Description

As an automotive enthusiast, I've always loved the concept of "sleepers" - cars that don't look like much on the outside but boast a much more powerful surprise under the hood, unknown to on-lookers. This was the main idea behind Project Stalker.

My grand father gave me two old computers that used to belong to a friend of his who unfortunately just passed away a few months ago. One was an Acer laptop, about 4-5 years old, which I cleaned up, wiped and sold to someone who needed it. The other was a 9 year old HP Pavilion desktop PC that had some kind of hardware problem, so it couldn't really be sold or used for anything. I really liked the styling and internal layout of the case and started thinking...

I had some parts left over from two previous builds which could be combined to create a relatively small yet powerful gaming PC inside this old HP case. So I gutted out the old AMD Athlon x2 4400+ and associated hardware, except for the Hitachi 400GB 7200rpm HDD which happened to be a SATA drive and still in good condition. Started laying out all the new (spare) parts inside and sorting out the cable routing. Everything fit just fine and I found there's actually a surprising amount of space in this little chassis. Once I knew where everything was going to go, I pulled it all out again. Why? To do some custom fabrication/modifications and to do something about all the hideous bare metal on the inside.

The case is fairly small and I wanted this to be easily portable so I came up with a way to cut and bend a handle into the top of the chassis that would be comfortable and not cut my hand, yet also not ruin the clean aesthetics of the case. I made 3 cuts and curled the piece under so as to create a "grip" for my fingers. Even with the full weight of all components installed, it's quite easy to hold and there's almost no flex to the frame. I'll give HP one thing - they sure built a sturdy chassis for this model. The other modification involved cutting an opening to mount the fan and rad for the H55 AIO cooler in the front. There was no fan mount in the front to begin with, so I traced out where the fan would need to sit, cut out an opening and drilled some holes for the mounting screws.

Next, it was time to paint. Picked up some automotive trim paint in satin black finish which, as you can see in the pics, made for a much better/cleaner looking system compared to the bare metal. If you have a cheaper case with a bare metal interior and you're looking for a really cheap way to improve the look of your system, this is what you need to do! lol. ;-)

Once the paint dried I began the careful re-assembly process. Took my time with the cable routing - several hours at least. With the odd layout of this case, I didn't just want cables and wires running loose all over and because it's meant to be portable, I wanted everything to be secure. Wires getting caught in fans = bad. :P

After the final assembly, I removed all the ugly factory stickers from the outside except the "powered by nvidia" sticker on the front - that one still applies and actually looks nice. ;-)

Only part that was missing and I needed to purchase was the processor (and an internal USB extension cable). Since this wasn't going to be my primary gaming rig and is going to be running Linux, I didn't need anything crazy. An i5 would be overkill and way too expensive (Canadian prices suck). An i3 would be ideal but was more money than I wanted to spend (I know, I know it costs me almost nothing thus far...lol). The Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition - now that little sucker is a processor I've been wanting to play with since it was first announced. In Tom's Hardware review of the 3258, they put it up against the similarly priced Athlon X4 750K, in which the Pentium trounced the Athlon in nearly every gaming benchmark, stock and overclocked. For the games I'll be running on this machine, the Pentium will be more than enough. I'm very curious to see what kind of overclock I can get on this modest H87 4-phase motherboard. I first have to revert it to an older BIOS version to allow overclocking, but once I've done that, I'll edit this and share the results. :-)

All in all, I think this build turned out really well. I love the way it looks, inside and out and I'm very proud of it as this was my first "custom" build. Currently running Ubuntu Gnome 15.04 and am still installing/setting things up, so I haven't had a chance to really test it out yet. Though I did run Day of Defeat: Source for a few minutes just to see how it runs maxed at 1080p... 250-300fps and butter-smooth! :D

Update: Stole the H55 CPU cooler to cool the R9 290 in my Ghost build. Will be adding an aftermarket CPU air cooler to this build, just have to figure out which one to use... Using the stock Intel cooler for now.

Update: Updated the BIOS on the motherboard and now have the G3258 running at 3.8GHz. :D Wanted to hit 4.0, but that's asking too much of this motherboard, unfortunately. It's voltage locked and so anything above 3.8 just results in the system freezing up. On the stock Intel heat sink, temps leveled off at 67-69 degrees max running P95 for 15 mins. Good enough for now, but will eventually install something better.

Thanks for looking. Cheers,

MEC.

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Comments

  • 58 months ago
  • 3 points

I like the handle and the fact that you re-purposed an old but otherwise good usable case. If I hadn't noticed the slightly damaged pieces on the side optical drive, the before and after pictures of the case painted, or the top-mounted power supply I would have assumed it was a new case. It seriously looks that good, anyway great job on making something old new again. +1

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

Hats off to you my friend, its always nice to see people willing to recycle old parts in to new custom PC's. We see far too much of people buying shiny new everything on this site, a good actual custom build is really nice to see.

Tons of great pics, really shows the story of this thing. At first (I saw the pics before reading) I was wondering why the IO shield was missing and some of the choices you made, but when I saw it hanging from the tree all was clear.

Really good job.

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice mod. The PSU cables look snake-creepy, makes it look like Medusa ... makes it even cooler.

I know it would have required some parts you likely didn't have access to, but spot-welding a curved plate into the case to keep your handle from also being a hole would have been sweet. Maybe there's an easier solution, I just haven't though of it in the last two minutes. Bravo to you.

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the feedback. :) I don't mind having the handle as a hole as it allows the PSU and GPU to draw some fresh air in through the opening.

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

I've always wanted to do this. Great job.

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

Definitely the coolest HP ever. Nice mods! I really like how you got rid of the ugly exposed metal on the inside. +1!

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

My sweetie owns a similar vintage HP Pavilion, so I'm quite familiar with its internal layout (by virtue of upgrading RAM and graphics). I'm quite impressed by how well you've repurposed it. I never before would have considered putting a Mini-ITX board in there, but I suppose that's one way to get larger GPUs to not collide with that useless HP "Media Bay."

My only criticism is that I've had bad experiences with Enermax PSUs, and wouldn't have used one here. In all other respects, though: Excellent work!

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, I'm not overly keen on Enermax PSUs, but this is a higher end model from a few years back and all the reviews showed it to be a pretty solid unit. Plus I only paid $40 for it originally. ;-)

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

I have a feeling I have the exact same HP pavilon sitting in my basement

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks for all the complements and feedback, everyone. :D

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

nice work!!! it would have been a great idea to make holes on the top and filtered it so that way the PSU is mounted with the fan facing up and not fighting with the GPU for air...

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you. :-) I originally wanted to mount the PSU the other way (fan at top) and there is a big enough gap that the PSU would be able to breath just fine through the handle. But the mounting holes for the PSU on the back of the case would only allow me to mount it with the fan facing down. It's ok though as this graphics card doesn't get very hot and the PSU is way overkill for the components, so there shouldn't be any issues with the PSU and GPU fighting each other for air. ;-)

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

I'm in LOVE with this build. I think it's a FANTASTIC project. I wasn't expecting anything much until the picture that showed the spray painted version. Then every photo after was complete eye candy. It's so ordinary. Yet so extraordinary at the same time. Bookmarked.

  • 58 months ago
  • 2 points

The DIY case design, Great!, love seeing old business cases breathing a new life. One thing, maybe make it even more custom . Give that gloss front panel a brushed look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1qmDFB1KTA it would look great, also that silver front rim, could that also be spray painted black?

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks. I've had others make the same suggestions, however i wanted to keep it looking as stock and original on the outside as possible. I actually really like the gloss front cover with the silver trim, so I think I'll leave it as-is. But thanks anyways. :-)

  • 51 months ago
  • 2 points

Awesome job. I like the satin black much better than the white, we used. Nice build overall and great price. Way to reuse and update. +1

  • 49 months ago
  • 2 points

Holy Schnitzel! Looks brand new!

Maybe put a sticker over that gaping hole in the front?

+1 For front cover shininess!

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks. This PC actually looks very different now. It just went through a transformation into "Stalker v2.0" which I'll be posting up soon as another separate completed build. ;) It's much smaller now and looks like this: http://i78.photobucket.com/albums/j104/vtecthunder/Project%20Stalker%20v2/IMG_20160228_192830_zpsq0ugsi7r.jpg

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

although I'm really not a fan of HP cases i really like what you did on the inside its very clever and so simple! all in all you did an awesome job here!

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

well i must tell u this, the old hp pavilon your grand father gave u is the pc im using right now, except im running amd anthlon 5000+ series instead of 4400, you got the same case, same psu, same mobo, just not cpu nor stock cooler. the operating system is windows vista lol.

+1 for taking the case and making it a hell of alot newer lol

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

How does the front fan breathe? It looks like it's gonna choke.

  • 58 months ago
  • 1 point

Can't really see it in the pictures, but there's a vent/opening at the bottom edge of the front cover that allows for adequate flow.

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

I have the same case how did you rip out the HDD drive bays?

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Do you mean the optical drive bays? To remove them I drilled out the rivets holding it in. Some of it I may have had to cut, can't remember now.

For the HDD drive bay (positioned down near the front) there are 2 screws you remove (can see where they go in the 3rd pic) and then the assembly slides out. There's a little tab you have to push on the inside of the back panel to release it (can also see it in that 3rd pic down between the motherboard and HDD cage). Hope that helps. :)

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks i have the same case but i cant add more memory because the bottom case is stuck thanks

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  • 58 months ago
  • 3 points

yo dawg