How to convert any ATX or microATX case to silent operation

Last Updated on December 6, 2015 by Dave Farquhar

Now that SSDs and CPUs that consume 10 watts are readily available and inexpensive, it’s possible for almost any mainstream PC to be a silent PC. You can of course buy new cases for silent-PC builds, but if you want to upgrade and save a little money while doing it, you can easily convert a legacy case of almost any age to work silently. If you have an AC adapter from a discarded or disused laptop or LCD monitor, you can do this project for less than $30. Here’s how.

First, make sure your motherboard and SSD can get by on less than 80 watts–but chances are they can. Also, there’s little point in this modification if your motherboard isn’t passively cooled. Select a motherboard that cools itself with large heat sinks so you can have a truly silent PC.

Next, buy a 12V DC adapter, such as a PicoPSU-80. This will replace the traditional power supply that’s already in the case.

Remove the old power supply. This will leave a large opening in the case. You have several options for closing the opening. Plastic is easy to work with, so buy a plastic garage sale sign from a hardware store, which will run around $2. Select a thick plastic one, rather than one of the paper-thin ones that cost 50 cents. The super-thin plastic is a bit harder to work with. If plastic seems too chintzy, you can buy a sheet of thin metal from most hardware stores or hobby shops for a couple of dollars, assuming you have a set of suitable snips to cut it. Always wear work gloves when cutting and drilling metal. Or you can get a small sheet of hardboard or plywood and cut it with a saw. Go with what you’re comfortable working with and already have the tools to cut. As long as you’re careful cutting and drilling it and carefully paint it afterward, almost any material you use can look professional.

Trace the dimensions of your power supply onto the material, then cut it out to fit. Trace the holes for the screws onto a piece of paper, then use the paper to transfer the locations of the holes to your material. Drill the holes out with a 1/8″ bit. Next you need a hole for the power connector. Fit everything together before drilling the hole for the power connector to make sure all of the cables reach. Mark a suitable place in the material for the power connector hole, then drill that out as well.

If you wish, paint the material silver or black so it won’t stand out from the rest of the case and let it dry. Once it’s completely dry, place the material into place and secure it with three or four 6-32 machine screws and nuts, then mount the PicoPSU in its opening with the included nut.

Mount the motherboard, SSD, and other components in the case as you normally would, then plug the PicoPSU into the ATX power connector.

And that’s all there is to it. Now you’ve converted your old case to silent operation, and as a nice bonus, now the most failure prone component plugs in to the outside of the case, so it’s quick and easy to replace if it ever fails. For that matter, external power supplies tend to be less likely to fail, since they have no moving parts and are isolated from the rest of the system for better cooling.

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