If you don’t know what to do with your old PC hardware, why not frame it?
I’m pretty sure I have the coolest graphics card ever. Not the one on my PC at the moment. It’s a really nice white RTX 3070, but it’s not always cool. Cards today use large pieces of plastic to frame their coolers, and these coolers now have pretty standardized designs. Go back a decade or two, however, and you get a lot more metal on display and experimental designs. Enter the Powercolor Radeon HD 4850. I found it a few years ago while exploring deep storage in the PC Gamer Desktop, and liked it so much that I kept it even though its 512MB of memory. wouldn’t do much good in a PC game today.
I couldn’t just throw away a board with a red circuit board, exposed copper, and that circular heatsink. But I also didn’t like that he was sitting outside, with so many easily breakable pieces on it. So I decided to frame it, and the end result looks so good, I think more retro material deserves the same treatment.
Not all the old parts of your PC will make great centerpieces – hard drives, SSDs, and processors don’t have much to show, really. But some motherboards have all kinds of shiny bits and bobs, and other components can become a stylish tech backdrop when taken apart.
Here are some inspiring examples and some tips on the best way to show off the old PC hardware you have in the closet.
Find the right shadow box for your equipment
Because my graphics card has a colored circuit board, I wanted a shadow box with a black backing that didn’t distract it. It also had to be thick enough to fit the GPU cooler. I chose this 8×10 frame, which is 1.5 inches deep.
ATX motherboards are around 12 x 10 inches, which is doable but fits snugly in a common 11 x 14 shadow box. You might want to give it a little more room to breathe. When choosing a shadow box, really think about the color of the backing and the color of your material. Much of the PC material is black, so it will appear best on a white or colored background. It can be difficult to find a preconfigured box with the exact color you want, but you can always purchase fabric or an adhesive liner to add yourself.
Consider an acrylic display stand for your office
If you have extra desk or shelving space, perhaps forgo a frame and opt for an acrylic display instead. This Redditor threw a vintage Voodoo 3Dfx in a box, and now I would have liked to think of doing the same with my Radeon HD 4850.
There are affordable acrylic cases on Amazon (often designed for model cars) that can hold many graphics cards.
Try to demolish your components
Knolling is the process of artfully organizing a pile of tools or parts or Lego bricks or whatever, and done right, it can really enhance the presentation of a whole bunch of little bits and pieces. Here is a really cool example with a classic Macintosh. But how does this apply to the presentation of your old material? An “exploded” view of a disassembled graphics card or hard drive or other component can create a much cooler display part than the same component would be assembled.
There is a small subroutine called FramedTech dedicated to these types of screens. Particularly popular are graphics cards and exploded iPhones. Heck, even the hard drives look good disassembled.
The way you organize rooms can make a big difference
This goes hand in hand with knolling, but can also apply to a group of frames arranged together. I don’t think processors create a very interesting decor – they’re just little squares, right? – but the right layout can make all the difference. Check out this example on Reddit, where six staggered processors actually make for a geometrically nice wall display.
Paint your motherboard (s)
I think this is the coolest way to display old motherboards: paint them a solid color, then attach them to the wall to create what looks like a topographic map of a small tech town. The best example is probably the whole motherboard wall from Linus Tech Tips. Here is a fan who did the same, and it looks really good.