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Creative Replacements For Your PC's Power Switch
A lot of new PC modders start with the same things: side-panel windows used to be a very common first mod but they’re pretty much standard issue now. One of the other most common initial mods is the power switch.
If you want to do something unique or different with your PC’s power switch, you need to understand what you’re working with so you can do it right.
PC power switches are one of the simplest types of electronics – a momentary switch.
When a momentary switch is actuated (pushed, pulled, slid, kicked, yelled at, whatever it’s designed for), it closes a circuit. If you took those two wires that go to the Power Switch pins on your motherboard and touched them together, you’d be doing exactly what the switch does.
What makes a momentary switch different is that when it’s released it returns to its starting position, breaking the circuit it just closed. If you try to use a non-momentary (latching) switch for a power switch, you’re effectively just holding down the power switch.
What happens when we hold down the power switch? The PC shuts down.
You can use a non-momentary switch for this, but you’ll have to actuate it, then manually switch it back to the starting position to avoid the shutdown. There are ways to use latching switches for this application without needing to manually turn them off - we'll cover that in our next post.
The actual connection of the switch to the PC will depend on the type of switch and can range from simple direct replacement of the stock switch to as complex as connecting the switch to an Arduino or other microcontroller. We'll look at connecting some of these more complex switches in a future article as it's a big topic.
Today we're going to look at some of the different types of switches that we can use for this mod.
The switches in this category are direct replacements of the power switch on your case. They’ll have two contact points that connect to the two pins for your power switch on your motherboard.
While some of them may not be specifically “plug and play” since they'll need connectors added to fit your power switch pins, they all connect the same way as the stock power switch.
If you want to put a power switch for your PC on your desk in easy reach, Alphacool has made it easy with their machined anodized aluminum external power switches. Available in silver or black with your choice of three different switch colors and a sleeved cord two meters long, this remote switch is simply beautiful and plug-and-play.
For the modders who want to personalize things a little bit, the aluminum housing itself is available separately, sized to use any 19mm switch.
A missile switch is a simple toggle switch with a spring-loaded cover over it, typically red. To flip the switch, you have to first lift the outer cover.
These covers are available separately also and are easy to add to an existing toggle switch as long as the lever is short enough to allow the cover to close.
Toggle switches come in a lot of shapes and sizes. Ideally for this mod you'll want a single-pole single-throw momentary switch.
Switches like these would go well with post-apocalyptic or military themed mods.
Key switches require a key to turn, providing a measure of access security to your PC.
Note that inserting the key doesn’t activate the switch, so the key could be left in place at times when security isn’t needed.
Like toggle switches, there are a few different variations of key switch. The same description for the easiest installation applies here: single-pole single-throw momentary switch.
The example above is longer than most key switches - they are available as much more compact assemblies.
These also go well with military and high-security themes.
Magnetic switches actuate when a magnetic field comes within a certain distance. They’re latching by nature, staying actuated as long as the magnet is in range. That means to use one of these as a power switch the magnet that actuates it has to be moved close to the switch and then moved away.
Most magnetic switches are either normally open or normally closed, but some offer both options depending on how they’re connected to the circuit.
Excellent for sleek low-key mods, a magnetic switch can be completely hidden inside the case, and turned on manually with a magnet.
The switches listed here are a little more advanced than the simple two-contact switches above. They will all have more than two wires and require separate power sources of their own.
While any of these switch types can be integrated into something as complex as an Arduino or Rasberry Pi controller, they are all also available as standalone switches that function by themselves as long as they have power.
Bear in mind that these switches will require power while the PC is turned off - an external power source will need to be included in the mod.
While a keypad switch requires a lot of space compared to other types, it give a unique look and a level of security to your PC.
Keypad switches require a preset numeric code to be entered to actuate the switch. The length of the code will depend on the model of keypad switch chosen.
Keypad switches are great for high-security mods as well as mods with a military or industrial theme.
Biometric switches use fingerprint recognition to open or close a switch. While these are harder to find in a self-contained switch setup they are available.
Not the simplest mod, but the results are striking and can make an excellent additional detail to the right theme.
RFID switches are similar to magnetic switches in that they can be completely hidden when installed, but they open in proximity to a specific RFID token rather than a magnet.
Similar to the biometric switch, there is usually more involved with an RFID switch than just the switch and a couple of wires. How complex the wiring connection are will depend on the model of switch you’re working with.
Motion or proximity switches are used every day in room lighting and alarm systems, turning on lights or activating and alarm when motion is seen in a given space.
Those switches are typically far too sensitive for this use. For PC power, door exit motion controls are a much better option. Many of these switches have proximity settings that will let you set them to be actuated only by something within a couple of inches of the switch. Wave you hand near it to turn it on or off.
PC power switch replacement is a good place to start your modding hobby. There are a lot of options to choose from, it can be a relatively easy process, and you can add a lot of character to a mod, whether it’s themed or not.
Have you replaced the power switch on your PC? Have any other suggestions for a suitable replacement? Let us know in the comments!