When building a PC, your choice of components is arguably the most important decision you can make. But the form factor and case you choose shouldn’t be overlooked, and one of the most interesting “themes” you can choose is the sleeper PC.
The Sleeper PC Build
A sleeper PC usually refers to a powerful computer that’s presented in an unassuming case or enclosure. The term originates in the automotive world, where sleeper cars are high-performance vehicles that look normal from the outside. Under the hood is where the real story lies, and the same is true of the PC world.
There are many different types of sleeper PC build, from the old beige boxes of the Windows 98 days to powerful machines built inside of old console cases. Many of these enclosures require significant modification for use with modern PC components like all-in-one coolers and graphics cards that are much larger than they were a decade or two ago.
Some builds require the use of atypical parts, like smaller Mini-ITX or Mini-ATX motherboards. Builders must often be creative about the positioning of components like graphics cards, particularly when building in a chassis that was designed with specific hardware in mind.
Since airflow is an important consideration for any high-performance gaming PC, some builders will create additional vents to aid in cooling. These projects are generally not recommended for those who lack experience building computers but once you understand the basics you should be able to attempt a sleeper build.
Why Build a Sleeper PC?
Building a sleeper PC can be a fun project for someone looking to push boundaries in the pursuit of a particular aesthetic. This can quickly develop into a hobby since the results can be pretty impressive.
Adding RGB lighting and custom paint jobs to standard PCs is a creative endeavor, and sleeper PC builds take this a step further on account of their bespoke nature. The choice of case or enclosure can introduce hurdles, but the results are almost always unique. The ultimate goal is to build something that looks fairly mundane, on the outside at least.
It’s also a fun way to get some more use out of old computer cases and console enclosures. The retro aesthetic of old computer cases appeals to many, and these parts are cheap and in plentiful supply at thrift stores and on second-hand marketplaces. You may even have a case in mind already, sitting in the attic or basement. If it needs cleaning, check out our guide to removing that yellowed stain on vintage devices.
Once you’ve built your machine you can exhibit it on YouTube or communities like r/sleeperbattlestations.
Building Your Own Computer
If you’ve always fancied building a computer then there are a lot of resources out there to help you, including our own five-part guide. Once you’ve honed your skills maybe you’ll want to try building a sleeper PC of your own.