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BUILD LOG: Passively Cooled (sorta) ITX system in an Old GE Delta Radio Enclosure


This will be a build log of my attempt to jam an ITX based system into an old (mid-80s) General Electric Delta radio enclosure and use the massive heatsink to dissipate heat.

Initial picture of the donor:

More pictures will follow.


Internals stripped out:

Initial cuts made:

Preliminary layout:


I really hope this turns out as good as I imagine it will.


@MazeFrame suggested I try a sort of hybrid watercooling setup where I use a traditional waterblock on the CPU, then use a water block like this or maybe this to transfer the heat to the case and thus to the heatsink.

Before making any more cuts to the case I will have to take some measurements and see what block(s) will make a good fit inside.

This system will probably be based on an i5 3470 as that’s what I have available right now. No video card. Power will probably be a picoPSU and a 240W dell laptop power supply.


Also got a couple of top covers, so that’s good.


I think I am going to order these:

I just wish I knew what they looked like internally. It’d be nice to be able to drill holes for mounting.

They will fit even though I have to cut some of the side away. They should fit even if I have to use some kind of clamp to hold them down.


Very cool, looking forward to see how it turns out.


The case appears to be some sort of aluminum alloy with maybe zinc or magnesium, so using aluminum blocks on it to conduct the heat away is a good choice. You are going to want either an aluminum CPU heatsink or a non-conductive coolant if you use any copper parts in the loop, otherwise you will end up with corrosion issues pretty quickly. I would also try to get as big of a reservoir as you can shoehorn in there.

Looks pretty sweet! Are you going to keep it vintage looking, or are you going to get it blasted with sand/soda?


I think I might get it media blasted and either painted or powder coated. Not sure yet. I may just clean it up real good and see what it looks like. It’s pretty beat up.

Not sure exactly what material it is made of. It’s very, very difficult to cut with a sawzall, but the raw material looks like aluminum. It’s probably some kind of alloy. The heatsink side is very heavy.

The rear IO is going to be a problem. Cutting a slot in the back for the IO shield is going to probably be prohibitively difficult, and it looks like only a thin ITX size will work. I may have to mount the motherboard more towards the front of the case and have cables going through a slot in the bottom cover I need to make. Probably put large rubber feet on the bottom to lift it up.


Looks sexy. Kind of envious…


My dad gave me another radio he said I can strip and use. He may have more he wants to get rid of.

I am planning on looking into doing some mill work to get the internal area where I want it to be. Might also do that to make the IO cutout.

I found a motherboard that I really like, but in the manual it says the max TDP is 65W:

The board is an Intel DQ77KB, which is thin ITX. This means it can use a 19V power supply. I have a Dell 19.5V 240W power supply. But because of this I think that is why there’s a hard max on the processor TDP. Would I really harm something if I used a 77W processor in the motherboard?


Apparently someone used the same processor and it worked until they updated the BIOS and it removed support for the higher TDP units. If you have any lower wattage CPU’s around you could use for a few minutes then you could roll back the BIOS if needed. There is a link in the quote of that post that has a little more details concerning BIOS versions. Going from BIOS 0038 to 0042 pulled support for higher TDP CPU’s.


“Non-conductive” coolants are only non conductive until they are added to the loop. In the process of being moved through the loop, the coolant will pick up ions and stray metal particles from the metal in the blocks and radiators. I wish I had a link to an article I read where they tested distilled water before being added to the loop and after; the difference is dramatic.

My recommendation is to go all aluminum. Rads, blocks, all of it.


if you are open to suggestions.

I would say yes get it blasted and clean, then paint or powder coat the front part, but just clean and polish the heatsink fins. Paint can be an insulator for heat and powdercoat definitely is can be in some cases. and it would looks retro cool.


Excellent find, thanks. I do have an i3 2120 I could use if the i5 3470 doesn’t work at first.

I was more afraid of the higher wattage causing damage to the onboard power supply somehow. I mean, it’s only 12 watts over the max TDP, so I don’t really think it can do much harm. I don’t know how robust the BIOS / UEFI is, but maybe I can undervolt the processor a bit. It’s probably got a pretty restrictive, business-class BIOS.

The plan for the loop is to find an aluminum CPU block, get a decent lower profile pump and a reservoir, and have the two aluminum heat exchange blocks I posted earlier attached to the case near the fins.

@Zibob I do like the idea of the fins being a more raw color and the rest being painted. Maybe black, maybe a gray similar to the original color.


Certain ceramic powder coatings, like some Cerakote offerings, are designed for thermal conductivity. Those are used in some automotive situations and I know some military things use it as well.


EKWB makes an aluminum block. They actually make a whole aluminum custom loop lineup.

For the pump and reservoir I think there are some 5.25" bay pump/reservoir that are pretty small that could probably be rigged up to work.


Ah okay I was not aware, I was thinking of the plastic style powder coats that are really thick.


Got the motherboard in yesterday. Found the processor today, got it installed, booted just fine. Did some testing, having issues with Fedora installing, questions in the linux questions thread.

The BIOS was version 0038, and the i5 3470 works perfectly. This motherboard is actually very nice. The UEFI is very powerful and has a lot of options. If I had a K processor I could do some (mild) overclocking even. I may think about getting a Wi-Fi card, too.

I may be able to do some work on the case this weekend. I’ll be able to use a router with an endmill my brother-in-law and myself use to route out 80% lowers. Should do fine with whatever this case is made of. Just need to come up with some crude jigs. Cutting the IO shield hole will be difficult, though.

Also, I got an XPSC 5.25 bay pump/res combo and the two aluminum heat exchangers. Just need some flexible tube and a CPU block and to get the case done. I am debating on whether or not to sacrifice the smaller heat exchanger for science to see what it looks like inside. I’d really like to drill holes for mounting.


I’m falling down the Ali Express rabbit hole.

Maybe I’ll get something similar for the other case I have. Do one water/passive cooled and one fully passive? Maybe. Even for Ali Express it’s very expensive for a setup like that.

I’m going to try to get my hands on the router for this weekend. Hopefully I can make some progress. I’d like to mill out the areas I need and make both a motherboard mounting plate and a bottom cover.

And my brother in law is pretty sure the case is straight up magnesium. Not even an alloy. The heatsink side is just so heavy. I was thinking about using cerakote to finish the case, but now I’m not sure it will work with magnesium.