Overclocking and case modding: similar in any way?
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Overclocking and case modding: similar in any way?

Kevin Hofer
Zurich, on 13.03.2019
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
I love looking at case mods. They enrapture me like others are enraptured by racing cars or good food. In actuality, people often forget that case modding was born out of necessity.

I’m currently working on a project that requires me to intensely get into case modding. I’m watching videos and learning various techniques. Aside from tinkering with PCs myself, I love watching others. It’s simply crazy what these artists – yes, I call them artists – can achieve.

I’ll probably never create things such as this. But who cares as long as it’s fun.

The beginning

There were surely some people visually improving their cases at the advent of PC technology. Case modding, however, didn’t find its true calling until overclocking was conceived. These actions are closely connected.

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Overclocking is nearly as old as PCs themselves. In the mid 80’s, the Intel 8088 could be overclocked from 4.7 MHz to 10 MHz. Your average Joe didn’t have access to this yet, as you had to replace your crystal oscillator. Overclocking only got user-friendly with the 486. As the Pentium Pro and original Celeron followed, every random Johnny with an adequate understanding of technology could overclock his PC using only software. In 1999, an overclocked AMD Athlon smashed the one Gigahertz barrier.

But what does this short dive into the history of overclocking have to do with case modding? Overclocking has a considerable downside: heat development. Overclockers needed to find a way to better cool their systems. Those days, cases just weren’t built with that in mind.

How do you better cool your rig? By having a larger air supply and alternative cooling methods. Overclockers could get better coolers for their CPU, improve air circulation inside the case using extra fans or install a water-cooling system. The first option required minimal case modding. When installing new fans, however, overclockers had to put holes in their cases – not to mention the modifications required for water-cooling. These days, all the parts of a water-cooling system can fit comfortably into even the tightest of cases. In the past, it was common to place the entire system outside of the case. At the end of the 90’s, no ready-made products were available yet. Modding was born.

This is more or less what water coolers used to look like. Source: http://www.comptoir-hardware.com/actus/divers-a-fonkeries/34053-ragotron-le-watercooling-toujours-utile-en-2017-.html
This is more or less what water coolers used to look like. Source: http://www.comptoir-hardware.com/actus/divers-a-fonkeries/34053-ragotron-le-watercooling-toujours-utile-en-2017-.html

An already slightly better version can be seen in my cover picture. The modder even described his project in minute detail years later. You can read the remarkable story and enjoy the pictures especially here.

A window to the world

Already before Y2K, the first online shops dedicated to modding had opened. The invention that made case modding what it is today, however, was the side window. No matter who the first person was to drill a peephole into the side of their case, they provoked a hype. These days, having a window on the side of your case is the standard with many PCs.

Obviously, case modding continued to evolve. The most common modifications performed by PC enthusiasts probably surround lighting. They’re quick, and you can get almost every PC component in an RGB variant. This wasn’t always that easy. Modders used to install neon pipes and solder them to their power supply.

Today’s mods often work around a theme. To be completely honest: some case mods go a bit far for my taste. Mods like Ragnar’s Revenge by modder Ali Abbas come to mind. Even though the engineering of their creation is top notch. I personally enjoy mods that still look like they’re PCs. Such as the Corsair 1000D mod by Alex Banks from Bit-tech. Martin and I used this case to build our streaming PC (Article in German). Even though, compared to Bit-tech’s mod, ours looks like a pile of hot garbage. The DIY modding scene has thankfully survived the dawn of massive online shopping where you can find whatever you need. The community especially likes helping with questions.

How about you? Do you have modding experience and an interesting story to boot? Let me know in the comments.

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Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer
Editor, Zurich
From big data to big brother, Cyborgs to Sci-Fi. All aspects of technology and society fascinate me.

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