Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Computer in a Desk

Nope, not just in a cubby in the desk or even in a drawer of the desk, I mean built into the desk. I was tired of having my computer chassis open in front of the desk all the time so I could be adding or removing HDDs or putting a customer's drive in so I could recover their data. I wanted the drives exposed in an easy-to-get-to fashion and still have the thing out of my way.

The desk I have has a 6-inch wide bay to the right of the monitor designed to hold CDs in jewel cases. I thought that it would be just the right size to house several drive bays as well as the CD-RW and DVD-RW drives I had in the machine. I thought that I could mount the system board and power supply against the lower side of the desk near my feet and be able to reach all of the bays with power and data cables.

I also wanted to do this as inexpensively as possible, so I dug into the drawers and piles of old computer stuff my son's left around the house after they moved out. I dug out some of the longest EIDE cables I could find, and even one which was not EIDE, but possibly SCSI. It was 50 conductors wide instead of 40, but I was able to cut it down and put on the connectors from another EIDE cable to make what I needed. I also ripped the backboard out of an old mintower to attach the system board to, and attached it to the desk. With some scavenged standoffs and screws, I was able to mount the HP system board.

I emptied out the bay in the desk and drilled some holes in the back, so I could mount two chassis cooling fans to keep my drives ventilated. These would be powered right off the main supply and run whenever the system was on. I saved the "grill" work from the front of the bays to close it up when in use. They were easy to remove when I wanted to make changes to the drives.

I built a 6-drive structure to sit in this bay, with padding to help keep noise down and to hold the drives in place. I also modified a number of EIDE cables to put the master and slave connectors closer together, and also to make the cables turn corners and fit through smaller holes. I needed 3 sets for the hard drive bays and one really long set to go from the CD drives to the system board. I also cut up a 5 1/4 inch, 4 position bay from an old tower to put the CD drive into. This was just the right size to fit into the 6 inch wide opening of the desk bay and I positioned it to sit right above the 6 HDD drive bays.

I drilled holes in the desk surface and fished all of the power and signal cables from the bay down to the system board and got everything hooked up. The drives get power from Molex connectors I cut from old power supplies and are attached to a barrier strip attached to the bottom of the desk. The strip is then connected to the power supply, which is also mounted with a modified bracket to the bottom of the desk.

With the drives installed, a scavenged set of wires to provide on/off and HDD and power LEDs to the desktop, it is pretty much done and working. I still need to get USB ports to the desktop but that can wait.

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