Ever since the advent of case modding the installation of windows into cases has consistently been one of the most popular and effective alterations you can do. While the designs and variety may have increased the basic principles for fitting them have remained the same. In this retrospective guide I'll be looking at techniques I used in the fitting of a window into my PC70 in the hope that it will help those unsure of themselves or convince those who are in two minds.
When I bought my second hand PC70 a few months back it was in great condition overall however one thing bothered me; the previous owner had installed a window which I felt was too small so high on my agenda was replacing it with a larger full sized server version.
While its by no means difficult to buy your own perspex/plexi-glass and cut it to the desired shape (as demonstrated by TweaK-FreaK)
I chose instead to try one of PC-Mods window kits which come with everything you need to install it (bar the tools). Below you can see what you get; the window itself, the rubber trim for holding it in place and the locking strip (I'll come to this later). You also get some instructions and a washer (whose function you'll see in a minute), the instructions are brief but at least contain all the information that's necessary.
The weapon of choice today will be .... cheese's B&D dremel clone. These type of hobby tools use an arbour and disc for cutting purposes and while being far from ideal offer a relatively cheap and effective method of getting the job done. If its available to you then a jig-saw might well be more appropriate and certainly would be quicker (just make sure you use the correct type of metal-work blade). Those of you with far too much money to burn
(literally) could take it to a laser cutting place !!!
Next up you need to mark out the hole you're going to cut ... this is where the washer comes in useful. The way the rubber moulding works requires there to be a 5mm or so gap between where the metal ends and the window begins. To achieve this place the pre-cut window where you want it to end up (be careful to leave some space at the edges if the panel needs to slide off) and simply trace around it with a pencil/scribe to create a template that's consistently a few mm bigger than the window. I'd do this on the inside if possible to minimise the risk of damaging the rest of the panel. Cheers to Wolfman @
VH for the pic - saved a LOT of extra words !!! Just be aware that he cut his perspex/plexi after the case metal (hence the picture showing him tracing around the metal) whereas the kit does it the other way around ... same principle though.
With the hole marked out and ready to be attacked it would be a VERY good idea to mask of as much of the rest of the panel as possible to avoid any unwanted scratches. This won't stop the dremel's disc but might stop any metal shards that are lurking about. I used a couple of layers of newspaper and fastenend it with masking tape which I also use to denote the lines to be cut.
The cutting itself is actually a lot simpler than you might at first think. First and foremost WEAR EYE PROTECTION, you'll be sorry if you didn't and something happened (especially so here as the cutting discs can very easily break at high speeds and fly off). There isn't really a single specific way of approaching the cutting, I found that once I got going I developed my own method that seemed to work. The best idea would be to try and practice first to get used to the way the saw acts and responds then to just dive in and get going on the window itself. The rubber trim will hide any minor mistakes so its not essential to be too neat along the edges although it does help. The adivce I would offer though is to to take small 'bites' at the metal, make a small dash then make it into a gulley and then just keep working at it until you're through. I would strongly discourage you from trying to saw the full thickness of the panel at once (ie. where there is a sudden change from uncut to fully cut metal) as you will find the saw jumps quite a lot when it bites the metal making it much harder to control. Also the chances of breaking disc are much higher (you will undoubtedly break some but by being careful this should be minimal) and since they bloody well hurt if they hit you I wouldnt recommend being fool-hardy! Just take it steady and slow and you'll get around easily without much hastle. Lets just hope it fits now ... !!
I don't like to let anything go waste so look out for off-cuts in a forthcoming article ...
With the hole cut all that's left is to actually fit the window ... easier said than done, in my opinion this bit is actually harder than cutting the hole for it!!! The rubber trim supplied with the window has a profile similar to that shown below, the principle being that the window fits in the larger rectangular cavity and the metal in the narrower one. The locking strip (essentially a thinner piece of rubber with roughly the profile of the triangular cavity)
then fits into the third slot to force the other holes to close up a bit thereby gripping the metal and window tightly holding it snuggly in place.
Theory is all well and good but getting the window and metal into their respective cavities is a lot harder than it sounds !! It basically comes down to just working at it until you can get it in. Personally I fitted the trim around the metal first (as shown below) then forced the window into one of the corners and then worked my way around by pulling the hole for the window open with my fingers to allow it fit in more easily. You might have too long a piece of moulding so it will need triming but bear in mind that once its fitted it will have been stretched so allow a bit of excess. At this stage you may well want to throw the window incredibly hard at a wall but stick with it and you'll get there eventually :o).
Et voila .... one fitted window. If you're wondering why its a bit dull/scratched looking its because it still has the protective film on!! (I was going home for christmas a couple of weeks after this and didn't want to get it scratched).
Finally here it is fitted into the case itself ... before I get
flamed by people saying "its backwards" I should explain that I consciously put it with the tall section at the back instead of in the centre. The previous window was too high to allow me to fit it the other way but aside from that I have to say I do actually prefer it now (even the back of the PSU is more interesting than empty space !!).
Just so show that the window is nice and clear with the film off
That's really all there is to it ... certainly a lot less daunting than you may think. The main problem is getting up the confidence to attack your beloved case with a high speed implement. While I wont pretend its risk free I'll also say in the same breath that as long as you're careful then there's no reason why it shouldn't be a success. I'd never used the dremel cutting disc before carrying this out but you quickly learn and soon become a master. PLEASE wear eye protection though and its probably best not to attempt it after visiting
the pub either !! Aside from that .... all the best and good luck.
LONG LIVE THE CASE WINDOW - KING OF MODS