3 motherboards in 1 case

By Tashammer ยท 25 replies
Jul 11, 2006
  1. What i would like to do is build a silenced case with 3 micro Intel motherboards in it, with 2.8 P4 cpu's, onboard sound, graphics etc, 2 x 300 GB hard drives and 2 x 20GB hard drives.

    Essentially, they would be 3 setups just occupying 1 case. I for general use, 1 for a firewall, 1 for a web server, and sitting on the desktop.

    Would they need separate power supplies or could i run them off 1 power supply (400 watt).
  2. #Curtis

    #Curtis TS Rookie Posts: 66

    I doubt that you could run all that off 1 powersuply, i would recommend 1 for each system to be on the safe side, 2 different systems in one case will require a lot of cooling, it would be safer to use 3 different cases and somehow conceal them, i think it would also require a lot of engineering to do that, unless you made it into a rack mount server setup which would make more sense, but be more expensive.
  3. IBN

    IBN TS Guru Posts: 487

    You'll need different PSUs plus I'd recommend water cooling. It'll get hot and noisy in there so you'll need the water cool. Post a pic when you've done making it we'd like to see that rig!!!
  4. KingCody

    KingCody TS Evangelist Posts: 992   +8

    It's a neat idea, but it would be very difficult to make, it it can be done at all. besides the obvious size issues, cooling would be very difficult to control.

    1. you would need 3 power supplies. while it is theoretically possible for one PSU to power everything (it would have to be much more than 400w), ATX PSUs use a "soft on/off". you could not get the 3 boards to power on/off in sync with each other. you would essentially have to hard power them down which is very bad.

    2. you would need a full tower ATX case, and would have to make significant mods to it.

    3. you would need to use mini-ITX boards (they are less than 7"x7"), anything else is too big and would not allow sufficient cooling because the boards would have to

    you would need to build some sort of mounting system to secure 3 mobos and 3 PSUs to the case. and you may have to remove the PSUs from their individual cases to fix it all in, and that would cause even more heat issues.

    To be honest, I don't think it's even worth trying. it would be possible to make a singles case/2 mobo system, but 3 is pushing it too far. if you want 3 separate machines but don't want 3 big honk'n cases, then you should consider buying 3 of these and stacking them on top of each other
  5. IBN

    IBN TS Guru Posts: 487

    Maybe three desktop cases on top of each other. I think it is very possible but its gonna require construction.
  6. KingCody

    KingCody TS Evangelist Posts: 992   +8

    what construction would it require? you just stack them... that's it :rolleyes:

    but he obviuosly doesn't want 3 big cases, which is why the goal was to put them all into 1 case.

    the picture I posted was a SFF (small form factor) barebones computer. 3 of them stacked would be about the same height as a full tower ATX case.

    they are very small and already have a PSU and CPU cooling built in. they will never be high performance machines, but it doesn't sound like that's what he's looing for anyways.
  7. IBN

    IBN TS Guru Posts: 487

    When i said construction i meant if he wants to build his own kind of case. Sorry for not being clear there. You are one of the arrogant ones here on Techspot.
  8. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    i do want to build my own case and a wooden one at that.

    i had planned on mounting anything that vibrated on neoprene mounts.

    Sound and vibration dampening would be the goal rather than total silence. (I saw some silenced cases and they are BIG).

    As for cooling i am going to experiment with fan types including those centrifugal types you can get in some fan heaters. I had a look at the Fluent website and it shows the patterns generated by some fans so, rather than the ropey ordinary fan, i thought i would try sheet cooling and see if that made any difference.

    Maybe i could make an enclosed box with a thermometer inside and some sort of heat source (incandescent light globe?) then try attaching different fan types and seeing what effect they had on cooling. I suppose that one would really need analog heat sources equivalent to those on the motherboard and devices. Hey, maybe a pseudo computer cases with sliding panels that emulated the most ordinary types of venting. Most likely, though, i will just stick it all together and see what happens.

    i did think about using a car radiator fan to be set on one side, somewhat bigger than the Thermaltake case side fans, but i do not know how quiet they are and, again, their cooling pattern is circular rather than a sheet.

    As for motherboard size, i already have the micro boards Socket 478 and the Shuttle case that was shown is nice but not what i want.

    The mini-itx boards would be great but, alas, paucity of funds necessitates being creative - which is a lot more fun!

    I can live with 3 power supplies all in a row, sectioned off from the rest of the case and having a blow through fan in addition to the little one they have. Hmm, maybe take them out of their cases and make a special case using the 3 fans they have so that the airflow overlapped - that ought to be more efficient.

    The using of the onboard devices (graphics, audio, etc) means keeping things cooler and, with them being networked maybe i would only need to leave space for card slots on the primary board only. The idea being to make sure that the case only has openings where it will be best for the airflow and cooling thus avoiding unnecessary eddies and vortices (i must read too much sci-fi). Again, i want the air to come in, pick up the heat then carry the hot/warm air straight out; i don't want the air buggerizing around in corners and heating up other components.

    Hmm, sounds like mounting the boards vertically don't you think? Heat rises straight up rather than pushing up against the under surface of the next board above.

    Feels like i am heading for a case with 3 compartments; 1 for the power supplies, 1 for the mother boards, 1 for the hard drives and cd/dvd drive(s).

    How am i doing so far? More feedback would be appreciated.
  9. KingCody

    KingCody TS Evangelist Posts: 992   +8

    that sounds like it's going to be a cool and very unique rig :D

    i would tend to think that one big chamber (as opposed to 3 separate chambers) would be much easier to make. that way you don't have to create a cooling solution for each chamber individually. also, if you leave the PSUs in their cases you will have 3 fans (or 6 fans depending on the PSU models) exhuasting hor air.

    that car radiator fan idea sounds interesting. positioned as an intake fan at the bottom of the case blowing up through the vertically mounted boards , or as an exhuast fan at the top (same idea and flow pattern though) would seem to be a pretty effective solution. i'm not sure about the noise, but I suppose you could adjust the speed pretty easily.

    another thing to think about would be the case material itself. have you considered using plexiglass instead of wood? Plexiglass is easy like wood to cut and drill, and in the end gives a cleaner look (i think it does at least) and besides... after all the work you put into it, don't you want to show off what's inside it ;)

    A couple years ago I built my own plexiglass case for a socket-A system. if i can find it, i'll post some pics to show how I made it.

    And IBN... I was not rude or disrepectful to you, there was no need to insult me. you can think whatever you want of me, you're entitled to your opinion. but your personal opinion of me has no place in this thread. next time keep it to yourself.
  10. IBN

    IBN TS Guru Posts: 487

    If you read over the posts you have done previously you will come to the conclusion that i have.
  11. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Kiss and make up please. Or just metaphorically shake hands.

    Oh, the case sides would be perspex or similar - i am recycling old record player case tops. The mountings for the hard drives and the dvd players are being made from pieces stamped/cut from those neoprene bakeware - the neoprene being able to withstand high temperatures. Some of the mesh for the fans will be made from those cheap waste baskets. They will be formed to shape using wooden formers and a rubber mallet.

    It's a matter of looking at existing things with a different eye.

    The notion of the 3 compartments is to allow for 3 cooling solutions - straight across and out for the power supplies; vertical for the motherboards; straight across for the hard drives and dvd players. Of course, one could have a series of fans at the front that could blow straight across all of the components, but i would still like separators between the different types of devices. In particular, i like the notion of the weight of the power supplies being in the case base in order to provide a low centre of gravity and a stabilizing mass but as the power supplies generate quite a bot of heat i would prefer that was not allowed to mix with the the other components but kept as isolated as possible - in, cool, out.

    The divisions need not be anything heavy, just slide in panels for which the slots would be easily routed.

    Hmm, power supply and monitor connectors at the back. USB, Smart cards, keyboard amd mouse connectors at the front. Boards internally networked via small hub (D-Link DFE-904). I am trying to use what i have to hand. Lordy, but it is fun even though i am just at the planning stage with separated case components around me - gotta keep away from the power drill else i will remove more rivets.

    Maybe MDF laminated or veneered with wood.

    Oh, that is another reason for removing cases wherever possible - weight reduction. Also combining the 3 micro power supplies into one compartment or one case acting as a compartment is a safety thing - as in, "Hey, what's this big round black thing do...ZAAAAP!" Well, that's yer electrolytic capacitor and it holds electricity inside it...but i guess you found that out already".

    Hmm, making a sheet metal bender out of some angle iron a couple of hinges and a tube. What i need is to borrow the neighbours welder. I wonder if i could encourage him to buy a MIG welder?

    Dear me, there are so many possibilities.
  12. IBN

    IBN TS Guru Posts: 487

    I have nothing against the guy. All I'm saying is that hes arrogant. BTW nothing was broken to makeup.
  13. howard_hopkinso

    howard_hopkinso TS Rookie Posts: 24,177   +19

    Ok guys, let`s keep it civil please.

    I don`t want to have to start deleting posts. :p

    Regards Howard :)
  14. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    @ KingCody

    That would be good to see, the plexiglass mod that is.

    I took notice of the soft off power supply issue as well, thanks for that.
  15. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter


    you are in Lancashire? Real Lancs or posh Lancs? (Ah wur born in Preston and lived in Kirkham until ah wur 13. Eee eck lad artagoinon then?
  16. howard_hopkinso

    howard_hopkinso TS Rookie Posts: 24,177   +19

    Diffinitely the real Lancs mate.

    Nowt posh round ere lad lol.

    Regards Howard :)
  17. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,115

    woah.. nice project you're attempting to do.. please, post us pics when you do start to make it, its very interesting stuff...

    Alas you've thought out everything so detailed for me, i'm at a loss of suggestions to give to you.. however, i've been reading up on a couple of places of people making their own DIY cases (in particular silenceing aspect), and came across this, which may interest you, well, maybe....


    have fun :D
  18. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter


    i actually had a look at that site :)

    Have you noticed that despite all the mods that folks seem to do, relatively few try to isolate vibrating or noisey parts. Instead they still use the same drive mounts etc. Well it occurred to me that by cutting out some disks of neoprene rubber from the floppy cake trays that we could overcome the vibration problems, rather like making engine mounts. The trick is to have a neoprene disk on either side of the drive mount cage, with a smaller disk in the hole and in that a small collar so that the screw/bolt passes first through a washer (smaller than the neoprene disk), then through the collar, then through the last neoprene disk between the cage and the drive. The idea being that neither the screw not the drive touches anything buy neoprene.

    The same thing could be achieved by using grommets but getting grommets small enough and inserting them would be very fiddly and i reckon it is of more use to have a largish area of neoprene between the drive and the cage; this will give a better dampening effect over a greater surface area, plus less chance of wearing out as neoprene seems a lot tougher than grommet material.

    As for cutting the disks and the holes. One of the cheap leather punches works well - the sort that you can use on paper and cardboard which has a rotating wheel with different sized tips. The tool is used like a pair of pliers. They are often found in the cheap tool bin. As for the larger disks between 1 cm and 1.5 cm's i thought of using a wad cutter - it's a type of punch.

    Oh, the little collars you can buy at electronics shops as spacers, they only need to be 2 or 3 mm high though it depends on the thickness of the neoprene you can find and the cage wall thickness. In my case, pun intended, i am still tossing up between using an existing cage extracted from another case or using wood. If wood, then it ought to be hardwood rather than pine, for obvious reasons in terms of wear and tear and drilling clean firm holes.

    If wood, then the cage would need to be slightly different in that additional neoprene could be used along the runners. Not sure about this yet.

    Oh, something i came across the other day was in relation to venting the case and that was the use of baffles to quiten the airflow without lessening the volume output. Rather like what you find in a car's exhaust system. Most of you would have heard the difference between a car with a muffler on and one without a muffler or fitted with a straight through muffler. Well, it would appear that the same thing applies to a computer case, which was something i hadn't thought of but it makes sense.

    Another point relating to the parallels bewteen exhausting a computer system and a cars engine is what happens when the exhaust system gets leaks. Have you ever heard a leaky exhaust system? It occurs to me that the same thing appliies to all those holes in a computer case where all the bits and pieces fit together, we are just used to all the noise and i am wondering if we actually need to put up with it?

    Hey, let me know if you think i am just burbling. Also, please let me know if i am talking a load of garbage because sonetimes i get what i think are good ideas that turn out to be a load of rubbish :)

    Also, please let me know if this is of any interest to you as i think and fiddle my way through things.

    Once i get really underway i must plug in the camera though i am not sure what quality the pictures will be.
  19. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,115

    Tell me, you've worked with cars before havent you...

    Fair enough.. what about ripping out a cage and building around it? or at least salvage the motherboard trays from them. Even so, you'll need some sort of template for where the holes are going to be on the wood etc.

    Are you going to use drive rack mounts like the ones on your standard cases or make your own? You'll need to get the hole a little bit bigger to be able to fit the spacer in, since i think the screws that are used for the drives eg dvd drives are designed to just fit through the slots.. as well as the actual spaceing inside the racks and the length of the screw. You are talking about something like this right (001.jpg) excuse my drawing lol..

    My case currently built under the "windtunnel" theory, and while it does work, its starting to cost my sanity.. and hence why i've been looking up to redesigning my case when it gets its quater yearly cleanout. You've pretty much thought of most of my ideas on silencing the drives (and possibly the fans too) with neoprene, while i was thinking of some sort of rubber or dampening material and reducing the amount of "sound leaks" in the case but the baffels you talk about do interest me.. can you possibly illustrate it and how are you going to impliment it?

    Btw.. my family has two cars... one with a punctured muffler and the other without, so i do know what you are talking about there...

    Attached Files:

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  20. KingCody

    KingCody TS Evangelist Posts: 992   +8

    i don't think that would really make it quieter...

    the sound from a car's muffler is the sound of constant explosions inside the engine (and even with a very quiet muffler, you cannot silence the engine itself). a computer has no explosions, or at least it's not supposed to ;) . it just has small electric motors. as you already mentioned, the noise from the fans and drives are caused by vibrations, and I think you already took care of that problem with the neoprene.

    but it still sounds like a cool idea, it sure would look cool (or weird :rolleyes: ).
  21. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    i haven't stopped. i am aquiring bits. My timing has been abysmal they have all been throwing away the stuff that i could use and now most have nothing. Bugger! Anyway, i got 2 broken cd players (for the cases); i have tracked down some sources for the centrifugal fans (the long fans like rollers, not the axial fans we are used to). You can find these fans on old photocopiers and they can be 12, 24 or 240 VAC. Needless to say i am after the 12volt fan. They are usually given away as they are normally thrown away these days. So you can check out the office equipment and supplies techs - get into the garbage and look at all those parts waiting for you. Don't forget the large pieces of plastic that can be cut up and heat shaped with a hair drier.

    Oh, needing a smokey perspex side to your case? Ever though of using the lid off an old record player? Nice and thick too and the cost is a lot less than a new piece of perspex, plexiglass or whatever it's called.

    I have also been reading and looking at more diagrams and pics and getting overloaded.

    It occured to me to look beyond computers to car doors and other automotive parts and audio studios and speaker boxes - all of which have problems with sound and vibration intruding. The other area to have a stickybeak into is OH&S and what is done in that field - things like antivibration gear on chainsaws - how the handles and grip are mounted in relation to the motor - the rubber or neoprene mounts used.

    Anyway, think of the metal case side as a drum skin. There is really nothing to stop it having a little thrum or two - same with car doors - how do they silence the car door panels? Yes! But is the material suitable for a computer? I come across tarry compound stuff, hmm don't think that would be too good. More detective work.

    I have seen folks bunging pieces of carpet inside the case. Didn't impress me. But looking at what folks have been trying and doing is very useful in helping me figure out what it is i am doing. So what am i doing? Well, reducing to a minimum vibration and noise whilst gaining the most efficient and effective heat removal.

    Notice i didn't say cooling, i am told that cooling and heat removal are different - like a fridge removes heat, it doesn't cool - if you don't believe me then check out the rear of the fridge and feel the heat rising from it via the radiator.

    Once of the things that i have seen in most of the modded and commercial cases is the fact that many components are bolted in metal on metal which is not exactly the best way of reducing vibration or stopping it reaching other components.

    Something else i have been pondering on is cases are really poorly fitted together with holes everywhere. How in heavens name can you get good airflows if they are squirting out all over the place. Those holes also let the sound out as well.

    The trouble is that shop-bought cases have to allow for many different types of component fitting so all the pre-drilled holes. Then there are the poor tolerances in making the cases themselves - if the tolereances where to a thou then we wouldn't be able to afford the cost of a case, so we have to put up with low quakity and tell ourselves that a few lights will make things better. Hmmpf!

    Whereas making your own case using your own components and allows you to keep holes to just those that your gear needs and no more. I am not even sure about using drive cages from the old case because mounting the hard drives can lead to the most ridiculous sights that look like the hard drive is bungee jumping. Maybe we need gimbals of some sorts? Nah, just decent grommets and no metal to metal contact other than earthing wires.

    Oh, when you take dead cd drives apart you can get 4 nice grommets out of them, plus screws, LEDs, little motors (not sure what i will use those for) and screws (straight into the assorted tin).

    Someone said why bother putting 3 computers in 1 case - well, the hunt for information for one thing and recycleable parts for another! Then there is consideration to what else can be included, such as a radio tuner, perhaps a NAS (which i hadn't heard of before), though adding a NAS might make it too big.

    My posts will be irregular, i have to get used to some new meds.

    Check out P2P for woodworking and metalworking howto's including some really low, low cost improvisations.

    Just think of making your own cases out of 1/4" thick plastic - well, maybe not. But you can vacuum form using just a heating element for a stove and adapting a vacuum cleaner - yeahhh for you own parts and Darth Vader masks.

    The other things include very simple sheet metal bending gear - now i will have to convince the neighbour to weld the bits together.

    Oh, and how about baked enamel cases or metal parts? 200C in the oven. It does tend to stink the place up though for a while.

    Getting back on to the cases. I am going to see if i can dummy up a case in such a way that i can have movable vents to find out where the best place is to put them on the real thing.
  22. Kevin16

    Kevin16 TS Rookie Posts: 92

    You write a lot.
  23. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    That's true, the idea being that the detail may be of a help or an inspiration to someone else. This way we get to share our experience around. Of course, there are some folks who haven't the patience to read it all, but they don't have to unless it is of interest.
  24. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,115

    ahh.. so this is going to be a full homebrew case? unfortunatly for my level of skill and concentration i think wood's the furthest i'd go in building something for now lol... but thats just me :p

    NAS (network administrated storage i think is the full name) is something like a network device where you can plug in various storage devices in to share.. but if you already have some sort of file server with an OS then that idea is quite obsolete, seing that its just another form of easy access plug-in-plug-out device like the router was to the pc acting as a Internet gateway/server (pc with the ICS on it).

    I think as one of the important peices to building such a silent setup is the gear thats going to be inside it. I was on and offline for the past few days doing some maintainance and modding my case a bit more (its all in my blog). Replaced the stock P4 HSF with a Zalman cpu cooler and my case was considerably more quieter than the stock.. adding that to a PSU with its own 7v Fan line its very quiet.. Of course, if i switch to full passive cooling setup (just heatsinks and cool pipes, no water) then definatly 1dB of sound - only sound would be the hdd and the optic drives.. but for controlled cooling i'd stick one huge 120mm fan above the main heatsink to keep it cool..

    One more thing to consider, if you have active hdds that are going to stay on for the most part of the day (or 24/7) then adequate cooling is sugested. i found that my WD hdd (which holds winxp, data, programs) goes about 54-57`C since its running nearly all the time my pc is on, while my seagate hdd (holding the bulk of my media, in this case brand didnt make a difference, as my previous seagate hdd died of a heatstroke..) which doesnt get used untill needed sits on 35`C, then jacks up the temps when it gets used.. now with the addition of a hdd cooler and relocating one rear fan to the front of the case where the hdd is its down to a stable 52`C continuous.. but thats with 2 opened 5.1/2" bays (probably a bit more cooler when i can seal off and direct the air flow properly)
  25. Tashammer

    Tashammer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Where would your blog be then N3051M and is it accessible?

    The process i am going through is a bit rough and ready. But there are some givens and they are:

    1. Using what i have for computer hardware by way of motherboards (4 micro atx, 1GB Corsair RAM each. Using my existing hard disks rather than buying new ones so rather than 3 x300GB i will stick with what i have which is 1 x 250GB PATA Maxtor, 1 x 150GB SATA Maxtor (i think), and a choice of 2 x 20GB Seagate and 1x30GB PATA Maxtor, 10GB Seagate, and a 4.12GB Seagate.

    Anyway, i thought:

    1. 250GB PATA for main
    2. 150GB SATA for second
    3. 10GB for firewall
    4. 30GB for Web server.

    Does that sound ok? remember i don't know very much as i am one of those who acquires knowledge as i need it.

    I can either use the onboard graphics with them all or i can use a Radeon 9200SE with the main and onboard graphics with the others.

    The main use of the secondary one will be to have tutorials and the like on whilst i use the main to operate the programs, e.g. graphics.

    The case will be wood because i like wood, but i am thinking of an inner and an outer case or an outer case with an inner layer that stands on neoprene feet as well as having the neoprene as buffers against the sides, front and back. Remember, i am just thinking about the dual skins.
    What is a given is the outer case being wood and i want the least possible number of holes so i end up with directed air streams.

    The hard drive cage ought not to be metal as i think metal on metal anywhere is undesirable as far as transmitting noise and vibration go. If it proves to be absolutely unavoidable then there will be neoprene between the parts - remember neoprene stands up to high temperatures (i am cutting it from bakeware). But the cages would have to be made so that there is space for the neoprene rather than jamming parts in too tight.

    As for the motherboard base, perhaps plywood or hardboard - not metal. Again large areas of sheet metal tend to resonate, vibrate etc so they would need damping (like car doors etc). But if a material is used that is pretty dead as far as sound goes then maybe would would be better - any ideas?


    I thought i would have 1 metal case for the 4 power supplies. The PS are small, micro atx size. Would it be safe to wire them up to one input socket, inspead of having 4 power leads draping down the back?

    The PS would also be separated from the rest of the case and have a straight through front to back cooling via a muffler at both inlet and outlet.

    Given the weight of the PS's they ought to be at the base of the case.

    Views, notions, advice please. I might not take all of it but i will certainly appreciate it.


    The 250GB hdd is running at 34 degrees currently. (handy little program Speedfan, isn't it? I especially like the price $0.00).
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