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erik's G5 mod- work log with pictures & ask/tell thread

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I decided to finally bite the bullet and try my own G5 case mod. It's not built yet, but the serious work is about to begin. In this thread, I will log my work, ask questions, offer advice, and generally reflect on the process. I also want to give an accurate accounting of what a G5 mod can cost for the newb who doesn't have all the right tools already lying around--the costs add up fast!

I'm handy with computers, and can follow directions, and do odd jobs around the house, but I'm not the handiest person in the world--I've never had a reason to be. So this project is as much about making a G5 case mod as learning how to work with a soldering iron, a Dremel, and think creatively when using my hands to build something instead of just coding and screwing things in the pre-fab holes.

Tools and parts with costs.

Final tally (updated 7/17)

  • Used G5 Case $84, eBay: 65+20 shipping… luckily, came with the front panel harness[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Mountain Mods mobo tray, 2x80mm fans $70, $55 + 15 shipping[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Sans Digital HDD rack $30, Amazon[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • 40w Soldering iron $20, Home Depot[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Soldering accessories (60/40 solder, heat shrink (2 big packs), helping hand to hold wires, higher-quality soldering iron holder) $40, Home Depot/Amazon[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Dremel 4000 + Flex Shaft $100, Amazon. Get the flex shaft -- it's much easier to work with and it's safer.[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Dremel accessories (Reinforced cutting disks (2x5 with mandrel), keyless chuck, 160 piece accessory kit, 7-piece drill bits) $65, Home Depot/Amazon. Disks are essential, keyless chuck is nice, misc accessories are helpful and will come in handy[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Electrical accessories (snap-in IEC receptacle, replacement if I mess up) $9, allelectronics.com: $2 + $7 shipping[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Misc tools (clamps, locking needle nose pliers, hand-held files, bit kit with Hex/Torq pieces) $30, Home depot/Amazon[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Safety equpiment (breathing mask, wrap-around safety googles) $10, Home Depot. Do not even think about touching a dremel without safety goggles and a mask. You will go blind. Trust me. You're going to want to get your face up close to see what you're doing, and you WILL feel bits of metal hitting you in the face/goggles. Don't be an idiot.[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Fans, case, cable management (zip ties, braided cable sleeve for cable management, 2x 80mm Thermaltake hydrobearing fans, 2x grill fans, 5x black SATA cable, USB/Firewire/Audio cable) $70, Amazon and NewEgg[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Mounting and cutting gaccessories (JB Weld, metal screws, nuts, bolts, painting tape) $18, Local hardware shop[/*:m:1im7oy94]

Total: About $550 (that includes free shipping from Amazon Prime!)

Lesson: doing a G5 mod isn't just the $40-80 it costs you to get the case off ebay/craigslist! To that end, most the tools you'll buy have general use. (With Dremel and soldering iron in hand, you soon realize the world is full of things to solder and cut lol). Your second g5 mod will be a lot cheaper :lol:

Other helpful things I have laying around: cordless powered screwdriver, various pliers, various tiny screw drivers, various normal screw drivers, "pistol" bar clamps (very helpful), shop vac, lots of tupperware to keep misc screws and case pieces, scissors, wire strippers, various computer screws, spare IEC power cables, lighter for heat shrink, and safety gloves


The build:

  • GB-X58A-UD3R 2.0 FH BIOS[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • i7 960 with big Noctua cooler (NH-D14) @ 4.3GHz[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • 12GB RAM (6x2GB)[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • 1GB Radeon HD 6850[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Optiarc DVD-RW[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • A bunch of hard drives: 120GB Vertex2 (OS X), 500GB Hybrid-SSD Momentus XT 2.5" drive (in my laptop, replaced with real SSD. Runs Windows), 320GB 7200 2.5" Drive from old laptop (Ubuntu 12.04), 1TB 7200 3.5" drive (holds all Files), 2TB 5900 RPM 3.5" drive (holds back-ups, clones, etc. from all my computers)[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Hand-crafted Wireless Card (Apple BMC94321MC) in a Mini PCI to PCIe converter[/*:m:1im7oy94]
  • Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W power supply[/*:m:1im7oy94]

The video card there is actually an old nvidia 9400GT. Works fine but it only has a DVI/VGA output. The DVI looks good, but the VGA output looks like garbage. Before that I had a Radeon 5770 (the Gigabyte Batmobile!)... it blacked out every so often in OS X so I sold it. First I tried replacing it with a cheapo HD6450 which, I hoped, would do dual monitors no problem. However, when I plugged it in I got a black screen on boot and had no luck with other minor tweaks. I wanted a compatible card so I returned that and settled for a Radeon 6850, which costs a little more, but it powers dual monitors no problem and it's reliable (apparently!).

This is what my computing workstation looks like now:

work-station-before.JPG


This is what my workbench looked like:

workspace_before.JPG


Time to clear out the DJ stuff to return the workbench to its intended use. This is what it looks like now:

emptycase-sideview.JPG


The process....

"Day" 0

Actually a couple weeks. I read a lot of threads on mods, stalked around eBay, Amazon, and decided on an approach -- use the hard disk caddy I bought plus a Mountain Mods mobo tray. Then I started collecting the parts and the tools.

Day 1

1. I started by clearing out the case. This involved first removing the top tray, which makes it easier to remove the top hard drive tray, fans, as well as all the miscellaneous cables. This 6-year old thread at Insanely Mac makes the process easier: http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/index. ... ntry156892

2. I ripped out all the stand-offs using vice grips. I even, following eelhead, took out all the screw mounts using a dremel. I polished things up a bit. This was the first time I ever used a dremel. It works, but it could be cleaner. Oh well, it will all be covered by the mobo tray!

Picture after clearing everything out:

emptycase-angle.jpg


And the resulting bucket-o-G5-parts:

bucket-o-g5parts.jpg


3. Wanted to see what I was getting into with soldering the power receptacle, so I stripped a power cable. Looks like a pretty straightforward job! I will cut a power cable to desired length (from the PSU to the receptacle), solder to the solder-bays on the receptacle, and heat shrink that baby up. Then plug into the power supply, and voila!

Power cable stripped. Big fat black power cable looks a lot less daunting inside:

power-cable-cut.JPG


Status update/to do 7/10: the mobo tray, power receptacle, and various electricity doodads are still in the mail. My plan in the mean time is to wrap my mind around how I will handle the power supply. The case I got did not come with a dead PSU or tray for it, so uncasing mine right now isn't really an option. That leaves me with the choice: top mount or bottom mount? I am 95% sure I plan to mount it on top, behind the DVD-RW player. This involves:

1. Cutting a hole in the top tray for the PSU fan.
2. Finding a way to secure the PSU
3. Dremeling out a hole for the IEC receptacle

Alright...

----

Final before and after

BEFORE: UGLY!

computer-before.jpg


AFTER: PRETTY!


side-opened.JPG
 
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Hey erik, Ialso just started doing a G5 case mod. My work log posted somewhere here.

Any tips on mounting the PSU up top? I haven't actually ripped my computer apart yet so I haven't been able to craft an approach yet. That will happen tonight
You have the PowerMac case, not the MacPro case.
The PowerMac case stock PSU is located at the bottom panel. The MacPro case's PSU is located on the top shelf. (see my thread).
What I've seen other people do is gut out their PSU and put it inside the bottom panel. Others, just mount the PSU in front of the motherboard if they don't want to do all the work of transferring the PSU guts into the bottom tray.
For the PowerMac case, I think the top is too short/narrow to fit a normal PSU. (On the MacPro, you can mount it on top easily.)
 
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powerpcg5 said:
Hey erik, Ialso just started doing a G5 case mod. My work log posted somewhere here.

Any tips on mounting the PSU up top? I haven't actually ripped my computer apart yet so I haven't been able to craft an approach yet. That will happen tonight
You have the PowerMac case, not the MacPro case.
The PowerMac case stock PSU is located at the bottom panel. The MacPro case's PSU is located on the top shelf. (see my thread).
What I've seen other people do is gut out their PSU and put it inside the bottom panel. Others, just mount the PSU in front of the motherboard if they don't want to do all the work of transferring the PSU guts into the bottom tray.
For the PowerMac case, I think the top is too short/narrow to fit a normal PSU. (On the MacPro, you can mount it on top easily.)

I've seen a handful of mods where people are able to remove the hard drive caddy and fit the PSU up top in the Powermac G5 chassis (like in the MacPro). Tonight I'll pop my PSU out of the old case and see if it fits. My plan now is to use the top try to support it while cutting an exhaust hole in the bottom of the tray. I then need some way to better hold the case in place -- I'm undecided on how to do that as yet.

I think the best look is using the old G5 Power supply tray and swapping out the innards of a working ATX PSU. However, I don't have the tray to do that, only the top piece of metal (but no mounting pieces).

I think the top-mounted PSUs look better and more "natural" than those with the PSU mounted on the bottom. Although, if I do that, I think have a way to use some old Ikea mounting brackets I found (lol) to hold it in place).

I'll post how/if it fits later!
 
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Day 2

First order of the day on day 2 was to make the workbench a little more comfortable and computer friendly. So, make room for the laptop and hook up the speakers, which are probably a little overkill for the job!

help-music-station.JPG


Next job is to disassemble the old case so I have access to the parts. Man, that heatsink is a beast! Cleared some room to store the parts while they are homeless:

parts-no-home.JPG


You'll notice a custom airport card and a crappy GT9400 video card. That will be replaced with a slightly new, but still crappy ATI 6450 -- until, or if, I need something better. The Batmobile -- which you can see in the top photo -- is on ebay now. As of late it's started doing this funky black screen thing in OS X. Don't know if that's a conflict with a newer version of OS X (seemed to start around version 10.7.2? I don't know) but I can't be bothered. Don't need that big card anyway for what I do -- web browsing, statistics, LaTeX, audio file editing, and basic web development/photoshop.

The hard drives are missing from that picture because I mounted them in the Sans Digital HD Rack. Pretty easy process - this thing is well made.

It comes with a fan, but the way it's placed makes it a little useless when the case is together, it will be up against a solid metal wall. You can imagine this in the case, on its side, with the top rack -- where the HD rack will be mounted:

hd-rack-w-fan.jpg


So, I pop off the fan. To mount the hard drives, all you do is screw in provided screws to the drive, and slide them in. Very nice design:

SSD with screws. Yes, the SSD is 3.5" -- I guess OCZ didn't care about the laptop market when they put this out. Anyway, it's convenient!

hd-rack-ssd-screws.jpg


Just slide it and push a lock in and it locks in place.

hd-rack-ssd-mounted.jpg


All five drives mounted:

hd-rack-full.jpg


Really pleased with this purchase. Superior in design, in my opinion, to the included hard drive caddy -- which has room for 2 drives.


Now, to see if the power supply fits on the top rack. This is how I envision it working. The PSU sits on top of the top rack. I have a power cable (this will be shortened to the correct length) which will solder on to a IEC receptacle, which I'll cut a space for.

psu-cord.JPG


But will it fit?

power-supply-inside.JPG


Yes, it fits -- with about 0mm to spare. In fact, it's so snug that I don't think it really needs any fastening beyond that provided by the bottom tray. However, I have a plan: The power supply has a fan with a nice grill on it -- attached by screws. I'll cut a hole large enough to let the fan do its thing, but small enough that I can mount the grill on the OTHER side of the top tray. This will serve to hide any jagged marks from the cut, while at the same time holding the PSU in place. Hopefully I can pull it off. This is the part of the tray that will need to be cut:

bottom-side-of-psu.JPG


You can see the screw on the grill in the picture. I may need some longer screws, but the tray is pretty thin, so I think it should probably be fine.

Here's a shot from the distance with the DVD drive in there (not mounted). You'll see that the tray already has a place cut which, conveniently, fits all the power supply cables through it. Cool

power-supply-and-cd-player.JPG


How does the DVD drive mount? Pretty easily. Standard 5.25" DVD drive design hasn't changed since the G5, so the top tray has places to fit screws to mount the DVD player. Here it is mounted:

dvd-player-mounted.JPG


All you need to do is screw in a couple appropriate screws (I used ones that typically are used to attach the motherboard to the tray), slide it in, and lock it in place. Very cool design.

One last thing. I popped the 80mm fan vents off the back:

vent-off.jpg


Anyone know if there is anyway to salvage these nice grills with the Mountain Mods tray? I'm doubtful, but there's no way to know until the damn thing arrives.

Edit: I didn't even try.


So -- before heading off to sleep I'm going to order some black SATA cables (the blue and red ones I own, admittedly, will throw off the aesthetic lol. The next batch of parts I need isn't here till Thursday, so -- if I have the time -- tomorrow will be spent preparing the top tray… i.e., cutting the hole for the PSU fan and drilling holes to mount the hard drive rack. That's it for now!
 
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Day 3

Objective of today was to prepare the top rack. This meant:

1) Figuring out exactly where the PSU would mount (how far forward/back)
2) Preparing the top tray to hold the PSU
3) Preparing the top tray to hold the DVD-RW
4) Preparing the HD rack and top-tray to go together


My goal was to use the grill and screws of the PSU to hold the PSU in place on the top tray -- I didn't want it just resting there ready to slide about, though the clearance is so small this is quite feasibly. So the first job was to pop the fan grill off the PSU and use it to line up where I would drill holes:

line-up-grill.jpg


I drilled each hole 1-by-1 and checked the alignment of the grill each time. I'm klutzy so if I don't do that, things won't go well. It worked. Here's the grill / top tray / PSU sandwich with no hole cut for the fan. I used a Sharpie to mark the circle:

psu-grill-mounted-no-hole.JPG


I have never cut metal with a Dremel before, so here I was, ready to rock!

ready-to-rock.jpg


One thing wrong with my safety gear: I was wearing short sleeves. Wear long sleeves -- because metal… sparks!!

I clamped the top tray down:

ready-to-cut.jpg


I had to finagle the placement to get a good cutting angle while avoiding sparks flying in my space. It's a really awkward piece to cut because, well, there's no way to support the thing and stabilize while finding easy cutting angles. This combined with my amateurishness resulted in a not-so-perfect-cut. However, with a grinding attachment I was able to smooth it out satisfactorily (the smoothing is not shown in the pic).

successfully-chopped.jpg


Here's the PSU mounted to the tray:

psu-mounted-hole.jpg


I attached the DVD-RW:

top-tray-with-dvd-psu.JPG


And then put it in the case to see how it looks:

top-tray-in-the-case.JPG


top-tray-in-the-case-2.JPG


Quite pleased! It looks clean! The space above the top tray between the PSU/DVD-RW and above the DVD-RW actually gives a pretty nice place to stash unused PSU cables. I'll cut the hole for the IEC receptacle when I have the part and I do all the other cutting for the mobo tray mount.

Next job was to figure out a way to attach the hard drive rack to the top tray. I found out the ideal placement by putting the case on its side and then marking where to drill the holes. I used some basic 10 cent nuts and bolts from the local hardware shop. The HD rack has four holes for mounting on the top. For aesthetic reasons, I prefer to have the nut on top, bolt on bottom, so you don't see a long bolt in the case, but this way it will be hidden by the DVD-RW. I used the dremel with a drill bit to widen the holes on the HD rack to fit the bolts through. Careful, it's a really soft metal and if you're not vigilant you can drill more than you expect. I then punched the holes in the top tray. OK, I punched two easy. Then the third one was quite prissy. The 4th hole just wouldn't go. Pretty sure I dulled the drill bit that came with the Dremel to the point that it was useless. So now I have three holes. Two would probably do, but if one came loose, the rack could hang in a funny way. Three would be fine, but the asymmetry bothers my obsessive compulsive side. So some more drill bits are in the mail from Amazon and Ill drill out the 4th hole later. For now though, it works.

(Edit: I drilled the 4th hole. Went through another drill bit in the process. Looking back, I recommend getting the APPROPRIATE drill bit for drilling through heavy metals, i.e., the top tray. It'll probably run you 15-20 bucks, but it's easier and, when you consider how many drill bits you'll break, worth the cost.)

I attached the rack to the tray and then used the Dremel cutting bit to chop of the top of the screws. Mounted just fine, DVD drive fits no problem. Here's how it looks from the top (note the 4th missing hole, arch!):

hd-rack-top-shot.jpg


And from the bottom:

hd-rack-bottom-shot.jpg



Tomorrow my mobo tray should arrive, so I'll figure out how to place that and line up where the case needs to get cut. I picked up some JB Weld today, too, which I plan to use for the standoffs -- unless anyone has some better suggestions.

Finally, I pulled an old computer out of storage that I built like a decade ago. (It had a 120GB hHD and 512MB ram and that was on the high end at the point lol!). While the screws might be handy, what will be particularly useful is all the jumper cables. Snipped 'em! So now I'm ready to make the front panel harness.

next-up-cables.JPG



Questions at this point -- what's the best way to attach the motherboard tray to the case? I plan to use JB weld, but any pointers would help. Also -- any tips on the front panel harness?
 

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Hi Erik,
Looking good so far!
I have the same HDD rack which will be installed in my future G5 case mod as well, great little rack.

As for the motherboard mounting, just JB welding the standoffs work fine. If you look in my build thread you will see that I used a dead ATX motherboard and set up the fit like that and applied some weight onto it over night to make sure it set correct. One thing to make sure of is that you use all the same size standoffs from the G5 as there are two different sizes.

This thread should have info for mounting plus info for your front panel set up if you want to do it yourself or snag one from a reputable source viewtopic.php?f=76&t=41145
 
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eelhead said:
Hi Erik,
Looking good so far!
I have the same HDD rack which will be installed in my future G5 case mod as well, great little rack.

As for the motherboard mounting, just JB welding the standoffs work fine. If you look in my build thread you will see that I used a dead ATX motherboard and set up the fit like that and applied some weight onto it over night to make sure it set correct. One thing to make sure of is that you use all the same size standoffs from the G5 as there are two different sizes.

This thread should have info for mounting plus info for your front panel set up if you want to do it yourself or snag one from a reputable source viewtopic.php?f=76&t=41145

Thanks! Yes, I noticed there are two difference sizes. I actually don't know if I'll need the standoffs. Right now I've got the motherboard tray lined up and cut and placed. I think I will just drill a small hole in 4 places and secure it with some screws.

Yesterday I did a lot of cutting and I give myself a B-. I mounted the back panel just fine but then through idiocy realized that the placement of the back panel was too high for the rest of the motherboard tray GIVEN how I have the PSU set up.

DOH!!! So now when I readjust it to fit correctly I have a small gap on the top where I cut too high. Bummer :( Oh well, live and learn!

More updates later.


EDIT: Scratch that, the standoffs are a very nice height to make things align a little better. I think I've got a suitable situation, and there's only a 1mm gap of missing aluminum above the back panel. Unfortunately, I can't fasten the top part, but I don't think it will really matter once everything else is fastened on.

The JB Weld is curing now, so time to kill time by getting the soldering iron out and working on the front panel harness. Yee haw
 
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Looks great so far. This is going to be one of those builds that will look good once you are done. Just take your time, measure everything and dry fit things before cutting. Especially when it comes to cutting on the case. The last thing you want to do is try to hide a messed up cut, Dremels are not very forgiving. And if eel head has advice take all you can get, he's a Pro when it comes to these custom builds.
 
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Hi guys! Big update to come later -- everything is up and running, I'm just cleaning some things up.

I just did a hell of a soldering job on the front panel. Hooked up firewire, USB, and the power switch.

good news:

- It powers on
- Power LED works
- USB works for some devices (bluetooth usb, mouse, keyboard, Garmin forerunner GPS watch)

HOWEVER:

No luck with my iPhone and/or iPod Shuffle. It doesn't recognize the iPhone at all -- no power, nothing in System Information. The iPod shuffle gets power (green light) comes on and it charges, but it doesn't show up in System Information. Again -- various other USB devices work fine.

Any ideas?

Some clues:

the internal USB connector I'm using has some pretty flimsy wiring. Like 5-6 strands of copper or whatever. Would that have anything to do with it? I'm skeptical.

Does the internal USB just not give enough power? I had issues periodically with the internal USB on my old computer, too.


Tomorrow I'll write up the final product. I'm waiting on the new graphics card. :)
 
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Check if +5V is present on the USB, check if D+ and D- lines were swapped.
 
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