Case modding is defined as the process of physically modifying a computer (specifically: its chassis) in order to improve its looks, performance, functionality or any combination of the three. Most case mods, however, are purely for looks. People who mod their cases are usually those who spend a lot of time at their computer and enjoy bringing it to LAN parties and the like. There's a great deal of overlap between those who like case modding and those who enjoy overclocking their systems.

Pros:
  • A modded case usually looks a lot cooler than an unmodded one, and it adds personality to your computer, setting it apart from the generic beige box
  • Case mods can attract a lot of positive attention, especially at LAN parties
  • Some case mods will improve various aspects of your computer's functionality or performance
  • A cool-looking case boosts your ego, especially if you modded it yourself
  • A modded computer is less likely to be stolen as it's unique and thus easily recognized
  • By case modding, you can pick up valuable skills that may prove useful some day
Cons:
  • Physically modifying your computer brings with it the risk of stuff breaking, stuff which you probably paid a lot of money for
  • Some people think case mods are a pointless waste of time, and will likely mention this to you at every possible opportunity
  • If you're trying to escape the "computer geek" label for some reason, having a modded case is definitely not the way to go
  • Modding your case costs time and money you could spend on something else

Recently, chassis that come with various mods pre-installed have become popular and easy to find in computer stores. Because of this, many "modded" chassis out there are in fact not modded at all. However, a factory "modded" chassis is usually quite easy to tell apart from the real thing. There are also a few things to consider before buying a "factory modded" chassis:

Factory modded pros:
  • Minimal investment of time and effort required
  • Not necessarily worse looking than a chassis you've modded yourself
  • Some people will likely consider you smart for not wasting time doing it yourself
  • No risk of screwing up the mod
Factory modded cons:
  • Costs a lot more money
  • Having a factory modded case automatically labels you a wannabe
  • Some people think factory mods are utterly lame and will likely make you aware of this belief at every chance they get
  • Some factory mods are in fact very poorly made and are thus subject to breakage
  • Your computer may look special next to a beige box, but it loses any claim to personality or uniqueness

Which option you want to go for is really up to you. Another problem with factory modded chassis is that they're frequently owned by members of the Counter-Strike playing, 11-16 y.o. crowd of utter lamers, a group you might not want to find yourself associated with. You may already have guessed which type of modded chassis I personally prefer.

Types of case mods

Without a doubt, the two most common types of case mods are the window mod and the light mod. Because they complement each other very well, most modded chassis have both. Practically all factory modded chassis are window modded as well as light modded. The window mod involves putting a window (usually made out of some sort of plastic, such as plexiglass or Lexan(TM)) on one or more of the sides of the chassis. The light mod is perhaps the simplest mod in existence to carry out - it consists of simply placing a source of light inside your chassis, usually using a bright LED or a cold cathode. As you no doubt have already figured out, this looks wickedly cool when combined with a nice window so everyone can see your computer's private parts.

It should be noted that the window-and-light mod combo is frequently applied to other parts of the computer than the chassis. People have been known to mod CD and DVD drives, PSUs, monitors, hard drives and even mice in this manner. I have, however, yet to see anyone come up with a window modded mouse pad.

Another very common type of mod is the fan mod. The term fan mod may refer either to the process of installing additional fans in order to enhance cooling performance (very often necessary when overclocking) or to the process of modifying a fan, for example by adding LED's to it. Fans with LEDs in them are very cool, but the process of installing said LED's is tricky enough that most people prefer to buy such fans pre-modded.

When it comes to adding additional fans to the computer in order to improve cooling, the process of installing such fans may require making additional holes in the chassis where the fans can be mounted. After all, having a fan which simply circulates air around inside the chassis is pretty pointless and only adds to noise levels. Fans are usually mounted in such a manner that they either suck cold air into the chassis, or blow hot air out. Since your average PC chassis only comes with one mounting point for an intake fan and one for an exhaust, making additional blow holes becomes a necessity. Of course, a fan mod may also consist of replacing one or more of the fans in the computer with cooler and/or higher-performing ones. In such cases, no additional modifications are required.

Another common type of case mod is the mod where you put some cool toy into one or more of your free 5.25" drive bays. There's a practically endless amount of gizmos, from fan controllers to temperature monitors to full-fledged LCD displays, that fit in 5.25" bays. I don't really consider these mods as case mods since they don't involve any modification of the chassis itself, but they are case mods in the sense that they add to the personality and uniqueness of your computer while improving its functionality or performance in some regard.

Wrapping up this list, many people like to customize their chassis by putting various stickers, "case badges" and suchlike on them. When done with some sense of good taste, this can look nice, but a chassis wallpapered with 40x40 cm AMD Athlon logo stickers looks lame at best. Most case modders would advise against putting too many stickers on your chassis, since they can be hard to get rid of and generally aren't that decorative.

Stuff that's good to know when case modding

Firstly, always plan what you're going to do. This minimizes the risk of you screwing up and ruining a perfectly good chassis that probably cost you a lot of money. Read guides (easy to find on the Internet - use Google) to help you plan your work and anticipate the problems you are likely to face. Second, do as much work as possible outside of the chassis. The inside of your computer is a sensitive environment where stuff breaks very easily. One stray elbow and that $300 graphics card of yours will break right along with your motherboard's AGP slot. One screwdriver ends up in the wrong place, your BIOS battery shorts out, leading to lots of headaches on the next boot-up. I could go on like this forever - suffice to say that some caution is adviced when working with the insides of your computer.

Third, make sure you have the right tools for the job. You can get pretty far with just a Dremel MultiPro or a similar high-RPM multi-purpose tool, but for some stuff it's a lot nicer to have some real powertools at hand. You will likely need a bunch of screws, cable ties, epoxy or super glue and other items suitable for fastening stuff on the inside or outside of your chassis. Having a good table or bench to work on, a vacuum cleaner and a handy first aid kit is also recommended.

Finally, take your time. If your case mod is a rush job, it will look it, and you may be spending a lot of time regretting having not done a better job than you did. Also, due to the dangerous nature of some of the tools involved in the process, not rushing things brings with it a decrease in the risk of you getting yourself hurt.

My modded chassis

My computer currently has the following case mods installed:

  • Chrome Volvo 740 GL logotype epoxied to left side of chassis (I drive a Volvo 740 GL, and I love it - I also named the computer "Seven-fourty".)
  • Two golden signallier's badges from the Swedish Army fastened to the doors covering the 5.25" drive bays (I used to be a member of the Swedish signal forces)
  • Rear 80mm exhaust fan transparent with blue LEDs.
  • Power supply fans transparent with blue LEDs.
  • Blue cold cathode mounted behind front doors
  • 30x35cm Lexan window on top of chassis (right over the motherboard)
  • Another blue cold cathode overlooking the motherboard area, mounted right next to the window
  • Two fan controllers each in its own 5.25" bay

I would include some pics of my modded chassis for reference, but E2 doesn't support images (yet). Can't wait for that feature to be added. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this. See also my writeups on window mod and light mod.

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