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Thread: Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

  1. #1

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    Planning Your Mods


    Think thrice, measure twice, cut once.

    1. Intro…

    Back in the day, modding a computer usually referred to a performance modification, typically involving tweaking the speed of a processor to get a few more frames per second out of your game of Quake. These performance mods soon led to actual physical modifications such as adding a blowhole to the case to help dissipate the extra heat generated and save the processor from cooking itself.

    And then someone got sick of looking at a beige PC and decided to paint it…

    Flash forward to current day. One can get all kinds of pre-modded PC cases, in colors every shade of the rainbow (and more than a few that don't exist in the rainbow.) They come with lights, blowholes, and everything short of the kitchen sink (and I'd be willing to bet that someone is working on that mod right now, but I digress.) It is completely easy to go out and snag a PC that will look flashy these days… but where is the pride in that? Everyone knows a pre-mod when they see it, and will call it as such. To truly have an original case and PC, it should be hand-modded, and that takes PLANNING.

    2. Where to start, where to start…

    Every modder has their individual sense of style. Far be it from me to tell Picasso how to paint or Michelangelo how to sculpt. But every work of art starts with a rough idea and then unfolds from there. One should start by choosing their "canvas" (as it were) and pick a case to start with. Modding a small-form-factor case will be a whole different set of challenges than modding a nice, spacious Lian-Li, so be prepared for the tasks at hand when you pick it out. Another thing to consider is modding your existing case; if you decide to go this route, be sure to remove all the innards before you do anything to it because if you don't you WILL destroy your PC.

    Once you've picked out your case, start thinking about what you want to do with it. You probably already have a few things in mind, just from the cases you've seen or random ideas that run through your head. It is at this point you should actually start making notes on what you want to do. Do you want a blowhole on the top? Write it down. Looking to put a window in the side? Write it down. Lighting up the interior? Metal flake paint job? You guessed it – write it down. A little bit of planning at this point will help more than you can know in the long run. And before that, you should do some research. Learn from those who have gone before you. Doing a complete repaint? Research it. Cutting blowholes? There are lots of guides out there. Putting in a window? You know where I'm going with this. There are numerous sites out there with information that can help you in this part of the process. Also, the idea of taking a pre-mod and tweaking it may cross your mind. Take note that adding a blowhole to a pre-mod will not get you as much respect as if you had done the entire case yourself, so don't say you haven't been warned.

    3. Choose your weapons…

    Now that you've got an idea of what you want to do to that poor, defenseless little case, you should start to figure out how to do it. Before cutting into the metal, the first thing to take into consideration is actually the last part on our list – the paint job. If you are planning on painting your case then you can start right in on the physical mods, but if you like your paint the way it is then you are going to have to be very careful. It is insanely easy to put a nick, scratch, or ding in your case's paint job if you do not take precautions.

    So at this point, you should gather up your tools. The actual choice of tools is beyond the scope of this article, but there are lots of other good how-to's that can be used as checklists. Your research should have given you some idea of what you will need. In general, when it comes to slicing and dicing a case, modders can agree on one thing – you're going to need a Dremel. Or some other rotary tool that works just as well – just be sure you get a corded one, as the battery-powered ones just don't have enough "oomph". Other tools that might make your modding life easier include jigsaws, hole-saws, variable-speed corded drills, metal files, nibblers, leather gloves, dust masks, and above all a pair of safety goggles. Buy a pair and USE THEM. More than once I have had a hot sliver of metal get kicked up and come flying at my eye; trust me when I say that spending a couple bucks and looking goofy is a hell of a lot better than having your sight permanently damaged.

    4. Slice and Dice…

    Having gathered your implements of destruction, you should lay out a basic game plan of what you need to do. Use the research you did earlier to plan your attack. Are you painting the whole case? If so, strip it or scuff it before you do any cutting. If you're not painting it, make sure you mask all areas where you will be cutting with multiple thicknesses of masking tape to prevent scratches. Be sure to use the old carpenter's mantra of "measure twice, cut once." Mock up window shapes to make sure they are positioned correctly. Make sure you have accurate placement for the center of blowholes you may be cutting (and make sure you leave enough space to drill holes for the fan mounting screws.) Do all your cutting and fabrication in one sweep – nothing is more of an annoyance than having to backtrack because you forgot to drill a couple holes or didn't leave enough space on one edge or another. Put your files or a grinding attachment for your Dremel to good use after cutting the holes, because those edges will be rough; your leather gloves will come in handy at this point. After you've got everything chopped up and smoothed out, take the time to test-fit your pieces – if your window doesn't fit now, it sure as heck won't fit when you get the case painted.

    5. Laying down the gloss…

    Painting a case is either a total blast or a pain in the ass, depending on your point of view. Personally, I hate doing it because I'm an impatient bastard. Yeah, a mirror-shine is nice to look at, but the time and effort involved with laying down multiple coats of paint and repeated wet-sanding is not my cup of tea. I usually just rough up the paint job the case came with, clean it up with a tack cloth, lay down a base coat (if necessary), and then use some sort of textured paint over that. Why textured? Because textured paint covers up a whole lot of ugly. You can put a nasty scratch in the original paint and not have to worry one bit about it if you're covering it up with something that is going to give a rough appearance. That being said, if you want to go for the mirror shine then knock yourself out – just don't ask me for any advice on it.

    A few words of advice for painting: Only paint in an area that has good ventilation – you don't need the headache that paint fumes can give you. Use a painting booth of some sort, even if it is only a cardboard box – overspray is a bitch. Wear gloves, goggles, and a breath mask – if you're dealing with anything that has overspray or fumes, your body will thank you (and the breath mask will keep you from having to deal with paint-colored boogers.)

    6. Putting it all together…

    If you've never built a PC before, follow the mantra – research, research, research. Even if you're old hat at system assembly you should be careful if you're trying something new. Water-cooling systems will need a break-in period. Wire management should be taken into consideration. Usually it works best to assemble the PC by the book and then add in the fancy fans and lighting. Putting a window in should be done before you put the panels on the case. Just use a little common sense and everything should go together like clockwork. You may want to hold off on installing all the lighting and whatnot until you've had the time to burn-in the CPU – after all, if something fails, you'll just have to rip it all out again. Once you've got everything burned-in and assembled, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. A case well-modded is its own reward.

  2. #2

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    This is a quick-and-dirty mod planning guide written by yours truly that was originally posted to a different modding site. I feel it is good info for any beginning modder, so I have posted it here as well. I hope you find it useful!

  3. #3
    Master Modder Tazz's Avatar
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    Feb 2006

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    Hello Tech... Long time no see bud. Good write up.

  4. #4

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    This is a quick-and-dirty mod planning guide written by yours truly that was originally posted to a different modding site. I feel it is good info for any beginning modder, so I have posted it here as well. I hope you find it useful!
    Absolutely, and will be very much appreciated
    ... Good to hear from you Tech

  5. #5

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    TechParadox another well written article and your dead right about "measure twice cut once"

  6. #6

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    Sweeeeet write-up TechParadox

  7. #7

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    For real on the "think thrice" - I spend like 80% of my time just thinking about what I'll do, but I've never heard it put into words.

  8. #8

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    Try to find dud..... :roll:

  9. #9

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    Hi, anyone else here see this post popup in the "last 5 Recent Post" area a couple of minutes ago?

    If so, did anyone notice that the last post date on the last 5 Recent Post shows: Wed Dec 31, 1969

    The last post date might change after I add this post to it but for now it still says- Wed Dec 31, 1969

    Kinda feel like I am in a weird time warp.

  10. #10

    Intro to Modding: A Basic Overview

    We had a spammer in the forums and when I deleted the post and the acct it did something to the date. Be on the look out for others, thanks for noticing it and bringing it out attention.

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