I waited overnight, outside a shop, in the cold to buy my first XBox 360, as I was excited about the buzz for the machine and I loved the first XBox. I’ve seen loads of XBox 360 PC builds on Youtube; Timmy Joe and Modstek are probably my favourite, with Modstek whacking a GPU into the box and Timmy Joe doing an AMD APU build. I wanted to try this, to learn the skills needed to make this work, so I did!
This was my very first attempt at building one of these suckers. Like all things I try, I watch a couple of videos, believe that it’ll be a doddle and immediately make an arse of the whole thing. It was pretty much like that here, well almost.
So, here’s the mistake I made. I thought that I could make mine better than everyone else’s! So, I had lofty aspirations, I was going to keep the XBox 360 metal cage inside the plastic shell, because the cage holds the front switch assembly. My idea was that I would be able to interface to the switch, using a microcontroller and then control the front light – and also I’d be able to wire up the front button to the power switch on the motherboard.
It didn’t quite work out that way. So I managed to keep the metal cage alright, I dremelled my fingers to the bone trying to cut through that steel cage with about 20 dremel cutting disks. I made a decent job of it alright.
I interfaced to the front button to switch on an off the computer. It mostly worked, only the front button assembly had its own ideas about when to turn the computer on and off. So, randomly the front button circuit would just turn the computer off, or the front button would work intermittently. The soldering was good enough. I’d wired to the correct pins. But somehow, the circuit was noisy, or not earthed properly or something. My primitive software engineering brain could not figure out the electronics part of a circuit that I hadn’t made myself.
Also, connecting a motherboard to the metal cage was hard. Why? Because it wasn’t a flat metal cage, and the stand-offs all seemed to align with raised parts and it was just impossible to install standard computer stand-offs. Plus, a metal base and a motherboard don’t mix very well, so how should I secure the PC motherboard? Easy – coat the base of the motherboard in insulating tape, and foam tape and hot glue and adhere it to the cage. Cunning! But also terrible.
So, this litany of terribleness carried on to cutting out the top-hole for the cheap-ass CPU fan. The only tools I had at the time were some screwdrivers and a dremel, so I drew a good circle on the top-case and cut it out quite amateurishly with my dremel, to from a squircle. It was reasonable, I suppose, but definitely very amateurish.
Here was the spec of Green PC:
- 4th Gen Intel ITX motherboard
- i3 4150 CPU with 100mm LED cooler.
- 4GB DDR3 SODIMM (motherboard only has one slot)
- 128GB mini-pci SSD from Assento
- 24mm green arcade button
- 2 x home-wired, green LED strips.
- 140W HP PSU brick
This was never meant to be a gaming machine, of course. Just my first foray into XBox PC building. I eventually stripped out the cage, tape and hot-glue and placed everything straight into the plastic shell, secured by bolts. It was much stiffer and better in every respect.
So, the first port of call for this sucker was to completely eliminate the thought of using a cage. And the second was to fix that hellish faux circle for the cooler. It was at that point, I bought myself a set of hole saws for my drill! Absolutely fantastic, just look at that perfect circle in the picture above. The set I bought even did a 127mm circle, which is perfect for most coolers and gives me a 7mm of slack should I misalign the motherboard with the top-case – which is pretty easy to do when you’re just eyeballing things.
For this build, I decided to use a side-mounted port-arrangement. Having the outputs on the back makes for some messy cutting – as the rear of the XBox is just drilled holes and you end up drilling into the swiss cheese and making it look terrible. So, my IO plate is mounted on the side. I cut a piece of paper the size of the plate and carefully dremelled out the hole. To my surprise it fit very well. Here are some more pictures of the XBox Red.