case mod 101: optical drive painting

Fifth, the buttons and clear LED lens can be removed from the back side of the drive faceplate. You’ll see two or more plastic pins from the drive housing that pass through holes in these removable pieces. Often the pins are slightly widened at the tops of the holes to keep the removable pieces in place. You can use a hobby knife to shave away some of the extra plastic, but in most cases, gently levering with a flat blade screwdriver between the removable piece and the back of the faceplate will pop the pieces right off. Marks won’t show–you’re working from the back side of the faceplate. Set these pieces aside–I like to use a plastic zipper bag to keep things together, especially if I’m not finishing the mod that same day.

front faceplate
front faceplate, LED lens and buttons

Sixth, and last, we can usually remove the disc tray, although designs vary more for this part. I’ve never met one yet I coulsn’t remove, but there may be some drives where this isn’t possible. Use your best judgement, and don’t force it. When the tray travels forward, the forward travel is stopped by a pin on the underside of the tray meeting some obstruction. Look for this as you gently slide the tray fully forward. Then you usually lever the pin to one side. It’s designed to do so, but the exact way varies between models, so look yours over closely before taking out the crowbar. Pull it gently to the side of the stop and you can remove the tray.

tray fully forward
the tray is fully forward and the stops are engaged
tray stop clips
this drive has two clips on the top of the tray

There’s one plastic part you usually can’t get off–the volume knob (if your drive even has one). With the rest of the plastic removed, painting this by hand is pretty easy, so don’t try to force it off.

volume knob
the volume knob usually can’t be removed

Now that you’ve got all the plastic parts removed, you can use vinyl dye to paint them in a color that coordinates with your case. Like any vinyl dye job, prep consists of cleaning the pieces with iso alcohol, and no sanding. Silkscreened markings will be covered by the dye just fine. Raised or recessed lettering will show through superbly under vinyl dye.

Using two coordinating colors is certainly a possibility–since you’ve removed the buttons and tray faceplate, they can be separately panted. Lots of great-looking possibilites exist–black with silver or an accent color looks good, and if you can’t exactly color match your case paintjob, having black in between can make the difference less noticeable.

Once the vinyl dye dries (it won’t take long), you can reassemble everything. There’s no real surprises, everything goes back together like you took it apart. Reinserting the tray usually involves lining up the gear paths, shoving that stop pin aside again, and getting the gears to mesh. Just don’t force it.

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