After my 2008 and 2009 tablet projects, I've decided to at lease have one project every year. Few ideas already brewing in my mind early this year. One of it is Macintosh Classic with intel Mac inside. Quite interesting but I couldn't get a Classic in decent cosmetic condition at that time. No go.

Next is tablet based on MacBook Air. Quite challenging but the cost kept me away. And before long, Apple announced iPad and I gotten one few weeks later. Finally the current idea strike me the moment I unbox the new Mac Mini.

The Parts
  • MacBook White 2.16GHz Core2Duo logicboard, this board won't detect or work with battery. It's been sitting in storage for few months. MagSafe connector, heatsink, system fan, HDD cable, white indicator LED, speaker are all recycled from other broken MacBook.
  • 60W MacSafe adapter bought with discounts due to broken cable. Later fix it by resoldering the cable.
  • Casing, reusing Mac Mini carton shell that was use for shipping. It's paper based, I can easily cut holes for ports and such. It's light and strong enough. And most important it's free. There is one big "window" at the shell. I've reuse the grille left over from the original iTab project and the PowerBook 12" rear casing left over from iTab Mini project.
  • D-Link 8-ports gigabits switch. The box say it uses less energy :)
  • Power button, screws terminal, HDD caddy from faulty iBook G3.
  • 3-pin power plug and screws, stand-off from a faulty PowerMac G5.
  • Blower fan from a faulty iMac G5.
  • Old 12v FireWire charger for old iPod.
  • Hitachi 7K500 2.5" 320GB HDD.

The build

I've divided the project into two parts. One part (a) consist the Mac, the other (b) with power supplies and network switch.

Part a
Start by fitting the grille into the base. The grille provide good air ventilation also easy fitting of screws and standoff. Then is to position the HDD and blower fan. Once the position is right, I then mount them with screws. Also put in the right speaker assembly from MacBook and power button from iBook G3. I've position the MacBook white LED to provide backlit for the power button. Resoldered the fan connector to molex connector for easier reconnection.

Tracing the MacBook I/O ports with pencil and copy it to the side of the shell. Then carefully cut it with art knife. Test the fitting with a faulty logicboard. And slowly trim to perfect. At the same time also add in the bluetooth board with antenna & airport antenna. I've used two PowerMac G5 processor mounting screw to hold the MacBook logicboard into position.

I've reuse the extra aluminium sheet cut out from the other base (part b), to further strengthen the MacBook logicboard position. Protect it with tapes before securing it with matching hex nut. Ensure everything fit nicely before move in the actual logicboard. There's still a bit of work for the actual board. Solder a 2 pin cable connector to the on-board power-on pad. Later connect to the iBook power-on button. Ensure the heatsink and fan is tightly secure with screw and matching terminal recycled from iBook G3 casing.

Once everything are confirm in place (speakers, bluetooth, airport antenna, power button), part a is complete. Here's another photo.

Part b
The base is covered by the left-over cut out of last year's project. Trim it down to the right size before fix it with 3M strong double-sided tape onto the carton shell. Then place the rainbow color printout behind the logo ;)

The rest are pretty strait-forward. I have the largest 60W MagSafe adapter to power the MacBook logicboard. Then the black 5.1V adapter for the D-Link switch. Finally the smaller white 12V adapter to power the blower fan. Cut the shell to allow connection to the 8 network ports.

For the main power in, I've recycle the 3-pin power plug form a faulty PowerMac G5 PSU. Solder the cable to all 3 adapter, protect with heat shrink tube. The network switch is naked as you can see. Secure by one screw with screw stand-off cut from the original casing of the switch. Fixed with hot glue.

Here's how it looks like at the I/O ports side. Part a and b is held together with small clip for easier access.

And a few more photos.

The unit is now running 10.6.4 server (purchased at a good deal), serving bootimage from OS9 to 10.6. Gotten a fan speed controller and installed it, now I can lowered the fan speed and reduce the noise. The Mac run at 40-50˚C most of the time.

There are some idea on updating the casing into something else. Maybe the wooden casing I used on AirSpeaker project.

Q: Why you put all the power supply inside? Isn't that make it hotter?
A: The Mac might not stay on my desk all the time, if I have the need, I might bring this out on-site. So having everything in one make sense for me. As of the heat. I'm not running it 24/7, only during some ocasion when I need to perform network install and such. So no heavy loads, plus I have the blower fan to cool things down quite a bit.

Q: Why not you put the grille on both side, isn't that better for ventilation?
A: I could, but that's the last piece of grille I have. And the main point of this project is to keep the cost low by using what I already have. So I'm not going to order another piece of grille.

Q: This looks kinda ugly, I believe you could get a better casing for this project?
A: I agree the look is not the main focus of this built. Anyway, the server are hide away most of the time so the look is not the main concern. Maybe in the future when I came accross suitable repalcement, I would rebuilt the project to fit in a nicer casing.

Q: Isn't it dangerous? Like the box will burn and such?
A: Well, if the built is not properly done, it will burn even you put in metal box or concrete. I believe I've been careful on the heat and cabling. And this is not a commercial project, so I'm not really concern about that.

Thanks for reading. Drop me your question and comment wei(at)maccores(dot)com

I've manage to recycle majority of the parts for this project. In fact few items I've bought are Hitachi HDD, 8 port network switch and OSX server license. With this project I manage to reuse & recycle many old parts and components that been sitting around doing nothing. I'm happy with it.

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