2008 Mac Pro Case Mod (As stock as possible)

May 9, 2020
I didn't read
so ignore me
Hi, my first post here!

So, I was inspired to do my own Mac Pro mod after seeing all the mods here, and around the interwebs. I challenged myself to make it as close to the stock case as possible. Here are the main highlights:
-USB 3.0 front panel WITHOUT cutting anything
-Re-use original fans/metal covers on the inside (dk what they're called)
-Rear panel with minimal cutting

I'll try to explain as much as possible what/how I did these in the next post!

But first, pics!
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Cut out as little as possible with a dremel, laser cut & engraved a backplate and 3d-printed a white plastic spacer to mount it to. The idea was to put an LED strip on the other side of the spacer which would light up when you approached the Rear IO, like the 2012 Mac Pro...but I got lazy. (Maybe I'll do it in future?) The hole below that is for some custom functions I set up (an Ambilight-like dynamic backlight for my screen, and an external power button that is embedded in my table) Still haven't gotten round to making that part neater...not planning to haha

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2x USB 3.0 Ports from Aliexpress, drilled an extra hole for a 3.5mm mic (the hole came a bit wonky, as you can see) Am planning on 3d printing a plastic insert for the audio jacks to tidy up the appearance. Audio jack detection works :) Firewire ports unused, not sure what to do with those.

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These are the metal covers I was talking about. Managed to use almost all :) I made the PSU cover slide in and out to hide the PSU too. Used the 2 front and 1 bacl original fans. They're really silent but can spin up to incredible speeds if needed (I've actually never needed to hit 100%). Figured out the control with standard 3 / 4 pin headers too, I'll explain that later on (kinda forgot what I did, so I'll have to look through my (almost non-existent, unfortunately) documentation again)

I had actually started this project around mid May. It took me about a week to get the core of the PC up and running. From then, it had become my daily driver (sold my old case, so no turning back!!) But the front IO and a few things to touch up took a while because I had ordered parts from China...and procrastination too. Only got down to putting the finishing touches and taking some nice shots this week HAHA
Apr 16, 2020
PlexHD X99
2678 v3
Radeon RX 580 8Gb
  1. MacBook Pro
Classic Mac
  1. Portable
Mobile Phone
  1. Android
Nice job! More photos please!
May 9, 2020
I didn't read
so ignore me
Ok I'll go into a bit more detail about the stuff that I took some time to figure out/stuff that I think may be helpful...

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The stock fans are really powerful at peak, but are really quiet at low speeds. They seem to be pretty good quality too - it would be a pity not to use them. Most of the posts and forums I found said that it's too much of a hassle, but eventually I managed to find out how to get them to work (and it's quite simple). Note: This will work only if your motherboard supports voltage control. (If your motherboard has a 3 pin header for fans, you're all good. If it has a 4 pin header like mine, you need to check if the headers support basic voltage control.)
Here's the schematic of how it's connected. (And before you call me out, I heat-shrinked the wires after taking the photo).
Screenshot 2020-12-16 205302.png

As I look back, I think it might have been easier to just swap the connections in the Mac Pro fan connectors instead of making an adapter lol
I tweaked the BIOS fan control curve to spin the fans extra slow for the most part and only really ramp up at high temperatures so that my rig stays quiet most of the time. The airflow is great - my temperatures have been significantly lower at peak and I've actually never hit 100% fan speeds to date!

An annoying side effect is that the mobo spins the fans up to 100% for a sec or two upon startup, so my rig momentarily sounds like a leaf blower every time I press the power button.

Front Panel:

This one is a bit custom, I laser cut and 3d printed a plate to hold the USB ports and audio jacks. For the USB ports, I got a standard front panel USB 3.0 cable from aliexpress. They had screw holes, so I made a 3d printed holder for that.
For the audio jacks, I salvaged them from an old front panel. To enable jack detection, the front panel requires a stereo jack with an isolated switch, but mine was not an isolated switch. I found a workaround in this post by JuanLobo; it worked! Also works for the more common TRRS jacks so you could use that too. I wasn't able to make a PCB so I soldered to some stripboard. The result looks jank...but it works :)

Rear IO Panel
I wanted to cut the case as little as possible. Luckily for me, the IO ports that I would actually need lined up nicely with one section of the original Mac Pro's IO - so I would just have to cut that part out. I used an angle grinder instead of a dremel (an angle grinder is basically a super-powered dremel that can easily cut your finger off :p) - it made the job a lot easier, but led to some ugly cut marks at the corner because the tool was too big. I ended up rounding the corners with a dremel anyway haha

(The marks along the sides is residue from the masking tape, not scratches)

I 3d printed a spacer and laser cut a backplate to fit the cutout I made, I think it turned out quite nicely (sorry, I forgot to take pics, so here's the 3d model instead. I added engravings to label each port later on also)

The audio ports however didn't line up - so I made an extension cable from my motherboard's audio jacks to the Mac Pro case audio jacks, and kinda glued it to the plastic insert on the case. So now I don't have audio jack detection for the rear io jacks. (I really don't use them actually).

Power Supply
To replace the power supply with an ATX one, I (tried to) remove the spacer that was originally there.
This one:

It's made of steel and is an absolute pain to get out. The bottom part is bolted on, but the top is riveted in. It was too much effort getting the rivets out, so I used my trusty angle grinder and cut and indentation to bend it in. It now presses down on the top of the PSU to hold it in place. This was how it ended up as.

For the cable, I stripped an old power supply cable, and soldered the end to the wires coming out of the case connector, so that I could plug it in easily without having to modify the PSU or case. Initially, I had pried open the metal covering around the terminal to desolder the original wires and attach new ones, but I later realised it's easier to just snip the wires that come out of it, and solder to those.

I took out the side plate from the Mac Pro power supply to cover the PSU bay. I added a few spacers and tabs so that the side plate slides into place over the PSU very nicely - almost feels like it was meant to haha (sorry I don't have a pic of that)

Other stuff
The PSU cables are supposed to be routed to the front of the case, but my cables weren't long enough to do so. Instead of buying extensions, I decided to cut an additional hole in the shelf that holds the PSU:

It was pretty frustrating to do, though. 1. The shelf is super difficult to remove. 2. It's hard to cut. It's made of 2 layers of steel, with some kind of epoxy or cement (?) filled in between. Luckily I had an angle grinder, so it wasn't too much work. If you're using a dremel, you can forget about it haha - just get cable extensions.

To put the original metal separators/covers back in, I just cut out any parts that were interfering with the new electronics that I put inside, and covered those parts that come close to the electronics with (insulating) tape, just to be safe.

Not sure if it's mentioned elsewhere, but if you want to use the original standoffs to mount the motherboard, you'll need to sand them down a bit before glueing them to the case. I sanded and test fitted a few times till the GPU lined up with the PCI slot correctly. Here's a sanded and un-sanded one side by side.

Btw, this is how my mATX board looks like in the case:

The case is huuuge!

Some last comments/advice about the build process:
The shelf is a pain to get out! There are some posts which document how to take them out, follow those
Measure twice, cut once
The case scratches quite easily; put it on a soft surface when you're working on it to prevent scratches.
Metal is harder to cut than you think it is (if you've not worked with metal before). Just go slow and you'll get there!
Take lots of pictures! I regret not taking more pics :'(

But overall the case is really well built. I don't think they'll put this much effort into making cases like these anytime soon!

If you have anything you think I could describe in more detail or that was not mentioned here, feel free to ask me :)


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