Modding Dictionary

Not sure what some of the crazy terms you see mean? Or how to understand what specs are good or not? Let us guide you with our Modding Dictionary. Filled with the important terms to upgrade you from "noob" status to modder extraordinaire.

If you see anything missing or want to know what something means, let us know!

7v Trick – (See Voltage Mod)

Air Brushing – An airbrush is a small, hand-held, air-operated tool that sprays various substances (ink, dye, paint, etc.) by a process of nebulization.  Air brushing is the act of using an airbrush.  In PC modding, air brushing is generally used to give your case an unique paintjob. 

Acrylic – Acrylic is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.  In PC modding, it is generally used on the outside casing of an object to show off the inner components.  For instance, a power supply’s housing may be acrylic, to allow you to see the circuit board and capacitors within.

Acrylic Windows – Many cases these days come with an acrylic window, which allows modders to show off their inner components.

Aluminum Cases – Aluminum cases are lighter than steel cases, and, since aluminum conducts heat slightly better than steel, they offer slightly better cooling peformance (vs. the same exact case design made from steel).  Aluminum cases are very common these days, as they are typically cheaper to produce and ship than steel cases, and tend to be more popular with modders as well.

Anodize – Anodizing is the process wherein the thin top layer of a sheet of aluminum is turned into aluminum oxide.  This protects the surface of the aluminum from oxidation, and allows for a long-lasting metallic color to be evenly applied.  In PC modding, many aluminum parts are already anodized, from full aluminum cases, all the way down to anodized aluminum thumbscrews.  Anodizing is generally not something modders do themselves, as the process requires potentially dangerous chemicals and equipment.

Appliqué – An appliqué, as it relates to PC modding, is basically a sticker that you put on your case window (or sometimes the case itself) that gives the appearance of a sand-blasted or etched image.

Backlighting – (see Case Lighting) In PC modding, backlighting is accomplished through the use of items such as cold cathodes, to illuminate the interior of your case.

Badge Backlighting – Badge backlighting is simply a specialized form of backlighting used for case badges.  Most modders who do this simply use an LED or electro-luminescent square behind the case badge.

Barb (fitting) – A barb fitting is a type of fitting used in water loops that has a thicker “lip” around the end of it that helps to prevent the tubing from detaching from the fitting.  Hose clamps are commonly used with barb fittings, as they help create a more secure connection than the barb fitting by itself.

BayBus – A baybus is any device that resides in a drive bay and provides a method to attach and power fans.  Most will also include various other features, such as on/off switches for individual fans, LED status indicators, etc.

Bench Grinder – A bench grinder is a heavy-duty powertool that allows you to accurately grind or polish a metal object.

Bezel – A bezel is the front-facing, visible portion of any component that occupies a drive bay.  It can also be used to describe visible parts of other components, such as the front bezel of the case itself.

Bezel Painting – Bezel painting is performed to match (or mis-match) a particular drive bezel to the case or other adjacent drives.

BIOS – Basic Input/Output System, this is the firmware stored on your motherboard, and it is the first code your computer runs when first booting up.  A BIOS generally has a user-accessible interface, where many configuration settings can be changed or tweaked.  The BIOS in a store-bought computer (such as a computer built by Dell, Gateway, HP, etc.; also called an OEM computer) is generally much more limited in the settings that can be changed when compared to the BIOS in a custom-built computer.

BIOS Logo – This is the logo that displays on-screen when you first start your computer, before your OS loads up and even before the BIOS itself loads.  This is generally going to be your motherboard manufacturer’s logo, but it can be changed, albeit with varying degrees of difficulty.  Some motherboard manufacturers now include software utilities for changing this logo as you see fit, which make the process much safer and easier. 

Blow Hole – In PC modding, generally refers to a fan mount on the top of a case, designed to be used with an exhaust fan.

Cable Sleeving – As a noun, cable sleeving is mostly synonymous with “wire management,” and refers to any assortment of items designed to clean up the general “rat’s nest” of wires present in many computer systems.  As a verb, cable sleeving is the act of using such items.  Sleeving allows you to bundle multiple wires together and run them as a single wire throughout the case, or to take single wires and give them a more finished look. Cable sleeves are offered in a variety of colors including UV reactive to give you cables a consistent look of your choosing.

Case Badge – A case badge is a simple picture, usually a logo, designed to be placed on a computer case.  They generally measure about 1” x 1”, and are usually composed of a metal back with an adhesive for attaching to the case, the picture itself, and a small Lexan dome to prevent scratching.

Case Lighting - In PC modding, case lighting/backlighting is accomplished through the use of items such as cold cathodes or LEDs, to illuminate the interior of your case.

Case Gallery – Also known as a case mod gallery, or simply a mod gallery.  Case galleries are collections of pictures of, or pertaining to, PC mods.  Many PC modding forums and websites host case mod galleries, and we here at Xoxide take it a step further with our “Mod of the Month” contest.

Case Painting – Just as it sounds, case painting is the process of painting your case to a color/style of your choosing.  The best methods, techniques, and materials to use for case painting are generally the same ones used in automotive painting. Paints are offered for brush-on or aerosol and can also be UV reactive.

Case Window – see Acrylic Windows

Cold Cathode – Cold cathodes (sometimes called CCFLs, Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lights) are a type of case lighting commonly used in PC modding, due to their cooler operating temperature, thin structure, and diffused light.  They are easy to find in pre-made kits designed for PC modding in particular; such kits usually include one or more cold cathode “lamps” or “tubes” and an inverter to power them, which usually plugs directly into a 4-pin Molex power connector from your power supply. Offered in a variety of sizes and colors including UV.

Common Screw Sizes – Common screw sizes for various PC modding applications are as follows:

-Self-threading fan screws:  3/8” diam. (1/8th bolts & nuts may work as well)

-Various drives (floppy, CD-ROM, etc.):  #4-40

-Case screw (hex head):  #6-32

Common Wire Sizes – Common wire sizes for various PC modding applications are as follows:

-LEDs and smaller/lower speed fans:  22 gauge

-Larger/higher speed fans:  20 gauge

-Baybus/Rheostat/Drives/Peltier chips/various other components:  18 gauge

Note:  Solid or stranded wire can both be used, the major difference being that solid is much less flexible than stranded.

Compression (fitting) – A compression fitting is a type of fitting used in water loops that compresses an outer ring around the tubing, creating a more secure (and, to some, more stylish) connection.

DPI – Stands for Dots Per Inch.  This is most commonly used as a specification to relate the sensitivity of a computer mouse to movement.  The higher the DPI, the more sensitive the mouse will be.

Dremel – A Dremel is a particular brand of rotary tool, which has become basically synonymous with the type of tool itself.  These tools can be used for a variety of purposes, including cutting, grinding, sanding, detailing, etc.

Efficiency – A power supply’s efficiency rating is the percentage of power that is preserved when the power supply switches the 120V AC current into 12V DC current for use in computers (and many other electronics).  A higher percentage means less energy is lost in the transition, which is better.  Energy lost this way is released as heat, meaning power supplies with higher efficiency ratings will generally stay cooler.

Electro-Luminescent wire/cable (EL wire/cable) – EL wire is simply a wire that lights up.  It is a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor that glows when alternating current is applied to it. Rather than individual lights like LEDs, EL wire glows in an unbroken line. It is also highly flexible and can be bent and even resized easily. There are many different kinds of EL wire, from the strictly-decorative EL wire kits, to fully-functional SATA cables with EL wire imbedded in them.  EL wire almost always requires a power inverter, much like cathodes, but is highly efficient with power.

Etching – Etching is the process of engraving a design into a hard surface, such as an acrylic window or a steel side panel.

Fan Controller – Also referred to as a Rheostat, a fan controller is any device which allows you to adjust the speed of your case fans from a single, separate control module.  They often have other features as well, such as RPM and temperature monitoring, alarms, built-in card readers, etc.

Fan Size Adapter – Fan size adapters allow you to install a fan to a differently-sized fan mount.  For instance, you could use a particular fan size adapter to mount an 80mm fan to a 120mm fan mount on your case, or vice-versa.

Fan Grills – Fan grills (sometimes called fan guards or finger guards) are protective coverings designed to prevent objects from coming in contact with the fan blades during operation, while restricting airflow from the fan as little as possible.

Fan Filters – Fan filters are similar to fan grills in that they cover your case fan opening, but filters are designed to prevent dust and very small debris from entering your case via the air circulated by your fans.  As such, they impede airflow more than a fan guard would.

Form Factor – The form factor of a component refers to the general standardized shape and size of the component.  In cases, this mostly refers to the overall size of the case or the orientation of it.  With motherboards, this refers to the standardized specification that the mounting holes follow, which makes it easy to compare the form factor of a motherboard to a case’s motherboard compatibility spec to determine if a specific board will fit in a specific case.

Grommets (Rubber Washers) – Grommets are small rubber washers which lessen noise caused by vibration and can also protect against fraying of your wires from sharp edges.  Many high-end cases come with pre-drilled grommets to easily run water cooling tubing from the inside of your case to a radiator or other such component on the outside.

Hole Saw – A hole saw is a specialized drill bit designed to cut a hole into a surface.  Different hole saws come in different sizes, and are designed for cutting different materials. You can use this to allow wires to pass through panels in your case or other uses.

Jigsaw – A Jigsaw is a fairly common power tool used for large-scale cutting.  In PC modding, they are most commonly used for things such as cutting a window into a side panel.

Lapping – Lapping is the process of sanding down the base of a heatsink or top of a CPU to provide a better contact for thermal transfer.  Thermal compound is still required after lapping, but you may need less overall.

LCD – LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display.  LCDs are used in many different applications, from your computer monitor to your digital wristwatch.  Many fan controllers or other multi-function panels now offer LCDs to display a variety of information about your case or component activity.

LED – LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs are used in many different applications, such as the power/HDD activity lights on your computer case, or even effect lighting inside your case.  LEDs are very common, due to their low cost, small size, low power drain, and long lifespan.

Mod / Modder – Mod is an abbreviation of the word modification (or, as a verb, modify).  People who partake in modding are called Modders.

Modular – A term primarily used in modding to describe a type of power supply.  A modular power supply is one that allows you to quickly and easily detach unused or unnecessary cords from the power supply itself, creating a cleaner look inside your case and usually improving airflow.

Momentary – A designation for a type of biased switch that closes the electrical circuit only temporarily, upon either pressing or depressing the button.  The alternative is a latching switch, which closes the connection when activated and leaves it closed until activated again.

Ohm’s Law – Ohm’s Law is a commonly-used equation relating voltage, current (amps), and resistance.  The equation is:  Voltage = Current x Resistance

Orbital Palm Sander – An orbital palm sander is a power tool designed to sand large areas at a time.  They are generally used to finish a surface or remove paint.

Overclocking – Overclocking (OC’ing) is the process of forcing a device to run faster than the factory default.  Overclocked devices use more electricity and produce more waste heat.

Passive Cooling – Passive cooling is simply cooling without the use of fans or other active heat exchangers.

PCB – Stands for Printed Circuit Board.  PCBs are the actual boards that many different components are constructed on, such as your motherboard or graphics card.

PCI – Stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect.  These refer to the bus on a motherboard that connects peripherals such as graphics cards to the motherboard itself. 

Rheostat – (see Fan Controller)

Rounded Cables – Rounded cables are used in place of traditional flat ribbon cables to increase airflow. 

Sand Blasting – Sand blasting is the process of using a device with an air compressor to shoot tiny pieces of sand or silicate against a surface at high velocity.  In PC modding, it is generally used to remove initial coatings on a surface or to etch a design into a surface.

Shrink Wrap / Heat Shrink – Heat shrink is a plastic tubing that shrinks when exposed to heat.  In PC modding, it is used to insulate wires or to tidy up cable sleeving.

SLI – Stands for Scalable Link Interface.  This is NVIDIA’s proprietary solution for using multiple video cards in a single computer system.

Socket – Also known as the CPU socket, this term refers to the physical specifications and pinout that a CPU or motherboard is compatible with.  For instance, most Pentium 4 CPUs are socket LGA775, so to install this kind of chip, you need to have a socket LGA775 motherboard.  The socket provides an electrical connection between the CPU and PCB without the need to solder the chip directly to the board, thus allowing for much easier installation or replacement.

Soldering Iron – A soldering iron is a metal heat probe used to melt a conductive alloy (solder) in order to create an electrical connection between two points.

Toggle Switch – A toggle switch is a simple on/off switch operated manually.  They are used for a variety of different applications to turn a component on or off or change the function of a component.

UV Reactive – UV reactive materials give off a unique glow when exposed to UV light from a UV cathode, LED, or other source.  UV reactive items generally do not produce light on their own.

UV Additive – UV additive is a solution you can add to your coolant in a water cooling loop that will make the coolant UV reactive.

Voltage Mod – To perform a voltage mod is to alter the normal voltage flowing through a component, in order to change its performance.  A common voltage mod is called the “7V trick,” and involves reducing the input voltage for a 12V case fan in order to limit its RPMs and make it run quieter.

Water Cooling – Water cooling is an alternative to standard air cooling for computers, particularly CPUs, using water or other liquids as opposed to air from fans. It functions much the same way as the cooling system in a car does. Typical components include a water block, water pump, and heat exchanger such as a radiator. Water cooling can allow quieter operation and improved processing speed.

Zip Ties – Zip ties are very common items used in cable management to bundle cables together. They are typically plastic and available in a variety of sizes depending on the size and volume of cables. You can also use them to bind cables against other non-stationary objects to keep them in place.