Dual Motherboard Computer Case

I was always fascinated with the concept of having multiple PCs running off a single power supply in a single computer case. For one thing, it seems like an interesting way to use old computers you have lying around and even if you don’t have spare parts it would be neat to show as a unique display setup to friends. It’s also the central plot of the series Eureka 7 where each member of a team pilots their mecha from inside their own home.

I found this dual motherboard case on ebay and thought it was worth posting since there aren’t many single board computer cases out there. I could imagine that using two different motherboards might offer some advantages over traditional SBCs too, especially if they have the same socket.

Thermaltake Core W200 Dual System Capable Extreme Water Cooling XL-ATX Fully Modular/Dismantle Stackable Tt Certified Super Tower Computer Case CA-1F5-00F1WN-00 Black
  • DUAL SYSTEM CAPABLE: Designed to accommodate (2) completely separate systems/motherboards/power supplies/VGA cards/ main component in a Back-to-Back configuration
  • FULLY MODULAR/ DISMANTLE DESIGN: Provides multiple configurations and flexibility for PC Enthusiasts with a fully breakdown construction design
  • DUAL MOTHERBOARD & I/O PANELS SUPPORT: Covering a wide range from Mini ITX to XL-ATX motherboards/ (2) 4x USB 3.0 with HD Audio ports for convenient front panel access for each system
  • LARGE ARYLIC WINDOW: Equipped with a Large, 3/16" thick acrylic window improving overall structure support and crystal clear viewing
  • EXTREME WATER COOLING SYSTEM: Support up to 2x 600mm radiator applications with various cooling configurations for full custom liquid cooling builds

While this is not a SBC per se, it could be used as an alternative to one and I thought that it would be pretty neat to have something like this set up for use in multi-user environments such as schools. If you were running a school computer lab with several PCs connected to one case, then you wouldn’t have to worry about having enough space for each user’s SBC since this would save on space and power requirements. You could even set it up in a lab room with individual PCs hooked up to the network via ethernet cables.

As a student I would definitely try setting something like this up out of curiosity and the dual bios and IDE controllers also make this an interesting combination. Each socket would have it’s own power supply, so you can’t hook up both of them to a single 80-pin Molex connector. I think that alone could be a deal breaker for me personally, although you could always try using 2 floppy power cables like some SBCs require. This case supports neither Floppy drives nor CDROMs so if you were going to use this as a SBC, it would probably make sense to find some way of installing either of them via PCMCIA or IDE (if your motherboard is capable).

The second board looks like it has an ISA bus while the primary one looks like it has a PCI-Express slot. It’s a nice feature to have multiple busses in a single case so you could even connect USB or serial devices to the secondary socket.

I’ve encountered dual motherboard cases before but I found none that had IDE/SATA ports on both sockets, with this being one of the most interesting features. I’m not sure what the point of having one socket as primary and the other as secondary is though, unless it’s so you can have different operating systems (and thus different bootloaders) on each board. If someone knows how this would be useful and could explain it in detail that would be awesome to know.

It looks like this case supports both IDE and SATA hard drives which is kind of neat. I guess you could install an old PATA CDROM drive on the secondary board if you really wanted to, but it looks like that would be pushing it.

Phanteks Enthoo 719 (PH-ES719LTG_DBK01) High Performance Full Tower Case – Tempered Glass, Aluminum panels, dual system/psu support, massive storage, Fan Hub, Digital-RGB lighting, Black
  • High Performance full tower capable of extreme workstation and dual system
  • Spacious open interior: supports up to SSI-EEB motherboard, dual 480 and dual 360 radiator support simultaneously, dual vertical GPU support, and dual system/psu support
  • Integrated Digital-RGB controller that can sync with compatible motherboards and Phanteks Digital-RGB products
  • Extreme configuration for fans (up to 15x fan mounting location), watercooling (dual 480 and dual 360 radiator support simultaneously), and storage (up to 12x HDDs or 11x SSDs)
  • Clean cable management with guided cable routes and cover, integrated PSU cover, and an integrated universal fan hub

It appears as though this case comes with a power supply for each motherboard socket and that means you can’t get away with using one universal PSU since it would overload the single power connector. That may be a deal breaker depending on what you want to do with this case but I like that it includes two power supplies and I think it’s pretty neat.

It looks as though you’re supposed to have both boards connected to the same IDE controller, although the second board appears to only have one connector. That being said, this is probably not a big issue as most IDE controllers can support two drives in addition to the primary master drive which should allow you to connect both motherboards’ hard drives.

It looks like you’re supposed to be able to remove and install both boards from the top of the case without having to remove any of the hardware inside. This would probably come in handy if, for example, you wanted to test the entire case with only one motherboard.

The case is specially designed so that you can connect both motherboards easily using a special cable with two identical connectors on each end. You plug the primary board into one connector and then connect the secondary board to the second. The cable that comes with this case is labeled “Motherboard Expansion Cord” so it’s probably a pretty important part of using this case for dual motherboard computers (the picture above doesn’t show it).

The two sockets aren’t identical on all accounts though, since one has an additional ISA slot and NIC port. Also, the secondary socket only has audio connectors while the primary board has audio and a modem port.

At last we have some photos of the motherboard itself and you can see that one is labeled “primary” while the other is labeled “secondary”. That’s probably not an accident since it’s clear they’re meant to be paired together in order to form a complete computer.

The rear of the motherboard has something really cool on it (the NIC connector, in case you’re confused). It appears that the primary motherboard is designed so that you can connect either a PCI or ISA slot which means you could even install an IDE card if you really wanted to. You could probably do some really weird stuff with this so I’m kind of curious to see what people could do with it.

The motherboards have a pretty standard layout and don’t seem to be too different from the other dual socket boards out there. The main difference in this case is that one has an additional ISA slot and NIC port, while the other seemingly only comes with an IDE port (which might be for connecting the other motherboard?). I guess it really depends on what you’re going to use this case for.

Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R Mini-ITX Computer Case - Can Support Up To 140mm Radiators (Rear PSU Mount)
  • Rear power supply mount and dedicated hard drive cage
  • Spacious interior for full sized components like standard ATX power supplies and the latest graphics cards
  • Superior airflow with numerous ventilation areas
  • Compatible with other HAF Stacker enclosures; stack onto other 915Rs or 915Fs to build dual or even triple systems
  • Can support water cooling radiators up to 140mm on side panel (based on hardware size and configuration)

The onboard chipsets are pretty standard as well and according to CPU-World they have the exact same model numbers and clock speeds. It looks like both motherboards also have their own unique BIOS chips. However, I could be wrong so let me know if you can tell the difference between them.

As for what processors are supported by these boards, well… anyone remember the i486? I take that back, it looks as though they both support the Pentium Pro (not sure about Celerons), Pentium II/III and Pentium 3/4.

The rear of the case is pretty standard and seems to include ventilation slots for each motherboard (I guess there’s a second set of grills at the top as well). It looks as though each motherboard has its own cable management area so it shouldn’t be too difficult to make everything look nice with this setup.

This is an interesting case and I think it would be great for people who want to experiment with dual motherboards. It should be possible to run Linux on both boards if they’re plugged into the same IDE controller (or even a RAID controller) which makes me wonder if you can actually use them as two complete computers. In any case, the potential for custom hardware is pretty high with this case and I hope to see some innovative uses of it in the near future.

If you know more about this case, please let me know so I can write more articles about it. It’s also worth noting that there is a version of this case without the second IDE controller port which means you can hook up both motherboards independently and use them as two separate computers. It’s possible that there are even more versions of this case out there, so please let us know if you have any additional information about it!