The Caseless Computer

By Deane Barker on July 1, 2004

Would it be possible to create a computer than didn’t have a case? I was tooling around power supplies over at Xoxide, and some of them almost looked like they were external. Is there such a thing as an external power supply?

A few weeks ago, I went on a rant about how cool external hard drives were. Taking this a step further, just go buy motherboard with built in Ethernet, Firewire, and video. Now go buy a FireWire hard drive (can you boot from FireWire?), a keyboard, a mouse, and a monitor. Now figure out how to get power to it — if you just plugged in a power supply to the motherboard and the wall, would it work?

Joe and I talked once about building a computer that we nailed to a piece of plywood. We joked that you could pay for an upgrade whereby we would stain the wood for you. But maybe this wasn’t such a joke after all.

Could you just lay all the various bits of hardware out on your desk, connect them up to each other, and expect them to run? In a larger sense, let’s think for a minute about what functionality the actual computer case provides. A power button? Anything else?

Just wondering.



  1. Clearly you need to spend a little more time over at this site:

    Taking it one step further, why not just build the computer into the desk? Just strap the motherboard, HD’s, power supplies, etc to the underside/back of the desk, maybe in a thin plastic enclosure to avoid short circuits, and then have the PS2/USB/Firewire/headphone jacks embedded into the top of the desk, and the monitor/audio/network/power jacks sticking out the back somewhere. Add on a bluetooth adapter and use a BT mouse and keyboard, and you basically have an ‘invisible’ computer. The only thing visibly plugged in to anywhere would be the monitor.

  2. Taking it another step further —

    Why not have all the computers in your house (office, whatever) located in the same place, and just have really long cables to the keyboards, monitors, and mice on people’s desks. So have a big computer case which you make out of plywood or whatever, and have all the hardware for all the machines in the office in there, instead of on everyone’s desk. Duct tape and nails go a long way.

    Or, just get thin client Terminal Server. But my idea is way cooler, and those thin clients are about $200 each anyway.

    My goodness we’re stupid….

  3. While I was a poor college student, I bought a new motherboard, etc. but didn’t have enough money for a case… so I built the computer in a cardboard box. I grounded all the components together. It ran that way with no problems for serval months.

  4. Deane said: “While I was a poor college student, I bought a new motherboard, etc. but didn’t have enough money for a case… so I built the computer in a cardboard box. I grounded all the components together. It ran that way with no problems for serval months.”

    Nice! ive seen pepl making computers in everything from microwave ovens to old toilets (yes, the flush is the power button! XD)!

    ps. what happened after the 7 months? out of curiosity, was it a fire?


  5. hail the wonderful magics that are contained within every computer case, with out it there would be no computers and we would still be living in medieval.

  6. lol, almost forgot

    if you search the net, ull see alot of different and radical creations, incl. a Hulk computer, a treasure chest and warehouse duct fan (as made for Pentium 4’s debute at E3 years ago ago) Batman computers, ..heck, even a computer made specifically for a flight sim fan! (he recreated a small cockpit, with all special joysticks and knobs to control all the flying peripherals)

    Lol, pretty much anything and everything is possible..almost :P

    getting back on track though, i think you may, ull get excellent air cooling, bu ull need to make sure that the motherboard doesnt bend too much, and make sure you got surge proofing (rubber mat to sit componentry on etc


  7. I have been wanting to build me a shop coputer for a while now. I want to build it just sitting on top of my work bench. I wanted to use this for testing hardware mainly. It should work as a regular computer as long as 1. you sit it on something like a rubber mat, 2. make sure all of the components are grounded together and 3. you have a large fan to cool everything. Heck u could even use a cheap box fan and maybe some large hoses to direct the air flow over the heated components. Sounds cool to me. You think that would work?

    -Sid Atlanta, GA.

  8. to the guyor gal at the top of page,caseless are not only possible they are the coolest,easy to install and update hardware,they run cool,and use lights and other things to create mood,like if your gaming and so on.

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