NES PC 

Please note that my NES PC is not for sale

One day, I stumbled across the website www.mini-itx.com, and was amazed at some of the things people built a mini-itx motherboard into. These tiny (170x170mm) boards had been crammed into toasters, pictureframes, oil cans, breadbins and all sorts. One of them caught my eye – a Nintendo NES console. “I can do that!”, I thought.

Very soon, the parts had been ordered – one EPIA-800 mini-itx board, a 55W laptop style PSU, and a convertor to allow a laptop CD-ROM drive to be used on a standard IDE channel. I already had a spare hard drive and some ram, and salvaged a CD-ROM drive out of a broken laptop. I was ready.

Or not. I was missing a NES! Actually, I already had a NES, but I was damned if I was going to destroy a working machine to make my NES PC. I asked around on the newsgroups to see if anyone had a non-working NES they could sell me, and a helpful chap called David Boyd sent me one for the price of postage. Cheers, David! Now I was ready!

1. First things first: open up the NES (save the screws!) and remove all the NESy bits from inside.

2. One empty NES unit. I marked those risers that I didn’t want to remove with a black pen – these are the two screw holes for the buttons, the keeper for the buttons, and the 6 case screw holes.

3. This is the button assembly. I wanted to use the NES buttons on the PC, so had to remove some metal from the power button (to stop it staying in when pressed) and soldered some salvaged PC cables on. These fit the power, reset and power LED pins on the motherboard.

4. A close-up of the soldering. Note that I cut some chunks out of the board to avoid shorting – my soldering skillz are not 1337 yet. I then taped over the soldering with electrical tape to insulate it.

5. Using a Dremel, I cut off all of the vertical screw hole bits, except for the four corner ones – those are needed to screw the case back together!

6. To make a space for the hard drive, which I wanted to sit under the motherboard, I cut out some of the risen plastic at the back of the case. Of course, this made a big hole, but I could live with that. The hard drive is a slimline one, so is almost the same height as the remaining plastic.

7. I sanded the plastic edges down so that they were almost gone completely. The marks in the plastic you can see are just scuff marks – I haven’t spilt glue in there or anything.

8. I decided to cut the front off a mouse mat to fit over the hole in the base of the case. I drilled a hole through it and the case to allow me to firmly afix the drive.

9. As you can see, the hard drive fits pretty well. Note also that I have removed the joypad sockets and cut out the bit of plastic between them. All will become clear…

10. A bottom view. Yeah, it’s yellow – but it is on the bottom, so you can’t actually see it!

11. A test to see if everything fits. “No” being the obvious answer. A bit of reshuffling everything should be able to cure that problem, however.

12. The motherboard will rest happily on the hard drive and the edge of the NES power button board. Of course, the bottom of the motherboard needs to be insulated from them, so another mouse mat (also yellow) is employed.

13. Another attempt at cramming everything in. I’ve cut a rectangular chunk out of the back of the bottom of the case, to hold the bottom of the mini-itx backplate. Also notice the custom USB concoction in the middle: the EPIA board doesn’t have a standard USB header, so I used a USB backplate and some old CD-ROM audio lead plugs along with these instructions.

14. This is where the power board is going to go. It actually wedges in quite well, and with the case shut it won’t move. Note the USB ports again – they’re the joypad ports now! The power socket is in a little hole I drilled in the back of the NES – just below the original DC power socket.

15. I chopped some bits out of the top of the case of the NES too, partly to fit the CD-ROM drive, and partly to allow a bit of space for the ATX connector on the motherboard. The drive was attached to the case with heavy-duty gaffer tape. I also cut a rectangular piece out of the back for the top part of the backplate.

16. Fingers crossed, the whole thing was carefully fitted back together. It was a tight squeeze, but with clever IDE cable folding, it all went in.

17. And here it is with the power on and the CD-ROM drive open. I now have Windows XP installed on it, and it is connected to my TV. Naturally, the first game played was Super Mario Brothers!

6 Responses to NES PC

  1. deKay says:

    Previous comments from old commenting system:

    Posted by Win31prgmr at 00:03 on Thursday, 19th April 2007

    That is so cool!

    Posted by MrE at 21:33 on Monday, 23rd April 2007

    Good job m8, looks ace

    Posted by wirl at 09:12 on Wednesday, 25th April 2007

    I thought I was smart when I thought of this idea but of course someone thought of it before me

    Posted by tom at 20:39 on Thursday, 26th April 2007

    y waste 400 odd quid on a nes when u can just use a comp

    Posted by deKay at 21:42 on Friday, 27th April 2007

    To Tom: Why not? Why does anyone mod computers? Part of doing it was the fun, and part was the fact a NES looks much better under a TV than a PC does.

    Posted by Adam at 04:10 on Friday, 4th May 2007

    does your nes pc have a video out connection so u can hook it up to your tv?

    Posted by deKay at 08:35 on Friday, 4th May 2007

    To Adam: Yes, it has composite video out, so I can (and do) connect it to my TV. In fact, my new TV has VGA, so I don’t even need the composite port any more.

    Posted by gamemaster14 at 19:36 on Friday, 11th May 2007

    Any chance you could post some more photos of the finished unit including some shots of the sides and back? Maybe even a shot showing it connected to a monitor working? Also wanted to know, did you setup the nes power led to work as the power led for the computer, and if yes is it still the classic red?

    Posted by deKay at 20:20 on Friday, 11th May 2007

    I don’t have any other photos at the moment, but I may take some more in the future. Yes, the LED is red, and does work as the power LED!

    Posted by joe G at 08:29 on Thursday, 17th May 2007

    Could you run Mac OS on it?? What specs it got, 1gb ram? 80gb harddrive? etc.
    Could u make it a monster eg. 3gb ram 160gb HD, 2.33 ghz proccesor??

    I would love to get a poerfull mac into that, LOL!

    Posted by Zeb at 20:57 on Tuesday, 22nd May 2007

    cut too much of the case it doesn’t look original any more, I’m currently making one, here’s my link: http://zmanww.com/blog/index.php/2007/05/22/15ghz-1gb-ram-100gb-sata-and-a-dvd-rom-all-in-a-nes/

    Posted by Rob Hazelby at 09:50 on Saturday, 23rd June 2007

    A completely crazy, and utterly pointless project.

    I love it!

    Posted by omega3x at 19:39 on Saturday, 7th July 2007

    wow that’s wicked… Unbelievable how many people have done this, I had the idea yesterday and thought I was the first, lulz.

    Posted by eXo at 22:56 on Sunday, 29th July 2007

    step2:

    figure out a way to use the original NES controllers ;)

    Once someone figures that out, I’ll definitely be doing this.

    Posted by deKay at 23:42 on Sunday, 29th July 2007

    To eXo: that’s already been done by plenty of others, either by hacking the pad to fit a USB or parallel interface, or by rewiring the sockets.

    Posted by Kyo at 09:30 on Friday, 3rd August 2007

    mhmmmm… neat

    Posted by Jimb0_d at 22:33 on Monday, 6th August 2007

    Both serial and game pad hacks are good solutions are good but personally i prefer 2 of these babys mounted inside the console :) http://www.retrousb.com/index.php?productID=116

    and you can also get brand new replacment power switches that thake up much less room etc http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/ISW-4/700/PUSH_SWITCH_ASSEMBLY_.html

    I will be doing both of these in the project im workin on currently. Im also gonna install a wifi card in the pci express slot

    Posted by freelancer at 01:20 on Tuesday, 7th August 2007

    Jimb0_d, thanks for the tip about the power switches. I was having a hard time figuring out how to fit the mobo and switches in the same case :)

    Posted by Anonymous at 02:11 on Tuesday, 14th August 2007

    If you’re interested in hooking up a PS2 controller, I happen to know of two Nuts&Volts articles available on Parallax.com, makers of some nice hobbyist chips; http://www.parallax.com/dl/docs/cols/nv/vol4/col/nv101.pdf and http://www.parallax.com/dl/docs/cols/nv/vol7/col/NV129.pdf.

    Though they cover hooking up a PS2 controller to a Basic Stamp and a SX chip, the first article goes over just how the PS2 controller communicates, and is, therefore, kinda interesting information :)

    As for putting the Mac OS on it; Apple doesn’t allow that, so I’d recommend a copy of Debian or a Debian-based distribution (e.g., Ubuntu) for its package selection (namely, the package manager).

    Posted by Aaron Clay at 02:15 on Tuesday, 11th September 2007

    Hmm, looks interesting. How does the cooling work out?

    Posted by deKay at 08:35 on Tuesday, 11th September 2007

    It gets a bit warm, but that’s mainly due to the Maxtor hard drive. A newer and/or laptop drive would improve things.

    Posted by Alex at 18:25 on Saturday, 22nd September 2007

    If anyone would like to buy my mini-itx nes pc then please email me. It is a reluctant sale but I have recently become addicted to a friends wii and so neeeed the money for a wii! For information on it look on my website http://maths.sci.shu.ac.uk/students/haslehurst_alexander/random/nespc/index.html
    I would like to add that it is not perfect, but with some work it could be. Please look at my link. I might be able to convince you to look by telling you that the controller ports on the front actually work for nes controllers as usb game pads! Please email me with your offers. mralex742@hotmail.com

    Posted by Tr@nKILLom@n at 21:01 on Tuesday, 19th February 2008

    Hello
    I build a new NES-PC…
    visiting http://www.nes-pc.0rg.fr/ !!

    Posted by kcp100 at 02:57 on Tuesday, 20th May 2008

    i cant believe your still using the red led. blue is so much awesomer!!! thats what i use

    Posted by PKPUREE at 22:06 on Monday, 7th July 2008

    CAN U MAKE A HIFI STACK LOOKING ONE BECAUSE I TRYED AND IT DIDNT WORK LOL AND I SEE U COMMENTED ON THAT GAMEBOY LOL ITS GOOD INIT

    NICE WORK

    Posted by mdoom at 19:40 on Sunday, 9th November 2008

    I just finished up an NES pc of my own, working on wiring the NES ports to the parallel port internally right now. I used a Blue LED too actually. I could have used the LED that was already there, but figured, why not put a new one in, so i did. :-)

    Posted by Andy at 16:27 on Monday, 1st December 2008

    Very cool!

    I did somthing simular with a old VIC-20. Take a look at http://andys.dyn-o-saur.com/the-vic20-pc/

    Posted by Elfranne at 11:16 on Saturday, 13th December 2008

    I am planning to make a file server out of a old NES with an Alix embedded card (pcengines.ch), do you have the dimensions of the inside of the NES so I can figure out how many hard disk drives there are space for ?

    Posted by Lemonated at 17:03 on Saturday, 27th December 2008

    I am planning to do my own NES PC, does anyone know how I could easily make a PC that would output video to SCART?

    Posted by 8BITGAMR at 17:52 on Friday, 2nd January 2009

    What operating system did you put on it? I honestly have no clue what that board can support, so that’s why I’m asking.

    Posted by deKay at 21:02 on Friday, 2nd January 2009

    8bitgmr: I put XP Pro on it, as that’s what I happened to have lying around.

    Posted by James Green at 19:00 on Monday, 23rd March 2009

    I wish I could do things like that. I’m just lacking a few skills: mechanical ability, knowledge of electronics,money, motivation. Seriously though, great project, very interesting

    Posted by Eric Machuca at 02:58 on Wednesday, 22nd April 2009

    I am currently making a NES PC and was wondoring if you can tell me step by step about how to make the nes power buttens work on the mother board? lik where to solder and what wires i need to attach

    Posted by deKay at 08:14 on Wednesday, 22nd April 2009

    Eric,
    It’s quite easy really. You just need to run two cables from the power pins on the motherboard (see the motherboard manual for where these are) to the two points on the NES power daughterboard that are connected to the power button. Just make sure you remove the metal clip from the button that holds the button in when pressed.

    Posted by metalboy94 at 13:14 on Wednesday, 8th July 2009

    awesome man! but are all parts inside ventilated enough?

    Posted by Jeffrey at 18:48 on Thursday, 20th August 2009

    No cooling system?

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  3. SAM says:

    QUOTE: ” No cooling system? ”

    EXACTLY… i would do this mod in an instant if i thought it would keep cool,
    But i think after 5 hours of intensive gaming that thing is going to over heat and die.

    :\

    • deKay says:

      Nah, as I said – the only thing that gets hot is the hard drive. Replace that with a laptop one or something that isn’t a Maxtor Furnace-Inna-Drive, and it’s fine.

      I’ve had it running for several hours on a hot day without a problem.

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