Welcome to my G4 PowerMac case conversion!
Project kick-off:      March 2007.
Last modified:      July 17 2008.
Mission: Ever since MDS, I have had an affinity for the G4 case. The way it opens, the handles, the sleek silver plastics....
Whatever. My intention is to build a well-spec'd PC inside an Apple G4 PowerMac case. It'll take some significant modification to the case and some forward planning. I've seen several other sites where people have done this out of spare parts. Having no PC parts to speak of, I am going to have purchase new, so I want to make it something worth while, and somewhat futureproof, on the tightest of budgets. I'm buying the gear as I go along, so don't expect it to be ready next week!
Notes:
  • The G4 motherboard and the PC motherboard have completely different layouts and mounting points. So we're going to have to do a significant amount of work to make this thing fly.
  • Given the difference in layouts of the boards, we anticipate having to overcome a few issues: CPU hitting the power supply, RAM hitting the optical drive when the case is closed.
  • The PC motherboard has the rear I/O ports (keyboard/ mouse, sound, LAN etc...) closer to the PCI slots, so the G4 I/O panel won't suit. With the G4 panel, we'd end up having some I/O outlets on the new motherboard inaccessible from outside the case.
  • The motherboard we use has to be a microATX form factor. The larger ATX won't fit the case. But that's not a problem. There are heaps of really good boards out there, designed for use in small gaming and media PCs.
Ok, enough of that. I'm just gonna jump straight in, and work around these issues as they appear.
Why am I doing this? If you have to ask why, you won't understand. But I made this website for anyone else interested in undertaking such a project. I found the sites of others' very useful, so this is my contribution.
Tools:
  • Dremel, or any rotary power tool with cutting discs and grind stone bits.
  • Drill with 2 - 2.5mm drill bits for drilling the new motherboard mounts.
  • Screwdriver, for disassembly.
  • Hex-key, for removing the side panels and handles.
 
The Subject
Basic stuff. Some 'pre-modding' shots of the case. Notice the sticker residue on the top? Fear not! We'll cover that up with a blow-hole.
I picked up this Quicksilver case from TradeMe for NZ$45. Came in fair condition, stripped from all electrics except the internal fan & speaker, power buttons and the IDE cables. Just what I need!

Frontal shot. Hopefully this will look similar by the end of the mod. Back end shot. I expect this to change significantly.
The I/O ports will be different, as may the power supply .
 
Strip the plastics
Removing the plastics was fairly easy. A couple of tricky items, like the locking bar at the back and the rear panel, took a bit of care not to damage the plastic. The rear panel had several clips that I had to hold down simultaneously. Once you have all the plastics off, store them in a bag or box until you're ready to reattach them to the finished project.
Also notice the wire running around the outside of the case. That's the aerial for the Airport. Get rid of it.
 
Gutting the case
Strip everything from the case to make it easier to work with.
You can see that I have left the bracket on the left of the base. This usually holds extra long PCI cards in an G4. We won't have a use for it in our PC so it is a good candidate for removal, but I have left it in place for now.

In this picture, you can also see that I have already started removing the old motherboard mounts.
 
Removing the old motherboard mounts / stand-offs
You'll need your Dremel and you'll go through several cutting discs. Remove the old mounts as cricled above. The ones circled in lighter red to the right, I had to remove by drilling from behind. So, if you don't have a Dremel, you could just drill out all the old mounts.
Also note, between the two righthand mounts, close to the I/O plate, there were two metal tabs that I also cut off to allow the motherboard to sit properly.

Be sure to remove the plastic mat from the base of the case first. It is part of the door locking mechanism. The picture above still has it in place.
Lots of sparks and steel dust later...
Be sure to clean up the metal dust well. It's bad news if it gets onto your new board / cpu... A can of compressed air should do the trick.

 

Sizing up the motherboard
I purchased an ASUS (M2N-MX) motherboard for this project. AM2 socket, SATA, HyperTransport, PCIe, and the very important MircoATX form-factor. Sweet! Thing with many new boards with SATA, is that they only have one IDE channel. This will invariably be used for the optical drive, which leaves you needing a SATA hard drive, which is a pain in the ass when you come to install XP on it. Thanks Microsoft!


I inserted a couple of PCI cards to help line up the board on the base. You can see the board resting on a piece of card board, just to give it some height.

Lining up the board quickly revealed the first problem I mentioned above. Whereas the rest of the I/O ports can be accomodated by the G4's I/O area, the sound ports are obstructed by the pillar next to the first PCI bay. The sound ports on the board are too close to the first PCI slot making them inaccessible from outide the case. I'm going to have to hack the pillar seperating the I/O panel from the PCI bays.

Also note that the board would not sit straight until the G4's I/O panel is removed. This prevented me from marking the required positions for the mounts for the motherboard.
I marked out the area I would need to cut out of the back of the case and attacked it with my Dremel. Note the need to chop into that pillar, and also that it is double sided. So We'll need to attack it from the rear as well to allow access the sound ports.

Cool. So far, so good.
Testing the fit again. The motherboard lines up much nicer now, sitting flush with the rear of the case. I ended up with gaping spaces around the I/O ports, but the panel that came with the board should cover that up nicely.
The sound ports in the right hand photos are obstructed by that pillar I keep mentioning. Will fix that soon.
From here, I marked the location of the mount points using a sharpened pencil, poked through the holes in the board, then packed it away and got ready for some more Dremeling and drilling.

An important thing to note: the plastic mat is part of the door locking mechanism and needs to move. After drilling holes in it to accomodate the new mounts, you'll need to enlarge them into an oval shape to accomodate the movement for opening/closing the door. If you don't do this, you won't be able to open the case easily.

After sorting that out, I was able to place the motherborad in it's "final" position. In the picture here, I still need to deal to that pillar to make the sound ports easy to use.

I had to use 3 washers for each motherboard mount point to give it some hieght, needed to clear the plastic mat. This was an issue as the CPU rentention module on my board has a base beneath the board which hit the plastic mat.

Notice I was able to find a suitable power supply that required no modification to the case. It's an AcBel 400w unit picked up from these guys.

At this point I closed the case and peared inside to measure how much room I had between the CPU and power supply. This defines how much space I have for CPU, heat sink and fan. Looks like around 15cm.

Next I'll tackle the optical drive, but first I'll need some RAM to collide with.

 
The Optical Drive

It became apparent pretty quick when I closed the side door that the optical drive was going to be a problem.
For starters all 4 RAM slots were obstructed, not to mention the power connector for the board. Think I could have done a better job with motherboard selection!

First I tried just lowering the drive in the case. I even cut the case to this end before realising that some of the SATA ports and a few other motherboard components would be partially obstructed.

I needed a drive that was less than 14cm, ideally 13cm. No standard drive out there at that size, not that I could fine anyway. After some further consideration I conceded that I would have to use a slim line optical drive. In doing so, I could mount it in the original position. So I cut the case for nothing! Lesson: figure out what you're going to do, before you cut steel. Not to big a deal in my case since it'll be covered by the plastics.

I opted for a slot loading drive. This makes it easier to use and I can cut the Apple plastic bezel (for zip drive) so that a CD can be inserted instead. To use a slime line drive, I also had to get an adapter as pictured, but it came cheap.




   
 
Putting it all together

The system is almost complete (for now) in these pics. I don't yet have budget to put a decent graphics card in, so I'm going to use the onboard video for now.

Still to do:
The top plastic needs a hole cut for the blow hole fan.
The rear plastic needs a slight trim to allow easy access to the sound ports.

Other parts that went in:
AMD Athlon X2 Dual Core 4800+ (the energy efficient version).
250 GB Seagate Hard disk (SATA)

I also decided to paint the door. After removing the old motherboard standoffs, i notice the metal becoming discoloured, almost rust like. A quick spray with some black enamel should give it a nice professional look too.

 
Some final pics

To the left you can see the deployment of the hard disk. I installed a firewire PCI card to enable DV capture. Only thing to watch out for is the HDD serial ATA cable. Luckily the cable that came with my drive gave the case enough room to close, but I have read you can get right-angle cables.

To the right, a photo showing some wiring and the IDE ribbon for the optical drive. You need a nice LONG ribbon for this project. If possible, use the original Apple one. Also note the power supply cable to the mainboard. I had to use two PSU extension cables joined together (note the black plastic).


Left: A closer pic of the optical drive bay. Note how much I had to cut out! The drive itself is mounted on some hard foam and secured with some silver cloth tape at the back, which you can see in the photo.

Right: Another shot of the rear panel.


I will get around to attaching the front bezels one day!

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Use the form on my contacts pages, and don't forget to include your email.

 
Operating System

After finding that I needed a floppy drive to load additonal drivers to install Windows XP on this machine (SATA drives are not supported) I opted for Linux.
I have long been a Linux fan (Mandrake 6 or 7 was my first encounter), not a guru, but enough experience to tinker and get a decent system running.

This time I decided to trial Ubuntu, the flavour of the year... All I can says is, everything worked.
If you've been thinking about trying Linux, not is the time. Ubuntu brings Linux to the most basic computer users, yet is flexible enough to keep advanced users happy. Best of all, it is free, open and well supported through the Ubuntu forums.

 
     
     
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