Wow, thanks for the instructional, my son has a X51 R2, but we placed a 1050 in it, along with a SSD drive as the primary boot. If he ever decides he wants to do something like this, this thread will definitely help!
[How To] Transfer the Alienware x51 to a new case - Feel free to ask questions - Thread
Hey! The reason I'm doing this is because despite the few threads speaking on this topic, none of them actually fully tell you how to do this (none that I've seen). Most of them have bits of information, then you have to go to another thread to get more answers; this way it's all in one place, I've done all the hard work! Feel free to ask any questions! I'll answer them to the best of my ability. I'll also be adding an FAQ if you will, with all important information that you need to know before doing this!
Some credit is due to this forum, although not to be offensive, It didn't really help, however, it did in fact show me it was possible; this was more than enough, thank you! http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/how-to-transfer-alienware-x51-series-to-new-case.802798/
First, I'd like to mention all of the above I'm speaking about in this thread is me having no prior experience with building a computer. Before this, the closest thing I had done with computers was taking the side panel off and spraying some canned air to get dust out, truly. Having no experience and doing this goes to show how it's not hard, if I can do it, you can do it! I too was scared of breaking something, computer parts aren't as fragile as you may think, that goes without saying don't do anything stupid. This whole experience was so extremely worth it, I actually found a new passion because of it.
So a decent amount of months back I installed a GTX 1060 6gb in my original Alienware x51 R2. The main reason I chose the 1060 to replace my 760ti was for obvious performance gains, but if it was for performance only I would've gone overboard and got a 1080. The MAIN MAIN reason was compatibility, sadly a little 330w AC power adapter can't handle much. I've seen one person do a 1070 on the OEM AC power, but I didn't trust it, I wanted something reliable, so I bought the reference 1060 6gb card. Anyone looking to upgrade their GPU but nothing else, make sure your GPU fits in the GPU enclosure, two is obviously making sure it's within the safe watt range, and three (very important) make sure its a blower style card! If you don't know what a blower style card is, then a simple explanation would be all Nvidia reference cards have a blower, meaning it sucks air through the card and spits it out the case. The reason you NEED a blower is because if you have a fan style, the fans will just blow hot air in the case and will inevitably trap the hot air; that's a big nononono. So back on track, while I was installing the new 1060 I installed a 500gb SSD. That setup worked for months and would've forever, that's how stable the 1060 was on the OEM PSU; I'd definitely recommend it. However, if you're anything like me after doing this and it working I was so satisfied, I was hooked. With my foot being in the door now, this wasn't enough. I now wanted another project. I was so obsessed with cooling, I said my CPU wasn't cool enough, my GPU wasn't cool enough! Also, the computer was too loud for my liking, I wanted to fix that. So with me now being hooked, I started to plan, I started to scrub through what information was available on moving the components to a new tower. Although there wasn't much, there was enough to prove it's been done, it's plausible. So then I start to search for all the parts I need, I'm going to leave this out of the story and put this in the information section. A big factor in my part finding was the price, I didn't want to spend 300+ dollars to do this, but I also didn't wanna cheap out. I wanted something that would last, I needed to find the median, I did. I did a lot of research on how to build a computer because that's what I was essentially doing. As I did, I'd recommend doing the same if you have no prior knowledge. I feel like that's all the backstory I have, I apologize if I missed anything.
Like I said feel free to ask any questions! I'll answer them to the best of my ability.
Importantly needed information (FAQ):
Don't go out and buy your parts immediately, make sure it works, I'd love to help.
Motherboard form factor: The Alienware x51 motherboards are all Mini-ITX boards, make sure your case supports this MOBO type.
Case: I chose a Corsair Mid-tower; Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-02, to be exact. However, you can use any Mini-ITX compatible case.
Very important to note that while the Corsair case I used fit the motherboard perfectly, the GPU did not line up with the rear case expansion slot or slot into the PCI-E correctly (because of clearance issues). The reason for this is because the x51 MOBO is specially made for the system. However, with some modding I got it to fit. What I did to fix this without doing anything ghetto to damage anything, I purchased a PCI-E 16x flexible cable card extension. This one to be exact https://goo.gl/75raCj be sure it's the 90 degrees one! If you don't get the 90 degrees one, there won't be enough room between the case and the GPU for it to fit properly. I would definitely recommend getting the one I linked because I've heard other ones being garbage and breaking; I've had no issues with mine! Once I got the cable I had to use some sandpaper to file down a little bit of extra material because the 4-pin fan header and a capacitor was in the way. If you do this be sure not to sand off anything important! Once I got the PCI-E cable to fit, all I did was use a bracket to support the GPU because it was now not being supported by the MOBO. I would definitely do this as well because I would not trust the expansion slot to hold a GPU by itself. Honestly, the good thing about this cable is being able to put the GPU in any expansion slot; this allowed me to direct better airflow as well. Also, you can vertically mount your GPU with this cable, if that's something you're into. Here's the thing, I don't know if you NEED this or if this was just bad luck with my case. But what I do know is, you will have issues with slotting your GPU because like I said a capacitor and a 4-pin fan header is in the way, so do you wanna file an expensive GPU or file a 20 dollar cable? It's up to you. I would recommend purchasing everything you NEED, then if this is the issue, then purchase the cable. Or, if you gotta money to spend just buy it and if you don't need it, return it. Also, you won't have an I/O shield with your MOBO since its attached to the x51 case. So when you put it in a case your MOBO ports will be exposed. I just left it open because I can't see it, and I never plug anything in behind my case. However, if it bothers you and your crafty, I'm sure you can make one.
If you have any questions about the case, cable, or the process of modding let me know!
Price: I paid over 200 dollars, BUT that was with extra stuff, like SATA cables, a fan hub, CPU cooler and a 5-pack of fans. So you can expect to pay just under 200 bucks if you get the bare necessities; even just over 100 if all you need is a case, power supply, and the cable I spoke of. It all depends on what you purchase (duh). The point is, it isn't very expensive!
PSU: All depends on what you're expecting to power. But if you're asking, yes you can use a conventional PSU to power the motherboard instead of an AC adapter. This is the sole purpose of doing all this work anyways, let's be honest. All you have to do is unplug everything from the daughter board (power board) that plugs into the MOBO. Once you've unplugged everything it's as simple as treating it like any other standard MOBO, plug the PSU into the 24-pin etc, etc; no issues there!
Fan headers: This is super important to anyone into cooling. If you're not into cooling, you don't have to worry as much! There are only 3 fan headers!! There are two 4-pin headers and one 3-pin fan header. So if you're super into cooling like me, I'd definitely get a fan hub like I did. I used this one, https://goo.gl/AbK5Wk . Note that this is for 4-pin fans only, if you use 3-pin fans it'll run full speed at all times. I really like this hub because all 4-pin fans plugged in run at the same speed.
USB 3.0: You should know that the front USBs are 3.0 on the x51. While it says it right on the case, I didn't notice (derp). So if you're getting a case with 3.0 ports on the front, this is no problem. Don't accidentally buy a USB 3.0 to 2.0 cable, like I did...
I've already listed all the necessary parts you may or may not need throughout this thread. However, if you guys are interested in what fans I got, CPU cooler, etc, etc, let me know!
I feel that I've answered all the necessary questions and gave out all the information needed, however, I have been writing this over the span of 3 days, so I could have easily missed out on some things. If I did miss out on something, or you just need help let me know! I'll update the thread as we go. Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope it was helpful!
Also, I'd like to note that this whole thread is 1800+ words, more than I've ever written in one article, including school!
I have this article on three other forum websites: