Building your own computer is no longer a particularly unusual task, nor even the reserve of hardcore geeks. It’s actually a rather simple process that tasks patience more than knowledge. PCI slots, SATA ports and motherboard power connectors are fool-proof – it’s just a matter of what goes where.
More experienced computer geeks maybe even find the task (dare I say it!) boring. There are, however, a few ways you can increase the challenge while also sprucing up your rig.
Add Custom Case Lighting
Case lighting is common in computer cases, particularly those built with gaming in mind. However, the lighting used isn’t always impressive. It’s often cheap, gaudy, or both.
By adding your own lighting, you can customize your computer to your preferences. If you like a lot of crazy lights, then you can go that route – or if you prefer minimalism, that’s also possible. Or you can enjoy the best of both worlds by using lighting that accepts brightness control.
Lighting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to be creative when you build your own PC. Most strips of LED lights cost less than $10, and even a rather extreme build won’t need more than three or four. Installation is also straightforward. Just secure using whatever method you prefer, then plug the lights into the computer power supply.
Another easy and inexpensive way to build your own customized computer is stickers.
I’m not just talking about the kind of stickers that you’d apply to the case of your computer, although those can add some spice. I’m specifically talking about case window stickers. These adhesive designs affix to the case window of a PC and can be applied in seconds.
My personal favorite are the “etched” designs like this Atomic vinyl sticker. It’s semi-transparent, and gives the impression that the design has been etched into the PC window.
Like lighting, stickers are inexpensive, and they’re even easier to use. If you don’t have a window in your PC on which to apply one, don’t worry – you can buy kits for that, too.
Go Crazy With Cooling
High-end computers often appear to be nothing more than walls of fans that contain PC components. As a result, cooling is one of the better ways to customize a computer, as you can kill two birds with one stone.
Many fans come with LED options which add color to your computer with the use of independent lighting, but that’s just the beginning. Another great customization option is a hardware fan controller. This is a component that replaces a 5.25″ drive bay slot and adds dials, gauges and LED readouts that can be used to monitor PC temperature and control fan speed. They’re functional, but they also look really cool.
If you look around, you’ll find even better options like the Bgears B-COOL, a fan that can write LED text inside the fan’s radius while it spins. Touches like this are sure to impressive even the most jaded geek.
Use A Small Case – Or No Case
Although gaming computers and workstations still require aggressive cooling, your average home computer no longer needs to be a monster. It’s possible to cram a computer into a very small space, including some very small cases. The Antec ISK-300, for example, is less than four inches thick. The Silverstone Lascala is even smaller at just a tad over two inches thick – although it’s received less impressive consumer reviews.
In fact, using a PC case isn’t even necessary. With a little creative thought, many old electronics, including VCRs, receivers, and game consoles, can be used as computer cases. The best hardware to use in this case is usually a low-power PC board like an AMD E-350 APU/motherboard combo. Combine this with a low-profile power supply and a 2.5” internal hard drive and you’ll find that you can fit a PC into a lot of places that you never would have thought possible.
As prices for new PCs have fallen, the incentive to build them has been reduced. In some cases, low-end computers sell for nearly the same price as the components (due to bulk pricing received by the PC manufacturer).
The allure of customization will always exist, however – and it’s really not as difficult as you might have thought. Of the ideas listed above, only turning another electronic device into an improvised case could prove to be difficult. Everything else is simple to install, and requires no skills beyond those a PC builder would already have. And to help you build your own computer, check out our guide on the very subject.