DVD Drive Window Mod Tutorial

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The goal of this mod is to put an acrylic window on to the top of a drive so you can see it operating. Obviously, this is pointless unless you can see the top of the drive in the case, but if you can, then it looks pretty neat!

Step 1: Prep

This is one of the most important steps to this mod (as with any mod). Make all the proper preparations before starting.

Here’s a checklist of the materials needed:

  • DVD Drive
  • Masking tape
  • Dremel with cut off wheels or an equivalent tool
  • SAFETY GOGGLES (trust me, you’ll want them!)
  • A safe, clean, well-ventilated work space
  • Vise, c-clamps, or something to securely hold down what you are cutting
  • Metal and/or plastic compatible glue

Once you have all of that, you are going to need to start making sure your drive is a good one for this mod. If you peel off the label on the top of the drive, you’ll notice a little aluminum disk or circle. This is where the disc’s center is located. It is important to note what this little guy does… more on that later. In order for your drive to work with my method (my method ensures that the drive will be usable for a long while after), look at the size of the aluminum disk. It needs to be fairly small so it doesn’t take up too much space on your window. Two inches in diameter is best. Let’s take a look at two different drives: one that’ll work, and one that won’t.

Starting with a normal DVD drive

This drive will work because the disk isn’t too big and the top is fairly flat.

Plan out before cutting

This drive WILL NOT work because the aluminum disk is way too big and it has weird grooves all along the top.

Okay, so now you should have a workable DVD drive, and all the things listed above. Let’s begin…

Step 2: Opening the drive

Alright, so now we must remove the outer casing on the drive, which WILL void your warranty. If you look at the front of the drive you’ll see a small hole, this is the manual drive sled eject hole. Push a pin or paper clip into this and pull the drive sled out about an inch.

Flip over the drive and take out the 4 small screws near each corner on the bottom of the drive. This will allow you to take the bottom off:

Removing exterior screws

Now the back panel should come off pretty easy, but it might need a lot of pulling, make sure you are very cautious and don’t bend any metal.

Lid off

Unclip the front faceplate and slide it down the disk tray so it’s not attached to the top cover.

Make sure nothing is attached to the cover

The last part is to remove the metal cover from the plastic chassis. There are usually no screws holding it on, just plastic tabs on the sides and rear side.

Lid disassembled

It’s now time to start masking since your drive is fully apart.

Step 3: Masking

Before we can actually start masking, we have to remove that small little aluminum disk, and then explain its significance. To remove it, turn the metal cover so the side with disk on it is facing away from you. Firmly press down on the little plastic piece that is under it until the aluminum disk pops off. You may have to pry the disk off.

Inside lid

Press down on that little blue thing, but don’t break it!

You should now have a hole in your metal cover, an aluminum disk, and a weird plastic thing. This plastic thing is very important. The side facing the disk connects with the top of the drive spindle when a disk is in the drive.

Spin support

The other side has a magnet to hold the CD between this disk and the drive spindle.

Spin support

This is why the disk over it is aluminum (it isn’t attracted to magnets.) It is very important to keep this piece and the aluminum disk!

Now you will want to put masking tape over the entire top of the metal cover and trace an outline like this:

Prepping to cut the window

I took this picture after I cut the retaining disk out…

Well, you’re going to want to trace your design so you have plenty of flat metal to glue the acrylic on to. Note: the acrylic will be going on to the top of the drive not in it, which will add thickness to the drive (might make it not fit in some drive bays)! Also make sure you trace around where that aluminum disk was so you can cut the ring it was attached to. That ring will be referred to as the retaining ring.

Step 4: Cutting

As the title says… start cutting! Now before you pick up your Dremel, make sure the chuck is nice and tight and you have a good sized cut off wheel on there. Start with the middle circle and cut straight lines tangent to the circle at different angles. It’ll be more like a 12 sided polygon instead of a circle. Make sure you don’t cut too close! Just cut it so you can get it out of there for your retaining ring. After you’ve cut the ring out, carefully clamp it on to something so you can grind down the angles so it’s a nice even circle…

Disk support cut out

Once you have the ring nice and smooth around the edges, put the plastic piece back in and the aluminum disk back on top (you’re going to need some super glue to secure it later). As you can see, the ring is nice and smooth and the aluminum disk went on just right!

Next is to cut out the main window. Once again, make sure it’s secured! After cutting an edge, put duct tape over your cut so the center piece doesn’t come flying out. When you’re cutting, make a nice straight cut along your line and make even paths down the lines you drew, take your time! After some filing on the edges you should end up with something like this:

Perfecto! Next we will be making the acrylic top.

Window hole cut

Step 5: Cutting and Attaching the Window

It is now the final step, unless you are painting the drive… but that’s not much of a step. So whether you paint it or not is up to you, however now would be a good time to do so if you are painting.

The first step is to get your favorite sheet of acrylic out, a sharpie, and a ruler for good measure.  I’d recommend 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick heavy duty acrylic; you can get it online if you like. I picked up a 2ft x 1.5ft x 3/16in sheet for $14 at Lowe’s. First, lay the drive down on the floor and align one of the corners of the acrylic on top and mark out the size of the drive and draw lines using the ruler.

Tracing

Once you have it traced out, take it to your work station and get a fresh blade for your box cutter (or similar type of cutting knife, maybe even a thick Exacto). The technique I use for cutting acrylic is easy, just score and break. First align a ruler up with your line, and cut right along it. Then keep cutting that same line until the acrylic panel breaks along that score. Depending on the type of acrylic it can take from 20 to 100 cuts. After every 15 or so cuts, turn the piece over and slightly bend the sheet along the cut to see if it’ll snap. Be very careful not to crack your sheet! It won’t take very much pressure to finally snap it.

Next, take a sheet metal file and file the sides you cut nice and smooth (or use your Dremel and a sanding attachment.) Place your piece on top of the drive for a test fit:

Test Fit

As you can see from the image, I already put the ‘guts’ back into the metal cover and put in a CD. Also, I put my retaining ring on the CD to see where it sits. You will need to do this as well after your acrylic looks good. Keep in mind where this ring sits because you’re going to have to glue it in the same spot on the acrylic.

If you painted your drive like I did, make sure you wait about 24 hours (or whatever your paint says for a complete dry) before attaching the acrylic. So first take off the shell and remove the DVD tray by pushing in on its tabs (every drive is different) and pulling on it.

Assembling

Alright, now take the front bezel off and slide the tray back all the way in; put the ‘guts’ aside for now. Next you’re going to need some epoxy or Crazy Glue (I prefer crazy glue because it doesn’t release fumes that might crack the plexi.) Now, put small dots at corners of the top of your shell and run lines along edges, then carefully place the acrylic piece ON TOP of the shell (it does not go IN the shell). Now you should have your acrylic piece you cut earlier glued on top of the metal shell. Make sure you put glue on surfaces that actually touch the acrylic, and do not press down on anything. The weight of the acrylic resting on top of the metal shell is plenty enough pressure. Let this sit and dry for about an hour (or however long it takes your glue to dry.)

While waiting for that to dry, you can glue your retention ring assembly together. Put the blue plastic piece in between the ring and the aluminum disk, then put a little glue bead all the way around the part of the ring that touches the disk. DO NOT PUT TOO MUCH. You don’t want the glue squeezing out on to the plastic piece. Press the two halves together for about 10 seconds, then lightly hold the assembly up with the plastic part down, and jiggle the plastic part to make sure it isn’t sticking. Keep doing this until the glue is dry (this step is crucial, you do not want that plastic piece stuck!)

Now we must align the metal top and the ‘guts’ like so:

Aligning

See how the two halves are aligned? It’s aligned just the way it would be if it were closed, only the top piece is turned upside down. Now, remember looking at where the retention ring sat? Well, spread glue over the top of the retention ring assembly. You can use your finger like I did or use a piece of rubber or plastic and stick the top of this ring on to the acrylic sheet that is facing up, so it aligns right over the top of the spindle. Let this dry for three or four hours, longer if recommended on your glue’s label.

After it’s all together, plug it in and try it out! Here’s a video of mine in action.

And the final product (after adding some LED’s of course!):

Final Product

Dooms101

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