mount USB 3.0 ports with right-angle adapters (not sure if they will fit...)
    - Improve PSU airflow by drilling holes/removing side of enclosure
    - Install white LED light strip and inconspicuous power button for lighting (waiting for parts)
    - Possibly replace GPU and HDD LEDs with white ones

    Though this is NOT a sponsored mod, I would be remiss to not mention Anodizing Specialists in Ohio who have done a fantastic job with the case:

    [​IMG]

    INTRO
    Well, despite having Project Gravitas on pause due to hardware issues, I couldn't turn down an eBay auction for a poorly-described Mac Pro chassis, that was listed without pictures and simply titled "Apple Case". On a whim, I decided to take a chance (they had listed one part number for a Mac Pro fan, so I figured it might be a Mac Pro) - $30 and no other bids later, I had a PERFECT Mac Pro show up on my doorstep. Ebay win:

    [​IMG]


    Despite being mostly empty, the case had only one small scratch on it, and the important parts like the front panel and shelf were included, so I had absolutely no reason to complain.

    Here's a quick and dirty shot right out of the shipping box:

    [​IMG]

    I knew that I wanted this mod to stand out. I'm always encouraged to see the sheer volume of G5/Mac Pro mods floating around various communities, and after being inspired by the Gunmetal G5 project from ToddFX on G5Modders.com (and contacting him to find out how much he paid for his anodizing), I decided to make some phone calls around town and see how much the cost of anodizing a Mac Pro would annoy my wife. She would undoubtedly (and not incorrectly) think that it was superfluous. Well, "superfluous" is not in the vocabulary of most modders, and I was delighted to hear back from "Anodizing Specialists" in Ohio that, yes, they would be interested in me coming down to talk things over. Delighted, I took a trip to the shop to talk with the VP of operations. Being an aluminum guy, I would like to think that he appreciated the hunk of his metal of choice almost as much as I do. Sitting in his office he pulled out some color samples, and I chose a dark gray. I had toyed around with black and even white, but this is to be my last computer case for a little while, and dark gray is my favorite color. After going over the case with magnets, he pointed out the parts that needed to be removed and told me to come on back when I had it disassembled. He very kindly gave me permission to photograph and document the process for informational purposes, which will be released in a forthcoming article on G5Modders to help (hopefully) encourage others to take the plunge!


    DISASSEMBLY
    Not having the same experience that I do with the G5, I decided to be overly-organized with my disassembly. Every part/area has its own bag, and in that goes any parts and related screws/fittings. It's annoying, but I'm sure I'll thank myself in the end! (Note: a lot of this full disassembly is applicable to the G5!)

    [​IMG]

    The awesome modular drive bays that I won't be using (sleds weren't included and are out of my budget):

    [​IMG]

    This is perhaps the most intricate and difficult case that I have ever worked with, and that's including old server towers from the 90's! With this more than any other case, TOOLS ARE EVERYTHING. If you don't have the right tools, you're going to have a tough time doing things efficiently, and you'll probably end up cussing.

    [​IMG]

    (6mm socket)
    (T8 Kobalt Bit)

    Before picking up the tools above, I was close to giving up twice. "It's not worth it", I thought to myself on those occasions, "just do a regular mod". Once I buckled down and bought the tools, things were MUCH easier, if only slightly faster.

    Our patient:

    [​IMG]

    I'm going to hazard a guess that there are around 80 screws that you need to remove for full disassembly, although considering everything I had to take out, that could be an underestimate.


    [​IMG]

    The above screws are the biggest pain the neck. Being so close to the bottom of the case, regular screwdriver handles are simply too big to have space for your knuckles to turn, and of course Apple uses that blue loctite stuff on all of their screws, so pliers just don't cut it most of the time.

    Once I had removed all the screws (including the hidden ones…sigh) I carefully pulled apart the handles from the shell. Now I'm not sure if I did it correctly, but using some fabric in between the two parts, I pulled the handle assembly away from the shell, and slowly slid up out and over, taking care not to scratch anything! I don't have pictures of this step as it takes both hands, but I'm here to help if anyone needs guiding!

    Here's half the beast, looking like a car door in a gangster flick, riddled with bullet holes:


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here's a close up of the pesky screws that I mentioned earlier. Four would be fine, but 8+ on each side is just a pain:

    [​IMG]

    After that, there were more screws to separate the two halves of the shell as well as some rivets that had to be drilled out, but that was relatively easy with much more space to work in! Still, look at these alternating rivets and security screws:

    [​IMG]

    Steve Jobs meant it when he said he didn't want people rooting around inside Apple products. Finally I removed anything that was not made of aluminum, including all I/O plastic and EMI shields, and several screws and a few other bits and bobs here and there.


    CUTTING THE TRAY

    I decided to use a spare Lian Li motherboard tray that I had. Not wanting to cut the back of the case, I really needed only the tray, and didn't want to spend money on something I already had! I needed to cut the tray so that it would be close enough to the back of the Mac Pro case to use the stock PCI brackets. Here it is, all marked up and ready to go:

    [​IMG]

    If you don't have to make small, intricate cuts, the EZ-lock metal cutting discs are by far the easiest way to go.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It took me about 45 seconds to get here:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Not perfectly straight, but after a little bit of sanding it's not looking too bad, and besides, that side will be up against the back of the case and out of sight!
     
    Last edited: 8 Mar 2013
  2. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    THE REAR FAN

    Well, in the hopes that I can save the original fan grill, I decided to get started and hope for the best. The Mac Pro has a processor cage with the fan attached, so the grill doesn't have holes for mounting a standard fan.

    [​IMG]

    So, using my very scientific method of an overly sharpened pencil and a 120mm fan, I made the marks for the mounting holes:

    [​IMG]

    I started at with a small bit to make the pilot holes, assuming that the thing was solid metal. Nope. Plastic underneath! So I pulled out the right sized bit and made four holes:

    [​IMG]

    I wasn't too worried about the size once I found out there was plastic underneath. By keeping it a little small, I figured (correctly) that the fan screw would make their own threads. Here's the final product, with some nifty dark grey screws that I found in my toolbox:

    [​IMG]

    Now, as you can see from the following picture, I drilled the holes off center. There's a not-so-small possibility that I will have to remove part of the inner grill for motherboard clearance, and if that's the case, I don't want to have to drill again!

    [​IMG]

    Now just keep your fingers crossed that I won't have to cut the fan grill! It's so purty the way it is....

    ON THE REAR I/O...

    Every G5 mod I have ever done involved cutting the back. Honestly, I had no problem with it - I would prefer to have a secure motherboard with a cut back than an non-secure motherboard with a clean one. By a series of misfortunes in terms of measurements (things being 5mm too small, 8mm too big) I was sort of forced into keeping the back uncut. For those who are interested, here are some of the factors that came into play:

    1) I wanted it to look good.
    2) I wanted to use the stock fan grill
    3) I didn't want to encroach on the PSU area with my motherboard (I/O is longer than Mac Pro stock area)
    4) My Lian-Li backplate was one PCI slot shorter than the Mac Pro, meaning I would have to have a gaping hole on one side or the other...

    You know, when talking with SirKeldon about all this, I realized that the ONLY things that I use on my motherboard are the USB ports. Seriously! My mic and headphones are USB, obviously my keyboard and mouse are, and I use a PCIE wi-fi card. I never use on-board video, so as long as I had good PCI brackets, I was good to go! So, with two USB 3.0 ports on the front that I will hook up with a custom front panel, and a 4-slot USB expansion card - all I needed now was a way to utilize the two USB 3.0 ports on the back (I have 7 USB devices total). I found these panel mount USB 3.0 ports, and despite not loving the idea of having more screws on the back, I think some JB Weld might be an acceptable alternative! As for the rest of the ports on the back, I'll use some salvaged plastic from a Mac fan bracket to block them off. (Well, I might throw in two of these for good measure..)

    I'm sort of looking forward to my stock look - probably because it's something I haven't done before. Who knows, maybe it will turn in to a total stock look with extenders for each port??? (Probably not, I'm too lazy...)
     
  3. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Exciting update, Darkmac Pro is getting her color!!

    [​IMG]

    I just wanted to quickly plug the company who is doing such amazing work:

    [​IMG]

    Their prices are incredible and they accept orders by mail!
    This is Tom - he took amazing care of my mac pro and explained each process in great detail:

    [​IMG]

    Here's a comparison shot so you can actually see the difference:

    [​IMG]

    Even here I feel like the flash on my camera is making it look lighter than it is! And here's the other side:

    [​IMG]

    The inner shell (sorry about the purple hue, edited on an old monitor):

    [​IMG]

    I got the second batch back from the anodizer which means the mammoth task of reassembling has begun! Everything looks fantastic, although I can't say perfect. There are a few "hotspots" here and there, and they are not by any means the fault of Anodizing Specialists. I have learnt a lot through this process, namely that Apple uses some crazy alloys, and that those aluminum alloys don't always take the anodizing very well. Take a close look at the power button and you will notice some flaring like with the logo - just another example of Apple making things difficult for us modders. Still, these are very minor details that can easily be passed along, which I will be doing in my article. You have to be hyper-critical (like me) to really care about such things, and when it comes down to it, the guys at A.S. did a fantastic job with everything - really very splendid.

    Now I'm waiting for my Montana Anthracite Gray spray paint to get here (tomorrow) so that I can spray the steel frame that couldn't go through the anodizing process. I considered leaving it silver (like with the door fixtures and lock handle) but it's a pretty big piece of metal, and I want the overall aesthetic to flow, only broken by small silver highlights here and there.

    [​IMG]

    Thanks for watching - I'll have a major update today as my spraypaint just got here!
     
    Last edited: 6 Mar 2013
  4. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Following SirKeldon's Watercooling article for the G5, I decided to go with a 120mm AIO kit - the Corsair H60. Despite having some poor reviews on Amazon, I realized that the majority of these were related to the 80/100's iLink software, and that most people were pretty pleased with the performance. A friend of mine gave me a spare (brand new I might add), so for the $25 I gave him I figured "why not?" I'm not an overclocker, and right now I'm only running a 1155 celeron - hardly a heat-machine.

    When I got it, I realized that it wasn't going to clear the PCI bracket, so off I went to Lowe's to pick up some bolts (M3.5 - 6/32" if anyone is looking for them) to give it some distance to clear the bracket. They didn't have any cheap rubber washers ($1 for 2?!?!), so I picked up some metal ones with one rubber washer at each end. This is the result:

    [​IMG]

    Overall, I'm quite pleased, especially at how that gray fan tones in! I'm even MORE pleased that I get to use the stock 120mm grill!
     
  5. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just a quick sneak-peek at the inner cage....this spray paint is fantastic:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Unicorn

    Unicorn Uniform November India

    Joined:
    25 Jul 2006
    Posts:
    12,726
    Likes Received:
    456
    Excellent work so far! I look forward to seeing this one finished :) I've had a Mac Pro case sitting, disassembled in a large box on a top shelf in my workshop for about 5 years now. I know exactly what I want to do with it, but making it happen will take a lot of time and money, so I'm still waiting for the right time to start it.
     
  7. FatPandas

    FatPandas What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    4 Sep 2012
    Posts:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    That case looks awesome anodized man :thumb:
    Keeping an eye on this. Keep up the good work :)
     
  8. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for your comments everyone!! It's by far the most challenging case I have worked with (simply because it's over-engineered), but I know it will be the most rewarding. Seriously though, for $75 all said and done for anodizing, I doubt I'll ever be spray-painting an aluminum case again!!

    UPDATE

    Ok, so I now have the inner assembly totally done! It was a pain, especially since I had to do it twice (shelf goes back on before the lock) but I can comfortably say that I have the whole lock mechanism down to a science - it took me four minutes to put it together the second time, versus over 10 minutes the first (not including a skype conversation when I had a freak-out moment)!

    Here's the top fan assembly which holds a lot of the weight of the top shelf:
    [​IMG]


    Here's a picture I took BEFORE realizing that I was an idiot and had to do this after the shelf was put in:
    [​IMG] (LOL)


    And finally, the whole thing put back together:
    [​IMG]


    The lock mechanism is totally working (thank God) and maybe it's just me but the color scheme is really floating my boat right now. I was a little worried at first that the different color for the spray paint was going to look weird, but actually I think it adds to the whole monochrome feel by adding a different shade of gray (no, not 50...shudder).

    Now it's time to put the handle shell back on, which is the part I am DREADING. It's the last exterior piece, and has a ton of screws that are welded on, non-removable, and that have the potential to really scratch the anodizing. Keep your fingers crossed for me!!!
     
  9. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    UPDATE

    I got the handles on!! It was a tough job - again I had bubble wrap in between the two shells (inner and outer) and gently eased the handle assembly over the inner shell. Then it got stuck. With MUCH prying, levering and grunting (on my part, the mac pro case took the process with grace), it finally clicked into place! I then had to tug out every last bit of bubble wrap which was now firmly clamped in between the two parts. There may be some left in there ;)

    Well, here's the final picture of the day, and perhaps the best representation of how dark everything actually is, something I have had difficult conveying due to the nature of flash photography and metal. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

    [​IMG]

    Now I'm sitting here looking at the 30+ screws that need to be put back in. If my Jedi mind tricks won't will them into place, I may pick up a screwdriver....
     
  10. FatPandas

    FatPandas What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    4 Sep 2012
    Posts:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    What's with the rectangle cutout in the front base of the case? Obviously it's apple engineered I'm just wondering what it was used for/what you'll do with it?
     
  11. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    I believe it housed several sensors and possibly even the bluetooth module (there was an antenna that I removed leading to it).

    [​IMG]

    I have no solid plans for it just yet, although some time ago I put together a hardware hack to mimic the Apple Chime, and using the (rather smaller) stock Mac Pro speaker, this might actually be a pretty cool location for it...the bottom is simply covered with a plastic sticker with the model and serial numbers, so I can either see what it sounds like with that on, or even use some speaker material to cover it....

    Thanks for your question!
     
  12. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, I ran in to several problems tonight.

    1) The first is that even with the motherboard attached directly to plate I am using, the standoffs themselves are too high for me to use the PCI brackets.
    2) The USB 3.0 panel mount connectors that I bought have too much depth in the female port to be usable without pushing in to the motherboard.

    So, I am toying around with the following solution, as shown by the image below:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see in the text, the rubber bar that I cut from the PSU area will allow me to use pointed screws that dig in and create their own threads. I did a test screw, and it actually holds very well. This will then be attached using double-sided tape or even glue to hold fast to the PCI bracket. Despite not being to most aesthetically pleasing solution, at least the rubber is black. I also ran in to the issue of my USB female panel-mount connectors being too deep for the small space afforded by the original bracket placement. To counter this, I am thinking about moving them above the PCI bracket as shown. The screw holes are perfectly set so that I can screw right through the Mac Pro's mesh (lucky or what?). Despite still meaning I need to cut the back, at least it's only two small USB-sized cuts, rather than the entire back as would be needed for the entire I/O area.

    This is NOT ideal, and is definitely not my first choice, but it's a workable solution to several small but inconvenient issues. If I didn't need the internal motherboard USB 3.0 headers for the front panel I ordered, I would simply put them on a PCI bracket and be done with it, but sadly in this case that is not an option.

    There is some good news - my Corsair H60 clears the motherboard nicely, and will stay in the mod!

    Any thoughts?
     
  13. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, after much fretting and frustration, I finally got the motherboard plate mounted, and more importantly - ALIGNED. As you can probably see by the images below, I had to drill several times for each point, simply because my tolerances are/were minute. A little too far up, audio ports would hit the PCI bracket, a little too far down, and the PCI cards wouldn't be aligned.

    I finally figure it out, found a couple of gray screws with almost no protrusion that would interfere with the motherboard, and finally cut a hole for the H60 mounting bracket. Please excuse my terrible dremel work - I didn't sleep very well and my garage is around 18 degrees Fahrenheit right now...


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once I have double-checked that everything fits, it's on to the power supply!!
     
  14. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just a quick test fit of some components - I'm loving how it's all starting to have some cohesion!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 3 Mar 2013
  15. thegyufi

    thegyufi What's a Dremel?

    Joined:
    21 Mar 2011
    Posts:
    182
    Likes Received:
    7
    Very good start here ! I hope we will see an update soon !
     
  16. Hukkel

    Hukkel James' minion

    Joined:
    20 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    1,284
    Likes Received:
    25
    Looking very nice in that grey!
     
  17. Father-Time

    Father-Time Minimodder

    Joined:
    23 Feb 2004
    Posts:
    172
    Likes Received:
    1
    Anodising, BAH, you should of "Waynio'd" it :)
    Looks really good, very nice contrast, if you wanted to replace the washers, i have recently done something similar, i drilled out motherboard spacer though, you know the silver ones with no bolt on the end, was fiddly but easy enough, good luck with this looks really good :)
     
  18. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for all the encouragement everyone!

    A small update: I have everything mounted, tested and am very pleased overall! The H60 is NOT as loud as everyone made it out to be, so it's definitely a keeper. The PSU that I sleeved for project gravitas has a new home in the Mac Pro, and the colors are looking fantastic.

    Left to do:

    - Permanently affix the rear PSU plug
    - Decide how and where to affix HDD cages
    - Maybe put a fan grill on the top fan?
    - Reassemble front DVD mechanisms
    - Install front panel USB 3.0 mod (when it gets here)
    - Take some KILLER pictures
     
  19. WhatTheTech

    WhatTheTech Macmodder Addict

    Joined:
    18 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well as promised, here are a few pictures. This is still a work-in-progress, but should give you a good idea of cable-management and general mods done.

    Let's start with the ugliest part: the top shelf.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see here, the bulk of the modding that remains lies in this section. The power supply needs to be affixed to the case so that it's not just resting on the top shelf (luckily there are holes underneath for screws). I also need to find a stock Mac Pro PSU for parts, as this whole section is usually cordoned off by an aluminum shield. Moving left you can see that cable management up top is lacking. I mean, it's not a tangled mess, but I still want to streamline a few things. I also need to put a grill on that fan. The HDD enclosure is also in need of some permanent modding so that it's not just resting there, although some industrial-strength tape might do the trick. You will also notice that I haven't replaced the DVD mechanism yet - mostly because I'm a little tired today but also because I haven't figured out whether I should paint the bezels or leave them silver.

    [​IMG]

    The back of the case is getting there. As you can tell, I painted the USB PCI bracket to match the theme, and on my to-do list are the other brackets shown in silver. Up top you will notice that the power socket hasn't been fixed yet, something that will probably involve some serious disassembly, JB Weld and a couple of clamps. It's definitely a part that takes a lot of strain when inserting a power cable, so it needs to be well attached. Finally the rear I/O remains un-cut, and will probably stay that way. I am waiting on some right-angle USB 3.0 cables to attach to me USB 3.0 panel mount female ports - these will allow me to have USB 3.0 in the stock USB cut-outs. I am also waiting for some 3.5mm female panel-mount jacks so that I can have audio without having to wrangle the audio plugs through a hole.

    Finally, the part I am most pleased with:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the single-sleeved power cables that I did for an earlier project are looking totally rad in gray. I love how the Corsair fan tones in, and I think I've done a decent job of wire management so far. The white USB cables will be sleeved as soon as I feel like messing around with little pins, and that will be the last major modification to this area. I like Father-Time's idea for spacers, and if I don't find anything better it's definitely on the list of possibilities! I'm currently using that little G5 Processor cover to hide the PSU - it's ok, but as I already mentioned the stock Mac Pro divider would be better.

    Thanks for watching - I'll be updating again soon!
     
  20. Marquee

    Marquee Mac Pro Modder

    Joined:
    22 Jul 2005
    Posts:
    558
    Likes Received:
    1
    I like your colour. I was also planing on paint the out side of my case gun metal grey. The mother board tray looks clean. Good job.
     

Share This Page