Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

Macbook (late 2006), disassembled
Macbook (late 2006), disassembled

My Macbook (Late 2006) has gone through many modifications and operating systems. Recently, it decided to stop responding to keyboard or trackpad input. Instead of trying to replace the trackpad/keyboard cable (which I’ve done once already), I decided to put logic board of the Macbook in a Mini-ITX case and try an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012.

ifixit’s MacBook Core 2 Duo Logic Board Replacement guide was helpful with the disassembly. After removing the logic board, I stripped the bottom case of the remaining parts (SSD, hard disk, speakers, display, etc). The MacBook logic board was short enough to fit in the case with the ports and connectors lining up with the opening for the Mini-ITX backplane.

I thought using the Macbook bottom case would be the best way to mount the system board because the case helps to align the MagSafe connector and the fan/heatsink assembly. I also wouldn’t have to mount other stand-offs in the Mini-ITX case. I used Dremel cut-off wheels to cut down the case bottom. To mount the logic board in the Mini-ITX case, I used double-sided foam tape.

The wiring for the ancillary devices – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and speakers – were routed around the inside of the new case. The Mini-ITX case came with a bracket to mount 3.5″ hard drives internally but with non-standard headers on the logic board, I abandoned that idea. There was also a power supply, which I removed. I wired the power switch on the front of the case to the trackpad/keyboard connector on the logic board.

Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case
Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

I had already removed the DVD drive when it stopped working in the summer of 2011 and replaced it with an SSD. I used double-sided tape to mount the SSD and the second hard drive to a bracket mounted above the logic board. Eventually, the short cable for the second hard disk failed and when I replaced it, the connector on the logic board failed from too many insertions.

When I first powered it on, it actually worked. The Mini-ITX case is slightly larger than a Mac mini (200 x 225 x 56mm vs 197 x 197 x 36mm) and slightly less attractive but it works. My only regret was breaking the circuit board for the system LED when I was disassembling the case.

A Nexus S Case

I bought a Samsung Nexus S the day it was released, last December 16. Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) gives the Nexus S considerably more functionality than the last phone I bought, though it costs about 26 times more.

The only other thing I wanted for the phone was a silicone case. I ordered the Amzer Silicone Skin Jelly Case on December 17, 2010 and it finally shipped January 6, 2011.

The case covers the side and the back of the Nexus S with clean cutouts on the back for the camera, flash and speaker. The bottom of the case has cutouts for the headphone jack and charging port. On the side of the case, there are raised bumps for the volume and power switches that work OK.

There is a slightly raised edge around the front of the case, which allows for putting the phone face down on a flat surface without concern about scratching the front. The Amzer case will provide scratch protection for the back and sides of the phone and a certain degree of impact protection, though I don’t really feel like testing that capability.

The case is available in eleven colors: black, gray, transparent white, hot pink, purple, maroon red, blue, orange, green and baby pink…

Update July 20, 2011: I have since switched to the Incipio Feather case because I found that the Amzer silicone case made it difficult to pull the phone from my pants pocket. The Incipio case is a hard shell but with a soft touch coating that won’t scratch the phone and is much easier to put in and take out of my pocket. I have even dropped the Nexus S in the Incipio case from 4 feet onto concrete with no damage.