Computer case lighting is an affordable option for anyone wanting to customize the look of their PC.
The good news is that nowadays you can easily install these yourself to get your computer looking exactly the way you want it to. Many computer light kits are available these days, so it’s just a matter of finding a kit that suits your needs and installing.
In today’s post we’ll look at some aspects you may want to consider when designing your own computer case lighting, what kind of kits are available, and how to install.
Designing Your Own Computer Case Lighting
Installing lights in your computer case is all about the aesthetics, so you’ll want to take the time to design your lights so you can get the effect you’re after.
Here are some things you’ll want to think about:
1. Case compatibility
Will your current computer case support a sweet internal lighting system? If you haven’t got any case windows or cut-outs, then it’s unlikely there’s much use in installing lights internally. You may get some light spillage from any grills/grates in your case, but be aware that the visual effect may not be as great as it would be in a case with dedicated viewing windows.
In this instance, one option may be LED lit fans to replace your regular cooling fans and provide some color through venting grates.
If you don’t have a viewing window, you may also be able to opt for an external lighting option that can make the area around your computer workspace look really nice.
Even without internal case lights you can still create a pretty cool effect around your PC, like the one created below using this red LED strip from Antec (available from Amazon.com):
2. Light type
Once you’ve decided that you want to install computer lighting to your rig, you’ll want to decide on the type of lights you will use. Here are your main options:
- LED lit fans – clear fans with inbuilt LEDs (light emitting diode), very easy to install
- LED strips – dotted light source, comes in adhesive strip, cut to size for custom lengths, can color change (if RGB version)
- Cold Cathode tubes – solid light source, looks like a thin tube, fixed lengths, do not create heat, need a power supply adaptor (supplied in kits). They come in a few different lengths: 6″, 12″ and 15″. The brightest colors are blue and green, while UV and purple are not as visually bright.
- Liquid neon lighting – The cool thing about liquid neon light tubes is that you can get different effects (e.g. thundering). They also do not create heat, and are otherwise very similar to cold cathode tubes.
This video goes into a little more detail about LED, cold cathode and liquid neon lighting and gives a little insight into each of the options.
Check it out to get a closer look at what each of the different light types look like:
3. Lighting colors
Once you’ve decided on the type of lighting you want to install, it’s time to choose a color scheme.
Single colors are popular, but multiple colors used together can also look good if you don’t go too overboard. If you can’t decide on a color or tend to change your mind, consider RGB (red-green-blue) LEDs.
These are programmable which means you can change them any time you want, and can create any color possibility by combining RGB light.
Colors generally available include:
- Black light (UV) – cold cathode only
- RGB (can be adjusted/configured to any color) – LED only
4. Light placement
Before you purchase, you’ll also need to choose a place to mount your light(s). Usually this is going to be tucked away somewhere in your case.
Our preference is to have LED strips hidden from direct view, as we feel that they look better when you can’t see the individual LEDs but rather just the light that they produce. Cold cathode tubes and liquid neons look a little more elegant, so you can get away these being directly visible.
Keep in mind that LED strip can be cut to size and bent around corners, whereas cold cathode tubes are a fixed length and not able to be cut to size or bent. If you’re cutting your LED strip lights, be prepared to do some soldering for your wiring.
Measure the location that you’re intending to install your lights and make sure this matches the particular kit that you intend to purchase. Also pay attention to the mounting method – in most cases this will be either velcro, or an adhesive similar to double-sided tape. Ensure that it is suitable for the particular area where you’ll be installing your case lighting.
Adhesive quality should be a consideration factor when purchasing a kit. There’s nothing worse than failed adhesive causing your lights to fall out of place. Do your research to find a quality product by checking out user reviews.
5. Power supply and Control
Another factor that will impact your choice of lighting kit is the power supply and light control.
Any kit you purchase should come with a way of powering your lights from your computer power supply. Ensure you have the right plugs and sockets, or that these are included in your kit. You may also need to measure cable lengths to ensure any cables provided in the kit will fit your proposed design within your case.
Lighting control should also be considered. Some of the more advanced RGB kits are controllable by remote control provided with the kit. You can also get sound control kits which are designed to adjust the brightness of your lights based on music – but don’t seem to work that well unless noise is very loud.
As a minimum, your case lighting kit should at least include a master switch which can be mounted somewhere on your case for turning the lights on and off. Some kits also offer brightness control on the lighting (essentially a dimmer), and the more advanced ones even have controls for strobe and color cycling effects!
Computer Case Lighting Kits
The following kits are available on Amazon.com and are suitable for the hobbyist installing case lighting.
First up, a color-changeable RGB LED light strip with remote control. This kit by Satechi will give you the ultimate flexibility in color theme and can even be set to strobe or cycle through colors automatically.
This sleeved LED case lighting kit by NZXT comes in three colors (red, white and blue), and has 3 adjustable brightness settings easily controlled by a slider switch.
If you’re after a cold cathode lighting kit instead of LED, then Logisys offer a complete kit to get you going and it’s available in a few different colors including UV.If you don’t have a case suitable for installing lights inside it, there are still options for you! Antec have a pretty inexpensive LED strip kit that can be used on monitors, keyboards and the outside of cases to still give a cool effect.
If you want to get serious about the control on your lighting setup, check out this RGB color changing controller and LED strip by NZXT. It comes with just over 6′ of color changing LED strip, but the part we like the best is the 5.25″ controller bay which allows you easy control of both brightness and color from your computer’s front panel.
Case Light Installation
Follow the installation instructions which come with your lighting kit. However, here are the general steps you will need to do when installing your own computer case lighting.
(Be sure to follow all safety precautions when working on your computer lighting install. Turn off and unplug your computer, allow some time for stored power to discharge, and never open components like power supplies.)
- Measure and cut (if applicable) lighting to size.
- Mount inside case using velcro or other means provided in the kit.
- Mount the power supply driver/unit in an inconspicuous location within your case. Secure with adhesive, velcro or cable ties.
- Connect all cabling.
- Close case, power up and test.
This video outlines a LED strip lighting install, so you can get an idea of what’s involved if you opt for this option (including soldering):
Case lighting kits are an affordable way to get a very nice visual effect on your computer. There are kit options for both internal case lighting and external case lighting available.
Features to consider include the type of light, color, installation considerations and supply and control.
Installation of case lighting is relatively straightforward and the results can be very impressive. We’ve recommended some kits that we like, so be sure to check them out and let us know how you go!