Question Mainstreamers v Enthusiasts: "Who CARES where the PWR/RST buttons are located?!"

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,394
1,264
126
I must be an enthusiast. I haven't bought an OEM computer (but for a recent laptop) since 1994, and I have trouble counting the different PCs I've used since then, all put together by my own hand -- as much as one could claim so.

I think we went through a "period" in Cases & Cooling when several folks were engaging themselves in sheet-metal work, in the realm of modding their cases. Airflow is always a prime concern, with either air or water cooling choices.

Back in 2007, a local friend had been bitten by the build-your-own disease, and bought two Coolermaster Stacker 831 midtower cases. One of them had a defective latch for the pull-out motherboard tray. He sold it to me for $150, without telling me about the latch, but I fixed that, anyway. I think the retail on those units was between $200 and $300 USD. I used it for a few successive computers.

Stacker.jpg

My last "new" computer-building project was finished in early 2017, and I used the Stacker for it. I had discovered that any "mods" to the case did not require cutting on it. Instead, I blocked off certain vents to get a more directed airflow and pressurize the case, adding pieces carefully cut from Lexan and foam-core art-board.

Last year, I acquired spare parts purchased in panic when I'd damaged the motherboard in a stupid accident involving static-charge. I didn't need to buy those parts, but at the time, my world seemed turned upside down because if the accident. So after the initial fix of motherboard replacement, I began to conceive of a project to build a twin, using the same Stacker case. I scoured the internet, and finally found one on EBay.

It arrived with one of the drive cages missing, but I found an aluminum cage of the same design that fit perfectly -- a Lian Li product. The project had to wait for awhile, and I set the case aside. I hadn't noticed something funny all that time. The owner had shipped the case to me with the front-panel cables disconnected and wrapped neatly in a separate package. That's not the way the case ships from the factory.

Those cables are connected to a circuit-board in the upper plastic "nose" of the case front seated in a primer-gray metal box, and this plastic and metal assembly, which houses four USB2 ports, two audio ports, a 1394 Firewire port and the Power/Reset switches -- is a total bitch to remove and then disassemble. But I've done it twice -- first on the 2017 computer, and then again to connect the cables to this second Stacker. At this point, I will tell you emphatically that I do not intend to disassemble that assembly again this year. I've already built this system, I've installed Windows and some software. I'm done for now working with my little "enthusiast tool-box". If I discovered something about the power-on switch, this unit has a high-end motherboard with illuminated power and reset buttons. I just moved forward with it.

So I had slowly emerging suspicions about the "nose", its ports and switches. I began to worry that maybe -- just maybe -- the power switch or reset switch didn't work properly. Who would imagine such a thing, though? I only noticed a gummy residue around the switches, which I took off with a little Goo-Be-Gone. Had the original owner put tape or something near the switches? I couldn't say. But eventually, I developed a theory, about an inebriated gaming session, with beer, wine or rum-and-coke spilled on the "Nose".

When I was ready to fire the computer up the first time, I discovered that the power switch was flakey. You had to punch it several times from different directions to close the circuit and fire up the system. And as I said, now that it's all put together, I refuse to disassemble "The Nose" again for now.

I'm only guessing the average Mainstreamer would go ballistic over essential front-panel switches that don't work. The computer would go back to the seller in an RMA. If the switches were placed somewhere else, the Mainstreamer's convenience might suffer a bit.

But, I'm not a Mainstreamer. I don't freaking CARE where the switches are (within reasonable limits) as long as they work.



Front-panel wiring kits with switches and LEDs cost about $5, and I'd already acquired a few for another part of this project that would give me two front-panel eSATA ports, an alternative PowerLED, and three drive or storage LEDs -- all part of my thorough plan. I wasn't even planning to use the switches.

But -- I did use them, as I show presently below. So as I said, the $5 wiring kit I already had. I needed an Xacto knife, some rectangular scraps of foam-core art-board, two 1.25" nylon screws with nuts, the PCI cover-plate for the eSATA plug I'd used in the other part of my project, and some Hold-The-Foam glue for foam art-board and plastic. I didn't have to dremel; I didn't have to drill; I only needed to cut three 0.75"x4" pieces of art-board and then cut holes for the tiny switches, taking care to position them to fit the two empty eSATA slots of the PCI cover-plate.

P6180572.JPG


P6180573.JPG

I envision trying to sell my second Stacker to some Mainstreamer.

"Why don't the front-panel power and reset switches work?" he asks.

"That there is a custom-design, my man! It's a security feature! Only YOU know how to turn on your computer! Nobody else can figure it out! It was a tedious but neat custom modification, and it's value-added!"

Of course, I'm joking. I wouldn't sell one of my Stackers for anything.
 
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VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
54,047
8,259
126
I envision trying to sell my second Stacker to some Mainstreamer.

"Why don't the front-panel power and reset switches work?" he asks.

"That there is a custom-design, my man! It's a security feature! Only YOU know how to turn on your computer! Nobody else can figure it out! It was a tedious but neat custom modification, and it's value-added!"

Of course, I'm joking. I wouldn't sell one of my Stackers for anything.
LOL. I wouldn't expect any less from you, Bonzai. Brilliant, BTW.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,394
1,264
126
LOL. I wouldn't expect any less from you, Bonzai. Brilliant, BTW.
Larry, I've seen movies depicting old people in nursing homes, and I've seen the nursing homes myself. They have arts and crafts projects for the aging patients. I remember a movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Lange -- "Blue Sky" -- when his character is committed to some nursing facility. Highly medicated, he shows his wife (Jessica) the leather wallet he is making. [Jessica was really hot in that movie, by the way . . . ]

So I think if this as a similar arts-and-crafts occupation at home. I was beaming with satisfaction after I produced that PCI-plate mod! I wanted to tell all my friends! I finally just decided to showcase it here.

Brilliant? You're too generous. But it's true that "simple is best". See -- I thought I would need to get out my dremel cutting wheels, drill some holes, go through some tedious work. I started looking for the screws, nuts, the backplate -- and it all just came together. It didn't just make my day -- it made my whole week!

Of course, there's the matter of a PCI-E slot lost to use. Not so much! I was planning to put in a little StarTech SATA controller with four ports and a small heatsink. I'd chosen the PCIE x2 slot on the board for the switches, which would also otherwise accommodate the controller. The controller is such a small circuit card, I can't see how one would need the backplate for it. It should just fit right in. I might have to trim one side of the art-board block a bit, but that should do it . . .
 
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BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,394
1,264
126
[EPILOGUE -- sort of -- ] So, looking forward to some time when I choose to pull the second Stacker apart again . . .

My recollections of various cases suggest that some have little plastic clips to which those generic switches snap in. Some forum post elsewhere had someone complaining that they broke the retainer, with a respondent suggestion that they find a college or trade-school with a 3D printer to manufacture one.

From my earlier reconnaissance, the Stacker and some other cases may not offer such a simple situation (with or without a 3D printer!) The Stacker has a small 3" x 4" circuit-board, to which the USB ports, 1394 port, audio 3.5mm ports and (likely) the switches are all soldered.

The switches appear in their design to anticipate plugging in to some soldered retainer, like the BIOS EPROM chip on some motherboards. There are six pinouts -- three on a side -- two soldered to the + and - wires with insulation.

My Nevada brother, with a prior career of installing business internet hookups and working with telephones, told me I might just be able to glue a new switch in place of the old one, and (hopefully) route a separate pair of wires to the motherboard. I was thinking that Pit Crew's automotive adhesive might work. [Any better recommendations may be helpful!]

He mentioned that the tedious work of unsoldering an old switch and soldering in a new one carried the risk of heat-damage to circuit-board components, although it would seem to me that the circuit board only has circuit traces and no "components" to speak of.

Any other insights are greatly appreciated, but it is going to be as much as a year from now when I finally choose to dismantle the case again.

Last night, we had our first power black-out of the season, lasting an hour. After power was restored, it gave me a warm and happy feeling when I pushed the power-on button for the subject computer to fire it up. Works for me!
 

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