One of the coolest visual mods available today for the SE and SE/30 has to be the custom transparent cases created by https://maceffects.com. In this post, I’ll walk you through the process of swapping out the stock case for one of these beauties.
Clearly a good idea
A while back, a photo surfaced on the internet of a prototype Mac SE with a completely clear case. The transparent enclosure was was used to test airflow and troubleshoot hardware issues during the production of the SE.
MacEffects launched a successful Kickstarter a few years back and now produces and sells similar transparent cases in clear, blue, green, and red. They also produce an Apple II case and some other clear accessories for vintage Apple products.
Another Green Jade Upgrade
The SE/30 is one of my favorite Macs of all time – and I’ve already blogged about some of the upgrades I’ve made here: A Green Jade Upgrade and here: Restoring a legend – these posts cover upgrades like RAM, SCSI2SD, ROMinator II, and Mac OS 8. I decided to take it to the next level and replace the stock case with the transparent MacEffects case. This also meant that I had to pretty-up the innards since they would now be visible.
Beautiful on the inside
When I originally installed the SCSI2SD and ROMinator, it involved zip ties and rubber bands. This didn’t really bother me when everything was snugly inside the case, but now that it’s all visible – I needed to do something about it. That’s where PotatoFi comes in. PotatoFi is an Etsy creator that 3d-prints various brackets, clips, cases, and accessories for vintage Macs. I used the ROM Clips and SCSI2SD drive bracket to pretty things up… Check out the before/after in the photos below:
The Case Swap
Before I begin, I should just remind you that there are risks involved in working inside compact Macs. Not only are the components fragile, they can cause injury if proper safety protocols are not followed. One specific thing to highlight is the importance of discharging the CRT before any internal work is performed. If you attempt any of these modifications, you do so so at your own risk.
Besides being careful, another tip is to take your time and stay organized. I’d suggest labeling all of the screws you remove along the way. There are multiple different sizes and it’s easy to loose track if you’re not organized.
With all disclaimers out of the way, here is the process I followed to swap cases:
- Remove the programmer switch (if you have one installed).
- Open the case via 4 Torx T-15 screws on the back: 2 on the top by the handle, and 2 on the bottom. The case is in two-pieces and separates towards the front.
- Discharge the CRT. Here’s a video showing the process. I made a tool similar to the one used in that video.
- Remove the thin shielding that surrounds the logic board. To be clear, the logic board is the main motherboard that has the CPU, RAM, etc. The so-called “analog board” is on its side attached to the power supply. This is used to drive the CRT and send power to the Mac’s various components.
- Remove the small metal bracket on the back held on by 3 screws. (This bracket is used to mount expansion cards, etc. In my case I didn’t have any so I just needed to remove the bracket.)
- Un-plug the cables from the logic board (there are a few: a harness that runs to the analog board, the SCSI cable, and floppy cable. There is additionally a speaker cable, but it’s easier to remove once the board is out in the next step.
- Remove the logic board by sliding it backwards. Be careful as the speaker wire may still be attached. With the board out, it’s a good opportunity to inspect your PRAM battery.
- Unplug the cables from the CRT. There is a small board on the CRT’s yoke that slides off the back, and the red anode cable pops off the side. There is also a black ground wire that attaches to one of the screws that mount’s the CRT.
- Unscrew and remove the ground cable for the power supply that attaches to the chasis.
- Unscrew the analog board (the power supply can stay attached to it) – There are 6 screws total. 2 towards the back, and 4 towards the front. As you remove the analog board and power supply, detach the wire harness that connects to the CRT.
- Remove the screws holding on the CRT – these use the same torx t-15 driver like the case screws had. Carefully remove the CRT tube – remember it’s extremely fragile.
- At this point, remove the chassis from the front of the case. I did not remove any of the drives from the chassis, just removed it as one piece. The case should be completely off now, and you should have a room full of Mac guts.
The Speaker & front panel
- The MacEffects case’s front panel didn’t have a hole for ejecting the floppy disks (the small hole that a paper clip would go into, to the right of the floppy drive slot.) I lined up the chassis to the new front panel and marked where the hole would need to go, and then drilled it out. The hole simply has to be large enough for a paper clip to fit into.
- You will notice the speaker is attached to the front panel, the plastic posts that hold the speaker on are actually melted to keep the speaker in place, so removal can be tricky. To remove the speaker, I used a Dremel to remove the melted plastic holding the speaker on. The speaker had a rubber pad in front of it which I assume is used to dampen vibrations.
- In my installation, I purchased a clear replacement speaker from MacEffects – but you could use your existing speaker if you wanted to. The clear speaker does look nicer with the transparent case. The new speaker did not come with a wire so I had to unsolder the wire from the old speaker and then re-solder it to the new one.
- My original speaker was oriented where the wires ran downward, which is how I installed the new one as well. This seemed to work fine in the end. I note this because I have seen installation videos where the speaker is mounted with the wires off to the left. I’m not exactly sure which way is best, it may be revisions to the SE/30 had different length speaker wires. (But that is just a guess!)
- To attach the speaker to the MacEffects case I used hot glue on the plastic posts rather than attempting to melt them. I also re-used the rubber piece that sat between the old speaker and case.
Putting it all back together
- Generally, the assembly is the reverse of disassembly.
- Lay the new front panel with the speaker on it face-down on a soft surface, and line up the chassis onto it. The speaker cable can run under the chassis for later. Note that the screws used to attach the chassis and CRT to the case do take some effort/force to seat properly into the MacEffects case.
- Next, the CRT goes into position. I attached 3 of the 4 screws – and waited to attach the 4th until the ground cable was in place.
- With the CRT in place, reinstall the power supply and analog board. This one was tricky, as there is not a lot of space to work between the CRT and the chassis. It was easiest to stand the Mac up, lay the bottom of the analog board in – then angle it into place. The chassis has a tiny bit of bend to it which helped me get it sitting properly. Note that the brightness knob fits into a notch in the front panel.
- The rest should be smooth sailing. Reattach the CRT cables, including the ground wire that goes onto the top-left CRT screw. Reattach the PSU ground cable on the back.
- Attach the speaker cable and then slide the logic board into place. Re-attach the logic board and drive cables.
- Re-attach the expansion card bracket to the chassis. (If you have an expansion card, reinstall it.)
- Put the back of the MacEffects case on along with the original 4 torx screws. The darker ones are on the bottom and the shiny ones are up at the top.
As I said, the SE/30 is one of my favorite Macs… favorite computers… of all time. I named mine Jade (since Apple’s internal code name of the SE/30 was “Green Jade”) so really it was only appropriate I went with the green case!
Plus, is just looks rad.
The PotatoFi clips and brackets worked like a charm and look amazing – I highly recommend if you use a SCSI2SD or particularly a ROMinator II on an SE/30.
And of course, the MacEffects case is also amazing. It looks great and the material quality is stellar. It feels strong, sturdy, and just looks flawless. The MacEffects speaker also looks wonderful, but perhaps a tad softer sounding compared with the stock speaker – although that could be my imagination! MacEffects also makes a high performance fan with LED, along with other goodies. I can’t recommend them enough!
I’m thrilled with how my SE/30 looks and runs. But why stop here? Next, my plan is to add LED lighting and replace my grey SCSI cable with a rainbow cable for extra pizzazz.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful or inspiring. If you have any questions, or have done this upgrade yourself, I’d love to hear from you. As always – thanks for reading!
Some helpful links
- MacEffects – the manufacturer of the awesome, clear cases
- PotatoFi – 3d printed brackets, clips, and accessories
- A video covering the installation of the MacEffects case
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