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iMac to II CI Case ConversionReturn to News Page

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The IIciMac: An iMac in a Mac IIci case
By Pat Sullivan
Posted: 4/18/2003

Disclaimer: You assume all risks from the use of any information in this article, which is for entertainment purposes only.

The Story
While browsing the Apple section at the local CompUSA, I met a fellow who was replacing his trusty iMac with a new PowerMac. We had a nice chat about the virtues of Mac OS, and he offered to let me acquire his Lime 266 mhz gumdrop for a good price. My son was only able to play a few sessions of Nanosaur before the little gumdrop iMac suffered the dreaded analog board failure mode, and met its untimely end.

In typical Apple form, the replacement parts were so unreasonably expensive that the simple repair was out of the question. As a dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan, this type of thing does not make me happy. Sloppy engineering and overpriced replacement parts leads to a lower perceived value of Apple products. This will, in turn, eventually lead to some of the most dedicated Mac zealots "switching" in the other direction. Why are the Apple faithful paying 3x as much for a computer? Presumably, because Macs are well engineered and reliable. The gumdrop iMac - the most popular Macintosh ever - is an exception to this rule, and it is mostly due to sloppy engineering of a simple analog subassembly. I hope Apple engineers learned their lesson and won't repeat this mistake.

The iMac languished in my garage for a year and a half while I finished my Ph.D. It was the wonderfully clever "Princess Toolbox" conversion that inspired me to breathe new life into the dead iMac. (FYI: March 19th 2003 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page had a link to the "Princess Toolbox" iMac conversion article-Mike) I was getting ready to do a Color Classic iMac conversion; but decided that it was a waste to have an OS X capable machine limited to OS 9 because of small screen size (OS X 10.2 requires 800 x 600 resolution at a minimum). So, I changed tack and decided to do something quick and dirty, requiring minimal time, cost, tools, and skills. Since IIci's can be had for free, it doesn't get any cheaper than this.

Parts List:

  • iMacA-D with dead analog board (value ~ $150)
  • IIcicase ($5)
  • MicroATX power supply ($12 at ComputerGeeks.com)
  • ATXpower extension cable (optional, $5)
  • VGAVideocable and Mac-to-VGA video adaptor ($15)
  • 3MQuick Connect wire connectors #03874NA, 16 pack ($4 at WalMart)
  • Onewire nut, 18 gauge ($0.10)
  • Two CDdrive mounting screws ($0.50)
  • Pliersand wire cutters (I used a Leatherman Tool)
  • Drilland file or a Dremel tool
  • Largeand small Philips screw drivers
  • Ruleror tape measure
  • iMacservice manual

Take the iMac apart. You need these items: Logic Board/Mass Storage Chassis, power supply cable, speakers, and audio cable.

Strip the IIci of any contents. Use pliers to tear off any tabs, brackets, or ribbing inside the case that will interfere with the Logic Board/Mass Storage Chassis sitting squarely on the bottom and closely against the right of the case. This includes the brass screw sleeve in the bottom-center. One of the great features of using the IIci case is that the plastic is relatively soft and easily worked. Remove the CD bezel for easier trial fitting of the Logic Board/Mass Storage Chassis into the case. The power supply must be a Micro-ATX unit to fit. The power supply dimensions are 10 cm x 12.5 cm x 8 cm. I couldn't believe how perfectly the Logic Board/Mass Storage Chassis and the power supply fit into the case.

Next, you will need to make two openings in the case, one for the CD drive, and one for the I/O access panel. The CD opening needs to be 2 cm x 13.5 cm. The CD opening should be 2.5 cm from the right side of the case and 4.7 cm from the bottom.

The opening for the I/O access panel should start 7 cm from the back of the case. The opening should be 12 cm x 3 cm and angle to the upper left. The lower edge of the opening should be 4.5 cm from the bottom of the case on the right, and 7 cm from the bottom of the case on the left.

The Chassis is secured to the case by two screws on either side of the I/O access panel opening. Remove the two pan-head screws that attach the I/O access panel to the Chassis. These screws will be replaced with the CD drive mounting screws that are long enough to penetrate the IIci case, then go through the I/O access panel, and screw into the chassis. The first hole is 5.6 cm from the back of the case and 6.7 cm from the bottom, and the second hole is 23.1 cm from the back of the case and 7.1 cm from the bottom. I had to counter-sink the rear screw a bit to get it to reach the threads in the Chassis. My openings are pretty crude. Your unit can look much better with a little care.

Before you secure the Chassis to the case, you need to attach the power supply cable, the audio cable, and the video cable. Drop in the power supply and wire it according to: http://members.fortunecity.com/tinux1/sites/imac-atx.html
This "hot-wires" your iMac. It is turned on if it is plugged in. A server feature? The above URL has a link to a French language website that has instructions on doing a conversion that retains the soft-power capability of the iMac, but I didn't go that far. The hot-wired configuration still lets the iMac go to sleep. I used an ATX power supply extension cable so that I wouldn't have to rewire the unit if the power supply ever failed. With the 3MĒ Quick Connectors, there is no soldering or wire stripping, and it is easy to do the two-to-one connections. One problem with the Quick Connectors: they come in a 16-pack, and you need to make 17 connections. I just used a wire nut for the final connection rather than buy another package. The power supply fits in there pretty snugly, so it isn't necessary to secure it down unless you are going to be pretty rough with it when transporting it. Next, mount and connect the speakers. I just tossed mine in on top of the CD drive. There is plenty of room to mount the original iMac fan to the lid directly over the processor. I have been running without a fan and the unit seems to be fine. The power supply fan is not audible, so the only noise is from the hard disk.

That's it. The machine is pretty compact and lightweight. It is easy to throw under your arm and carry around. Here is the completed IIciMac running Jaguar.

For iMac or other System related or Case conversion articles, see the Systems page. (There's also an iMac to PC ATX case conversion article linked in the FAQ's iMac/iBook section.)

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