Random Access   chris, kp & rob
In The Lab
Build Your Own PC Chapter 7: Special Effects
by chris & rob

Rob: Now that we have our major components installed, how about we add some color to our dream system?

Chris: Our case has several LED effects already installed, starting with the power and hard drive LEDs. Instead of just drilling a hole and sticking the LEDs through the front, our case sports reflectors and clear plastic lenses to scatter the light from bright blue and red LEDs.

The "Scorpion" case
enlarge image
The "Scorpion" case lit
enlarge image
The "Scorpion" case we selected for our BYOS project has bright blue LEDs to show when the power is on, and red LEDs that flicker whenever the hard drive is accessed.

Chris: Our DFI system board includes a Power-On-Self-Test feature that displays diagnostic start-up progress on four red LEDs. These are mounted in a small plastic panel that slips into a drive bay kit (also included).

Rob: We don't want that boring white panel on our cool case. What can we do so it integrates with the case and lighting better?

Chris: For a minor custom touch, we can replace the included connector with a small connector block that I mounted four orange LEDs on. Instead of running the LEDs out the rear of the case or to one of the front drive bays, the block sits directly on the connector on the system board. With the large side window, it will still be quite easy to observe the LED start-up sequence if there is a problem.

The DFI diagnostic LED panel
enlarge image
The new custom connector
enlarge image
The DFI diagnostic LED panel and the custom diagnostic LED block we made (left). These LEDs light up in a binary sequence to indicate various stages during the Power-On-Self-Test. If the system hangs, the pattern of lights can indicate what failed. After a successful startup (normal operation) all four LED lights remain on. The new custom connector (right) sits right on the system board and can be seen through the side of the case.

Rob: ... Sweet! Another lighting feature included with this case is a fan mounted in the center of the side window that has tri-color LED fan meaning it has small yellow, orange, and red LEDs that illuminate the frame and blades. That's pretty cool!

Chris: Right you are Rob, but we can do one better. Let's replace the fan with one that matches the colors and that can be connected to the system board for temperature and fan speed monitoring.

A tri-color (yellow, orange, and red) LED fan
enlarge image
A tri-color (yellow, orange, and red) LED fan included with the Scorpion cases (left). The new fan (right) plays off the colors we already have going in the case with UV LEDs.
The new fan
enlarge image

Rob: The UV coming from the side fan lights up the plastic connectors on the DFI system board. But that's not enough. How can we get it to really glow?

Chris: The DFI system board uses day-glow plastic connectors for the CPU heat sink clip, memory and cable connectors. The colors that jump out the most under ultraviolet light are the bright orange AGP, PCI and memory slots and the yellow-orange IDE RAID connector. DFI also includes translucent orange floppy and IDE cables that glow under ultraviolet.

Rob: Can we add some UV lamps to the bottom to really light up the slots and cables?

Chris: We'll install three ultraviolet lamps to illuminate the system. One 12 inch tube mounted on the bottom of the chassis, just inside the side panel frame. This provides the most light, illuminating all of the lower slots and connectors and the orange drive cables. A kit with two 4 inch tubes was mounted to illuminate the upper areas of the case, one behind the two rear case fans, and the other on the top of the chassis next to the power supply. The inverter for the smaller tubes was stuck to the top of the case between the power supply and DVD drive.

A close up of the case
enlarge image
Behind the rear case fans
enlarge image

A close up of the case (left) shows where the lower ultraviolet tube was mounted. Behind the rear case fans (right) we installed one 4-inch UV cold-cathode tube.

A look at the completed lighting package.

A look at the completed lighting package. The small black rectangle near the lower right corner of the window is the 12 volt inverter for the bottom UV tube.

Next month we'll give you the lo-down on case lighting technology.

Get Random Access

Understanding Tech

Print this article

Shop Online


Your Name:

Your Email:

Your Friend's Name:

Your Friend's Email:

 © Micro Center