If you don't know what to do with your old PC hardware, why not frame it?

If you don’t know what to do with your old PC hardware, why not frame it?

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 in my computer now. It’s a very nice white RTX 3070, but it’s not always cool. Today’s cards use chunks of plastic to frame coolers, which now have fairly standardized designs. Go back a year or two, though, and you get more exposed metal and experimental designs. Enter the Powercolor Radeon HD 4850. I found it a few years ago while exploring some deep storage at the PC Gamer office, and I liked it so much that I kept it, even though its 512MB of RAM isn’t much use on a gaming computer today.

I can’t just throw away a card with a red circuit board, bare copper, and a round heatsink. But I also don’t like it sitting outside with so many easily broken pieces on it. So I decided to frame it and the end result looks so good I think more vintage hardware deserves the same treatment.

Not all of your old PC parts make for a great showcase — hard drives, SSDs, and CPUs aren’t much to show off, really. But some motherboards have all sorts of shiny parts, while other components can become elegant tech adornments when disassembled.

Here are some inspiring examples, as well as some tips on how to best showcase your old PC hardware in the closet.

Find the right shadow box for your hardware

Since my graphics card has a colored circuit board, I wanted a shaded box with a black backing that wouldn’t be distracting. It also needs to be thick enough to fit the GPU cooler. I chose this 1.5″ deep 8×10 frame.

ATX motherboards measure about 12×10 inches, which is doable but tight in a common 11×14 shadowbox. You might want to give it more breathing room. When choosing a shadow box, be sure to consider the background color and hardware color. A lot of PC hardware is black, so it looks better on a white or colored background. It can be difficult to find a box that comes pre-configured with the exact color you want, but you can always buy some fabric or sticky lining to add your own.

Consider an acrylic display stand for your desk

(Image credit: Redditor kezown)

If you have some extra desk or shelf space, maybe ditch the frame for an acrylic display. This Redditor threw a vintage 3Dfx Voodoo into a box and now I wish I could do the same with my Radeon HD 4850.

There are affordable acrylic enclosures (usually designed for model cars) on Amazon that can hold a lot of graphics cards.

try knocking your component

(Image credit: Redditor Delicious Muffins)

Knolling is the clever arrangement of a bunch of tools or parts or Lego bricks or any, and when done well it can really boost the rendering of a whole bunch of small pieces. Here’s a really cool classic Macintosh example. But how does this apply to actually showing off your old hardware? An “exploded” view of a disassembled graphics card or hard drive or some other component can make for a cooler display part than when the same components are assembled.

There is a small subreddit called FramedTech dedicated to such monitors. Explosive graphics cards and iPhones are especially popular. Heck, even the hard drive looks good.

How you arrange the parts can make a big difference

This works with knocking, but also works with a bunch of frames lined up together. I don’t think CPUs can be used for very interesting decorations – they’re just little squares, right? — but the right arrangement can make a difference. Check out this example on Reddit where six offset CPUs actually make for a geometrically pleasing wall display.

paint your motherboard

(Image credit: Linus Tech Tips)

I think this is the coolest way to showcase old motherboards: paint them a solid color and mount them on a wall to create a topographic map that looks like a small tech city. The best example is probably the entire motherboard wall from Linus Tech Tips. This is a fan of doing this and it looks really good.

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Wilbert Wood
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