The New Pinscape Build Guide
by Michael Roberts
First edition, October 2019

Copyright and license

Copyright ©2016-2021 Michael J. Roberts.
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. In brief, this means that you're free to use, share, and adapt this work for any purpose, without seeking further permission from the author, as long as you give appropriate credit and pass along the same permissions in your adapted material.
The Pinscape Controller firmware and the Expansion Board hardware designs have similar Open Source license terms. See their respective license files for details.

No Warranty

Just to be sure there's no misunderstanding, I want to spell out that this documentation and the related mechanical and electronic designs and computer software have NO WARRANTY of any kind. This entire enterprise is a hobby project, and I don't have a Quality Assurance department to independently test any of it, so the material undoubtedly contains numerous errors. I'm making all of this available at no charge in the hope that it's useful, but I can't guarantee that it'll work or that you'll be successful building any of it. Work involving electronic circuitry has the potential to damage other connected equipment, including expensive items such as computer motherboards. Proceed at your own risk.


Building a virtual pinball machine involves some inherently dangerous equipment and activities, like power tools and high voltages. Read the manufacturer's instruction manuals for your tools and follow their recommended safety precautions. Wear safety glasses and other appropriate safety gear. Don't attempt anything that you don't understand or don't feel comfortable with.
Be extremely careful when working with electrical circuits, especially high voltages. Anything above about 20V can pose a risk of electrocution, and even low voltages are capable of starting fires and damaging other equipment. Always turn the power off (better still, disconnect power supplies entirely) before doing work on anything electrical.

About the "section incomplete" warnings

If you find a box like the one below, and click the "more about" link, it'll bring you here, to this explanation of what those boxes are about.
This section is incomplete and will be expanded when time permits. Material to be added: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet...
From October 2016, when I started working on this guide, to October 2019, when I declared the first edition finished, I posted material online as I wrote it, even though the overall guide was a work in progress for all of that time. I placed boxes like the one above throughout the material, in part as "to do" reminders to myself of what I planned to add, and in part as placeholders so that the omission wouldn't look accidental.
As of October 2019, there are exactly zero of those boxes left (apart from the example above). Even so, I'm leaving this explanation in place, just in case I missed any to-do boxes, and in case I add some new ones in the future. The virtual pinball community is an active and creative group of people who keep coming up with new ideas, so I expect I'll continue to find new things to add to this guide as time goes on. New "To Do" boxes might therefore pop up from time to time as I make notes about topics that should be revisited, expanded, or added to keep the guide current.


Part One. Preliminaries

1. Preface

I first started thinking about building a virtual pinball machine at least a couple of years before I actually did anything about it. I was on the fence for so long because I thought it was one of those ideas that sounds better than it really is. I also thought I might get bored of it quickly. I loved the idea of a life-sized pinball simulator, but I didn't think the real thing could live up to my mental image of it. It didn't help that Visual Pinball always seemed a little disappointing on my desktop PC. I thought a cabinet would just amplify its limitations by blowing it up onto a big screen.
But I liked the idea so much that I kept coming back to it. I'd check in on the forums from time to time to see what was new. At some point, people started talking about putting "feedback toys" in their cabs1. That's when I finally decided I had to build one. "Toys" are physical devices that create special effects in sync with the on-screen action. The thing that grabbed my attention most was the idea of using solenoids for a tactile thunk when a flipper or bumper fires. The ability to feel the game action struck me as a whole new dimension that you can't get in mere video pinball.
It's probably needless to say that all of my early reservations were turned around once I started building my cab. My enthusiasm has only grown as I've spent more time with it.
If you're reading this guide, you're probably at least curious about building your own cab. In case you're still undecided, like I was, let me offer this opinion: a cab really is something more than glorified desktop video pinball. The real controls and the full-scale physical setup are no mere decorations; they're transformative.
I'm not going to claim that a virtual cab is exactly like a real pinball machine; it's not that realistic. But it's not just desktop video pinball in a fancy box, either. I consider it to be something different from real pinball machines, but on a similar level. "Virtual" and "real" pinball each have their own unique advantages, and they're each fun to play in their own way. (I'm speaking as someone who has a few real pinball machines at home alongside the virtual one, so I feel at least somewhat qualified to make these comparisons.)
Pin cabs aren't just fun to play; they're fun to build. They make great DIY projects. As much as I enjoy playing games on my cab, I also really enjoyed building it, and I'm still coming up with ways to improve it. Most of that work is on the software side these days, although I still tinker with the hardware, too. One of the great things about this hobby is that most of the software involved is open source, so if there's something you don't like, you can change it. That's one of my motivations for sharing the Pinscape Controller project: I wanted to bring the benefits of open source to the hardware side. When I started my cab, most of the hardware options were proprietary devices designed more with video arcade projects in mind, so I'm glad that I've been able to add some more pinball-oriented designs into the mix.
This is a great time to be building a DIY pin cab, thanks to a confluence of trends. One is that real pinball continues to thrive among collectors, which is good for us because it helps to ensure there's a market for the parts we need for our projects. Another is the popularity of hobby robotics, which has made lots of advanced electronics accessible to DIYers. A third is the growing interest in virtual pinball itself, which has attracted a talented group of people who continue to expand the capabilities of the software that makes virtual cabs possible. Virtual cabs will keep getting better as long as people are actively working on the software.

The Pinscape Controller

This guide has grown into a pretty comprehensive set of instructions for building a pin cab, from the woodworking and trim hardware to the electronics and the software. It started out with a much smaller scope, of serving as the user manual for my Pinscape Controller project, and that remains a significant part of the book. The Pinscape Controller is an open-source hardware and software project that can act as the central hub for connecting most of the specialized input and output electronics unique to virtual pin cabs: buttons, sensors, and feedback devices like solenoids and lights. The controller can handle nearly all of the special I/O functions in a pin cab, including:
Physically, the core of the Pinscape project is the Freescale FRDM-KL25Z, a tiny, self-contained computing device about the size of a credit card. It costs about $15 and comes fully assembled and ready to use. You don't need to know anything about electronics to set it up; you just plug in a USB cable and load some software.
The KL25Z by itself does a lot of the heavy lifting. It has a built-in accelerometer (a good one), which nicely handles nudge sensing. You can connect buttons (like the flipper buttons) directly to the KL25Z, with no more work than running some wires.
Beyond buttons and nudging, the electronics work gets a little more complicated. If you want to hook up a plunger sensor or connect feedback devices (lights, motors, solenoids), you have to buy some electronic components, and do some additional wiring and electronic assembly work. That's all laid out in detail in this guide, and it's very scalable - you can do as much or as little of this as you want, according to your interests and comfort level working with electronics. I've tried to make all of these projects approachable even if you don't already know much about electronics, so it might also serve as an entrée to DIY electronics, if that's an area you want to get more into.
For the plunger, several options of varying difficulty are available. The easiest option only requires buying a particular kind of potentiometer (about $6) and connecting three wires. A more complex but more precise option is what I'd call an "intermediate level" DIY electronics project. All options are documented in detail in this guide with step-by-step instructions.
If you want to connect feedback devices to the KL25Z, that also requires some additional electronics work. There are some simple options involving pre-built circuit boards that you can buy on eBay or Amazon. The more advanced and more full-featured options involve the "Expansion Boards", a set of circuit board plans that you can build yourself. Again, this is all documented in this guide.
The Pinscape Controller is an entirely "open source" project, meaning that all of the software is free to use, all of the source code and hardware designs are published, and you're free to change and customize them in any way. I'm always happy to integrate any customizations that are generally useful back into the official version so that everyone can benefit from them, but you're also free to make private changes for your own use if you prefer.

Cabinet build guide

Beyond the Pinscape-specific material, this guide includes a lot of information about building virtual pin cabs in general. The goal is to provide a complete instruction manual for the DIY pin cab builder. The guide even includes information on the various commercial products that can fill the same roles as the Pinscape project, for people who aren't interested in DIY for those aspects and prefer something that comes ready-made.
I'm including the general virtual cab building material because I would have really liked something like this when I started on my own cabinet. There's a lot of information on building these machines on the Web, mostly in forums and blogs, but most of it is really scattered and difficult to find and navigate. There is one other full build guide out there that I'm aware of, though: Major Frenchy's Mame in a Box, which offers a large set of video tutorials on pin cab building. If your learning style favors video presentations, or you just want another resource to add to this one, check it out.
I can't quite boil things down to a ready-made kit with a master parts list and easy assembly instructions. There are too many possibilities and variations for that. Every cab is unique, which is exactly as it should be for a DIY enterprise like this. So I'll try to go into as much detail as I can, but in many areas the information is more like advice than outright instructions.
1In the vernacular of the Web forums, a virtual pinball machine is a "virtual cabinet", which is always shortened to "cabinet" or just "cab". If you're new to the forums, the name might seem weirdly generic. But it makes sense in the context of the forums, because the "cab" forums are only one part of a broader community that's interested in PC pinball emulation in general. Everyone in the broader community plays virtual pinball on a PC, but usually it's just a regular desktop PC or laptop. The thing that distinguishes the "cab" faction is that we ensconce our pinball PCs in these elaborate pieces of furniture.

2. What is a pin cab?

I'm not sure who created the first virtual pinball cabinet, but the seed of the idea is pretty obvious in hindsight. Someone must have been playing around with a pinball program on their desktop PC, and wondered what it would be like to turn the monitor sideways, to make the layout more like a real pinball table's proportions. Then they thought to lay it down flat, so they could stand over it like a real pinball playfield. And then what about switching to a big flat-panel TV that's the same overall size as a real pinball table? The finishing touch was putting the big TV inside an old cabinet salvaged from a defunct real pinball, right where the playfield used to go, for the full life-sized experience.
At its most basic, that pretty much sums up a virtual pin cab. You take a Windows PC, install Visual Pinball and/or other pinball simulator software, attach a TV in the 40" range as the primary monitor, and put the TV inside a pinball cabinet body where the playfield would normally go. Put another TV in the backbox to display the backglass artwork. Connect some speakers in the backbox to the PC sound card, and you have the full audio/visual simulation.

What makes this so special?

Okay, you're thinking, so a pin cab is just a desktop pinball player in the guise of a real machine. Maybe that sounds somewhat interesting: the idea of playing on a full-size playfield is pretty novel if you're used to playing pinball in a cramped little perspective window on a PC monitor. But in the end, isn't it just the same game on a bigger screen? Wouldn't the novelty wear off pretty quickly?
As they say in the infomercials, "but wait, there's more..."
Real flipper buttons! Once we have the displays in a proper cabinet arrangement, we can't just plop a boring old PC keyboard on top and go on batting the ball with the Shift buttons like on the desktop. It's a real pin cab, so it needs real flipper buttons.
Yes, you can connect the real buttons to the PC. There's a special device called a key encoder that lets you do just this. They're fairly cheap and easy to set up (and the Pinscape Controller can handle this function, of course). They trick Windows into thinking you're still just pressing regular keyboard keys, so you can go on using the same pinball software.
This makes a positively huge difference in playability. If you've played any desktop pinball or tablet pinball, you probably already have a sense for how awkward the controls are; you've undoubtedly lost a good number of balls from having your fingers stray just a little off the keys at crucial moments. Even so, it'll probably still be a revelation the first time you play virtual pinball with real flipper buttons.
You don't have to (and shouldn't) stop at flipper buttons, by the way. You can hook up all of the standard buttons - the Start button, Magna Save buttons, the coin chutes, even the service buttons inside the coin door that let you access the operator menus.
A real plunger! Desktop pinball games all use a "timed" plunger that pulls back as long as you're pressing a key. Which obviously doesn't even resemble the way you interact with the plunger on a real machine. On a cabinet, you can install an actual pinball plunger, and connect it to a sensor that lets the PC read its position. This lets you launch a ball exactly like in a real game. The Pinscape Controller offers this capability, and several commercial options are available as well.
Real nudging! Real pinball games are physical, mechanical systems. The game is subject to the immutable laws of physics, not just the whims of a programmer. That's what makes it unique in the age of video games. Pinball's physicality means you can interact with the game in a very direct and visceral way, nudging the cabinet to influence the ball.
Desktop pinball offers an imitation of nudging that's half-hearted at best, letting you "nudge" by pressing a button. Like the timed plunger, it's nice that they at least tried to offer a substitute, but it's nothing like the real thing.
A virtual cab lets you take this to a whole new level. A virtual cab already has the same heft and feel of a real cab, so you'll find yourself unconsciously nudging it like the real thing, your brain expecting it to influence the ball. But what if it really could influence the ball? Good news: it can! There's a device known as an accelerometer that can measure exactly the sort of motion you impart to the cabinet by nudging. Accelerometers were exotic devices not too long ago, but now that there's one in every cell phone, they're cheap and utterly commonplace, and they're also quite good at their job. The Pinscape Controller has an accelerometer built in and knows how to send the acceleration signals to the pinball player. It lets real physical nudges influence the simulated ball the same way they'd affect a real ball. The commercial plunger kits offer the same capability.
Mechanical feedback! Blinking lights! Once the early cabinet builders mastered all of the above, they started coming up with ways to make the experience even more realistic by adding mechanical feedback - devices that actually move inside the cab to simulate flippers, slingshots, and bumpers.
Real pinball is a very tactile experience. The solenoids that whack the ball around are really powerful, and you can feel them shake the cabinet every time they fire. Digitized sound effects just aren't the same. For a more realistic virtual experience, you can put solenoids and other physical devices inside your cab that produce similar tactile effects in the virtual game. The pinball software can trigger these feedback devices in sync with the game play. So when a bumper fires in the simulation, you can actually feel a solenoid fire in your cab. You can likewise add bright LEDs and strobes that flash in sync with game events. This makes for a dramatic light show, much more interesting than just images on a TV.
The current generation of pinball software makes it fairly straightforward to attach an array of mechanical devices and external lights. You need another I/O controller for this capability, known in this case as an "output controller". The Pinscape Controller can handle this task, and there are several commercial options as well. As for the devices themselves, there's a fairly standard complement of devices in typical cabs, but the basic mechanisms involved are general-purpose and let you hook up almost anything you can think of.

That sounds like a lot of work...

If you're new to the virtual cabinet world and you weren't already acquainted with all of these bells (literally) and whistles, you might be feeling a little intimidated by all of this. You might have been picturing just the basics of the Windows PC in the fancy wooden box, and you might have been thinking in terms of what you could build out of ordinary PC equipment. But a lot of the stuff I just mentioned obviously can't be built out of ordinary PC parts.
The good news is that everything described above is not only possible, but well understood. It's been reduced to recipes that you can follow. Lots of people have built cabs with these features. The software infrastructure that supports all of this is mature, and it's specifically designed with all of these features in mind. There's no need to "hack" anything to trick the software into doing these things; the software already knows all about backbox displays, DMDs, nudging, plungers, and feedback devices. You just need to tell it what you have installed, and it'll take advantage of it to create a great playing experience.
Most importantly, the whole setup can be built by a committed DIYer. That's where this guide comes in. We'll explain how to implement all of the things that go into a virtual pin cab, covering the best DIY solutions as well as the commercial product options.
By the way, "DIY" doesn't mean "poor man's", which is the way a lot of people think of it. In fact, it's really quite the opposite these days, thanks to technologies like ubiquitous computing, 3D printing, and the relentless march of progress in electronics. DIY means you can build exactly what you want. It means you don't have to settle for what some marketing department thought was good enough for the least common denominator. Yes, you do still see forum discussions about "hacks" and cheap solutions. That's not what this guide is about. The approaches we'll cover in this guide are modern, no-compromises solutions. Some of them have capabilities that you simply can't find in the commercial alternatives.

3. A Visual Guide to the Virtual Pinball Cabinet

A Visual Guide to the Virtual Pinball Cabinet

When I first started building my own pin cab, I found it hard to get a handle on all of the pieces involved. I knew I wanted real flipper buttons, but how do you connect them to the PC? I wanted a plunger, but how the heck do you make a PC take input from a plunger? I wanted feedback devices to simulate the flipper solenoids and replay knocker and so on, and I understood that I needed an LedWiz for that, but beyond that I didn't really know what it could do or how to connect anything to it. And knowing how many questions I had, I shuddered to think about the questions I didn't even know enough to ask.
The diagram below will, I hope, clear up some of that fog, especially the unknown unknowns. It's is a comprehensive map of all of the electronic systems and devices that make up a virtual pinball machine. It doesn't answer the detailed questions, like exactly how you hook up the LedWiz or install software, but it offers a bird's-eye view of everything that goes into one of these machines. It shows what each component does and how everything fits together. The idea is to let you see the whole system at a glance. This diagram shows pretty much everything electronic in a pin cab, so you should be able to quickly spot any major components that weren't already on your radar, and decide if you need to add them to your plans.
This is a big-picture view, but it's also loaded with details that you can view interactively. Roll over any component with the mouse (or tap it) to learn more about it. There are also some general notes following the diagram. But don't feel like you have to cram for a quiz: we'll cover everything in the chart in much greater depth in later sections.
Roll over/tap features to show details • See notes below

Feature Details


How the Pinscape Controller fits in

You won't find any one box on the diagram that represents the Pinscape Controller. That's because Pinscape is only one of several possible choices for the functions it performs, and because Pinscape can perform several different functions. So the diagram instead shows boxes for the individual functions conceptually. If you do decide to use a Pinscape Controller, it can fill any or all of these roles:
  • Key encoder
  • Accelerometer
  • Plunger interface
  • Output controller
Even though these functions are shown as separate boxes on the diagram, a single Pinscape unit can fill all of these roles simultaneously.
The Pinscape Expansion Boards also serve as the "Power Booster", which is shown as another separate box. If you're using the stand-alone KL25Z without the expansion boards, you'll need something to serve as the power booster if you want to connect feedback devices. The Build Guide includes circuit plans.

4. Resources

Here are some resources I've found helpful while building my cabinet.

Contacting the author

I encourage you to use the virtual cabinet forums for most support-type questions. The forums have the advantage that other people might be able to answer before I see the question, so you might get an answer more quickly. The other plus is that the public discussion might help other people who have similar questions.
If you don't want to post the question publicly for some reason, you can send me a private messages (PM) on vpforums. My ID there is mjr.

Other build guides

Web forums

There are a number of Web forums dedicated to virtual cab building. These are good places to seek help with general questions on your build, and to connect with other virtual pinball enthusiasts.

Pinball cabinet bodies, pre-built and kits

Pinball cabinet artwork - design

Pinball cabinet artwork - printing

Pinball cabinet hardware and other pinball parts

Special-purpose electronics for virtual pinball

Given how obscure a hobby this is, it's kind of amazing how many commercial products cater to it. Here are some of the specialized products that cab builders often find useful.

TVs and other general consumer electronics

I probably don't need to mention any of these unless you time-traveled here from 1972, but then again, maybe you did; pinball is an anachronistic sort of hobby... Very briefly, a few places to look for your cabinet TVs and other basic consumer electronics:

PC components

As with the consumer electronics, you probably already know the right places to go for PC components. But for the sake of completeness:

Electronic parts and components

Custom circuit boards

3D printing

If you don't plan to buy a 3D printer at home, there are several excellent online 3D-print services that you can send your design out to.
The online services cost more than home printing in terms of materials, but of course that doesn't count the cost of buying the printer itself. Plus, the commercial vendors offer far superior materials to what you can use in a home printer. Home printers mostly use ABS and PLA, which are fine for prototyping, but not for functional parts, since they're brittle and tend to disintegrate if exposed to any friction. The commercial services offer nylon materials (such as PA12 and PA11) that are much more durable. Many also offer the newer MJF (multi-jet fusion) process, which seems to produce particularly tough and durable parts. I'd highly recommend considering MJF for any functional mechanical parts.

Custom laser cutting

Software source code

Many of the core software components in a virtual pinball machine are open source, meaning that the source code is published for anyone to inspect, customize, and contribute to.
In case you're wondering about some obvious omissions in the list above, the following are not open-source: PinballX, HyperPin, Future Pinball, and the online DOF config tool. Those are "freeware", meaning there's no charge to use them, but their creators chose to keep the source code secret. That might not matter to you if you didn't want to see the source code, but I generally prefer using open-source programs even then, because of the greater assurance that the project can keep going if and when the original developer gets bored of it and stops working on it.

Pinball table information

Part Two. Planning and Building the Cabinet

5. Road Map

Building a virtual pin cab is a big project. You shouldn't go into it thinking it's the light work of a couple of weekends. But it's also not an impossibly huge job, even though it can seem that way at times - especially during the research phase when you're trying to get your arms around all of the details.
Good organizers always say that the way to tackle a big job is to break it down into smaller pieces until the pieces are manageable. So let's look at the main sub-tasks that go into a pin cab build.
You don't have to attack these sub-tasks in the exact order listed here. Even so, we've tried to put things in a reasonable order that'll make the build process efficient. Some tasks are easier if others have been completed first, so you might find yourself backtracking or putting a job on hold if you tackle some of the later tasks on our list before completing some of the earlier ones.

Decide on the cabinet dimensions and TV size

You don't have to plan out your entire system in advance, but one thing you should settle early is the overall scale of your build and the size of TV you're going to use. Many other decisions depend upon the exact cabinet dimensions and the amount of space the TV will occupy, so you'll save yourself a lot of backtracking if you have hard numbers for these from the very beginning.
The thing that makes TV sizing tricky is that you can only buy TVs in certain sizes. Ideally, you'd be able to design and build your cabinet without giving too much thought to a TV, and then just drop in a suitable TV when the time comes. But when that time comes, you might find that all of the models you like are 1" too wide to fit, and the next size down is 4" narrower than you wanted.
This leads some cab builders to start by picking a TV, and then tailor the cabinet to fit the TV like a glove. But that's not for everyone. If you plan to re-use an old pinball cabinet or buy an off-the-shelf cabinet kit, you're stuck with standard dimensions. You might also want to use standard dimensions for the sake of faithful simulation, or simply because the cabinet hardware parts (lockdown bars, side rails) are cheapest and easiest to find in the standard sizes.
The same issues apply to a lesser extent to the backbox TV, although most cab builders aren't as concerned about an exact fit here since it's hardly the focal point of the game. My advice is to figure out the backbox TV separately after deciding on the main TV and cabinet dimensions.
We go into this in more detail in Chapter 7, Selecting a Playfield TV.

Go shopping

Once you know the basic scale of your system, you can start buying the main components. We provide a master part list for a fully decked-out cabinet in Chapter 10, Cabinet Parts List. You can choose a subset from that list that fits your own goals and budget.
Even with our master parts list to work from, you'll still have to do some original research, particularly for selecting the TV monitors and the PC components. There are too many options for both to allow simple one-size-fits-all recommendations, plus those product categories move so quickly that any concrete advice we could offer would be obsolete before you read this. Fortunately, apart from the TV and PC, a lot of the rest of the cabinet can be built out of standard parts. The real pinball machine manufacturers were very cost-conscious, which drove them to build their games on common platforms with mostly interchangeable parts. The exterior shell of a virtual cab is almost identical to a real pinball (or can be, at least, depending on your design goals), so we can build our cabs out of those same interchangeable parts.

Build the PC

Now that you have some of the groundwork laid, you can start actually building something. Most cab builders like to start with the PC, probably because it's the most familiar territory to PC gamers. Plus it provides some (relatively) instant gratification, since it doesn't take too much work to get a new PC up and running.
If you've ever built your own desktop PC from scratch, you'll know exactly what's involved in building the PC inside your pin cab. The main work required is the research needed to pick out the parts: motherboard, CPU, graphics card, power supply, memory, hard disk. We'll tell you all the parts you need in Chapter 11, Designing the PC, and we'll offer some advice about how to select them, but you'll still have to do the research to select the exact components you want. Once you pick out the parts, it's pretty easy these days to do the actual assembly.

Set up the main PC software

The next step after building the PC is usually installing the core software, including the operating system and some pinball simulators. Most of the popular pinball software runs only on Windows, so that's the OS that almost all pin cabs use. We'll cover how to install the main pinball players in Chapter 16, Pinball Software Setup.

Build the cabinet body

Now we come to the cabinet itself, in the literal sense of the wood box that houses everything. This part of the build can be as simple as buying a new or used cabinet that's already assembled, or as elaborate as doing the woodworking from scratch. We'll cover the various options in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body.

Design and install the artwork

A pin cab is a significant piece of furniture to have in your house, so it's worth putting some effort into its exterior appearance. Some cab builders opt for a natural wood look to better fit in a domestic environment, and some choose a simple one-color paint job. For most of us, though, the aim is to replicate the look of a real pinball machine, which means using custom artwork in the distinctive graphic style of the real machines. One great way to get a thoroughly authentic look is with digitally printed decals. We'll cover the options in Chapter 22, Cabinet Art.
This is one of those steps where the order is fairly important. You'll want to get the artwork in place before you start installing the cabinet hardware or any of the insides of the machine.

Assemble the cabinet hardware

Once you have the wood shell of the cabinet built and finished with artwork, you can install the "hardware" - the side rails, lockdown bar, coin door, legs, and the parts that attach the backbox to the main body. We'll go over the standard equipment and how to install it all in Chapter 23, Cabinet Hardware.

Set up your power supplies

You'll need a standard PC power supply to power the motherboard and other PC components. If you're installing any feedback devices, you'll need additional power supplies for those. We'll explain what you need in terms of power supplies for the various components in .
Most cab builders also like to set up a power distribution system that turns power on and off across the whole system with a single button. We'll explain how to do this in Chapter 12, Power Switching.
This is all basic infrastructure that the rest of your system will depend upon, so it's a good idea to get this figured out and installed now, before installing any of the electronics. Another reason to do this early is that the power supplies take up a lot of space - it's good to reserve the space they'll need early so you don't find yourself having to move things around later to make room.

Install the PC in the cabinet

You can now finalize the PC installation inside the cab body. If you haven't already put together the computer components, this is a good time to finish that up.
Mounting the PC in the cabinet is usually straightforward. The main decision to make is what kind of enclosure you want to use: some people use a regular desktop case, but most cab builders use the cabinet itself as the "case", simply mounting the motherboard and other components to the cabinet floor or walls. We cover the possibilities in Chapter 11, Designing the PC.

Install the TVs

I think it's better to get the TV installed fairly early in the build process, but a lot of cab builders feel it needs to go in last, because it covers the whole top of the cabinet.
In either case, you should at least map out exactly where the TV will go before getting too much further, so that you can plan around its space requirements when installing everything else.
My recommendation is to install the TV in such a way that it can be easily removed at any time. If you do that, you can get everything in place for it early on, which will give you a very concrete idea of the space you need to carve out for it in the cab. But you can leave it out of the cab while installing the power supplies and feedback systems, so that you have easy access to the interior, knowing that you can pop the TV back in place when the time comes. And if you make the install/uninstall process easy enough, you can pop it in just to test clearances and fit from time to time.
We'll look at options for installing the playfield TV, including advice about how to maintain easy access to the cabinet, in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting. That chapter includes a detailed plan for how to install the TV that achieves the goal of easy installation and removal, as well as allowing access to the cabinet interior for most jobs without even removing the TV.
Most cabs also have a second and possibly third TV in the backbox, for the backglass and score/DMD display. We'll look at how to install those in Chapter 30, Backbox TV Mounting and Chapter 31, Speaker/DMD Panel.

Install buttons

You'll probably want to install and wire your cabinet buttons shortly after getting the cabinet assembled and the PC working, both for the sake of early play testing and because it's easier to do the installation work while the cabinet is still fairly empty. We'll go over which buttons you need and how to install them in Chapter 34, Cabinet Buttons.

Set up I/O controllers

I/O controllers are separate components - usually USB devices - that handle the connections between the PC and the unique devices in a virtual pin cab: buttons, plunger, accelerometer (for nudging), flashing lights, and mechanical and tactile feedback devices.
You don't have to set up all of the I/O controllers or functions at once. At this stage in the build, though, you'll at least want to set up the button input controller (also known as the key encoder), so that you can test out the newly installed cabinet buttons.
We'll look at the various controller functions and which devices you need in Chapter 13, I/O Controllers.

Install a plunger

The plunger can be installed at any point in the build, but you'll want to get it in place before you finalize the TV installation. The space in the plunger area is tight (even on a real machine), so it's worthwhile to do some measuring and planning. The plunger is close to the flipper buttons, and on a virtual cab it competes for space with the TV. We'll cover the details of installing the basic physical plunger as well as the options for connecting it to the software in Chapter 37, Plunger.

Install feedback devices

You'll probably find that you'll install the feedback devices in stages, rather than as all at once. Output controllers control devices individually, so you can easily set up a few now and add more later.
We'll cover the common types of devices, and how to set them up, in Chapter 44, Feedback Devices Overview.

Set up the sound system

The audio system in a pin cab is essentially just a PC desktop speaker system, but it has some special considerations. The main one is that most cab builders want to place the speaker drivers in the same places they go in the standard 1990s cabinet design. You can also embellish your system by using two independent audio systems - one for music and one for mechanical sound effects - or even a tactile subwoofer like the ones popular for home theaters and gaming chairs. We'll cover the options in Chapter 41, Audio Systems.

6. Serviceable Design

Real pinball machines have numerous design elements that are there purely for the sake of serviceability - that is, to make the machines easier to repair, upgrade, and maintain. These features are often the products of a series of refinements that wouldn't have been obvious without experience, and a lot them are hidden, internal features that you wouldn't even realize are there when you're just playing the games.
It's not surprising that serviceability is such a high priority for the pinball manufacturers when you consider who their customer is. The thing to realize is that players are not their customer. Players are only the "end users". The customer is the commercial operator who buys the machines for their arcades and routes. The player mostly wants machines that are fun to play. An operator certainly cares about that, too, because an arcade game earns quarters by being fun to play. But what the operator cares even more about is high reliability and low repair costs. A machine that's down for repairs isn't earning quarters no matter how much fun it is.
Some of things that they do in real pinball machines to make them serviceable translate readily into the world of virtual cabs, where we can copy them to get the same benefits. But new virtual cab builders are often unaware of how the real machines work, so they don't know there's a good design they can copy - instead they make things up as they go. And of course the first time you build anything, you're likely to come up with quick-and-dirty ways to solve immediate problems without considering the longer-term costs. So I want to point out a few of the serviceability features in the real machines that we can leverage for virtual use, so that you're aware of them, and so you can keep them in mind as you plan your build.

What makes a machine serviceable

Before we get to implementation details, let's look at what serviceability really means in the abstract. These are what I consider the key goals of a serviceable design:

Specific recommendations

With the abstract goals above in mind, here are some concrete recommendations for how to achieve them, based in part on how the real machines accomplish the same ends. Things are different in a virtual cab, naturally, but some of the ideas from the real machines carry over surprisingly well.

Liftable playfield

The real machines are set up so that the playfield can be tilted up from the front and lifted all the way up to lean against the backbox. This lets you access the entire interior of the main cabinet and the entire underside of the playfield without taking anything apart. It's like popping the hood of a car to get to the engine. It lets you get in and out quickly. Minor jobs remain minor because it only takes a few seconds to open the machine up.
In my opinion, this is the ideal way to arrange a virtual cab as well. Accessing the interior of the main cabinet is at least as important in a virtual cab as a real machine, as that's where we typically install the PC motherboard and most of the feedback devices. In the virtual cab, it's the main TV (in place of the playfield) that needs to tilt up and out of the way like a car hood.
This is why I always advise against any design that involves the main TV being difficult or impossible to remove, such as installing the TV in routed grooves along the side walls.

Removable TVs

On the real machines, the playfield not only tilts up and out of the way, but can also be removed entirely. They even make this fairly easy: the playfield isn't actually permanently attached, but is only resting on the pivots that let it tilt up, so remove it is just a matter of lifting it off the pivots.
In a virtual machine, it's equally important to make the TVs removable. They are of necessity at the very front of every part of the machine, so you need to get past them to get to anything else. If it's hard to remove any of the TVs, it's hard to service what's behind it.
For the playfield TV, the ideal as far as I'm concerned is to installed it analogously to a real playfield, with the same ability to tilt it up for smaller jobs and remove it entirely for larger jobs.
The backbox TV(s) should likewise be removable, and like the playfield TV, this should be possible without a lot of disassembly and certainly non-destructively (meaning you shouldn't have to rip off the sides or cut any new holes anywhere).
If you're using a separate DMD TV, that should of course be removable as well. This one is usually easy to make modular, at least, since it's so small.

Foldable backbox

On the real machines, the backbox is attached to the main body with a hinge that lets it fold forward, so that it lies flat on top of the main cabinet. This is a key feature to make it practical to transport the machine, since it's too tall, top-heavy, and fragile to move it with the backbox upright.
Some pin cab builders figure that they can just remove the backbox if they ever need to move the machine. Consider the amount of wiring that you'd have to disconnect to do that, and the risk of breaking something when redoing the wiring. If a folding backbox is impossible because of the geometry of your backbox TV, then at the very least, be sure that the wiring connectors are all modular, so that it's quick and reliable to reconnect the wiring.

Modular wiring connectors

Real pinball machines have lots of wiring internally, with many interconnections. (Stern Pinball has estimated that there's about half a mile of wire in a typical Stern machine from the 2000s. It might even be a bit higher in the 1990s machines, since they used lower-tech electronics to implement a similar feature complexity.) The real machines deal with their many connection points mostly by using plug-and-socket connectors.
In the 1990s machines, they made heavy use of a few different connector types made by Molex. You see the term "Molex connector" used almost generically as though it referred to some specific physical plug type, but it's actually a particularly unhelpful term when you're searching for parts. Molex the company makes a huge array of diverse connector types, so "Molex connector" can refer to all sorts of things. If you want to be helpful when describing a particular connector to someone, you need to give them a Molex part number or at least the Molex product line name.
Pluggable connectors of the sort used in the real machines have two important virtues:
Most virtual pin cab builders intuitively recognize the important of modular wiring - of using some kind of removable connectors rather than soldering everything together permanently. But many new pin cab builders gravitate towards screw-terminal blocks, and in my opinion, those don't quite achieve the full goal here. Terminal blocks do avoid the need for permanently soldered connections, so they address the first point above right, but they miss the mark on the second point. Consider what happens if you have a couple of terminal blocks for wiring a particular part, and you disconnect the wiring: where do the wires go when it's time to reconnect them?
Proper pluggable connectors of the sort we're talking about are definitely a bit more work to set up than screw terminals. But they're great once they're in place, because you can arrange things so it's practically impossible to plug things in the wrong way. These connectors can also be time-consuming to select during the design phase, because there are so many options available. I'm convinced you could build a nice engineering career on a solid knowledge of the Molex catalog and of which connector to use when. I've tried to make your job here a little easier via pointers to some good basic options in Chapter 80, Connectors.
There are three clever techniques used in the real machines to make the connections "idiot-proof", which are worth cribbing when you're wiring your virtual cab:

7. Selecting a Playfield TV

For most cab builders, the playfield TV is the most important piece of hardware in the system. A pin cab is, after all, fundamentally a video game. The weight of this importance makes it tough to decide on the perfect TV, but it's even more complicated because of the physical constraints of a pin cab, and the special performance demands of video gaming.
I'd love to simplify this by offering a list of Amazon "buy it now" links for the best TVs for the job. Unfortunately, I really can't, because any such list would be out of date by the time you're reading this. TV product life cycles are only about six months these days.
In fact, even "real time" recommendations on the forums can go stale quickly. If you talk to someone who already finished their project, they probably bought their TV at least a few months ago, so their particular model might already be hard to find. Your best bet is usually to share notes with other people who are out shopping right now.
Since I can't give you a list of models to choose from, I'll instead try to offer some advice to help you figure out what to buy. This section attempts to answer the questions that new pin cab builders often have when looking for a TV (and maybe answer some questions you didn't know you should ask).
Note that this chapter is about selecting the playfield TV. We'll get into the details of actually installing it later, in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting.

Size constraints

Whatever else you look for in a TV, it has to fit your cabinet. Obviously that means it can't be bigger than the available space. Most people want a TV that's as big as possible within that constraint, to minimize any "dead space" not covered by the TV image.
There are two ways to approach this problem of finding the ideal fit:
Most people go with the first approach, because they've already decided to use the standard dimensions of a real pinball machine. Using standard dimensions is important if you want it to look authentic, since the real machines all come in about the same size and have recognizable proportions. Building to a standard size also lets you use off-the-shelf pinball parts for your cabinet hardware (lockdown bar, side rails, legs, and so on), which is another key part of making it look authentic.
Not everyone feels compelled to use standard dimensions, though. If you're doing your own woodworking, you can tailor the machine's dimensions for a custom fit to any TV of your choosing. This gives you more flexibility in picking out a TV. The tradeoff is that a non-standard size and proportions can harm the illusion that it's a real machine. You'll also need to buy custom parts for some of the cabinet hardware, since off-the-shelf parts are sized to fit the standard cabinet widths and lengths. Custom parts are almost always more expensive than standard parts and can be harder to find.
In either case, whether you're picking a TV to fit your cabinet or sizing your cabinet to fit a TV, the dimensions that matter are the inside width of the cabinet and the exterior height of the TV. You're going to turn the TV sideways to mimic the layout of a pinball playfield, so the height of the TV has to fit across the width of the cabinet.
Note that the width of the TV isn't a constraint in most cases. Normal pinball playfields are considerably more elongated than 16:9 TVs, so any TV that fits into the available cabinet width will easily fit front-to-back, with room to spare.

Leftover front-to-back space

As mentioned above, a 16:9 TV will fit front-to-back in a normally proportioned cab with room to spare, meaning there will be some extra space that the TV doesn't fill. Assuming you find a TV that's nearly as big as possible for the cabinet width, the extra space will amount to about 6" in a standard body cabinet, and about 7" in a widebody.
Some people are bothered by that leftover space, and some aren't.
Before you decide that it's a problem, consider that you can put the space to good use. If you're using a plunger, it will jut into the front of the cabinet by about 3", which might necessitate moving the TV back that far. You can fill the gap that creates with an "apron", similar to on a real pinball machine, with an instruction card and price sheet. A 3" apron at the front still leaves 3" to 4" at the back. This is an ideal place to put a row of flasher domes, for bright lighting effects during play.
Some new cab builders get very fixated on the idea of covering every available millimeter with video display, and especially hate the idea of any extra space at the front. They insist on having the TV start exactly zero millimeters from the lockbar. I understand this instinct; I had the same thoughts myself when I was first building my cab and discovered the space conflict between plunger and TV. I ultimately decided that the plunger was important enough to justify the space at the front. Once I had everything assembled, I found that it makes absolutely no difference when playing to have the TV set back a few inches. If you think about it, you'll see why: your brain pays attention to the parts of the visual field where the action is taking place, and essentially makes you blind to the rest. It's the same effect as when you're watching a movie: you really don't see the curtains around the screen, you just see what's on the screen. A few inches of "curtains" in the form of an apron won't even register visually during play.
If you're still absolutely certain you can't live with any leftover space front-to-back, there are a couple of options for eliminating it:

Picking a TV based on cabinet size

If you're basing your design on a pre-determined cabinet size, you need to pick a TV that fits the cabinet.
TV sizes are always stated in terms of the "diagonal" size, which is the distance between diagonal corners on the display area. However, recall that the relevant dimension for fitting to a pin cab is the TV's height. How do you translate between height and diagonal size? You can get a rough approximation using this formula:
D = 2.04 × (W − 1)
W is the inside width of the cabinet in inches (the distance between the inside surfaces of the cabinet side walls), and D is the nominal diagonal size in inches of the biggest TV that will fit. This formula assumes a ½" bezel all around.
But that's only an approximation, because manufacturers always round the diagonal size up, and because the the size of the bezel varies from model to model. So use the formula as a guideline, not as an exact specification. Shop for TVs with a stated diagonal size within an inch (plus or minus) of the size you get out of the formula. Then check each TV's specifications to get its actual height.
When you're looking at the TV specs, the one to pay attention to is usually called "height without stand". Most flat-screen TVs come with a stand that you can choose to attach or not. In our case, we won't need it, since we're going to lay the TV on its back rather than stand it up on a tabletop.
Applying the formula, we get the following results for the standard cab dimensions:
TypeCab inside widthMax. TV size (diagonal)
Standard body20.5"39.8"
Wide body23.25"45.4"
So if you're building a standard body cab, you should be able to fit most 39" TVs, and possibly a 40" TV, if it has a narrow enough bezel. For a widebody, you can fit about a 45" TV.

Building a cab around the TV

If you're willing to customize your cab dimensions to fit your TV, you're much less constrained in your TV options. You can go out and find the perfect TV first, then measure it and design your cabinet plans around the TV's dimensions.
I'd recommend adding ¼" to ½" to the exterior height you measure for the TV to get the cabinet inside width. This will give you a little extra room for getting the TV in and out of the cabinet.
Remember that the TV height determines the inside width of the cabinet, but most other dependencies are tied to the outside width. The width of your lockdown bar, front and back cabinet walls, and glass cover all depend on the outside width. If you're using standard ¾" plywood, the outside width will be 1.5" wider than the inside width.

Custom-width cabinet hardware

There are two main pieces of cabinet hardware that depend on the cabinet width: the lockdown bar and the glass cover.
You can buy a custom-made lockdown bar with a tailored width from VirtuaPin and others. Search for "custom lockdown bar". The prices on these are about twice the price of the standard lock bars, but it will let you create an authentic look for your custom cabinet.
You won't be able to find custom-width playfield glass from pinball vendors, but it should be easy to find locally from any window glass shop. Ask for 3/16" tempered glass. Window glass vendors should be able to cut this to any custom size for you. Alternatively, you can use acrylic (plexiglass), which you can buy in custom sizes from local vendors like TAP Plastics.

Squeezing in a too-big TV

The perennial question that new cab builders ask is: how do I cram in a TV that's slightly too big for my cabinet design?
Part of the reason this comes up so often is that you can't buy a TV in just any size. You can only buy a size they actually sell. It's unlikely that you'll find a TV for sale that's a perfect fit to any standard cabinet plans. So you have two options: (a) you can pick a TV that's slightly smaller than the ideal, which (being smaller) will easily fit, but which (being smaller) will leave an unsightly gap around the edges. Or (b) you can pick a TV that's slightly bigger than ideal, and find some "hack" to make it fit.
The other part of why this comes up so often is that most new cab builders hate option (a) and believe they won't be happy unless they find a way to cram in a too-big TV.
My advice is to suppress your knee-jerk reaction to option (a). When we were considering the related problem of the leftover front-to-back space earlier, I mentioned that you won't really notice the space while playing, because your brain tends to focus so much on the action and ignore the periphery. Well, the same thing applies to leftover space side-to-side. Despite what your instincts might tell you, it really won't make much of a difference during play if you leave a little blank space on each side of the screen. In fact, if you look closely at real pinball machines, you'll observe that they give up about half an inch on each side of the playfield for wood rails around the perimeter.
What you gain by going with the "next notch down" option is an easy fit, a simpler design, and the ability to maintain easy access to the cabinet interior after the TV is installed. I consider these to be important features.
Okay, I tried. I know some people just can't be convinced of this. So what if you have your heart set on a TV that's a little too big? Is there any way you can squeeze it in without redesigning the whole cab? Yes, there are some options.

De-case it

One approach is to "de-case" the TV - remove the outer plastic case and just use the internal LCD panel.
A few years ago, this was practically a standard practice among cab builders. At the time, the plastic cases were quite a lot larger than the panels inside, so the only way to get a reasonable fit was to take the cases off.
Times have changed, though, and most cab builders now leave their TVs intact. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that cases have shrunk to the point where they're practically no bigger than the panels inside, so de-casing doesn't offer a meaningful size reduction. The other is that many newer TVs simply can't be de-cased without damage. The way manufacturers have managed to make modern cases so svelte is that they've removed the internal supports that made older models bulkier. That means the cases themselves now have to serve as exoskeletons that hold everything together. There's a big risk of cracking the delicate glass panel that holds the LCD elements if you remove the structural support provided by the case.
I'd advise against de-casing for any newer set. If you want to attempt it despite the risk, I'd try to get advice first from someone who's disassembled the same model. The pin cab community is small enough that you probably won't find anyone there, so you might try casting a wider net. For example, perhaps look for someone who's successfully repaired the type of TV you have.

Route grooves for the TV

Another way to make a slightly-too-big TV fit is to make the cabinet a little wider on the inside, but only where the TV goes, by routing out grooves in the side walls wide enough for the TV. Here's how this might look:
I'm not a big fan of this approach for two reasons. First, it weakens the side walls. Second, it makes it much more difficult to remove the TV if you want to access the inside of the cabinet for repairs or upgrades. I see easy access to the interior as a top priority. If you use routed grooves, you'd have to remove either the front wall or the back wall of the cabinet to take out the TV, and to do that you'd have to take off the legs. That's enough to make me rule out this approach if it were my own cab.
A similar alternative is to route out grooves like this all the way to the top of the side walls. That would at least let you remove the TV from the top, but it would weaken the walls even more than simple grooves.
Despite my strong reservations, routed grooves like this are fairly popular among cab builders. But the tradeoffs are too onerous for me to recommend this approach.

Use thinner plywood

Rather than routing grooves, you could simply use thinner plywood for the walls. That would increase the inside width without changing the exterior dimensions. You'd still be able to use off-the-shelf hardware (like the lockbar), since that's all sized according to the exterior width.
One downside of this approach is that the cabinet would obviously be a little less sturdy. But that's probably okay for home use, since your cab won't have to stand up to the punishment a public arcade machine receives. The other downside, probably more important, is that flipper buttons and some other parts are sized for the plywood width, so you'll have some ill-fitting parts to deal with.
Also, keep in mind that you'll have to make adjustments to the carpentry if your plans call for miter joints or the like. Joint dimensions will depend on the plywood width.

TV features and performance

So far, we've been focused exclusively on picking the right size of TV. But that's hardly the only criterion. You also want a TV that displays a good image, and one that works well for games, which have somewhat different characteristics from ordinary video sources.
Let's look at some of the specific features to consider, and the performance metrics you should pay attention to.

1080p vs 4K vs 8K

1080p HD TVs were the standard for pin cab playfields for a long time, largely because that was the highest resolution we could get in this size range. Starting around 2017, though, the industry starting moving towards the "Ultra HD" standard, also known as "4K". And in mid 2019, an even newer generation known as "8K" has started to become available.
The difference between 1080p, 4K, and 8K is pixel resolution. In other words, the pixels on 4K sets are smaller than on 1080p sets, and the pixels on 8K sets are smaller still. A 4K set has four times the number of pixels per unit area as 1080p, and 8K has four times the pixels per unit area as 4K. The smaller the pixels are, the harder it is for the eye to discern individual pixels; smaller pixels blend together better to make a more realistic image.
Higher pixel resolution comes at a cost in performance, though (in addition to the higher dollar cost). More pixels means more work for the PC. The PC has to fill in every pixel on the display on every video frame, so the larger number of pixels means the PC has to do more computation on every frame. If you use a 4K TV, you'll need a more powerful CPU and graphics card to keep up with the higher computational load. So if you want to use 4K, you'll need a more powerful and thus more expensive computer rig. 8K likewise requires a more powerful computer than 4K.


If I were building a new cab right now, I'd go with 4K for the playfield TV. It's well supported by the operating system and pinball software, and the price premium for a 4K TV over a 1080p TV isn't that large. You will have to spend more for a 4K-capable video card, but even that is entering the mainstream, and enough options are available that the price doesn't have to go into the stratosphere.
I wouldn't go as far as 8K right now, though. It's much more expensive than 4K right now, and I'm skeptical that it will even make much of a visible difference in a pin cab application, since at this viewing distance, 4K is already approaching the limits of the human retina's ability to resolve pixels. (Although I'm sure some people will be able to see the difference.)
Finally, on the off chance you come across a 720p set, skip it. 720p used to be common in this size range; it's almost extinct at these sizes now, but you might still see a few on sale. They're cheap, but they're really not suitable for the playfield. 720p simply isn't adequate resolution for the viewing distance of a playfield TV. (720p is generally just fine for a backglass TV, though. That's a smaller TV at a greater distance, and the graphics it displays aren't as demanding.)


There are currently two main display technologies available: LCD and OLED. There's also an older flat-panel technology called plasma that's not currently being manufactured, but you might still see used sets or remainders available. Here's a brief overview of each panel type.
LCD: This is currently the most common display type. An LCD panel uses liquid crystal pixels that can range between (almost) opaque and (almost) transparent. A backlight is placed behind these pixels. When the liquid crystal turns opaque, it looks black (or at least dark gray) because it's blocking the light from the backlight. When it turns transparent, it looks white because it lets (most of) the light from backlight through.
LED: This is really the same thing as an LCD TV, but it uses an LED-based backlight instead of the fluorescent backlights used on older LCD TVs. "LED" is a marketing term that the manufacturers use as an intentional bit of misdirection, because they know that consumers think of LCDs as an older, boring technology. But an LED TV actually is an LCD TV by a different name.
QLED: This is yet another marketing term for an LCD TV. In this case, it's an LCD panel with a special type of LED backlight called a QLED or quantum-dot LED. Quantum sounds even more cutting-edge than LED, doesn't it?
All of these LCD TV types, whether the manufacturers call them LCD, LED, or QLED, are fundamentally the same backlight-and-shutter design. The fundamental weakness shared by all LCD panels is that the shutters can't turn 100% opaque, so they can't display true blacks, just varying shades of dark gray. Some panels are better at this than others, and it's one of the big quality differentiators among LCD models. LCD panels also have inherent limits on viewing angle because of the way light has to be funneled through the shutters. Again, some models are better at this than others.
The backlight type does make some difference. LED backlights generally produce better color fidelity than fluorescent tubes did, and they use less power and run cooler. All of that is great for a pin cab, so if you're considering an LCD TV, I'd definitely give priority to the LED models. But you'll hardly have to even think about that since practically all of the TVs in this size use LED backlights. QLED backlights supposedly have even better color fidelity than regular LEDs, according to the manufacturer's claims, but I haven't seen any independent testing confirming this.
OLED: This is a truly is a different display type, not just a variation on the LCD. An OLED panel is an array of small "organic LED" pixels, each of which can be turned on or off individually. There's no backlight, since the OLED pixels emit their own light directly. ("Organic" doesn't mean that they grow them without antibiotics and pesticides, but rather refers to the chemical components making up the emitter.)
On paper, OLED has big advantages over LCD. Producing light at the pixels rather than blocking light with a shutter allows for true blacks, which makes for higher contrast and better-looking images. Emitting light directly at the display surface (rather than blocking light from a backlight) allows for unlimited viewing angle. However, OLED is still a relatively immature technology, and reviews of current models are mixed. There are several potential drawbacks. The first is brightness: current OLED models are only about half as bright as LED-backlit LCDs. The second is display lag. Console gamers have reported substantial lag in many available OLED sets. A third is "burn in", where pixels get "stuck" if a static picture (like a pinball playfield!) stays on the screen for too long at a time. Early OLED models also had problems with pixel lifetime, which was particularly problematic in that the color components in the pixel can degrade over time at different rates, causing the color balance to change as the panel ages. Newer OLED panels will probably have better longevity and color stability, but I'm not sure the problem has been completely solved yet. In any case, don't dismiss OLED because of these concerns. These are just things you should dig into when you're researching models. These concerns might disappear entirely over the next few model years as the technology matures.
Plasma: There used to be yet another display technology known as plasma. These used gases trapped in tiny glass cells to generate light. As in an OLED, the individual pixels emitted light (rather than blocking light like in an LCD), so plasmas had many of the same virtues as OLEDs. But they were never as popular with consumers as LCDs, and never as cheap to manufacture, so the electronics companies eventually all stopped making them (the last ones were built around 2015). Plasmas generally had excellent picture quality, but they had a couple of drawbacks for virtual pin cab use. For one, they generated a lot of heat; for another, their glass panels were fragile and not meant to support their own weight when laid on their backs, as we need to do in a pin cab. I'd avoid them for pin cabs as a result. But it's really moot now given that you can't buy them anyway.
Recommendations: Most of your options in our size range will be LED-backlit LCD TVs. Fortunately, that also happens to be an excellent choice for our needs. It's a mature technology that the TV manufacturers have gotten very good at building, so many excellent TVs in our size range are available.
I'd also consider OLED if you can find a suitable model. I think OLED will eventually be a superior option, because the light-emitting pixels are inherently superior to the shutter-based LCD design for producing high contrast and for wide viewing angle. However, there aren't many OLED models available yet, so your options will be limited. They're also more expensive, and the technology might not be mature enough yet to be an ideal fit for gaming. Be sure to look carefully at the concerns mentioned above relating to OLED, particularly display lag and image retention. If you find an OLED you like, do some research on the Web to see if any console gamers have experience with it, since console gaming places the same demands on a TV as virtual pinball.

Flat vs. curved screens

It almost goes without saying, but a pinball playfield is best simulated with a flat-screen display.
This is generally an easy requirement to fill with current TVs, since most LCD and OLED models have perfectly flat screens. But some models are now available with a convex curvature across the width of the panel. This is supposed to give you a wrap-around effect like in a large-format movie theater. Some people like the effect, others see it as little more than a sales gimmick. Whatever your feelings about it for a living room TV, though, I'd recommend against it for a virtual pinball playfield TV. A playfield TV is oriented in portrait mode, which defeats the purpose any wrap-around effect. The curvature will only serve to distort the geometry of the image.

Input lag

One of the really important differences between video gaming and regular TV viewing is that gaming is interactive. The animation on the screen responds to actions you take in the game. This exposes an element of TV performance that's not noticeable in normal passive viewing: "input lag". This is the amount of time that passes between the TV receiving the electronic signal for a video frame, and the video frame actually appearing optically on the display panel.
Input lag is important (in a bad way) to video gaming because it creates a time gap between when you press a button and when the resulting action appears on screen. If the time gap is long enough for you to perceive, it makes the gaming action feel leaden and unresponsive. You want the flipper to flip the instant you press the button, not a couple of seconds later after the ball has already rolled off the end!
Don't confuse input lag with "refresh rate", "response time", or "pixel cycle time". The refresh rate refers to how many times per second the TV draws a video frame. The response time or pixel cycle time refers to how quickly a physical pixel can change color. These times are important in their own right, because they affect how smooth motion looks on the display. But they're entirely different things unrelated to input lag.

Where to find input lag numbers

I've never seen a manufacturer list input lag in their spec sheets, so you have to dig a bit to find information on it. Manufacturers do often quote pixel cycle times, response times, and/or refresh times, but remember that input lag isn't in any way related to those.
Your best bet for finding concrete data on input lag is console gaming Web sites, since console gamers use regular TVs like we do. One good site is They measure input lag with special equipment and post the numbers on their site. They have a large database of current models that they update regularly.

What's an acceptable input lag?

Short answer: 40ms or less.
You don't need a TV with zero input lag, and it's impossible to find such a thing anyway. As long as the actual lag time is below a certain threshold, you won't be able to perceive any lag time at all, so anything below that threshold might as well be zero.
Human time perception varies according to context, but for video gaming, the main thing that matters is action/reaction timing. An action/reaction sequence is something like this: You push a button. A light appears on screen. Did the light appear exactly when you pushed the button, slightly before, or slightly after? When researchers do this experiment, they find that time gaps of up to about 50ms are perceived as exactly simultaneous. In other words, humans can't tell the difference between truly simultaneous and about a 50ms delay. It's not a matter of how smart you are or how closely you're paying attention; it's simply a fact of human nervous system physiology. Our neurons can only move signals so quickly, and as a result our brains perceive events that are very close together in time as though they were perfectly simultaneous.
This doesn't mean a TV with a 50ms input lag time is automatically good enough. You don't perceive the TV's lag time in isolation, but rather in combination with all of the other sources of latency in the overall system: delays from the key encoder device, the USB connection, the Windows video drivers, the pinball software itself. The latency from these other components varies, but in a well-tuned system it might add up to around 10 to 20ms. So that leaves us with 30 to 40ms to work with for the TV.

What causes input lag?

Input lag is caused by the internal digital processing that the TV does to the image before realizing it on the display. Most of this is processing that enhances the picture in some way: resolution up-scaling, frame interpolation, sharpness enhancement, noise reduction, motion smoothing. Modern TVs all do these enhancements digitally, by putting the pixels into a memory buffer inside the TV and running some software algorithms over the pixels. The software processing takes time, just like on a PC, and that processing time is what causes the lag.
Note that input lag has nothing to do with the physical pixels, so you can't guess anything about input lag based on what type of panel technology the TV uses. LCD, LED, OLED, plasma - none of those are inherently faster or slower in terms of input lag. It's purely a function of the digital image processing going on inside the TV.

How can you minimize input lag?

The best way to minimize input lag is to buy a TV with low input lag. You can't generally find this information on manufacturer spec sheets, but you can check gamer Web sites like As described above, you don't need a TV with zero input lag (such a thing doesn't exist), you just need a TV with input lag low enough to be imperceptible. I'd use a threshold of 30ms to 40ms, and rule out sets with much higher lag times.
Definitely stay away from sets with unusually high lag times. Some TVs currently on the market have lag times above 100ms, which will be maddeningly obvious during game play.
Even if your TV has great lag time numbers on paper, you'll still need to adjust its menu settings to get the best performance out of it. Even the fastest TVs can have bad lag times when all of their picture enhancement modes are enabled, and all of those modes are usually enabled by default when you first take your new TV out of the box. Every TV has its own menu settings that affect lag in different ways, so you might need to do a little Web research or experimentation, but here are a couple of rules of thumb applicable to most TVs:

Effect of connector types on lag

In some cases, you might see different lag times with different connector types. Most newer TVs use HDMI connectors exclusively, so you might not have any other options. But if your TV has a mix of connector types (HDMI, DVI-D, DP), and you can't eliminate lag via mode settings, you might try different connector types to see if one type is better than the others.
There's nothing inherently good or bad about any of the connector types that affects input lag, so don't look for a rule like "DVI-D is fastest". Any such claims you see on the Web would only apply to a particular TV model, if they're even true. The only reason connectors would have any effect is that the internal electronics in some TVs have a faster path for some connectors than others.

Picture quality

This is probably the easiest metric to find opinions on, since everyone buying a TV for any use cares about it. You can simply look at user reviews on Web stores that sell the TV to get an idea of what people think of different models. For professional reviews, you can check Web sites and magazines that specialize in consumer electronics.
Basic video picture quality is generally excellent for most newer TVs, so user reviews are more useful for ruling out the occasional problem model than for distinguishing among the best models.

Viewing angle

Some types of displays produce a better image when viewed head-on than when viewed at an angle. LCD panels tend to have this property. Viewing from a steep angle can make the picture look dimmer, washed out, or uneven.
The position of the playfield TV is in a full-sized cabinet creates an off-axis viewing angle of about 50° to 60°, depending on the height of the player, so it's important to find a TV that maintains its image quality when viewed from that kind of angle.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer claims for viewing angles in the specifications aren't usually helpful, because they only tell you the range where you can see any image at all. In fact, they usually quote the viewing angle as 180°, which is just the maximum for viewing a planar surface. We're really interested in the range of angles where the picture quality holds up without significant loss of brightness or uniformity. The best way to check is to look at the set in person and specifically try viewing it from about 60° off axis.
If you can't check your candidate models in person, you can at least check user reviews for any red flags about viewing angle. Viewing angles are generally excellent in newer 1080p and 4K LCD panels, and people have come to expect this, so other buyers will probably have noticed if a model has any problems with this.
Note that viewing angle is almost never an issue with OLED or plasma displays. These technologies have their light emitters located directly at the surface of the display, which makes them viewable from any angle.

Motion artifacts

Some TVs are better than others at displaying moving objects realistically. Pinball simulation obviously involves a bunch of rapidly moving objects, so motion rendering is an important element of the overall picture quality in a pin cab TV.
When a TV doesn't handle motion well, you'll perceive effects known as motion artifacts:
It's commonly understood that the "pixel refresh time", also known as "response time", tells you how well a TV renders motion. Yes and no; the refresh rate is important, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Don't get too attached to the idea that you can just look for a TV with the fastest pixel update speed and call it a day. One problem is that there's no standard way to measure these values, so manufacturers can pick whatever measurement is the most favorable; this makes it fairly meaningless to compare the numbers for different models. The other issue is that the apparent smoothness of motion depends on other factors besides the pixel response time. It's more complex than that because motion perception happens in the human visual system, not in the TV. Motion artifacts like those listed above are caused by the interactions between your visual system and the display technology. Faster refresh rates generally reduce these artifacts, but other factors contribute to the artifacts as well, so refresh rate isn't a perfect proxy for motion rendering quality.
The best way to determine a TV's motion handling is (as always) to view it in person with suitable content. If possible, watch the TV in action playing a pinball video game, or some other video game with small moving objects against a fixed background. If that's not possible, try ESPN - sports tend to have a lot of motion of the right sort.
If you can't check the TV in person and you can't find another pin cab builder using the same TV, try user reviews on Web stores. Motion rendering is important to regular TV viewers, especially sports fans, so you should at least be able to check for complaints about particular motion artifacts or problems.

Image retention

Some TVs suffer from a problem known as image retention, or "pixel burn-in", where pixels get "stuck" if you leave a static image on the screen for too long. This leaves a sort of ghost image stuck on the screen. This was a major problem in the ancient days of CRTs. This is, in fact, why they invented "screen saver" programs. The job of the screen saver is to keep varying the image displayed so that no one pixel will ever be held on at the same color for long periods.
Image retention has always been a concern for gamers because many video games have portions of the image that are fairly static for long periods. For example, console games often have score displays and on-screen controls that are always in the same place. Pinball is even worse in that most of the playfield just sits there motionless most of the time.
Fortunately, image retention is practically non-existent for LCD panels. If you're considering an LCD TV (whatever the backlight type - LED, QLED, fluorescent), you'll probably be immune from any concerns about pixel burn-in.
OLED sets are a different matter. Some OLED TVs are reportedly affected by image retention. If you're looking at an OLED model, look for reviews from console gamers to see if anyone has had problems with image retention on that model.

8. Selecting a Backbox TV

Most virtual cabs use a TV to simulate the backglass artwork of the real pinball machines. The backglass art is a distinctive and universal feature of pinball, and an important part of the aesthetic, so it's a must for most cab builders to replicate it in our virtual systems. It also serves a practical purpose, in that it's where many games display the score.
This chapter will try to help you design your backbox layout and pick a TV for it. We're just in the planning stages here; we'll get into the details of actually installing everything in Chapter 30, Backbox TV Mounting.

Choosing the right backbox TV

If you've just gone through the Chapter 7, Selecting a Playfield TV chapter, you're probably exhausted from thinking about all of the complex technical criteria that go into picking the right TV for your main cabinet. Fortunately, the backbox TV is a lot less demanding in terms of tech specs.
Really, the only important factor in choosing a backbox TV is size. You have to pick a TV that will fit in your backbox and fill the space it's supposed to cover. Most of the rest of this chapter is devoted to helping you decide what type of backbox layout you'd prefer, and to helping you determine the right TV size for your selected layout.
You can mostly ignore the rest of the technical factors that are so important to the playfield TV. The backglass area isn't part of the physical action in a real pinball machine, with the exception of a handful of tables with extremely novel designs, and even for those it's only a very small part of the action. For most games, it's mostly decorative, and shows mostly static images. So it's not all that important to find a TV with fast motion rendering or low input lag.
You don't even need a very high res monitor. Most people find that a 720p TV is perfectly fine for the backbox TV. The backglass artwork from real pinballs is mostly hand-painted graphics, and that kind of source material tends to look good even on lower resolution displays. The main picture quality features I'd look for are good black levels and color accuracy; those are more important than pixel resolution for cartoon graphics. Also consider viewing angle, so that the image doesn't fade too much when you're standing off to the side.

Virtual backglass options

There are two very different ways that you can set up your cab's backglass TV. Before you start picking out a TV, you should decide on one of these configurations, since it will determine the TV size you need.
The two options are commonly known as the two-monitor and three-monitor configurations.
The three-monitor setup mimics the physical layout of real pinballs made from about the mid 1980s. That's when the real machines started using a "speaker panel", a separate section at the bottom of the backbox containing the score display and speakers. Nearly all pinballs made after about 1984 used this arrangement.
For virtual pinball, this is called the "three-monitor" setup because it means you'll have a total of three video displays in your cabinet: the main one for the playfield, the TV in the backglass area, and a small monitor in the "DMD" (dot matrix display) area. The third monitor can be a small TV or laptop display, or it can be an actual pinball score display device just like the real 1990s machines used.
Most virtual cab builders creating full-sized cabinets use the three-monitor setup. It provides the most realistic rendition of modern games that had speaker panels in the real machine, and it also gives you a good place to put the audio speakers (which is one of the big reasons the real machines adopted this design in the first place).
The two-monitor setup dispenses with the speaker panel and uses a single large monitor to fill the whole backbox.
The advantage of the two-monitor design is flexibility. Classic tables from the 1960s and 1970s had larger backglasses that filled the entire backbox area, and the full-size monitor lets you display these older backglasses more realistically. A three-monitor setup has to squeeze the older, taller backglasses into a shorter area, which can distort the artwork. And you can still play modern games that had speaker panels originally, since the software can display a graphic rendition of the speaker panel on the screen.
Two-monitor setups are less common in full-sized virtual cabs, but you might be drawn to this design if you're especially fond of older tables from the "EM" (electro-mechanical) era. The artwork on those older tables can't be displayed as nicely on a three-monitor setup.
To help you decide, let's look at how various generations of real machines configured their backboxes.

Backglass styles through the years

Early pinballs displayed the score by lighting up individual point counter lights on the backglass. Pinballs in the 1960s and early 70s used mechanical score reels, which were positioned in little windows in the backglass art. These changed to 7-segment digital displays (similar to early pocket calculator displays) in the mid 70s, but they kept the same basic layout, with the digital displays positioned in the same little windows in the artwork that the mechanical reels had occupied.
Examples of pinball score display styles through the ages: point value lights (1940s-50s); mechanical reels (1960s); 7-segment digital displays (1970s-80s); dot matrix displays (1990s)
The biggest change came in the late 1980s, when Williams split the backbox between the glass artwork and a separate speaker/display panel. This arrangement had some major advantages, so it quickly became the standard. For one thing, it provided a good place for speakers. Pinball makers were doing everything they could to keep up with the competition from video games, and part of that was replacing the old bells and chimes from the electro-mechanical days with digital sound effects. Hiding the speakers inside the cabinet didn't make for very good acoustics, so Williams decided to dedicate some of the backbox area to speaker grilles. That meant sacrificing some of the artwork area.
Early examples of the split design with separate backglass and speaker/display panel (1987). The lower panel is a separate piece that contains the score displays and a pair of speakers. These early games used 14-segment alphanumeric displays; later games used a single large 128x32 dot matrix display.

The three-monitor configuration in detail

Most people building full-sized cabs opt for the three-monitor setup. Part of the reason is practical. It's easier to make everything fit, it gives you a good place for the speakers, and it's easier to find a suitably sized TV. The other part is the aesthetics: it looks more like a real machine from the modern era.
You'll probably gravitate towards this design if you're generally more interested in modern tables than classics from the 1970s or earlier. This is also the most straightforward design if you plan to use a dedicated dot matrix display (DMD) device, since it replicates the setup of the real pinball machines that used those devices. It would be possible to fit a DMD somewhere else if you really wanted to, but the main motivation most people have for using a real DMD in the first place is to make the cab look more authentic, so unconventional placement would somewhat defeat the purpose.
Standard three-monitor setup, with TV for backglass and separate display for DMD area. The third display can be a small TV or laptop display panel, or it can be a real pinball DMD device. The clear glass or acrylic cover in the shape of a standard translite is optional; it's there to better replicate the appearance of a real machine, and to help hide the edges of the TV, which won't quite perfectly fill the space.
A 16:9 TV is a close (but not perfect) match to the standard proportions for modern translites. It leaves just a little extra space above and below.
The three-monitor setup is great for reproducing the backglass art for modern machines that had the speaker panel setup in real life. It's not as good for older machines without speaker panels, since their backglass art was almost square. Displaying square artwork on a 16:9 TV requires a vertical squeeze to make it fit. This distorts the geometry a bit, as illustrated below.
Original proportions of classic backbox artwork (left); squeezing it onto a 16:9 monitor (right)
As you can see, full-height artwork is a little distorted by the vertical squeeze. I'm personally not too bothered by it on my own three-monitor setup, but then again I mostly play newer tables. If you play a lot of older games and you think the distortion would really bother you, you might consider the two-monitor option described later in the chapter.

Sizing the TV

The standard size of a modern backbox is about 27" by 27" on the inside. This leaves room side-to-side for about a 30" widescreen TV. Unfortunately, it's not possible (currently) to buy a 30" TV. The closest options I've seen are 28" and 29". If you can find a 30", it should be a perfect fit, but failing that you should look for a 29" or 28".
The next size up is 32", but this is too wide for a standard backbox. (You can't even fit a 32" with kludges like thinner side walls or routed slots in the side walls, since most 32" TVs are a hair wider than the outside dimensions of a standard backbox.) The only way to make a 32" fit is to build a custom backbox that's about two inches wider than standard. For some cab builders, it's worth doing this to get a perfect fit to a common TV size. If you go this route, keep in mind that you'll also need to a custom speaker panel and translite to match the special width.
The proportions of the standard translite space are approximately 16:10 (width to height). That's very close to standard 16:9 TVs - just a hair taller. Some computer monitors come in 16:10 ratios, so you might check to see if you can find something like that in the 29" or 30" range, but it's unlikely. Fortunately, 16:9 is so close to the real aspect ratio that you don't have to worry about distorted geometry in the artwork. The only reason to prefer a 16:10 monitor is that it would more completely fill the available space.

Score panel options

The three-screen configuration obviously requires that third screen, in the score panel window in the speaker panel.
This third screen can be another video display, or it can be a dedicated DMD (dot matrix display) device like the ones used in the real machines from the 1990s. Furthermore, it can be exactly like the ones used in the 1990s - specifically, a certain type of monochrome plasma display, which is still being made - or it can be a similar device with the same pixel layout that uses LEDs instead of plasma.
We'll look at in detail in the next chapter, Chapter 9, Selecting a DMD Device.

The two-monitor configuration in detail

So far, we've only looked at the "three-monitor" setup. Way back at the top of the chapter, we said that there was another option, without the speaker panel, where you use one large TV to fill the entire backbox space. This is known as the "two-monitor" configuration, because you end up with two TVs in your system (one for the main playfield, one for the backglass). Let's finally take a look at this alternative.
This is arguably the more flexible option, although it's also the more difficult of the two to set up. It's more flexible because it does a better job at reproducing older machines with full-height backglasses at the correct proportions, but it doesn't leave out the newer machines either, since it can show a newer machine's speaker panel "virtually" with on-screen graphics. The virtual rendition of a speaker panel obviously can't look quite as realistic as an actual speaker panel, but it does the job. If you're a big fan of classic tables from the electromechanical era, where the backglass art filled the whole backbox space, you might be willing to live with the fake speaker panels on modern machines in exchange for proper artwork proportions on classic tables.
But there are some major drawbacks. One is that it doesn't leave room for speakers. The real pinball makers adopted the separate panel design in part because it allowed the speakers to be exposed, which makes them sound better. You'll have to find another place for your speakers if you go the two-monitor route. You might be stuck (as the older real machines were) with placing the speakers somewhere inside the cabinet, which might somewhat reduce the audio quality.
The other big challenge is that it's impossible to buy a TV with exactly the right proportions to fit a backbox. The modern standard backbox is roughly square, about 27" wide by 27" tall (on the inside). Virtually all TVs and computer monitors sold today have 16:9 aspect, and the ones that don't are mostly even wider.
The solution that most two-screen cab builders use is to turn the TV sideways, so that the long dimension is vertical. This will make the TV too tall for the backbox, but you can cut an opening in the floor of the backbox and tuck part of the TV through the opening and into the main cabinet. This is illustrated below.
Typical two-monitor setup. The TV has to extend into the cabinet through the "neck" in order to fit vertically.
Proportions of the display in a two-monitor setup. The monitor can't fill the whole width of the backbox because it has to fit through the neck into the main cabinet.
You should be aware of a big drawback of this arrangement: you won't be able to fold the backbox down without removing the TV. On real pinball machines, the backbox is designed to fold down so that it lies flat on top of the cabinet, to allow for easier transportation. With the TV arranged like this, you'll have to take out the TV if you want to fold down the backbox. And you really should fold it down before transporting it, because there's a big risk of breaking something during transport with the backbox up, due to its weight and the leverage it has in that position.

TV size

Considering only the backbox inside width of 27", the ideal set would be about 53". But that won't work because of the need to tuck the end of the TV into the main cabinet. So your actual size constraint is the main cabinet width. This means that your maximum backbox TV size is exactly the same as your main playfield TV size. For a standard width cabinet (20.5" inside width), you can use a 39" or possibly a 40" TV; for a widebody cabinet (23.25" inside width), you can use a 45" TV.
This will leave some leftover space on either side of the TV if you use the standard modern backbox dimensions. You could simply fill this area with a black border or decorative graphics.
There's another alternative, though. If you're enough of a fan of older EM machines to want a two-monitor setup in the first place, I'd suggest adjusting your cabinet plans to use a narrower backbox to fit the monitor. This will actually make your whole cabinet better fit the classic theme, since narrower backboxes were common until about the early 1980s. For example, the classic Gottlieb "wedgehead" style of the 1960s had backboxes about the same width as the cabinets. A 39" TV will fit these backboxes perfectly.

9. Selecting a DMD Device

Most real pinball machines from the mid 1980s to present use a split backbox setup, with a backglass at the top showing the game's theme artwork, and a separate panel at the bottom containing a scoring display and the audio speakers.
Typical WPC backbox layout. The bottom 1/3 is the speaker panel, containing the audio speakers and a dot matrix display (DMD). Games made up until about 1995 used the style shown here, with silkscreened graphics on the front of the speaker panel. Later Williams games used a more generic black plastic panel without any graphics apart from a Williams or Bally logo. The upper 2/3 is the backglass, displaying backlit still artwork for the game.
The scoring window through the 1980s used segmented alphanumeric displays, but starting in the early 90s, they switched to a 128x32 pixel plasma dot matrix display, or DMD, that can display full graphics, albeit they were rather low-resolution, and in living monochrome.
Many virtual cab builders follow this design, replacing the backglass with a video monitor, and more or less replicating the speaker/DMD panel. This means that you need a separate display device in the DMD area, which is why this design is usually called the "three-screen" cabinet: you have one screen for the playfield, a second for the backglass, and a third for the DMD.
This section looks at the options for the third screen, to help you decide which type to use, and offers some pointers for buying the equipment you decide on.

Overview of DMD technologies

The DMDs in the original 1990s pinball machines were monochrome plasma displays, 128 pixels wide by 32 pixels high. That made for very large pixels that you could see individually. This visible "dot" structure, and the particular amber color of the plasma, gave the displays a distinctive appearance that many people now see as a defining feature of this generation of pinballs. To a lot of people, it doesn't feel like real pinball if it doesn't have the amber dots.
You can still buy the original plasma panels, and it's even possible to use them in a virtual cab (although, as of this writing, there are no commercial interface kits available to facilitate this). There are also newer display technologies that can be substituted into the score panel to achieve similar looks, with some modern improvements.
The first newer alternative is LED-based displays. LED displays are available with the same pixel pitch and layout as the original plasmas, so they can serve as close substitutes. LEDs don't perfectly replicate the nuances of plasma's visual effect, which has a sort of soft, analog, neon feel to it that some people find charming; LEDs are crisp and bright but can seem a little harsh in comparison. But LEDs definitely share some of the more important positive properties of plasma, particularly high brightness and wide viewing angle. LEDs are also cheaper than plasma and longer lasting, so collectors of the real machines often replace defunct plasmas with LED panels when repairs are needed. LEDs are also being used on many new titles being shipped today, so plasma is no longer the sole "original equipment" on real pinballs. Stern no longer ships new games with plasma displays at all; they switched to LED DMDs in 2013.
The original LED DMD panels were monochrome (available in a variety of colors, including something approximating the distinctive plasma amber), but panels are now widely available with RGB pixels, which can display full-color graphics.
The other newer alternative to plasma is to use an actual video display, typically an LCD panel. For a virtual cab, an LCD panel is easier to set up in terms of software, since it just looks like another video monitor as far as Windows is concerned. Pinball simulators will happily simulate the look of a plasma DMD on a video display by drawing large amber dots to simulate the 128x32 pixel structure. Of course, an LCD panel can't perfectly reproduce the brightness or viewing angle of a plasma, but it can at least do a passable impression of the appearance.
A 15" diagonal 16:9 LCD screen happens to fit the width of the standard DMD opening in the pinball speaker panels. It's a trifle taller than the standard panels overall, but since it sits behind the panel, that's not typically a problem, as it's hidden behind the translite, which sits directly on top of the speaker panel.


For a virtual cab, you can in principle use any of these technologies - an original plasma DMD, a monochrome LED DMD, a full-color RGB LED DMD, or a video display. (Although what you can actually buy right now is somewhat more limited.) The tradeoffs are complex, but it mostly comes down to your priorities:
When I first started on my virtual pin cab project, it almost went without saying that plasmas were the Cadillac of scoring displays, worth almost any amount of extra cost and extra trouble to set up. But I think this has completely changed in the short time since then, because the real pinball world has largely moved on to more modern technologies. These days, pinball machines you might see in public places use such a mix of dot matrix and video displays that both seem perfectly "real" now. Some of the newer Stern titles are shipping with DMD-sized video displays as original equipment, and Jersey Jack Pinball's entire line uses large video monitors in place of the DMD panel. You even see lots of classic 1990s machines retrofitted with full-color video displays, thanks to ColorDMD, a company that makes drop-in replacement displays for the old machines. So I expect that many cab builders starting new projects now and in the days to come will be less fixated than earlier cab builders were on the idea that the plasma DMDs were the only "real" pinball displays. There's definitely a nostalgic value to the old plasmas, but overall I've come to think that video is the best option.

Purchase options

At one point, it was possible to buy any of the display technologies mentioned above - plasma, monochrome LED, RGB LED, or video. But the buying options have become a lot narrower lately. The PinDMD v2 doesn't appear to be available any longer, and that was the only readily available way to hook up an original plasma display or a monochrome LED panel.
So at the moment, there are two options: video, or RGB LED.

LCD video panel

If you plan to use a video panel for the score display, the best fit is a 16:9 panel, approximately 15.5" diagonal. This is just about a perfect fit for the 13.6" width of the standard DMD opening in a speaker panel. A panel of that size is just barely taller (by about a centimeter) than the standard speaker panel's outside dimensions, but that's typically not a problem, because the excess height is easily behind the translite panel, assuming you're using one.
A few TVs are available in this size range, but I'd recommend against those. They tend to use low-quality LCD panels. The much better solution is to use a laptop display panel.
You can buy replacement laptop LCD panels in this size range on eBay or Amazon. These panels come bare, with no interface electronics, because they're sold for repair work where you only need to replace the panel and nothing else. This means that you have to buy a separate piece of electronics, called a video controller, that serves as the interface between the panel and the PC video card.
To find these parts, start by searching eBay for "15 wuxga". You should find a number of matches, usually listed as replacement parts for Dell, HP, Acer, and other laptop brands. You should narrow the list to panels that specify 1080p or, equivalently, WUXGA (1920x1080) resolution, and a screen size of 15.5 or 15.6 inches. The price range for these panels as of this writing is about $50 to $100. The matches you're looking for are just bare laptop display panels - an LCD screen in a thin metal shell. They'll look something like this:
Don't try to choose a specific panel yet; just keep the search results ready. The next step is to find a video controller that works with one of these panels. eBay doesn't provide any tools to help with this, so you'll have to do some manual searching. Open a new eBay search window. Go down your list of panels. For each one, find its model number in the listing and type it into the search window, adding "controller". For example, if you find a panel with model number LP156WH4T, type "LP156WH4T controller" into the search box. If you're lucky, that will turn up a few hits with the model number in the title. Be sure the model number is actually in the title or is explicitly mentioned in the listing as a compatible model. The controllers will usually look something like this:
If you don't have any luck, or you're not sure you found the right match, I'd recommend picking a panel that looks good and contacting the seller to ask which controller to use. The seller should be able to point you to the right device. Most of these panels use similar control interfaces, so you don't actually need a controller designed especially for your panel. Sellers list them for specific panels simply because they know people like us are searching for them that way! Technically, you just need a controller that matches the interface type on your panel, but the ads don't usually list enough information to find them that way, so a model number search is the only way to be sure.
Pay attention to connectors. Most of the interface boards will have a VGA input and either a DVI-D or HDMI input. If you've already picked out a graphics card for your cabinet PC, be careful to pick an interface board that has a connector matching an available output on your graphics card, taking into account the outputs you'll be using for your main playfield TV and backbox TV.
How do you know if a panel is good in terms of video quality, reliability, etc.? You're not going to find reviews (professional or user-written) for any of these OEM parts, so it's a bit of a crapshoot. Fortunately, laptop panels in this class have gotten to be good enough that you should be okay with anything that meets the specs. Do pay attention to the resolution, though: the WUXGA laptop displays seem to be uniformly good, but the lower res displays are uniformly bad.
One note on setting up your new panel: be aware that the control board might support more resolution modes and refresh rates than the panel itself does. Many of the modes that the controller allows you to select with the Windows control panel might simply not work with the panel or might produce poor-quality video. When you first set up the panel in Windows, make sure you select the screen size (resolution) and refresh rate that exactly match the panel's physical design. That might take some trial and error, since eBay OEM parts don't usually come with any documentation. If the display looks fuzzy or distorted, or doesn't show anything at all, try other refresh rates to see if you can find one that looks better.


If you decide on to use an RGB LED dot matrix display device, there are two ways to accomplish it: you can buy one commercially, or you can build one yourself using DIY plans that some pin cab enthusiasts developed and published.

RGB LED - commercial

VirtuaPin sells the PinDMD v3, a full-color (RGB), LED-based, 128x32 dot matrix display. The display panel has the same physical dimensions and dot pitch as the original plasma displays in the 1990s machines. It's about $270.
This is a turn-key commercial kit, so it's relatively plug-and-play. It uses a USB device to interface to the PC. It requires some software setup; instructions are included, and VirtuaPin offers warranty support.

RGB LED - semi-DIY

Pin2DMD is a DIY project for building an RGB DMD panel from parts. The site provides a parts list and assembly instructions, as well as software for a microcontroller to interface to the PC and run the display. The prices for the parts vary, but at a guess they'll total about $100.
Note the confusingly similar name: Pin2DMD is the DIY project, and PinDMD v3 is the commercial product above.
The Pin2DMD site includes software to install on a microcontroller board (one of the parts that goes into building the project) that interfaces with the PC and runs the display. However, note that the software is not open-source, and requires payment of a license fee.
The closed-source software makes me hesitate to recommend the project. It's supposedly "DIY", but given that you don't have any control over the software or any ability to change it to suit your needs, I think "DIY" is actually a negative in this case. You have to do the assembly yourself, you don't get any warranty support, and you don't even get any control over the final product. Open-source projects have the first two drawbacks, but they make up for it by giving you full control to customize and expand. You don't get that here; you just get the bad aspects of DIY and the lack of control of commercial products. But I guess you can at least save some money vs the retail version.

Plasma panels

Plasma doesn't appear to be an option at the moment. VirtuaPin formerly offered the "v2" PinDMD, which was a monochrome of the PinDMD v3 device mentioned above that worked with your choice of monochrome 128x32 LED panels or the original plasma panels used in the 1990s machines. But that product doesn't appear to be available anywhere as of this writing.
You can still buy the bare Vishay plasma panels from VirtuaPin, along with the special 80V/100V transformers needed to power their high-voltage sections, but VirtuaPin doesn't sell anything that would let you hook it up to a PC. I don't know of any other commercial or DIY options for connecting these.
If you're an experienced software developer with some hardware knowledge, you could design your own controller using one of the inexpensive ARM-based microcontroller boards, such as a Raspberry, BeagleBone, or one of the STM32F series boards. The software involved is actually very simple: you just need to consume USB packets from the PC and send out a clocked serial bit stream to the plasma device, 1 bit per pixel. The electronic interface is documented in the Vishay data sheets, and it will be immediately recognizable and straightforward to anyone who's done any device interface work with a microcontroller before. If you do create such a project, please publish it as open source, and let me know about it so I can include here.

Monochrome RGB panels

As with the plasma panels, you can buy monochrome RGB panels as components, but there's no software interface to the PC available. The panels are available from a few after-market pinball suppliers who sell them as drop-in replacements for dead plasma displays in real pinballs. Since they're specifically designed as drop-in replacements for the Vishay panels, their device interface is identical, so any solution you can find that will work with the Vishay panels will work equally well with these. As requested above, please let me know about any solution you develop or find for this and I'll add it here.

10. Cabinet Parts List

When I built my cabinet, one of the unexpectedly big jobs was just figuring out what I needed to buy. This chapter is an attempt to save you some of that legwork by presenting a master list of everything that goes into a virtual pinball machine. The list is organized into categories to make it easier to digest and easier to find things.
The list starts below after a few preliminary notes.

Pinball part references

Many of the items on the list are replacement parts for real pinball machines. When possible, these are listed with the original manufacturer part numbers. This makes it easy to find the exact part you're looking for, since most arcade suppliers include these numbers in their catalogs and databases. You can enter one of these numbers into the search box on most pinball vendor Web sites to find that exact part, without having to wade through a ton of hits for similar items, as is often the case if you search by name or description. Most of the part numbers are even unique enough to yield good results from a Google search.
The part numbers listed are mostly for Williams/Bally 1990s era machines, also known as WPC machines (for "Williams Pinball Controller", the core electronics platform used throughout that generation). Those machines had a very uniform cabinet design, and most of the core cabinet parts used a single design shared across many games. Williams is no longer in the pinball business (much to the regret of pinball enthusiasts), but the modern machines being made by Stern and a few smaller boutique pinball companies still hew very closely to the WPC cabinet design, and use most of the same parts, or equivalents that can be used interchangeably. As a result, it's easy to find new replacement parts for most of the WPC cabinet components, which makes the WPC hardware an excellent basis for building a new cabinet from scratch.

Bolt and nut sizes and types

Pinball machines use a lot of machine screws, in the form of hex bolts, carriage bolts, hex nuts, flange nuts, and T-nuts. All of these have several size specs, written in this order:
diameter-thread x length
For example:
#8-32 x 1" bolt = diameter #8, thread pitch 32, length 1"
The diameter is either in regular ruler units like inches or millimeters (and for WPC parts, it's almost always inches), or it's a "#N" designation, which refers to a standard US size scale for these parts. The most common sizes in a pinball context are #6, #8, ¼", and ⅜".
Every hardware manufacturer and hardware store uses these standard units to label their parts. #6 always means the same thing in a machine bolt or nut no matter where you buy it. However, if you see an "M" number, like M4 or M6, that's not the same thing. The "M" sizes are metric, and they're not compatible with the US "#" numbers. M6 and #6 are different sizes that can't be used interchangeably. (Confusingly, they look very close to the same size if you eyeball it, so don't go by looks alone when trying to find a match.)
For machine screws, the thread number is an important extra spec giving the thread pitch (the number of threads per inch). Nuts and bolts will only fit together if they have the same size and thread pitch; for example, a ⅜"-20 bolt won't fit into a ⅜"-32 nut, because the threads are spaced differently.
A few common types you'll see in the parts lists:

Cabinet variations

The WPC cabinets were basically all the same - Williams came up with a good design and stuck to it for many years. But there was one significant variation to be aware of: a number of titles, marketed as the "Superpin" games, had extra-wide bodies for the main cabinet, allowing a wider-than-normal playfield. All of extra-wide titles came in the same extra-wide size, so even taking these into account, there are still only two widths we need to concern ourselves with: the standard machines and the widebody machines. What's more, the only thing that's different about the widebody machines is the width of the main cabinet; the other dimensions (including the backbox dimensions) and all design elements are identical between the regular and widebody machines. As a result, the widebodies share all of the same hardware with the standard machines except for the main front-top metal trim piece, known as the lockdown bar, and of course the glass cover.
If you go back further in time, before the 1990s, the cabinets become increasingly different from WPC machines. You should be aware of this when you go shopping, particularly if you shop on eBay for used parts. If you're building from scratch to the WPC plans, you'll want to make sure that any used parts you buy are compatible with WPC cabinets.
By the same token, if you're refurbishing a used cabinet from the 1980s or before, check carefully when buying new replacement parts from arcade suppliers, because arcade suppliers mostly stock parts for 1990s machines. New parts probably won't fit a 1970s cabinet unless they're specifically listed as such. If you are trying to refurbish an old cabinet, one particularly good arcade vendor to try is Marco Specialties. They have an unusually deep catalog with parts for lots of older machines. Find the original operator's manual for the machine you're restoring, if possible, since that will usually include a detailed list of the machine's parts, with manufacturer part numbers that you can look up on pinball vendor Web sites to find the exact version. If you shop on eBay, it's harder to be sure of compatibility. Ideally, look for parts for the exact title you're refurbishing, but failing that, go by manufacturer and year; the pinball makers mostly re-used parts across their product lines for a few years at a time, so a part of the same vintage from the same manufacturer will usually fit.

Where to buy

Most of the parts in the master list are fairly standardized, interchangeable parts used in most WPC-era machines, and in most cases, used in 2000s machines from Stern, Jersey Jack, and others. Most of these parts are readily available on the Web from pinball parts vendors and arcade machine dealers. If you live in a major metro area, you might even be able to find a local arcade dealer who stocks some parts, although you'll probably still need to look to Web for the more obscure stuff.
Some of the vendors I've used:
Most of the generic hardware (nuts, bolts, screws) can also be found at hardware stores, Amazon, and eBay. Note that some of these are available in special finishes from the pinball vendors that you might not find at regular hardware stores (e.g., carriage bolts in black, chrome bolts for attaching the legs).
Custom-cut pieces of glass can be found locally almost anywhere from window glass stores. Check for local businesses that install and repair residential windows. Custom sizes of acrylic and other plastics can be found locally at plastics stores and some hardware stores. (If you're on the west coast, check for a local TAP Plastics.) You can also buy an uncut acrylic sheet from a hardware store and cut it to size yourself with a special plastic cutter knife, but that doesn't produce as clean a cut as you can get from a pro at a plastics store.

VirtuaPin part bundles

If you're building a cab from scratch, you can save some time on shopping (and possibly save money as well) by buying a pre-packaged parts bundle from VirtuaPin. You can find these on their Web site under "Bundle Deals". They offer two packages of particular interest to new cab builders:
Cab builder's kit: This includes most of the standard cabinet hardware items used on typical 1990s era machines (the "Williams WPC" style). The kit comes in standard-body and wide-body versions, so choose the one matching your cabinet plans. Parts included in these kits are marked in the lists below with
VP Cab Kit
I recommend this kit. It's cheaper than buying the same parts individually, and it gets you about 80% of the way to a complete cab in terms of the accessories. Everything in the kit is essential - there's nothing there you wouldn't have to buy anyway. The only downside is that it limits you to the standard chrome/stainless steel finishes for the cosmetic parts. That's exactly what most people want, since it's the standard look on most real machines. But some newer Stern machines have different finishes on the legs, side rails, and lockdown bar, such as powder-coat paint instead of chrome. Additionally, most newer Stern machines feature a "Fire" button in the center of the lockdown bar, which requires a different lockdown bar and receiver piece to accommodate the button. If you want to choose your own finishes (see "Custom finishes" below) or include a lockbar with a "Fire" button, you might be better off skipping the kit and buying everything à la carte, since you'll have to buy some of the most expensive parts separately anyway.
Button kit: This includes most of the buttons in a typical virtual cab. Items in the kit are marked in the lists below with
VP Button Kit
I'm ambivalent on this kit. It'll save you some time, but it's less of a bargain than the cab builder's kit because it includes some buttons you probably won't use. It also lacks some that you might want to add. If you don't mind doing the extra planning and shopping, I'd skip this kit and buy buttons individually.

Custom finishes

Most of the exterior metal trim - legs, side rails, lockdown bar - is available in multiple finishes. The parts available from any of the big pinball suppliers typically come in a single finish: chrome for the legs, brushed stainless steel for the side rails and lockbar, powder-coated black for the coin door. But you can also find most of the trim in custom finishes, such as chrome, brass, gold, or in various powder-coated paint colors.
The big vendors sometimes carry one or two alternative finishes for certain parts, but for anything beyond the basics, you'll probably need to look to smaller vendors selling "mods" to the collector market. The best bet to find them is a Web search: try "pinball side rail" (for example) plus the type of finish you're seeking.
You might also be able to find "raw" or "unfinished" options for some parts at the major vendors. For example, Pinball Life sells unfinished legs, side rails, and backbox hinges, specifically as a base for custom finishes. This is a great option if you have a specific idea in mind and can't find an off-the-shelf product matching it.
In addition, there are a few individuals and small companies offering re-finishing as a service: you ship your boring off-the-shelf parts to them, and they'll apply custom finishes to your specifications and ship them back to you. Pinball collectors are the main market for this type of service, so try sites like Pinside for leads.

Master parts list for a virtual pinball machine

Miscellaneous supplies
Wire: 22-24 AWG stranded
You'll use a surprising amount of wire to connect various parts of the machine together: buttons, lights, feedback devices. It's convenient to have a few spools of wire on hand throughout the build. You can use 22 or 24 gauge wire for practically everything, and it's cheaper (by the foot) to buy wire in large spools, so I'd pick one size and buy lots of it. If you're only installing buttons, 100ft should be adequate; if you're installing feedback devices, you'll probably want at least 200ft on hand. Buy several assorted insulation colors to make the wiring easier to trace.
Wire: 18 AWG stranged
You'll also need some thicker wire for some of the power wires and speaker wires. I recommend 18 AWG as a good general-purpose choice for these higher power wires. 50 to 100 feet should be adequate for most pin cabs. I'd start with two 25' spools, one with white insulation and one with black.
A good quality solder makes a surprising difference in the ease of work and the quality of your results. I really like Kester 44 rosin core solder. You can get it in 1oz tubes, but the 1lb rolls are a much better deal if you think you might do any significant amount of soldering in the future.
#6 wood screws, various lengths
I found that I used an amazing number of wood screws for all sorts of random tasks. The vast majority were #6 wood screws - these are the right size for all sorts of miscellaneous jobs. Keep an ample supply on hand so that you don't have to keep running to Home Depot. Recommendation: buy 100 #6 x ½", 100 in ¾", 100 in 1", 100 in ¾", and perhaps 25 1¼".
As with #6 screws, it's convenient to have a supply of various nails on hand. You'll mostly need finishing nails rather than anything heavy-duty. I mostly used 1" and ¾" brads, so I'd recommend buying a bunch of each.
Wood glue
If you're doing your own woodworking or building from a flat pack, you'll need a good wood glue for the joints. It's a good thing to have on hand for miscellaneous jobs even if you have a pre-assembled cab.
1 tube
Some things are easiest to assemble or attach with a strong glue. Get a two-component epoxy (the type with two tubes of goo that you mix together just before use). I don't recommend "superglues" (cyanoacrylate glues) for most cab uses.
1 tube
Cabinet wood shell
Hardwood plywood, ¾"
If you're doing your own woodworking from scratch, I recommend using a furniture-quality hardwood plywood for all of the cabinet pieces. This is what they used on the real machines. The ¾" thickness is important for making the accessories fit properly. Some people use particle board or melamine, which are cheaper, but I don't recommend them because they're not as durable and they're much heavier than plywood.
Flat pack kit
As an alternative to raw lumber, you can buy a pre-cut flat pack kit. VirtuaPin and others sell these. A flat pack has all of the cabinet pieces cut to size and ready to assemble.
Cabinet artwork
Most cab builders opt for decals printed with custom artwork. You can create your own artwork with a computer graphics program. Decals are popular because they can make your cab look just like a real machine - done properly, they make for a very professional finish. Some people prefer a simple black paint job or natural wood finish, and some go with stenciled paint decoration for a more vintage look (like machines from the 1960s or 1970s). See Chapter 22, Cabinet Art for ideas and resources.
Custom cabinet decal set
A set of decals covering the visible surfaces of the cabinet and backbox.
Translite decal
The backbox TV's display area will necessarily be smaller than the translite, so there will be some gaps around the edges. You can use decals to fill the gaps decoratively.
DMD panel decal
The real machines during the late 1980s and early 1990s had printed artwork filling the DMD panel. Some people use decals to get the same look. This is optional; the last machines of the WPC era mostly had plain black DMD panels, so you can still get an authentic look with a simple black paint job.
Main cabinet hardware
Side rails
WPC style: Williams/Bally A-12359-3, 01-8993-2
VP Cab Kit
Mounting tape for side rails
Double-sided foam tape, ¾" wide, .032" (approx) thick. This goes between the rails and the side of the cabinet. About 80" length required.
80 inches
#8-32 x 1¼" carriage bolts
For attaching the side rails
#8-32 hex lock nut
These go with the carriage bolts for attaching the side rails
Lockdown bar
  • WPC Standard: Williams/Bally D-12615, A-18240
  • WPC Widebody: Williams/Bally A-16055, A-17996
  • WPC Custom width: available from VirtuaPin and others
  • Stern standard width with center "FIRE" button: search for "premium lockbar"
VP Cab Kit
Lockdown bar receiver
  • WPC (standard, widebody, or custom): Williams/Bally part A-16673-1, A-9174-4
  • Stern lockbar with center "FIRE" button: Stern 500-7237-00
Important: This part mates with the lockdown bar, so make sure you choose a receiver that matches the type of lockdown bar you have. The Williams WPC receiver is the same for standard, widebody, and custom widths of WPC lockbars. For other brands, check the vendor site for the compatible receiver after you select a lockbar.
VP Cab Kit
Leg brackets
Williams/Bally 01-11400-1
VP Cab Kit
#8 x 5/8" wood screws, hex-head, slotted
For attaching the leg brackets to the cabinet. Williams/Bally 4108-01219-11, 4608-01081-1
Steel legs
Williams/Bally A-19514
VP Cab Kit
Leg levelers with nuts
Williams/Bally 08-7377
VP Cab Kit
Cabinet leg protectors
Optional; these can help protect the cabinet decals or paint from wear around the leg joints. These weren't original equipment on WPC-era machines; Marco Specialties and Pinball Life carry several options, including felt and metal versions. The metal ones are said to be better for decals, but this is moot if you trim the decals around the leg contact area.
Leg bolts, ⅜"-16 x 2¾" or 2½"
The longer 2-¾" length is easier to work with, especially if you're using leg protectors. The type sold by pinball vendors has a chrome finish and rounded dome ("acorn") head for a nicer appearance than generic hex bolts from hardware stores. Williams/Bally 4322-01125-40
VP Cab Kit
Leg bolt nuts, ⅜"-16 thread
Hex nuts, ⅝" outside diameter. Williams/Bally 4422-01117-00
⅜"-16 T-nuts
Install in the "shelf" at the back of the cabinet, to mate with the wing bolts installed in the backbox floor to secure the backbox in the upright position.
Coin door
The WPC style is available fully assembled with the mounting frame, coin slots, slam tilt switch, operator buttons, and wiring harness, but generally without the coin acceptor mechanisms. Williams/Bally part 09-37000-1; alternate part numbers: 09-46000, 09-96017, 09-17002-26, 09-23002-1, and 09-61000-X, 09-61000-1.
Available as an add-on in the VP cab kit
Coin mechanisms for coin door
Optional. You need these if you want use actual coins. One "mech" is required per coin slot (the WPC doors above have two slots).
¼"-20 x 1¼" carriage bolts, black
For attaching coin door and lockdown bar. Williams/Bally 4320-01123-20B
Note: another 6 are needed for backbox
VP Cab Kit
¼"-20 flange locknuts
Williams/Bally 4420-01141-00
Note: another 6 are needed for backbox
VP Cab Kit
Optional. Sits under the coin slots to collect inserted coins. You need something for this purpose if you plan to use coins; the standard box is well designed for the job, but it's rather large. You might prefer to improvise something more compact. The standard cashbox consists of two parts: the plastic tray (Williams part 03-7626, Stern part 545-5090-00), and a metal cover (Williams part 01-10020, Stern 535-5013-03, 535-5013-02, 535-5013-01).
Cashbox nest bracket
Optional; recommended for use with a standard cashbox. Attaches to the inside front wall of the cabinet just under the coin door to keep the cashbox from sliding around. Williams part #01-6389-01.
Cashbox lock bracket
Optional; recommended for use with a standard cashbox. Attaches to the short dividing wall on the cabinet floor that delineates the cashbox area at the front, to anchor the cashbox when installed. Williams/Bally part 01-10030 or 1A-3493-1.
Playfield glass
Tempered glass sheet for playfield cover
  • Standard body: 43" x 21" x 3/16", Williams A-08-7028-T
  • Widebody: 43" x 23¾" x 3/16", Williams A-08-7028-1
  • Custom cabinet: 3/16" thick tempered glass, cut to a custom size per your plans. You can order this from any local window glass shop.

    Tip: ask the shop to omit any marking or etching certifying that it's tempered glass. Glass makers might include a mark by default to comply with building codes that require it for use in places like shower enclosures, but there's no certification required for use in a pinball machine, so you can omit it to avoid the visual clutter.

Playfield glass rear plastic channel
Standard width: Williams/Bally 03-8091
Widebody: Williams/Bally 03-8091-2
VP Cab Kit
Playfield glass side rail plastic channels
Williams/Bally 03-7135-1
VP Cab Kit
Fully assembled: Williams/Bally B-12445-1, B-12445-6, B-12445-7.
You can also buy the individual parts separately if you wish to customize. Pinball Life lets you choose colors for the knob and rubber tip, but you'll have to buy à la carte if you want a custom knob. Note that you can buy a knobless shooter rod and epoxy on your own custom knob for a unique look. Note also that springs are available in different tensions. I'd recommend a lower tension spring for virtual pinball use since you're never going to hit an actual ball: lower tension means lower speed and less cabinet rattling. The part numbers below are Williams/Bally references as usual:
  • Shooter rod: 20-9253
  • Shooter housing: 21-6645-1
  • Shooter housing sleeve: 03-7357
  • Barrel spring (¾" long x ⅝" diam): 10-149
  • Inner spring (5½" long x ½" diam): 10-148-1
  • E-clip (⅜" shaft, 5/16" groove): 20-8712-37
  • Washers (25/64" x ⅝", 16 gauage, qty 2): 4700-00051-00
  • Rubber Tip: 545-5276-00
If you buy a commercial plunger kit, the plunger assembly is usually included.
Ball shooter mounting plate
Williams/Bally 01-3535
Note! This isn't typically included in the commercial plunger kits or the "complete assemblies" sold by arcade vendors.
#10-32 x ⅝" machine screws
Not typically included with commercial plunger kits or complete assemblies.
Tilt-up playfield TV mounting
Hardware for the tilt-up mechanism described in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting. Only needed for that design (or a a similar design).
Playfield holder bracket (left side)
Williams/Bally 01-8726-L-1
Playfield holder bracket (right side)
Williams/Bally 01-8726-R-1
Pivot nut, 7/16"
Williams/Bally 02-4244. The 1/2" version (Williams 02-4329) will also work.
Carriage bolt, 3/8"-16 x 1-3/4", black
Washer, 3/8" x 1" outside diameter (quantity 2)
Hex nut, 3/8"-16
Backbox hardware
Backbox hinges
Williams/Bally 01-9011.2-R, 01-9011.2-L
VP Cab Kit
Hex pivot bushings for backbox hinges
½" shaft, ¾" diameter head, ¼" hex center, ⅜-16 thread. Williams/Bally 02-4352
VP Cab Kit
Pivot bushing carriage bolts
⅜"-16 thread, ¾" long. Williams/Bally 4322-01139-12B
VP Cab Kit
¼"-20 x 1¼" carriage bolts, for attaching backbox hinges
Williams/Bally 4320-01123-20B
This is in addition to the 6 needed for the coin door and lockdown bar. The VP cab kit provides 10, so you need two extra for the full set.
VP Cab Kit
Backbox hinge backing plates
These go inside the backbox to strengthen the connection points for the carriage bolts above. Williams/Bally 01-9012
¼"-20 whiz flange locknuts
Williams/Bally 4420-01141-00
This is in addition to the 6 needed for the coin door and lockdown bar. The VP cab kit provides 10, so you need two extra for the full set.
VP Cab Kit
Backbox latch
Williams/Bally 20-9347
VP Cab Kit
Backbox latch bracket
Williams/Bally 01-8397
VP Cab Kit
Wing bolts, ⅜"-16 x 2"
Install in the floor of the backbox to lock the backbox in the upright position. Williams/Bally 20-9718
Backbox translite lock plate assembly
Keyed lock to secure the translite. Not truly necessary in home use, but a nice touch to complete the look of the real machines. Williams/Bally A-13379
U-channel, metal, ⅝" x ⅝" x 27⅛"
Installed in floor of backbox to hold DMD panel. Williams didn't identify this with a part number; they apparently considered it generic (like plywood). Available from hardware stores in 6-8' lengths (look in the moulding & millwork section); cut to the required length. Also available from a couple of after-market pinball "mods" vendors in custom finishes like brass and chrome; Google pinball "u channel" (with the quotes).
Tempered glass or acrylic (Plexiglass) sheet, 18⅞" x 27" x ⅛" thick
Backglass side trim,
Black trim pieces that attach to the side edges of the translite. Williams/Bally 03-8228-3
VP Cab Kit
Backglass top trim
Black trim piece that attaches to the top edge of the translite. Williams/Bally 03-8228-2
VP Cab Kit
Backglass lift channel
Black trim piece that attaches to the bottom edge of the translite, and serves as a handle for removing it from the backbox. This fits into the speaker panel H channel. Williams/Bally 03-8229-1
VP Cab Kit
Speaker/DMD panel (pre-WPC-95 style)
This is the separate panel at the bottom of the backbox, below the backglass, that you see on real 1990s pinballs. Many virtual cab builders reproduce this look by using the same type of panel, since it gives the machine a modern appearance and also provides an excellent place to put the audio speakers. This whole panel is optional, though; if you prefer the vintage look where the entire backbox is devoted to a single large backglass, you can skip the panel and use a larger backbox TV.

These parts are for the pre-WPC-95 style, used on Williams machines from about 1990 through 1995. A different style was used on later machines, with a single-piece molded plastic panel; those parts are listed below. See Chapter 31, Speaker/DMD Panel for a comparison of the two types.

Speaker panel H channel
Black trim piece that attaches to the top edge of the DMD panel. The "H" shape makes a channel in the top that the translite fits into, to hold the translite in place. Williams/Bally 03-8265-1
VP Cab Kit
Speaker panel latch brackets
These hold the speaker panel in place in the backbox. Williams/Bally 01-8535
#8-32 x 3/8" flat-head countersunk machine screws
These attach the latch brackets to the speaker panel. Williams/Bally 4008-01041-06
#8-32 x 3/8" pan-head machine screws
For attaching the speakers and "H" channel trim to the speaker panel. Williams/Bally 4008-01005-06, or SEMS version (with attached locking washer) 4006-01003-06
#8 external tooth locking washer
For attaching the speakers and "H" channel trim to the speaker panel (required only if you're not using a SEMS screw with attached washer). Williams/Bally 4703-00008-00
4" Speaker screen for backbox speakers
Use for DMD panels with 4" speaker openings. The standard type is black plastic; they're also available in metallic finishes (brass, chrome). Stern 535-8081-00, 535-8081-01
WPC-95 speaker screen for backbox speakers
This is specifically designed for the molded plastic WPC-95 speaker panel, but it should also be adaptable to a 5.25" speaker opening in the older style of panel. You might have to cut holes for the speaker mounting screws to make it fit properly. Williams/Bally 04-10382-7-4
7" Speaker screen for backbox speakers
Can be used for DMD panels with 5.25" speaker openings, but you have to cut it to size. Williams/Bally 03-8603-1, 03-8603-3, 01-6733.
Dot Matrix Display device
This is the display device that goes in the opening in the middle of the panel to display the score and other graphics. Options:
  • 15-16" LCD TV, monitor, or laptop display
  • PinDMD 2 or 3 (commercial "real DMD" device)
  • Pin2dmd (DIY open-source LED DMD device)
Speaker/DMD panel (WPC-95 style)
These parts are for the WPC-95 style of speaker panel used on Williams machines from 1995 and after. This type of panel is made from molded plastic. Machines from 1990 through 1995 used a different style with an MDF panel and plastic facing printed with graphics; the parts for the older style are listed above. See Chapter 31, Speaker/DMD Panel for a comparison of the two types.
WPC-95 speaker panel
Available with embossed Williams or Bally logos in silver or gold. Williams/Bally 04-10382-7A, 04-10382-7B, 04-10374-7A, 04-10374-7G.
Bushing buttons
Installed in the backbox to support the speaker panel. Williams/Bally 02-5223
Speaker grill
Usually included with the speaker panel assembly; available separately if not. Williams/Bally 04-10382-7-4
Speaker retainer rings for 5.25" speakers
The speaker panel assembly might include retainer rings for 5.25" and 3" speakers. For a virtual cab you'll usually want two of the 5.25" retainers, so you might need to order one separately. Williams/Bally 04-10382-7-2
Dot matrix display shield
Clear plastic cover for the DMD window. Might be included with the speaker panel assembly. Williams/Bally 01-13636
For the sake of making this list fairly comprehensive, here's a list of the typical PC components you'll need. This is only an outline, though; we must leave it to you to decide on specific products. See Chapter 11, Designing the PC for guidance.
Operating System
Windows 7, 8, or 10 recommended. Home edition is fine.
A CPU with 4 or more cores is recommended, such as a current generation Intel Core i5 series.
Choose a motherboard based on the CPU you wish to use. Motherboards are designed to work with specific CPU types, so your choices will depend on the CPU type you plan to use.
CPU fan
Most modern CPUs require a powered fan to be directly mounted on the CPU itself. Your CPU purchase might include this if you buy a boxed retail package; if not, many suitable third-party options are available.
Graphics adapter
Virtual Pinball isn't as demanding as other 3D games but does require at least a mid-range graphics adapter. If cost is no object, buy a high-end gaming card. But those are usually two to three times as expensive the mid-range cards, which are fine for pinball. Get a card with at least 2GB, preferably 3G or more. You generally should use only one graphics adapter even for a 2- or 3-monitor system, as performance is usually higher with one card driving multiple monitors than with multiple cards.
ATX power supply
Choose the wattage capacity according to the needs of your motherboard and graphics card.
RAM (system memory)
Choose RAM chips that match the specs for your motherboard. RAM contributes to performance; more is better.
Hard disk or SSD
I'd recommend using an SSD (solid-state disk) over a conventional hard disk, both for the dramatically faster boot times and for the immunity to shock and vibration.
Case or tray
Optional. Some people like to use a conventional PC case, but this takes up a lot of room inside the cabinet. It's more common to mount the motherboard and other components directly to the cab wall or floor. You might also consider a conventional metal case to enclose the PC parts, or a "motherboard tray" (an open frame that holds the motherboard and helps secure the expansion cards, but doesn't enclose anything).
Most cab builders include at least two standard PC case fans to move air through the cabinet. These can be mounted on the floor and/or the rear wall.
Disk cables
Your motherboard will probably come with suitable cables for connecting your hard disk, but if not, you can buy these separately.
Power line input
Power strip
Most cab builders like to be able to control power to the whole system through the PC's soft power button. You can do this with a "smart" power strip inside the cab, or you buy an ordinary power strip and make it "smart" with a contactor. A separate power strip in the backbox is useful (perhaps a small one with only 3 or 4 outlets), for plugging in the backbox TV(s) and any other devices situated there.
12VDC contactor
Not needed if you buy a "smart" power strip. If you buy an ordinary power strip, though, you use a contactor to make it act like a smart one. Route the line power to all devices other than the PC (including the TVs and the feedback device power supplies) through the contactor, and control the contactor via the main PC power supply's 12V output. When the PC is on, the contactor turns on and supplies power to everything else. More on this in Chapter 12, Power Switching.
This is a list of the most common buttons needed for a virtual cab. Many cabs have extra buttons beyond these. See Chapter 34, Cabinet Buttons for specific products to buy and a more comprehensive list of optional buttons.
Some buttons have light bulbs inside. You can hard-wire these to be always lighted, but most people want the software to be able to control them so that they turn on and off at appropriate times during game play. To do this, you have to treat the lights as output devices, meaning the lights have to be connected to a separate output controller. The button controller only handles the switch part of the button. See Chapter 44, Feedback Devices Overview for more on this.
Flipper buttons
You need two for regular flipper buttons, and another two for Magna Save buttons if desired. If you want to light the buttons, buy a transparent type; if you want to light them with variable color (RGB) lights, buy clear transparent buttons.

Flipper buttons come in two lengths: 1⅛" and 1⅜". The VirtuaPin button kit uses the longer type to mate with their switch holders. Most real machines use the shorter length, so most of the options available from pinball vendors are only available in the shorter length. If you're looking for transparent buttons for illumination but you want the longer length so that you can use the VirtuaPin switch holders, look for part 515-7791-00.

VP Button Kit
Flipper button leaf switches
The flipper buttons mentioned above are just the buttons, without the electronic switch part. The buttons have to be paired with switches. The gold standard is leaf switches. Some newbie cab builders really want to use microswitches instead, since they're so much easier to find and install, but it's almost universally agreed that leaf switches are the only thing that feels right. The problem with microswitches is that they have some intentional mechanical hysteresis at the point of contact, whereas leaf switches are perfectly smooth. That's critical for flippers because it gives you greater control and better tactile feedback.

For a virtual pin cab, it's best to use low-voltage leaf switches with gold-plated contact points. That's the only type VirtuaPin sells, so you'll be safe if you go with theirs. If you buy from a pinball vendors like Pinball Life or Marco Specialties, make sure you get the low-voltage, gold-plated type, because the pinball parts vendors also sell a high-voltage type designed for older pinball machines. The high-voltage switches use tungsten contact points, which have higher electrical resistance than gold contacts, so they don't work as well in low-voltage logic circuits.

VP Button Kit
Flipper button leaf switch holders
Optional. VirtuaPin sells their leaf switches with plastic holders that fit over the buttons and are held in place with Palnuts (below). This makes the switch positioning and installation dead simple, but be aware that these only work with the long (1⅜") buttons. If you're using the more common 1⅛" buttons, these won't fit. The holders might also conflict with lighting devices for the buttons, such as the LiteMite boards (below).

If you can't use the holders, it's still fairly easy to install the leaf switches, by attaching them directly to the wall of the cabinet. So you definitely don't need the holders. But they're convenient if you're using compatible buttons.

VP Button Kit
This screw onto the flipper button shaft on the inside of the cab to hold the button in place. You need one for each button. I prefer the nylon type, because they won't run the risk of shorting any nearby wire connections. Williams/Bally 02-3000, 20-9222, 3A-7532.
VP Button Kit
LiteMite PCBs for flipper button lighting (optional)
These make it easy to install LEDs to illuminate transparent flipper buttons. Buy the full-color RGB type to let DOF set custom colors per game. Use one per flipper and Magna Save button.
Start button
VP Button Kit
Exit button
VP Button Kit
Extra Ball button (optional)
Launch Ball button (optional)
VP Button Kit
Coin button (optional)
Main PC power button
VP Button Kit
Tilt bob (optional)
Audio system
The list below shows the basic elements needed in your audio system. There are too many options to list specific products here, so most of these are generic descriptions. There are also several common audio system configurations, so some of this equipment only applies to certain configurations.

Quick overview: The "primary" audio system is usually a pair of speakers in the backbox plus a subwoofer in the main cabinet. Some cabinets also have a "secondary" system that places a separate set of speakers inside the main cabinet to play back mechanical playfield sound effects (ball rolling sounds, flippers, bumpers, etc). This can use two speakers, two speakers plus a subwoofer, or four speakers for "surround sound". The secondary system can even replace other tactile feedback devices, especially if you're using an "exciter" (also known as a tactile speaker or tactile subwoofer) in place of the regular speakers.

See Chapter 41, Audio Systems for more details on o the various audio system configurations, and more specific product recommendations.

Amplifier for primary (backbox) audio system
The standard setup needs a "2.1" channel amplifier (two stereo channels, one subwoofer channel). Most people use 12VDC car amplifiers. You can skip the amplifier if you're using powered PC speakers with their own built-in amplifier.
Midrange speakers for backbox speaker panel (primary audio system)
Subwoofer for main cabinet (primary audio system)
Amplifier for secondary audio system
Optional. Only needed if you have a second audio system for mechanical playfield sounds.
Midrange speakers for secondary "in-cabinet" audio system
Optional. Use one or two speakers for a basic system, four for a "surround" system (for placing sound effects at their proper location in the playfield area).
Subwoofer for secondary audio system
Optional. Used for a 2.1 or 4.1 in-cabinet speaker system.
Tactile subwoofer for secondary audio system
Optional; replaces the regular "subwoofer for secondary audio system" above. This can be used as a substitute for other tactile feedback devices, or together with them.
7" Speaker screen for subwoofer (or larger, if you're using a larger subwoofer)
Williams/Bally 03-8603-1, 03-8603-3, 01-6733.
Feedback devices
Everything in this section is optional, applying only if you want to include feedback systems on your cab. If you're not sure you want feedback at all, you can build your cabinet without it initially, and add feedback systems later as a retrofit if you change your mind. It's a fairly isolated system that can be worked into a finished cabinet, although like anything else, it's always easier and neater if you plan for it from the outset. For recommendations for specific products and parts, see Chapter 44, Feedback Devices Overview.
Output controller
USB device that receives commands from the pinball software on the PC and switches lights, solenoids, and motors on and off. Options:
  • LedWiz
  • PacLed
  • Pinscape Controller
  • SainSmart
Power boosters
Most output controllers can only handle devices with low power, such as LEDs. Power boosters let you connect higher power devices, such as solenoids and motors.
Secondary PC power supply
Most cab builders install a second ATX power supply for feedback devices, so that the main PC supply isn't affected by the extra load. PC power supplies are great for 5V and 12V devices because they have very large capacity; a cheap and low-end supply is fine for this job.
24V power supply
Some devices require higher voltages. You can add an inexpensive closed-frame 24V supply if you have any devices that need it.
Step-down converter for 6.3V
If you're using front-panel buttons with #555 incandescent bulbs, you can supply them using a step-down converter board to convert 12V from the PC PSU to the required 6.3V. Inexpensive converters are available on eBay to convert to selectable voltage levels. You can also find fixed-voltage 6V converters at
Step-down converter for shaker motor
A second step-down converter can be used to supply your shaker motor. You can use this to reduce the voltage level if the shaking effect is too strong at full speed.
Step-up converter for replay knocker
Pinball replay knockers are built for 50V supplies; they'll run on less but will make a weaker sound. A step-up converter can be used to supply them with higher voltages if desired.
High-output RGB LEDs for flashers
A set of five bright RGB lights to reproduce the bright flashing lights on pinball playfields, for a more faithful reproduction of the real thing's brightness than the video rendition can achieve. Most people use 3W RGB "star" LEDs available on eBay.
Pinball dome lights for flashers
Strobe light
This supplements the RGB flashers with an extra-bright white light for strobe effects. Most people use 22-LED white car strobe lights available on eBay.
Flipper feedback simulators
A device inside the cabinet to simulate the tactile "thunk" of a flipper firing. You can use a real flipper assembly for the most authentic effect, but most people use a lower-cost option such as a contactor (a large relay) or a solenoid.
Slingshot feedback simulators
Another tactile "thunk" effect generator. This is the same sort of effect as the flippers or bumpers, so most people use the same types of devices for all of these, but some like to vary the devices to get different effects.
Bumper feedback simulators
Another "thunk" device, usually done with the same types of devices as for flippers and slingshots.
Shaker motor
A DC motor with an off-balance weight attached, to make the machine vibrate when activated for a rumble or earthquake effect.
Gear motor
A DC motor with an integrated step-down gear, used for the noise the gears make. This is to simulate the sound of the motors that many real pinballs use to animate playfield elements.
Replay knocker
Usually placed on the top of the backbox, à la Whirlwind.
Rotating or flashing lights like on a police car, usually placed on top of the backbox. This is another light-show element, but it's also popular because so many real pinballs have these.
Under-cab or rear-facing RGB light strips
RGB light strips attached to the underside of the cabinet and/or the back of the backbox, for ambient lighting while playing.
In-cab addressable RGB light strips
A different type of light strip that allows each LED to be controlled individually. These can create animated lighting effects like on a theater marquis. A controller is required (below).
Controller for addressable RGB light strips

11. Designing the PC

The core of a pin cab is a PC running Windows. You could theoretically build a pin cab around a Mac, an iPad, a Raspberry Pi, or just about any other sort of computer. But for our purposes in this guide, the only real option is a Windows PC, because that's where all of the software runs.
I've observed that most pin cab builders like to start their projects by building the PC and setting up the software, before they've even started thinking about what's needed to build the pinball machine body that'll house it. This is a natural first step for most of us, because most of us know our way around PCs at least a little bit - the way that most people discover the pin cab world in the first place is through the PC pinball simulation community. It's also an attractive place to start because you can see some immediate results, before getting into the more daunting parts of the project.

Off-the-shelf or custom build

The easiest and most obvious way to get a PC is to buy one from a retail PC maker, or even re-use one you already have. But most pin cab builders come from a PC gaming background, so you probably already know enough about PCs to know the benefits of building one yourself rather than buying off-the-shelf. If you've built your own PCs in the past, you know what's involved. If you haven't built one before, you might be surprised at how easy it is. Modern PCs snap together out of components practically like Lego blocks. The hardest part is often the shopping, since there are so many options out there.
The big benefit of building your own PC is that you get to pick exactly what you want for each component. The retail PC makers usually give you a few options for CPU speed, hard disk size, graphics card, and so on, but they're usually pretty limited choices from a small pre-set list. If you build your own, you can choose exactly what you want from the whole universe of available products in each category.
The rest of this chapter proceeds from the assumption that you're going to build a custom PC, because that's what most pin cab builders do. But that's not a must; if you're not comfortable building your own PC, you can definitely build a perfectly good pin cab around a retail PC. If you go that route, I'd suggest you focus on PCs that are specifically designed and marketed for gaming. PC pinball is fundamentally a video game, and it benefits from exactly the same hardware upgrades that mainstream video gamers need. Pay particular attention to the graphics card: that's the hardware element that makes the biggest different for PC pinball performance. You might find the material in this chapter helpful even for picking out a pre-built PC, just for the background knowledge of what to look for and which elements are the most important to pin cab performance.

Performance considerations

I can't give you any hard numbers for performance metrics, since things change too quickly in this business and any benchmarks I quote would be obsolete in a couple of months. I can offer some general advice, though.
The first bit of advice is that you should consider the virtual cab PC to be a gaming PC. That might seem obvious, but my point isn't merely that you're going to use it to play games, but rather that "gaming PC" is a special category of PC. The thing that makes a gaming PC different from a run-of-the-mill home or business PC is upgraded performance, particularly for graphics. Gamers use special disks, special memory, and most of all special graphics cards.
The second bit of advice is that you don't have to take this idea of upgraded performance to its logical extreme. You do need good performance, but you don't need the absolute best performance available. Pinball emulation is demanding, but it's not as complex as the latest "triple A" video games at any given time. My rule of thumb is that you should look for the "second best" in most of the product categories. Survey what's available, and don't buy the most expensive thing you can find; focus your attention on the second price tier. Products in that second tier are usually only slightly less capable than the top-tier products, but much cheaper - you often see crazy things like 90% of the performance for half the price. The gamers who want the very best are willing to pay, pay, pay for it. So products in that second tier often offer a much better balance between price and performance.
To a first approximation, the CPU and GPU together determine your machine's overall performance. And of the two, the graphics card is generally the more important. These are the parts you should pay the most attention to when researching what to buy.
Other components - motherboard, memory (RAM), disks, USB controllers - also contribute to performance, but to a much lesser degree. How much should you worry about those? If you talk to serious video gamers, they'll tell you that every element is critical, down to the military-grade titanium screws holding their ballistic carbon-fiber cases together. That's true as far as it goes, but "extreme gaming RAM" and the like will only contribute a few percentage on most systems. Most people can't perceive that kind of difference in actual use; you'd only know it's there if you measured it with benchmarking tools. If it's important to you to build the fastest system possible, then by all means do so; that can be fun in its own way. If your main focus is pinball rather than PC benchmarks, I'd focus my research time and cash budget on the CPU and GPU, and I wouldn't go too far out of my way seeking the optimal choices for the other components. Just look for parts from reputable manufacturers that fit the specs you need.

Operating System

Recommended: Windows 10, 64-bit, Home edition.
Windows is really the only viable operating system option for a pin cab PC, because all of the popular pinball software runs only on Windows.

Which version

I'd recommend the latest, currently Windows 10. The main reason is that Microsoft only offers full updates to their DirectX technologies (their gaming technlogy layer) on the current OS version at any given time. Windows 8 is already somewhat behind on DirectX support, and Windows 7 is very behind. This means that newer games will increasingly be unable to run on the older Windows versions; if you want to be able to run the latest games, you pretty much have to have the latest Windows.
Older versions: As of this writing, Windows 7 is at end-of-life, meaning Microsoft will no longer offer updates for it. As I'm sure you've heard from many other people, the big concern when Microsoft stops updating Windows 7 is that security bugs in the OS won't get fixed, so it will become increasingly vulnerable to malware. For a pin cab PC, I think the lack of DirectX updates is also a big issue. Windows 8 will continue to be updated (according to Microsoft) until the beginning of 2023, but it also is already lacking in some newer DirectX features.

Which edition?

The "Home" edition of Windows is fine for a pin cab. You can buy the more expensive "Pro" edition if you prefer, but the added features in the Pro editions are intended more for business users than individual users. I don't think the extra cost gets you anything you really need for a pin cab.

32-bit or 64-bit?

Easy: Use the 64-bit edition. The 32-bit version of Windows is only for old hardware with CPUs from about 2002 or earlier. Every Intel and AMD PC CPU you can buy today is 64-bit. The 64-bit version of the operating system takes full advantage of the CPU's capabilities, and is still fully compatible with 32-bit application software.

Emulation and virtualization options

Nope. Don't even consider it. Even though it's technically possible to run Windows as a guest operating system using VM software on Linux and MacOS, it's not a viable option for gaming software. 3D gaming performance on virtualized hardware is uniformly unacceptable. The same applies to Wine (a Windows API emulator on Linux).

Hardware components

Here are the PC components you need to assemble the computer that runs a virtual pin cab.


Most people start planning PC builds with the CPU, because other choices hinge on which CPU you choose.
The most common recommendation for CPUs is a four-core Intel i5 chip. Note that the i5 line contains two-core as well as four-core versions, so don't assume that it has four cores just because it has an i5 label. Check the specs on the specific product you're looking at.
AMD makes Intel-compatible four-core CPUs with performance levels similar to the Intel chips. My own experience is mostly with Intel CPUs, but other virtual pin cab builders have successfully based their systems on AMD chips.
Intel and AMD also make CPUs with more than four cores, such as the Intel i7 and i9 chips. As you'd expect, these are faster than the four-core chips on generic performance tests. However, this can be misleading. It might seem intuitive that eight cores would be twice as good as four, but things aren't nearly that simple. Some applications benefit from more cores, others don't. Most virtual pinball software will see diminishing returns above four cores. If you have the budget to upgrade beyond four cores, you're likely to see a much bigger performance gain by putting the money into a higher-end graphics card than into the CPU.
Even after narrowing things down to, say, the i5 line, you'll still have several chips to choose from. The main variation will be clock speed. Higher clock speeds generally yield faster performance, but as with the number of cores, the correlation isn't always straightforward. I always consider clock speed to be a good place to apply the "second best" rule that I mentioned under Performance Considerations above.
If you want to do more thorough research on the current CPUs available, there are numerous Web sites with detailed performance tests. You should give the most weight to tests for gaming performance, since pinball simulators are similar to other video games in the way they use the machine's hardware resources.

CPU fan

Most modern CPUs require a special fan mounted directly on top of the chip. If you buy your CPU in retail packaging, it usually includes a suitable fan. However, some vendors sell unpackaged "OEM" versions intended for use by business buyers building systems for resale, and these usually don't include anything but the bare CPU. In that case, you'll need to buy a CPU fan separately. These can be found on Newegg and other sites that sell components by using a search term like "i5 fan". Check the specs on the options you find to make sure your specific CPU type is listed, since these fans usually have to match the exact shape and size of the chip.


The motherboard is the main system board with all of the core electronics, and connectors for all of the add-in cards, disks, and input devices.
Choose a CPU before looking for motherboards. Any given motherboard only works with specific CPUs. Once you know the CPU you're going to use, you should be able to find suitable motherboards by searching the Web for "xxx motherboard", where "xxx" is your CPU type. Use the detailed CPU part number, like "i5-7600k".
I've had good results with motherboards from Gigabyte, but several other manufacturers make good motherboards as well.
For a pin cab, your needs from a motherboard aren't very complex. Here are the main features I'd look for:
Performance considerations: Not really an issue, unless you're looking to build an extreme gaming system. A motherboard designed for a particular CPU is almost always based on the Intel or AMD chipset mated to that CPU, so you won't see a huge amount of variation among different boards for the same CPU. If you're concerned about finding the fastest motherboard for your CPU, you can do some research on benchmark sites on the Web.
What about on-board graphics? Unimportant, because you'll need a separate graphics card whether or not the motherboard has its own built-in graphics. There might be exceptions, but all of the built-in motherboard graphics chip sets I've ever seen are low-end, suitable for business graphics, not gaming.
If the motherboard doesn't have on-board graphics, great, that's one less thing to worry about when configuring the BIOS. If it does have on-board graphics, as most modern motherboards do, it's still not a problem because you should be able to disable it in the BIOS setup. In fact, many BIOSes will do this automatically when they detect the presence of a separate video card.

Graphics cards

The graphics card is the most important component for game performance. It's even more important than the CPU for games, because it's actually a whole separate computer in its own right that does most of the computing work for displaying 3D graphics. Fast graphics cards are capable of drawing more complex images more rapidly, making for smoother game action.
You should wait until after selecting a motherboard to choose a graphics card, because you need a graphics card that matches the "slot" type on your motherboard. Your motherboard specs should tell you what kind of graphics cards it accepts; look for "graphics cards" or "expansion slots" in the spec sheet. For quite a while now, motherboards have been standardized on "PCI Express" slots for the graphic interface. These are quoted with a speed like "x16", so you might see "PCI Express x16" in the expansion slot list. Once you find that information, that tells you what types of graphic cards are compatible.
Graphics cards are available from many manufacturers, but most (regardless of manufacturer) use chip sets made by either Nvidia or AMD. The spec sheet should tell you the underlying chip set, and in fact, most cards from most brands include this information right in the name. For example, a "Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050" is based on the Nvidia 1050 chip set. You'll start to recognize the chip set names if you shop around enough, since you'll see the same numerical designations over and over on different brands of cards. The performance of a graphics card is almost entirely a function of the chip set, not the brand, so you should see reasonably similar performance from cards based on a given chip set even if they're from different brands.
Which chip set? The standard answer on the forums, for Visual Pinball use, is "Nvidia x60 or better". That applies if you're using a 1080p TV. For a 4K TV, the standard advice is that an x70 is required.
What these numbers mean: The "60" part refers to the speed class of the cards. NVidia names their chip sets by combining a generation number (roughly analogous to a model year) and a processor speed level. For example, the "960" chip is generation 9, speed class 60. So you might see 960, 1060, and eventually 1160 chip sets, representing successive model years of the "x60" speed class. Higher speed class numbers represent faster chips: "60" is faster than "50", and "70" is faster still. The generation numbers increase about once a year. The cards in a given speed class get a little faster each generation, so a 1060 is probably faster than a 960, but the speed class differences are bigger and typically hold across generations. That is, an older "60" is probably faster than a newer "50". So don't assume that newer is automatically faster; the speed class is the number to look at first.
Gaming cards with AMD chip sets will also work with Visual Pinball and other gaming software. But I don't think there's a standard answer for which AMD chip set to use, the way there is with NVidia, because pin cab builders have mostly gravitated to NVidia cards. I think the main reason they gravitate to NVidia is that the pin cab builders before them gravitated to NVidia, so those are the cards that people know will work. If you want to cast a wider net, there are lots of video-gamer Web sites that do seriously in-depth performance testing on video cards (as well as other PC components), so a little research should give you some idea of which AMD-based cards are comparable to the recommended NVidia cards.
Video memory: Video cards have their own on-board memory, usually 1GB or more on a modern card. The fastest type of memory has a type like "GDDR3" or "GDDR5". A higher number suffix indicates faster memory. Visual Pinball and other gaming software benefits from large memory sizes with fast memory. I'd recommend at least 2GB of GDDR3 or faster.
Display size and refresh rate: If you're using a standard HDTV for your playfield TV, it probably uses the 1080p format, which is 1920x1080 pixels and refresh at 60 Hz. Your backglass TV might also be 1080p, but some smaller TVs run at 720p, which is 1280x720 pixels. Any modern graphics card will be able to drive these image formats, but check the specs to be sure.
If your playfield TV is a "4K" model (Ultra HD or UHD), the image size is 3840x2160 pixels. Support for this format isn't a given in modern graphics cards, so you might have to look a little harder to find a suitable card. In addition, the higher resolution places much more computing load on the graphics card, so the earlier advice about Nvidia x60 cards probably doesn't apply. You'll probably need a very high-end card to get good performance; I'd recommend asking for advice on the forums.
Outputs/connectors: Be sure you have enough outputs for all of the monitors you plan to connect, taking into account the playfield TV, the backbox TV, and the score display (DMD) TV, if you're using that.
Most higher-end graphics cards offer several output ports with different types of connectors. You can almost always use all of the outputs simultaneously to drive multiple monitors. This lets you use a single graphics card to drive all of the TVs in your system.
I'd recommend finding a card with at least two of the following connectors, in any combination: HDMI, DVI-D, Display Port (DP). All of these types can be connected (using passive adapters) to HDMI inputs, which is what you'll need on almost any modern TV. As long as you have two ports of these types, you should have no problem connecting two TVs to the card.
If you're planning to also use a third display for the DMD area, you'll need a third output for that. A VGA or DVI-D connector will usually work for this third output, since DMD monitors are usually implemented with laptop displays or small desktop monitors. Most video cards have a VGA output in addition to one or more of the more modern connectors listed above, so this is fairly easy to find.
If you're going to use a real pinball DMD instead of a small video display, you won't need to connect that the graphics card. Real DMDs aren't video devices, so they don't connect to your graphics card; they connect instead to a special external controller via USB.
You should check the specs to confirm that the card you're considering can handle the two or three simultaneous outputs you plan to use. Nearly all modern graphics cards allow this, but it's worth checking to be sure.
Port compatibility: You don't necessarily need an exact match between the output port types on your video card and the input ports on your TVs and monitors. Many of the port types are electrically compatible with each other, meaning you can connect them with a simple cable that has the right plug on each end.
The following combinations of port types are compatible. The only requirement is a cable with the corresponding connector type at each end. These are relatively inexpensive and can be easily found online.
TV INVideo Card OUTCompatible?
Two cards for two monitors: Not advised. It seems like two cards would be better than one - more hardware is always faster, right? But in practice, two cards are actually slower than one. Everyone on the forums who's tried this has had the same results: you get lower frame rates, more stutter, and more lag with multiple video cards.
The technical reasons for this are unclear (my wild guess is that it's due to increased PCIe bus contention). Without understanding the cause, I can't rule out the possibility that some systems exist where two cards would go faster than one. But if there are, they seem to be the exception; many people have tried it and had poor results.
By far the best way that anyone has found to improve performance of the pinball simulators is to use a faster video card.
Using the motherboard GPU as a second video card: Not advised, for exactly the same reasons that you shouldn't add a second video card (above). Enabling the motherboard GPU is exactly the same as adding a second video card in terms of its effect on your overall system performance: you'll see lower frame rates, more stutter, and more lag if you enable the on-board GPU.

Memory (RAM)

I'd recommend at least 8GB of motherboard RAM. This is enough memory for Windows plus the pinball simulator to run comfortably without "swapping" to disk. More RAM is generally better - particularly for future-proofing, considering that Windows and other software tends to need more memory on every update. If you have the budget, you can install as much memory as your motherboard can accept.
The type of RAM chip you use must match the requirements for your motherboard. You can find the RAM type requirements in your motherboard's spec sheet, but it's usually easier to find the right chips by typing your motherboard's model number into a Web store's RAM search. Most online stores that sell RAM let you search for compatible chips by motherboard, narrowing the results to show only compatible products once you enter the motherboard information.
You'll probably be able to find many compatible RAM chips for your motherboard. These will be listed with a speed class like "DDR3-2000" or "DDR4-2133". "DDR3" and "DDR4" are essentially versions of the electrical interfaces, so your motherboard will probably accept exactly one of these types. The suffixes like "-2000" are clock speeds, so higher numbers are faster in terms of the bus clock. These numbers don't translate directly or linearly to overall system throughput, since there are many other factors besides the raw clock speed that affect the actual performance, but using higher-speed RAM will generally increase overall system speed. I'd recommend buying the fastest speed class that your motherboard supports, since the price differences between RAM types aren't usually dramatic, but you can let your budget decide, since the performance differences probably won't be dramatic either.
Note that you might see the "DDR" speed class combined with another class with a "PC" prefix, such as "PC3-16000". These are just different ways of stating the same information. Don't compare "DDR" speeds with "PC" speeds, since they're different systems - only compare "DDR" speeds with other "DDR" speeds, and "PC" speeds with other "PC" speeds.
In addition to the "DDR" speed class, you might see a series of other specs, such as "Timing 15-17-17-35" or "CAS Latency 15". These numbers are further details about the memory speed. Hardcore gamers try to optimize these, but I don't recommend worrying about them, because they represent very slight differences in speed that might not even be noticeable in actual use. The "DDR" speed class and the total amount of RAM are much more important.

Hard Disk

The best type of hard disk for a virtual pin cab PC is an SSD, which isn't actually a "disk" at all, but serves the same storage function using flash memory instead of magnetic media. SSDs are much faster than conventional hard disks, especially for booting Windows and loading software. Booting Windows from an SSD typically takes ten or twenty seconds, compared with a minute or more with a conventional hard disk.
SSDs also smaller than convention disks, and they're essentially immune to damage from vibration or shock. The shock resistance is good for a pin cab since you'll want to be able to nudge the machine without worrying about damaging the disk.
The main drawback of SSDs is that they're more expensive than conventional hard disk per gigabyte. Fortunately, a pin cab doesn't need a very large disk, so most pin cab builders will find that a suitably sized SSD is well within a reasonable budget for the PC components.
How much storage do you need? Let's look at what you'll typically need to install on a pin cab PC:
  • Windows operating system: about 20GB
  • Visual Pinball: about 20MB
  • Future Pinball: about 100MB
  • VP and FP tables: varies, hundreds of MB
  • PinballX (menu system): about 40MB
  • PinballX media (table images, videos, etc): varies, hundreds of MB
  • Web browser: 1GB
  • Other software and utilities: varies, hundreds of MB
We obviously can't come up with an exact number here because the total will depend on how many tables you install. But we can still come up with a pretty good upper bound, since there are only so many tables out there (perhaps 1000 in circulation), and they're not all that big individually (perhaps 1MB to 20MB apiece). Even if you install all of the tables you can find, and even if you never delete the less interesting ones, you're probably talking about less than 20GB of total disk space required for them.
Adding all of this up, we come up with about 45GB. Realistically, you'll want to increase that figure to account for the inherent overhead in the way Windows uses disk space, and to leave some room for temporary files, downloads, etc. So I'd recommend an absolute minimum disk size of about 65GB, and preferably at least 120GB. But given current prices, I'd step up to about 250GB - that size is available for about $100 US as of this writing, which makes it the best value in terms of price per gigabyte. 250GB is plenty of space for all current pin cab needs and leaves lots of space for future expansion. Depending on when you read this, the best value size might be even larger, so shop around to see what's available.

Power supply

Virtually all motherboards and disk drives are compatible with the standard "ATX" type of power supply. The only exceptions are motherboards designed for very small form factor machines, so as long as you're using a standard full-sized motherboard, you should be able to use any ATX power supply from any manufacturer.
ATX power supplies are so standardized that you don't have to worry about the types of plugs it has or the types of voltages it produces. These are all uniform across all ATX power supplies. The only thing that varies is the total power capacity, expressed as a number of Watts. You'll have to pick a power supply that produces at least the wattage required by your motherboard and other components.
You can determine your wattage requirement by adding up the power figures in the specs for your motherboard and video card. Those are the two components that draw the most power in your system. Be sure to pay attention to the video card, because it might require even more power than your motherboard does.
For example, if your motherboard spec sheet says that it requires 200W, and your video card requires 300W, you'll need a power supply that provides at least 500W. I'd add about 100W to the total you come up with from the motherboard and video specs, to account for the little bit of extra power that will be drawn by the disk and USB devices, so in this example I'd look for a power supply rated for at least 600W. The number you come up with here is just a minimum: you can buy any power supply rated at this number or higher.

Sound cards

Most modern motherboards have integrated audio. For a basic setup, this is all you'll need.
If you want, you can add a separate sound card that plugs into an expansion slot on your motherboard. This will let you set up a second, independent set of speakers on the added card, in addition to the main set of speakers attached to the motherboard audio outputs.
Why would you want two sets of outputs? Visual Pinball has a special feature that lets you take advantage of two audio systems to separate the "music" tracks from the playfield sound effects. Many pin cab builders set things up so that the music plays from the backbox speakers, the same arrangement as in the real machines from the 1990s, and the playfield sound effects play through a separate set of speakers located inside the cabinet under the TV. The playfield effects include the sound of the ball rolling and bumping into things, so it improves the simulation to have these sounds come from the direction of the playfield.
If you do want to install a separate sound card for the playfield effects, you don't need anything fancy. Any inexpensive sound card will do. Just make sure that it uses the same type of expansion slot that you have on your motherboard. For most modern motherboards, these will be standard PCI slots.

Case or caseless

Most pin cab builders house the whole PC inside the cabinet. This makes everything self-contained and adds to the illusion of a real machine. That's not a requirement, though: some cab builders simply put a regular PC on the floor next to the cabinet. This works, but it's not as nicely integrated, and you'll have to run several cables (video and USB) between the external PC and the cab. It's fairly obvious how to set that up, so we'll ignore that option and focus on how to set up a PC inside the cabinet.
There are two main options for mounting the PC components inside the cabinet. The first is to build the PC using a conventional tower case, and then put the case inside the cabinet. The second is to skip the case and mount all of the PC components directly inside the cabinet, attaching them to the floor of the cabinet or one of the inside walls. The cabinet itself serves as the case. Each approach has some tradeoffs.
The main advantage of using a conventional PC case is that it provides structural support to hold the video card and other add-in cards in place, and provides places to mount the disks. A case also provides physical protection from falling objects, and provides shielding for the radio frequency energy that a PC produces.
The big downside of using a case is that it takes up a lot of space. A typical mid-tower case is about 14x16x7 inches. A standard pin cab is 20.5" wide on the inside, and you'll have about 9 or 10 inches of vertical clearance between the floor and the playfield TV. That leaves enough room for a tower case lying on its side, but just barely.
Note that there's such a thing as a "small form factor" case. These take up less space, as the name suggests, but they're not really a good option for pin cabs. The big problem is that they don't accommodate full-size PCIe video cards. The video card is so critical to performance that you won't want to be limited to the few available small form factor options.
If you skip the case, it's straightforward to mount the motherboard, disk, and power supply to the floor of the cabinet. The only real complication is that the video card and other add-in cards will need some kind of structural support to keep them from working loose from the motherboard slots. One option is a partial case, known as an "I/O panel" or "I/O tray". You can search for these on the Web by looking for terms like "ATX I/O panel" or "mATX motherboard tray" (use "ATX" or "mATAX" according to your motherboard's "form factor" spec). Another option is to fashion your own ad hoc support from wood or sheet metal. We'll look at specifics in Chapter 27, Installing the PC.


PC components and TVs generate heat when running, so you'll want to make sure the cabinet interior is well ventilated. Most cab builders do this by installing a couple of PC case fans in specially cut openings in the floor or back wall of the cabinet. See Chapter 28, Cooling Fans for more.


You'll definitely want network connectivity in your cab PC, so that you can download software and pinball tables from the Internet.
Nearly all motherboards have built-in Ethernet ports for wired connections. If you'll have access to a wired router port in your pin cab's ultimate location, the built-in Ethernet port is all you'll need. If not, you'll want to consider another option, such as WiFi or powerline networking.
If you're already using WiFi for your other devices, you can get your pin cab on the network by adding a WiFi card. Some motherboards have built-in WiFi, so you might not even need to add anything; check your motherboard specs.
If you do add WiFi to your pin cab PC, I'd recommend doing so with a PCI add-in card that has an external antenna with at least a few feet of wire, to allow locating the antenna away from the motherboard. The reason is that the wood walls of a pin cab can substantially block the WiFi radio signal, so you'll get a much better signal if you can move the antenna outside of the cabinet. A built-in antenna or an antenna that's attached directly to the PCI card might not get a strong enough signal.
Another option is a "powerline" network. These send signals over your house's AC electrical wiring rather than by radio, so they're not susceptible to the interference and blockage problems that make WiFi problematic in some setups. They also don't require any extra wiring, since they use the existing power wiring in your house. To make this work, you'll need one powerline adapter connected to the pin cab PC via the motherboard's Ethernet port, and a second powerline adapter connected to a port on your Ethernet router. Netgear, Linksys, and others make starter kits that come with the necessary equipment to set this up.
I always prefer a wired Ethernet connection when possible, since it's extremely reliable and almost effortless to set up. Powerline is my second choice when a wired Ethernet connection isn't possible, since it tends to be more reliable than WiFi and easier to set up. WiFi is great for mobile devices, but a pin cab has to be plugged into the power outlet anyway, so I think powerline is the way to go if you can't arrange a regular wired Ethernet connection.

Port connections

Assuming you're placing your PC inside the cabinet, you'll need a way to connect the keyboard, mouse, and (if you're using one) the Ethernet cable.
One easy way to deal with the keyboard and mouse is to buy wireless devices. Modern wireless keyboards and mice come with USB transceivers; just plug the transceivers into USB ports on the motherboard and you're set. Similarly, using WiFi or powerline Ethernet (see the Network section above) eliminates the need for external network cabling. Making everything wireless is the most convenient approach, but it's more expensive, and I've never been fully satisfied with the performance of any wireless keyboard or mouse I've used.
If you're using wired devices, a simple solution is to drill a hole in the cabinet big enough for the cables (preferably somewhere inconspicuous, like the floor or back wall), pull the cables through the opening, and plug them into the appropriate motherboard ports. The downsides of this approach are that it uses up a couple of feet of cable inside the cab (which might put your keyboard and mouse on too short a leash), and that it's inconvenient to disconnect and reconnect the devices (you have to open up the machine to get to the plugs).
If you want something a little more elegant and flexible, you can install the appropriate port connectors on the exterior of your cabinet and wire them to the motherboard internally. You can set this up pretty easily with parts made for installing data jacks in wall plates that resemble regular electrical outlet plates. These are commonly used for home theater and office installations. Here are the parts I'd recommend:
See Chapter 27, Installing the PC for installation instructions.

Optical disks

Most pin can builders don't include any optical disks (CD-ROM or DVD-ROM) in their systems. And it almost goes without saying that floppy disks and other removable media are obsolete and can be skipped.
Apart from the operating system, you should be able to load all necessary software by network download. The operating system itself can be installed from a USB thumb drive. Newer versions of Windows can be purchased on a pre-loaded thumb drive, and you can also use your existing desktop PC to create an installable thumb drive image from Windows DVD-ROM install media.

12. Power Switching

When you push the ON button your virtual cab, you want everything to turn on automatically: all the TVs, the audio system, the feedback devices, etc. Likewise, when you're done playing, you don't want to run around shutting everything off separately; you just want to press the OFF button and have the whole thing shut down.
There are some challenges to achieving this kind of power integration, but they can all be overcome with a little planning and setup work. This chapter covers what you need to know to achieve single-button on/off control.

Soft power control through the computer

The key to whole-system power control is to let the computer control the power. Modern PCs are designed for "soft power" control, which means that the operating system software controls the power to the motherboard. This is how Windows shuts off power when you select "Shut Down" from the Start menu.
Using the soft power control on the PC motherboard itself is easy. You just need to wire a pushbutton to the power control pins on your motherboard. These pins are usually part of the "Front Panel" or "F_PANEL" header. If you were going to install the motherboard in a regular desktop case, the case would have a 10-pin connector that you'd plug into this header on the motherboard.
The exact location of the front panel header varies by motherboard, but it's usually easy to find. Look for a 10-pin connector near one of the edges of the motherboard. It's usually labeled F_PANEL or FRONT PANEL.
Intel defined a standard arrangement for this header a long time ago, so almost all motherboards use the same setup. You should check your motherboard's documentation to be sure, but the power switch pins are almost always the red pins in the diagram above - pins number 6 and 8 in the standard numbering.
To power up the PC via the soft power control, all you have to do is connect those two red pins together for a moment. To turn the power off through Windows, just momentarily connect them again.
To connect a pushbutton to the soft power controls, you simply connect one terminal of the pushbutton to one of the red pins, and the other terminal to the other red pin. It doesn't matter which order they're connected in.
The standard place on a virtual cab to mount the power button is on the bottom of the cabinet, at the lower right corner. See the "Floor" section in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body for the standard location in the WPC cabinet plans.

Type of connector use with F_PANEL

The standard F_PANEL connector uses two rows of pins with 0.1" pin spacing. This is a standard type of connector. To learn more about how to build a plug to connect here, see "0.1" pin headers" in Chapter 80, Connectors. I'd recommend building a connector using a 0.1" crimp pin housing, as described in that section.

Controlling everything else through the PC

If you have a desktop PC, you've probably noticed that your monitor shuts itself off whenever you power down the computer, and turns itself back on when you boot up the computer. You don't have to worry about switching your monitor on and off separately; it just follows the PC's lead.
That's the template for how the cab should work. We want the TVs and everything else in the cab to follow the PC's lead when turning on or off.
Unfortunately, we can't count on the other devices in a pin cab to switch themselves on and off with the PC the way a computer monitor does. Computer monitors only do this because they're specifically designed for it. They work by way of the video signal. When there's no incoming video signal, a monitor assumes that the computer is turned off, so it goes into standby mode. Regular TVs usually don't have this feature, nor do audio amplifiers or the miscellaneous power supplies we use in a pin cab for feedback devices. So we have to give them some help, by adding our own power control machinery that we design to mirror the PC's power state.
There are two main options for implementing this, but they both work the same way: they control power to the AC outlets for the TVs and other devices, according to whether the PC is on or off.
The basic idea is that we install a power strip inside our pin cab, with a set of outlets for plugging in the AC power cords for the various devices. But we have two kinds of outlets in the power strip: one special outlet for the PC, and a bunch of outlets for everything else. The special outlet for the PC is always powered - that is, you effectively leave the PC plugged into the wall outlet all the time. The other outlets are switched, meaning that they only receive power when the switch is on. When the switch is off, they don't receive any power at all, so it's exactly like completely unplugging whatever's plugged into them. We use those switched outlets for the TVs, audio system, and all feedback devices.
Conceptual outline of how the PC can control power to other devices. The PC is plugged into an outlet that always receives AC power, allowing it to be switched on and off through the PC's "soft power" button. The TVs, audio system, and feedback devices are plugged into a second set of outlets that are controlled by an automatic switching control. The automatic control cuts AC power to the secondary outlets whenever the PC is off, forcing all of the other devices to turn off.
The final piece of the puzzle is how the outlet switch is controlled. It's not a "switch" in the sense of a wall switch that you operate manually. Rather, it's an electronically controlled switch, controlled by the PC's power state. When the PC is on, the switch turns on automatically. When the PC is off, the switch turns off automatically.
Since everything except the PC is plugged into switched outlets, all of those devices have no choice but to follow the PC's lead. When the PC is off, the switch cuts their power off at the source, so they have to turn off immediately whether they want to or not. They don't need any in-built circuitry to know whether the PC is on or off; we override all of that and control their power at the source.
Let's look at the two main ways we can implement this "switched outlet" setup.

Option 1: Smart power strip

You can buy pre-packaged "smart power strips" from Amazon or Best Buy that implement the sort of behavior we've been describing. This is supposed to be the easy way to implement a switched outlet, since it's plug-and-play. Just plug your computer into the designated outlet and the strip does its magic.
The reason I hedged by saying it's supposed to be the easy way is that it doesn't always turn out to be that easy. Some people run into snags with it, which we'll come to in a moment.
If you want to buy a smart power strip, try searching online stores for "smart power strip" and "green power strip". ("Green" because they save energy by cutting power to idle devices.) The specific product I used in my cab is an APC P7GB, which works well for me.
A retail smart power strip will have a specially designated "master" outlet or "computer" outlet, which is where you plug in the PC. The smart switching feature works by monitoring this special outlet to see if any power is flowing through it. When the sensor detects power flowing through the master outlet, the strip figures that the PC is on, so it turns on power to the other outlets. When the master outlet isn't drawing any power, the strip assumes that the PC is off, so it cuts power to the other outlets.
The good thing about this design is that doesn't require any special cooperation with the PC. It doesn't need any special connections to the PC or any special software. It works purely by monitoring the PC's power usage through its main power plug.
The weakness of the design is that nearly all PCs draw a little bit of power even when they're off, so the sensor in the smart strip that detects power usage in the master outlet has to be calibrated to allow for that. The smart strip can't just wait for the power level to drop to absolute zero, because that never actually happens. To make matters worse, there's no "standard" idle power level; every PC is a little different, and it can even depend upon what's connected to the computer, since some USB devices draw power through the PC even when the PC is off. The maker of a smart strip doesn't know what kind of PC you're going to use with it, so they can't tailor the threshold level to your particular model. They just pick a level based on averages across many models. This usually works, but not always. Some PCs are so energy-efficient that they always stay below the threshold levels, so a smart strip might never detect that those PCs are on. Other PCs draw enough power when turned off that they remain above the threshold levels at all times, so a strip might never detect that those PCs are off.
Every strip has its own power threshold level, and every PC has its own power characteristics, so it's not easy to predict if a given strip will work with a given PC. The only way I know to find out is to test the specific pairing. So if you're going to test a smart strip, buy it from a store with a good return policy, in case it doesn't work with your computer.
Another disadvantage of the packaged smart strips is that they usually have a mix of switched and non-switched outlets, which means that they don't have very many switched outlets. For example, my APC P7GB only has three switched outlets out of 7 total, which isn't enough for all of the things I need to plug into switched outlets. That's easily solved by plugging a regular dumb power strip into one of the switched outlets to create more switched outlets, but that takes up extra space in the cab, so it would be tidier if the smart strip had more switched outlets built-in.

Option 2: DIY switched outlets

Note: there's a retail product called the IoT Power Relay that's almost exactly like the DIY solution we're about to describe, but it comes pre-built, saving you the work of finding the component parts and assembling them. You might also prefer it for safety reasons, if you're uncomfortable working with high-voltage wiring. See Option 3 below for more details.
A second way to implement automatic power switching is to build it yourself. This is more complex than buying a retail smart power strip, but it's more reliable and more flexible. It eliminates the problem that some smart strips have with properly sensing the on/off status of the computer. If you have any problems getting a smart strip to work with your computer, you can use this approach instead. This approach also makes it easier to add more switched outlets; the smart strips usually only have three or four switched outlets, which might not be enough for a decked-out pin cab. (With a smart strip, you can always plug a dumb power strip into one of the switched outlets add more switched outlets, but that takes up more space in the cabinet. If you build your own DIY switcher, you can start with a dumb strip that already has enough outlets for your needs.)
You'll need three things to build your own switched outlets:
For both power strips, I recommend buying strips equipped with surge suppressors. The primary strip will be running your PC, and the secondary strips will be running your TVs, so both would benefit from surge suppression.
Relays that switch large loads are also known as contactors. You can find suitable devices on eBay, built into little circuit boards that simplify the wiring. Here's a picture of what to look for:
Search on eBay for "12V contactor board". You should be able to find listings that look similar to the picture above. (You don't need to find an exact match - the picture is just to give you an idea of what they look like.) The most common type currently listed has output limits of 250VAC and 30A, which is safely above our minimums. Make sure the control signal is listed as exactly 12VDC.
Be sure that your relay or contactor has a diode installed across the coil. This is important because it protects the 12V power supply and your PC electronics from the voltage spikes caused by the relay's magnetic coil. If you use an eBay contactor board, it'll probably have such a diode pre-installed, but you should visually inspect the board to make sure. If you're using a plain relay or contactor you bought as a separate component, you'll have to install a diode yourself. See Chapter 53, Coil Diodes for wiring instructions.
Here's the basic wiring diagram:
The theory of operation is simple. When the PC is ON, the PC power supply sends power to the disk connectors. This provides 12V to the relay, which turns the relay on, which in turn connects AC power to the switched power strip. When the PC is in one of the "soft off" modes, the PC power supply turns off power to the disk connectors, which cuts the 12V power to the relay. This switches the relay off, which cuts AC power to the switched power strip. This is equivalent to unplugging everything connected to the switched power strip, so all of the TVs and other devices will turn off.
Most of the connections shown are just a matter of plugging in power cords: plug the PC power supply into the unswitched outlet, plug the TVs and other devices into the switched outlet. But there are three DIY steps required:
Step one: Find an unused disk connector on your PC power supply. Connect the control wires from the relay board to the disk connector wires as follows:
See How to connect 5V and 12V devices in the Power Supplies chapter for instrutcions on how to connect wires to the disk connector plug.
Step two: Make absolutely sure everything is unplugged for this step, because we have to cut into the AC power wiring.
On this step, we're going to cut the power cord in half for your second power strip: the one with 6+ outlets that's going to become the switched power strip. You don't have to cut it exactly in half, though; you should cut it where it will be most convenient for your physical layout. To figure out where that is, you should take a moment to do a rough fit in your cabinet to determine where you're going to situate the two power strips and the relay. Look at the diagram above and observe how the power cord from the second strip is going to be split into two parts, with the relay in the middle. Find a good point to cut the power cord so that you'll have a little slack on both sides of the cut when all of this is assembled.
Inside the power cord, you're going to find three internal wires. They should be color coded black, white, and green. The black wire is the one that we're going to connect to the relay. This is the "hot" or "line" wire that carries the voltage, so it's the one we want to interrupt to switch the outlets off.
The white and green wires are going to simply connect directly across both halves of the split power cord. In the diagram, we showed them connected by wire nuts, because we're assuming that you're going to have to cut the cord in half all the way through, severing all three wires inside. If you're really careful, you might be able to save that step by cutting only the black wire in half and leaving the white and green wires intact. If you can manage that, there's no need for the wire nuts. If you do end up having to cut the cord fully in half, though, reconnect the white and green wires by stripping a bit of insulation off the ends (about 1/2" worth), feeding the ends into a wire nut, and twisting them together until their securely in place. Make sure there's no exposed bare wire sticking out of the nut when you're done. As shown in the diagram, connect green to green and white to white - all we're doing here is undoing the cut and restoring the green and white wires to their original condition. You might want to wrap the nuts and some of the surrounding wire in electrician's tape when you're done to secure everything in place.
The black wires connect to the input and output terminals on the relay. It doesn't matter which black wire goes to the input and which goes to the output; either way is equivalent. The relay terminals might be labeled input and output or K0 and K1. Many of these boards have four terminals; when they do, each pair of terminals is simply connected together. For example, there might be two terminals labeled K0; these are wired together inside the board, so you can just pick one of the two to connect one black wire.
Step three: Secure everything in place and cover the high-voltage wiring for safety.
Once everything is wired, permanently fasten the relay board to the cabinet floor (or wall) with screws. I'd also recommend using standoffs, to leave a little open air under the board. Secure the power strips in place. I'd also secure the cut power cord portions, perhaps with wiring staples, to ensure that the wire nut joints aren't jostled or stressed and that the black wires can't be accidentally pulled out of the relay terminals.
Finally, you'll have to improvise a cover for the entire relay assembly, so that there's absolutely no exposed metal or wire. The black wires will carry AC line voltage, which is hazardous high voltage. You don't want to allow anything loose in the cabinet to come into contact with the AC wiring, and you don't want any risk of touching it yourself while working in the cabinet. Remember that the AC line voltage will be live on these wires whenever the cabinet is plugged in, even when the computer is turned off. I'd recommend going to Home Depot and getting a plastic electrical junction box, of the type used inside the wall in your house wiring for switches and outlets. Get a box big enough that the relay board will entirely fit into it. Place it over the relay board and screw it into the cabinet so that the relay is permanently covered.

Option 3: IoT Power Relay

There's a retail product, called the IoT Power Relay, that implements the functionality described in the DIY option above, but without the need for you to buy individual components and assemble them. You can buy these from Amazon and other online retailers; search for IoT Power Relay. As of this writing (February 2021) they sell for about $27.
The IoT Power Relay is set up to trigger based on just about any AC or DC voltage, so you can set it up exactly as described above for the DIY option, using the 12V wires (yellow and black) from one of your primary PC power supply's unused disk connectors as the trigger source. Note that the IoT Relay's trigger input is polarized, so you have to connect yellow and black in the correct order. Be sure that the yellow wire from the disk plug connects to the "+" terminal of the IoT Relay trigger input, and the black wire from the disk plug connects to the "-" terminal of the relay trigger input.
Once you have that wired up, just get an ordinary "dumb" power strip, and plug it into one of the IoT Relay's "Normally Off" outlets. The Relay may have outlets marked "Normally Off", "Normally On", and/or "Unswitched", depending on which revision you get. For our purposes, you can ignore everything except the "Normally Off" outlets. Those are the ones that switch ON when the trigger voltage from the main power supply switches on. Note that you don't even need an extra dumb power strip if you only need two switched outlets, since all versions of the IoT Relay have at least two switched outlets built in. For most cabs, though, that's probably not enough - you'll probably have four or five things that you want to plug into the switched power strip (secondary ATX power supply, 24V power supply, DMD or DMD video panel, backglass TV, audio amplifier). The extra power strip is just there to provide those additional outlets.

The TV Power Memory Problem

Now we come to the eternal bane of pin cab builders everywhere: power memory, or more typically, power forgetfulness.
If you've been following along for the first part of this chapter, your cabinet is now set up (or you at least have a plan) so that everything in it will turn on and off automatically with the computer. This happens thanks to our "smart strip", which controls AC power to every outlet (apart from the computer's own outlet) according to computer's power status.
The "power memory problem" in a nutshell is that many TVs won't turn on with this setup. Instead, they'll go into "standby" mode, where they'll stay dark while awaiting an IR remote control command. A TV in standby mode won't show a picture even if it's receiving an active video signal. This is bad for our "smart strip" system, because the smart strip makes the TV think it's being plugged in anew each time the PC is powered up. If the TV is designed to go into standby mode each time it's plugged in, the TV will effectively remain off, defeating our wonderful one-button power control.

How to tell if your TV has the problem

The only reliable way to determine if a particular TV has the power memory problem is to test it. If you're still shopping and want to test a TV before you buy it, you really have to find the exact model you're considering in a showroom or friend's house and test that specific TV. Don't count on similar models from the same manufacturer working the same way; it's not consistent across product lines.
The thing that really makes it hard to shop for this feature is that it's almost impossible to find good information about this online. You won't find it listed in a spec sheet or Amazon product page, and most people won't even know what you're talking about it if you ask. Your best bet is to ask on the virtual pin cab forums, because at least some people there will understand the question; even so, there are so many TV models that it's always hard to find someone who owns the exact one you're considering.
If you do have a way to test a model in person (or by proxy), you can get a definitive answer using the following text procedure. Ideally, you should try this using the same video input on the TV that you're going to use when it's installed in your cabinet. For example, if you're going to connect it to your PC by HDMI, run the test with the TV set to view an HDMI video source. The reason this is important is that some TVs have different behavior on this test with different sources.
Here's the test:
On that last step, if it turns back on and returns to showing the same video source as before, hooray! The TV has good power state memory. It should just work automatically with a smart strip in a pin cab, so you shouldn't need to pursue any of the solutions below.
If the TV goes into standby mode after being plugged back in, it has the problem. You'll need one of the solutions below if you want to use it in your cab and you want single-button power control to work properly.

Solutions to the TV power-on problem

Fortunately, the power memory problem can be solved. Here are several possible solutions, in order of DIY-ness.

Solution 1: Buy a TV that doesn't have the problem

The easiest solution to this problem is to not have it in the first place. You can simply decide when buying a TV that power memory is a must-have feature, and reject any models that lack it.
My guess is that about 50% of the people in the pin cab forums would agree with that approach, because they really don't want to mess with any of the workarounds. Personally, I don't like this approach, because power memory is hardly the most important thing to me about choosing a TV. I think it's much more important to consider picture quality, motion blur, input latency, physical fit for the cabinet, price, and probably a few other features, before worrying about whether it has power memory. You might rule out some otherwise superior candidates if you consider this a deal-breaker. I'd only consider power memory a "nice-to-have" feature, meaning I'd only use it to decide between sets that are otherwise equals. The power memory problem is solvable by the other means we'll see below, so it's really not the end of the world if your TV needs a little help powering on.

Solution 2: Keep the remote handy

Of the 50% of cab builders who don't think power memory is the king of all TV features, I'd guess that about 50% of them throw in the towel on single-button power-up if their TVs don't have it. Because there's always the easy manual solution: keep the remote handy and press the On button every time you power up the cabinet.
This really isn't a terrible solution. I'm too much of a perfectionist to accept it for my own cab. It's not the inconvenience of it that's the problem for me; it's just that it makes the project feel a little unfinished. But in practical terms, it costs no significant amount of time and is only a minor inconvenience. If you can live with the rough edge, and the solutions below seem like more trouble than they're worth, you can stop here and call it done.

Solution 3: Tape down the On button

For some TVs, you can get away with a simple hack. It's inelegant (which is, after all, the proper definition of "hack"), and it doesn't work at all on most TVs. But it's worth trying, because if it does happen to work on your TV, it's a really simple solution that you can implement in a matter of minutes.
Here's the idea. On some TVs, if you keep the on/off button pressed down all the time, the TV will turn on and stay on whenever you plug it in. If your TV works this way, you can improvise some simple mechanical way of keeping the button pressed down permanently.
Before you start thinking about how to stick the button down, test your TV to see if the trick works for it:
Don't let go even briefly on that last step. The point is to test to see if holding the power button down for 10 seconds or 30 seconds or 60 seconds activates some special hidden action, like powering the TV back off, or rebooting it, or bringing up a service menu. "Long press" gestures often do something special like that on modern electronics, since everything these days needs to have a way to reboot it in case of software crashes. 30 seconds is almost always enough for a "long press" to take effect, but I'd give it a couple of minutes just to be sure.
If the TV turned on and stayed on, and you didn't activate some special hidden action by holding down the button for a long time, the hack will work.
To implement the hack, you just need to fashion something mechanical to hold down the button permanently. For some models, it's as easy as wrapping some duct tape around the bezel to apply pressure to the button. If that doesn't work for your TV's geometry, try taping a small object (a few pennies, perhaps) between the button and the tape, or try fashioning the right shape out of a paper clip or a little strip of sheet metal. If you have a 3D printer, maybe you can come up with the right shape for a custom plastic clip.
The big limitation of this hack is that it only works for certain TVs. Many TVs will respond by cycling repeatedly between On and Off or activating some special action. That's why you should try the test before worrying about how to implement the hack.

Solution 4: Pinscape TV ON system

If you're using the Pinscape expansion boards, there's a feature built in to help deal with TVs that won't turn on automatically when plugged in. The Pinscape boards have a power sensor that tracks the power supply status, and two mechanisms for sending an ON command to the TV: a relay that can be hard-wired to the TV's On/Off button, and an IR emitter that can be programmed to send the TV's IR remote control command code to turn on. These features can be configured in the Pinscape software to send the TV ON signal (by relay and/or remote) after an adjustable delay interval after the rest of the system powers up, to give the TV a chance to "boot up" and make itself ready to receive commands.
See Chapter 114, TV ON Switch for full details.

Solution 5: eBay timer board

You can build your own equivalent of the Pinscape TV ON feature using a type of electronic timer circuit board available on eBay.
Note: I recommend against using this solution, because it requires taking the TV apart; it's only included here for reference. If possible, use the Pinscape IR transmitter solution instead. See Chapter 114, TV ON Switch. The IR approach is non-invasive and fairly easy to build. You can use it even if you're not using Pinscape for anything else.
This approach works by simulating a manual button press on the TV's On/Off button, shortly after the system power is turned on. We don't physically press the button, but rather simulate it electronically, by soldering wires to the button's switch contacts and connecting them briefly at the proper moment.
There are three important details required to make this work properly:
To accomplish all of this, we need a timer circuit. The circuit has to be triggered by the power coming on. It then has to pause for a delay time, long enough for the TV to get ready to accept command input, then it has "press the button" for just a moment. Here's what the timing looks like:
We're assuming that the timer is controlling a relay (an electronic switch). The "button press" is simulated by the relay toggling on briefly.
To implement this, we need the timer circuit itself, and then we need to connect it electrically to the TV's On/Off button.
Buying a timer: Suitable boards are available on eBay, but unfortunately it's rather difficult to find the needle in the haystack for this sort of item. The ones you're looking for are no-brand hobbyist products sold by Chinese companies, so there's not a particular store or product name I can point you to. You'll have to sift through the listings to find the right thing, but here's an eBay search term you can use as a starting point: "relay cycle timer".
To find the right timer, first make sure you find something with a relay. Most of the timer boards you'll find do use a relay, but some use solid-state switches (such as MOSFETs) instead. A relay is important for this application. Second, read through the descriptions and look for a list of "modes". The mode you're looking for should be described like this: "when the power turns on, the relay is disconnected, then delay T1, turn on the relay, delay T2, turn off the relay".
When you get the board, you'll have to program it according to the instructions (if any are provided) to set the correct mode and delay times. Set the initial delay time to about 7 seconds, and the second delay time to about 0.25 seconds. You can test that it's configured properly by cycling the power: each time you plug it into power, there should be about a 7 second delay, and the relay should click ON and immediately OFF.
Connecting to the TV: You'll have to be comfortable with taking the TV apart at this stage, because we have to connect some wires to the On/Off button.
There are no generic instructions for taking a TV case apart, so you're on your own for this part. Your goal is to open the case and expose the little circuit board containing the On/Off button.
Needless to say, use extreme caution with this step. In modern LCD TVs, the LCD panel and polarizing filter are very thin, brittle plastic sheets and often have no structural support other than the outer case, so it's very easy to crack them during the removal process or after the case is off. Removing the case will also void the warranty, so you're assuming the entire risk of breaking something by proceeding.
Once you get the case open, you should find a little circuit board located under the area where the buttons on the case are situated. It's usually long and narrow, and looks something like this:
The red arrows in the photo above show the soldering points for the button leads. The little squarish silver objects are the buttons. These are normally situated immediately under the exterior plastic buttons on the TV's bezel; pressing on the exterior plastic button has the effect of pushing down on this metal part, which is the real button.
Once you find this circuit board, identify which button corresponds to the On/Off button on the outer case. Do this by position: just find the inner button that's situated underneath the On/Off button on the case. You can also do this by counting buttons from right to left, since there should be the same number of silver buttons on the circuit board as plastic buttons on the case.
Next, identify the switch leads. There are probably four leads to these switches, one at each corner. On the TVs I've looked at, the leads are in pairs that are electrically connected together, so there are really only two wires here even though it looks like four. Put your multimeter in continuity test mode and check the leads in pairs. Find a pair that are not connected normally, but that become connected when you press the button. These are the leads you want to solder to.
The next step is possibly even more delicate and tricky than opening the case. You have to solder wires to the button leads you just identified. To do this, use fine hookup wire, 24 AWG or thinner. Strip a very short length of insulation from the ends, around 1/8". Melt a little solder onto the end of the wire. Position the end of the wire at the desired contact point. Now get out some tape (I used thin strips of masking tape here) and secure the wire to the board a couple of inches away from the contact point. The idea is to hold it in place at the desired position before soldering so that the solder can just flow over the junction with everything already positioned properly. Once everything is in place, heat the end of the wire for a few moments, long enough for the solder to melt and flow onto the switch lead. Remove the soldering iron carefully and try to hold everything very still for a few moments so that the solder can solidify over the junction point. If all went well, the wire should stick to the switch lead. The connection will be delicate at best, so you'll want to secure the wire with a couple more pieces of tape to minimize mechanical stress on it.
TV On/Off switch with wires soldered to leads
Repeat this process for the second lead. Once both are soldered and held securely in place with tape, test your work with the multimeter. Use continuity test again. Connect the meter leads to the free ends of the wires you just soldered. The meter should read open/no connection. Press the button, and the meter should read closed/connected. If that works, you're set. Put the TV case back together, taking care to run your newly attached wires out a suitable opening.
Now you just need to connect the newly attached wires to the timer board relay. Attach the wires to the relay common (COM) and normally open (NO) terminals on the timer board. (If the relay only has two switch terminals, those are the two to use!)
Finally, to power the relay board itself, connect its DC+ and DC- terminals to the appropriate voltage inputs from the secondary ATX power supply. For example, if it requires 5V for power, connect its DC+ input to the red +5V wire on the secondary power supply, and connect its DC- input to the black 0V/Ground wire on the secondary power supply. See Chapter 45, Power Supplies for Feedback for advice on connecting wires to the power supply.
Note that you must use a secondary ATX power supply to power the timer board (not the main PC power supply), and the secondary power supply must be plugged into the switched power strip. That's key to the whole scheme, because the timer board has to be powered up at the same time as the TV in order for the countdown to start at the same time the TV receives power.

Solution 6: DIY timer circuit

This works much like the eBay timer board described above, except that it saves you the trouble of tracking down the right item on eBay. The tradeoff is that you have to assemble your own circuit board instead. But you don't have to design the circuit: you can just build it from my plans.
As with the eBay timer board, I recommend against using this solution, because it requires taking the TV apart. If possible, use the Pinscape IR transmitter solution instead. See Chapter 114, TV ON Switch.
You can download the schematic, in EAGLE and PDF format, along with and an EAGLE printed circuit board layout, here:
Beta test warning: I haven't built or tested this incarnation of the schematic linked above, which is an EAGLE rendition of the original hand-drawn schematic I used to build the TV ON timer in my own cab. The circuit I built based on the hand-drawn original is well-tested (I've used it for several years without a hitch), but I could have made errors doing the EAGLE translation. I also haven't done a test run of the board design, although my experience has been that EAGLE PCB layouts work fine as long as the schematic is sound. If you're willing to be a beta-tester for these plans, please let me know how it goes!
Before ordering parts, check your TV's timing! If you need different timing, you will need to order different values for parts C8 and/or R10. These parts determine the initial delay time. The delay time can be calculated from these as:
1.1 × R × C
where R is in Ohms and C is in Farads. With the default values as shown in the shematic, the delay is 1.1 × 2.2M × 2.2uF = 5.3 seconds. Before you order parts, test your TV to determine if it requires a longer delay time:
If the TV turns on, try the test a few more times to make sure the timing is reliable. If so, the default 5 second delay should work. If your TV ignores the first button press on some trials, it probably needs a longer delay time. Try the test again with longer wait times until you find the shortest reliable waiting period. I'd add a second or two to the result as a cushion. Now you can reverse the timing formula above to find new values R10 and/or C8. For example, if you need a delay of 7 seconds, you could keep the resistance value the same and calculate a capacitor value of 2.89uF. Round up to the next common size, which in this case is 3.3uF, which would make the actual wait time about 8 seconds.
Build the board: Assemble the circuit, following the schematic or using the printed circuit board (PCB) design provided in the plans. The circuit is complex enough that I'd recommend building it on the PCB rather than ad hoc. You can have the PCB manufactured by OSH Park for about $12 for three copies of the board, or at any PCB maker of your choice. You'll have two copies of the board left over to give to friends or use on your next cab!
Install the TV wires: The next step is to open your TV and solder wires to its On/Off button. The procedure is described in the section on eBay timers above.
Connect the board: Once you have wires connected to the TV's On/Off button, connect the other ends of the wires to one of the "K1" relay switches, on the Normally Open side. If you're connecting directly to the relay, connect to pins 4 and 8 or pins 9 and 13. The relay in the spec is double-pole, meaning that it can switch two separate televisions on at the same time. That's why you have your choice of which relay pins to connect. If you have a second TV that needs the same treatment, you can simply connect it to the other pair of pins. If you use the PCB design, connect the TV wires to JP12 pins 1 and 2 (labeled "TV1" on the board silkscreen) or pins 3 and 4 ("TV2").
Connect power to the board: Finally, connect the power inputs to your secondary ATX power supply. As with the eBay timer, the scheme is predicated on the timer getting its power through a source that's switched on at the same time as the TV, because the power-on time is the start of the delay timer countdown. If you're building from the schematic, connect VCC to +5V (a red wire) from the ATX supply, and connect GND to ATX ground (a black wire). If you're using the PCB layout, connect an ATX red wire to the JP7 +5V (marked on the silkscreen), and connect a black wire to JP7 GND. See Chapter 45, Power Supplies for Feedback for advice on connecting wires to an ATX power supply.
This circuit design is designed for this single function, so there's no need to "program" it as with the eBay timers. All you have to do is plug it in and it should work.

Solution 7: Use a USB IR transmitter

I'm only going to provide an outline for this solution, because I haven't tried implementing it myself. You'll have to do a little product research to fill in the details.
You can buy a device for your PC that lets you plug an IR transmitter into a USB port. Software on the PC can then command the IR transmitter to send a signal. You can use one of these to send the ON command to your TV via IR remote during the Windows boot process.
I don't have any specific product recommendations, but your best bet might be to search for "winlirc transmitter" or "winlirc blaster". winlirc is open-source software that lets Windows send and receive IR commands, so a winlirc-compatible device with a transmitter should serve the function we need here.
Once you find a suitable device, install it on your PC and arrange the IR emitter so that it's within range of your TV's remote receiver. Now you just need to set up a script on the PC that sends your TV's ON command while Windows is booting. You should be able to do this by creating a .CMD file containing the command line sequence to send the IR command, then placing a shortcut to the .CMD file in your Start menu's Startup folder.

13. I/O Controllers

One of the big things that elevates the virtual cabinet experience above ordinary desktop computer pinball is the ability to use real pinball controls: flipper buttons, coin slots, a plunger, "nudging" by actually nudging the cabinet. An equally big enhancement is feedback devices that create tactile effects, lighting effects, and mechanical sound effects that aren't just coming from a speaker.
If you're new to virtual pinball, you might wonder how all of this is possible, since normal PCs don't have any provisions for connecting any of these unusual devices. There's no "flipper button" connector on a Dell desktop. The secret ingredient is something called an I/O Controller ("I/O" for "Input/Output"). These are special hardware devices that plug in to the standard PC ports (usually USB) and provide the special wiring needed to connect buttons, accelerometers, plunger sensors, solenoids, lights, and so on. They provide the physical bridge between the PC and the unique pinball hardware.
This chapter gets into the details of what these devices do, and offers some suggestions for what to buy. The subject can seem overwhelming at first, because there are lots of product options, and they all have different combinations of features and functions. We'll try to make it easier by breaking things down by function, and giving you a comprehensive list of the products available and which functions they offer. Towards the end of the chapter, you'll find a product/feature matrix that shows everything at a glance.

I/O controller functions

Let's start by looking at the main categories of functions that these devices can handle.
Button input: A device that lets you wire regular pinball buttons to the PC is called a "key encoder". These devices are pretty easy to set up. You just run a pair of wires to each button (flipper, Start, etc) and connect them to the encoder. The encoder attaches to the PC with a USB cable. When you press a connected button, the encoder emulates either a keyboard key press or a joystick button press. As far as the PC software is concerned, you're just typing on the keyboard or using a joystick.
Nudge input: This type of device uses an electronic accelerometer to sense the motion of the cabinet. Good accelerometers are sensitive enough and accurate enough to detect when you nudge the cabinet and to measure how hard each nudge is. The pinball software can use this information to apply a corresponding acceleration to the virtual ball - in proportion to the strength of the nudge, so you can get realistic reactions for soft nudges, hard nudges, and a continuum in between. Nudge devices usually connect to the PC via a USB cable and emulate joysticks, so a physical nudge looks to the PC software like a momentary deflection on a joystick handle. The strength of the nudge is indicated by the magnitude of the deflection, which is what allows the software to differentiate between soft nudges and hard nudges.
Plunger input: This is a very specialized type of input device, because it has to use some type of position sensor to track the motion of the plunger, and then translate the readings from that sensor into a format that the PC can understand. Plunger devices usually attach to the PC via a USB cable and emulate joystick input. This is the same way most nudge sensors work, so we need a way for the PC to tell the two apart. This is usually accomplished by using different "joystick axis" assignments for each device.
Feedback output: Output controllers let you connect feedback devices to the PC so that the software can control them. As with the other devices, these usually use USB connections to the PC. Unlike the various input controllers, which all emulate ordinary PC input devices (mainly keyboards and joysticks), output controllers all need special software on the PC. Fortunately, the required special software is already integrated with the main pinball player programs.

Available devices

Now let's look at the available devices. Some of the devices fall neatly into single categories, and others can perform multiple functions.
Pinscape Controller, running on just the KL25Z (no expansion boards). Open source software, DIY hardware; about $15 for the main microcontroller board. Key encoder, plunger input, nudge input, feedback device control.
This is an open source project that can handle all of the I/O controller functions with a single device. The main hardware required is a KL25Z, which is a $15 microcontroller that comes fully assembled and ready to use. By itself, the KL25Z can handle button input and nudging (it has an excellent built-in accelerometer). Plunger input and feedback device control require additional hardware that's described later in this Build Guide. The Pinscape software does just about everything the various single-function commercial devices do, with some added bells and whistles of its own. It includes fully assignable button inputs (using keyboard keys and/or joystick buttons), a "shift button" feature, LedWiz emulation for universal software compatibility, "night mode", high-precision nudge input, high-precision plunger input, and numerous other features. It's highly configurable via its setup program (which runs on Windows, and is free and open-source), and the firmware itself is open-source, so you're free to customize it if you need to do anything beyond what the configuration options allow, or if you want to add whole new features. The firmware includes built-in support for several types of plunger sensor technologies, so you have a choice of different plunger setups.

The standalone KL25Z can handle button, nudge, and plunger input with little more work than attaching wires. It gets a little more complicated if you want to use it with feedback devices, because it needs some additional electronics to do that, as explained in Chapter 49, Pinscape Outputs Setup (Standalone KL25Z).

Pinscape Controller with expansion boards. Open source software and hardware design; components cost about $100 for a full build. Key encoder, plunger input, nudge input, feedback device control.
This is an extension of the basic Pinscape Controller project that adds a set of circuit boards, primarily to provide more feedback device outputs. The boards make it possible to control a much larger number of feedback devices than the KL25Z can control on its own. The boards also provide built-in handling for high-power devices, so that you can connect things like motors, solenoids, replay knockers, fans, and flashers without any additional booster circuits. The hardware design is open-source, so you can build everything yourself from components, which add up to about $100 for a full-featured build. You can also opt to build only sections of the boards if you only need a subset of the features, which reduces the cost accordingly.
Zeb's Boards plunger kit. Commercial, about $140 from Plunger input, nudge sensor, key encoder.
This kit comes with the control board and plunger sensor that attaches to a standard pinball plunger (available separately for about $30). In addition to plunger input, Zeb's kit also handles nudging via an on-board accelerometer, and provides key encoding for up to 20 buttons (with fixed key mappings). Zeb's plunger gets the best user reviews of the commercial plunger options. It uses a high-precision sensor for the plunger that provides realistic plunger motion in the pinball simulation.
VirtuaPin plunger kit. Commercial, $140 to $160 from Plunger input, nudge sensor, key encoder.
The VirtuaPin kit comes with a control board and plunger sensor, and optionally includes the physical plunger assembly. Like other commercial plunger kits, the VP kit is very easy to set up, with little assembly required beyond attaching the sensor to the plunger. The control board has an excellent on-board accelerometer for nudge sensing, and has wiring for up to 16 button inputs. Button inputs are hard-coded as joystick buttons and can't be assigned to keyboard keys. If you're picky about realism in the plunger, be aware that this kit uses an IR proximity sensor to detect plunger position, and these sensors have relatively poor distance resolution. Some users have reported that the plunger animation can be choppy.
i-Pac 2 and i-Pac 4. Commercial, $39/$59 from Key encoder.
The i-Pac devices are full-featured key encoders. Their target market is video game cabinet builders, but they work equally well for virtual pinball, since the needs are basically the same. Buttons are fully assignable (via a setup program on the PC) to keyboard keys and joystick buttons. The devices have a "shift button" feature that lets you assign two meanings to each physical button by holding down a designated shift button to activate the second meaning.
i-Pac Ultimate I/O. Commercial, $99 from Key encoder, feedback device control.
This is a hybrid of the i-Pac and PacLED devices that provides button input encoding and feedback device control. The key encoder features are just like the i-Pac devices, with 48 button inputs. The feedback output controller is designed specifically for attaching 32 small (20mA) RGB LEDs. For a virtual pinball cabinet, you'll want to attach other devices that require higher power, so you'll need external booster circuitry, such as Zeb's booster board. One warning: as of this writing, this device's output controller feature isn't as well supported in the standard virtual pinball software as the LedWiz and PacLed devices, so you might encounter some difficulty setting up the software to take advantage of it. The button input feature will work seamlessly, though.
LedWiz. Commercial, $45 from Feedback device control.
The LedWiz was the first output controller widely adopted among virtual pinball cabinet builders, and as a result, it's the most universally supported option. This device is aimed at video game cabinet builders, so it was designed especially for controlling LEDs (thus the name), but it's not limited to LEDs. It can control just about any type of device. The caveat is that it has a low limit on how much current it can control per device (500mA), so you can't connect high-power devices directly. You can work around that by adding an external booster board to increase its power limits. That 500mA limit is adequate for most types of lights, including flasher LEDs and button lamps. A booster is needed for most mechanical devices, like knockers, motors, and solenoids.
PacLed-64. Commercial, $59 from Feedback device control.
This device is well supported by the newer open-source pinball software systems (including Visual Pinball and PinballX), but it's not as compatible with older systems like Future Pinball as the LedWiz is. It provides 64 outputs for small LEDs. Like the LedWiz, this device was designed for video game cabinet builders, but its power handling is even more limited and isn't sufficient for high-powered lights like flashers and strobes. So you'll need to combine this with a booster board for almost anything in a virtual pinball cabinet.
SainSmart USB relay boards. Commercial, about $20-$40. Feedback device control.
SainSmart makes USB-controlled relay board with 8 relay outputs. Software on the PC can send USB commands to turn attached devices on and off through relay switches. The relays can be used to control devices that use high power levels, so they're good for devices like solenoids, contactors, and replay knockers. However, these boards aren't a good choice for lighting devices, since relays on simple on/off switches and thus can't control brightness. For lights (especially flashers and button lights), you'll want to be able to control the intensity level of each output. The other slight disadvantage of relays is that they add a small lag time for switching devices on and off, which can make the device response slightly out of sync with the game action. Most people don't find this noticeable, though.

Warning! DOF is currently only compatible with the 8-relay Sainsmart boards. Sainsmart makes the boards in different sizes, from 4 to 16 channels, but DOF only works with the 8-relay version.

Warning! There seem to be some no-brand devices out there that look ridiculously similar to the Sainsmarts, with the same blue lays laid out the same way, but which aren't compatible at the software level. That means they won't work with the existing pinball software, unless you can do some additional programming to add support yourself. I'd avoid look-alike boards that aren't clearly branded as Sainsmart products.

Zeb's Boards booster board. Commercial, $75 from Feedback device add-on.
This board lets boost the power from 16 outputs on an LedWiz or PacLed output controller. The booster board itself isn't an output controller, so you can't use it alone; it has to be used in conjunction with one of the output controllers. The booster board raises the power level on 16 of the output controller's ports to 6A, which is enough to control anything in a pin cab, including high-power devices like replay knockers, shaker motors, gear motors, fans, beacons, and solenoids. If you need more than 16 boosted ports, you can add more of these boards to boost an additional 16 ports per board.
SainSmart (non-USB) relay board. Commercial, $20 to $40. Feedback device add-on.
These boards are similar to the SainSmart USB relay boards, but they're not controlled by USB. Instead, they're controlled by individual inputs to the relays. You can connect the relay control inputs to the output ports of an LedWiz or PacLed unit to boost the power handling capability of the controller via the relays. You can then attach a high-power device, such as a replay knocker or solenoid, to the relay. The controller unit will switch the relay on and off, and the relay will in turn switch your high-power device on and off. This is a simple way to boost the power handling of an LedWiz or PacLed unit. Note that the relay switching adds a small amount of lag time, which can make the feedback response slightly out of sync with the game action, although most people who have set these up don't find this to be noticeable.
Zeb's Boards output kits. Commercial, $550 to $900 from Feedback system including controller and feedback devices.
These kits offer turnkey feedback setups that include not only the output controller device but also all of the feedback devices themselves, all fully assembled and wired. Everything comes pre-mounted to a couple of modular panels for easy installation in a cabinet.


For the DIYer: I'm biased, obviously, but if you like building things yourself, my pick would be Pinscape. For a fully decked-out system with all the feedback devices, go with the expansion boards. For the input features only (buttons, plunger, nudging), the standalone KL25Z is all you need. I'm pretty sure Pinscape has all of the features of the best-of-breed commercial products (plus some extra features they don't have), equal or better performance, and a lower price tag. And the open-source design puts you in complete control. You can change anything that's not to your exact liking; and if you take "DIY" especially seriously, you can use my code as a starting point and rewrite as much of it as you want from scratch.
If you want "no compromises": Again, I'm biased, but I think the answer here is Pinscape. It has the most full-featured and highest performance implementation I'm aware of for each of the components. It's highly configurable through its Config Tool, so you can set it up exactly how you want it. And again, it's open-source, so if there is anything you want it to do that it doesn't already do, you can add it; or if there's anything it does do that's not quite the way you want it, you can change it.
If you're uncomfortable with DIY: You'll probably be happier with the commercial options if you're not comfortable building this sort of thing yourself. The commercial products come ready to install, with only some basic setup required. The big challenge is figuring out which devices you need, since their functions overlap in somewhat confusing ways. Here are my recommendations for some common scenarios:
For a simple feedback system with lights only: If the only feedback devices you want are lighting devices (flashers, strobes, and button lights, for example), I'd recommend an LedWiz as the output controller. The LedWiz is inexpensive, and for just lights, it's simple to set up, since that's exactly what it's designed for. A single LedWiz has plenty of ports for a pin cab's lighting needs. The LedWiz is a good choice for lighting devices because it can display a range of brightness levels, which allows for fades, flash patterns, and RGB color mixing effects. The LedWiz isn't as ideal for high-power devices like solenoids and motors, since it can only handle limited power to each port; while it's possible to use it for these devices, you need additional hardware add-ons, which largely negates the whole "it's simple" advantage.
For a simple feedback system with solenoids and motors only: If you want a feedback system consisting only of tactile effects (replay knocker, flipper and bumper solenoids, shaker motor), get a SainSmart USB relay board. I'd get the 16-output type so that you have plenty of outputs for extras you might want to add later. The SainSmart board is the easiest thing to set up for high-power devices. The downside is that relays are strictly On/Off switches, so the SainSmart can't display different brightness levels if you use it to control lights - it can only turn them fully on and fully off. That makes it good for devices like solenoids and motors, but not so good for lamps and LEDs, where you need brightness control to get the full range of effects. The other disadvantage is that the relays are mechanical, so they can eventually wear out; some people on the forums have reported having to replace their SainSmart boards every couple of years due to relay failure.
For a plunger-less system: If you don't want to include a plunger in your setup, use a KL25Z running Pinscape as the input device. You don't need the expansion boards if you're just using the input features. The installation work for buttons and nudge input is pretty much the same as for any of the commercial options, and Pinscape is a lot cheaper and has more features.
For a turn-key plunger: If you want a plunger but don't want to build the electronics yourself, buy Zeb's plunger kit. It's easy to set up and gets generally good reviews from users.
For a turn-key feedback system: If you're the opposite of a DIYer, and you don't want to do a lot of planning or parts sourcing or assembly work, buy one of Zeb's pre-built feedback kits. They're expensive, but they'll save you a lot of work, and they'll eliminate any anxiety you might feel about the things going wrong if you build it yourself.

Feature matrix

Here's a summary of the key features of the available controllers, to help you decide on a combination of devices for your system based on the features you plan to include.
Device Key Encoder Plunger Nudge Feedback Output
Name Type/
# Buttons
Shift Button
Sensor Type
# Outputs
Power Limit
Brightness Control
Booster Required
Pinscape (standalone) Open source
24+ Multiple options High 22+ 4mA Yes
Pinscape w/expansion boards Open source
24+ Multiple options High 65-
4A1 No
Zeb's Boards plunger kit Commercial
20 - - Poten-tiometer High
VirtuaPin plunger kit Commercial
16 - - IR Low
i-Pac 2 Commercial
i-Pac 4 Commercial
i-Pac Ultimate I/O Commercial
48 96 20mA
LedWiz Commercial
32 0.5A Yes3
PacLed-64 Commercial
64 20mA Yes2
SainSmart USB relay board Commercial
12A No
Zeb's Boards booster board Commercial
16 6A No4
SainSmart relay board (non-USB) Commercial
12A No4
Zeb's Boards output kits Commercial
1. The 4 Amp limit applies to the general purpose outputs on the power board. There are 32 of these on each power board. In addition, the main board has 16 flasher/strobe outputs that can handle 1.5A each, and 16 outputs for button LEDs that can handle 20-50mA each. The typical setup uses one main board and one power board, which gives you 65 total outputs, plenty for a decked-out cab. If you need more, you can add extra power boards for another 32 of the high-power outputs per, up to the software limit of 128 total outputs.
2. This device's outputs are designed to drive low-power LEDs, which it can do without any extra booster circuitry. A booster board is needed to drive anything needing higher power, such as flasher LEDs or mechanical feedback devices.
3. The LedWiz can handle 500mA per output, which is sufficient for most types of lights, including LED flashers and button lamps. A booster board is required for most non-lighting devices, such as contactors, replay knockers, solenoids, fans, shakers, and gear motors.
4. This device works in conjunction with one of the output controllers (LedWiz, PacLed-64, etc). It can't be used alone; it has to be used in combination with an output controller.

14. PC Hardware Setup

If you bought an assembled PC, all you have to do at this stage is unpack it. If you're building a PC from parts, you might want to do a preliminary test build at this point to make sure everything's working, and to confirm that you have everything you need.
If you're going to install your PC equipment in your pin cab without a standard PC case, you can do your test build with the parts spread out on a tabletop. Be sure to do your work on a non-conductive surface like wood to avoid accidental shorts.

Static electricity precautions

Many of the parts in a PC are sensitive to static electricity, particularly the CPU and memory chips. That's why everything comes packaged in those silvery plastic anti-static bags.
Your body can accumulate a significant static charge, enough to damage semiconductors, so you have to be careful handling these parts to avoid zapping them when you touch them.
The way to protect against damage when handling static-sensitive parts is to frequently "ground" yourself, meaning that you electrically connect yourself to the earth. Professional engineers do this with something called a grounding strap, which is a conductive bracelet that you wear on your wrist and connect by a wire to your house's ground wiring. That keeps you connected to the earth ground the whole time you're working. You probably don't have one of these unless you do a lot of electronics work, but you can achieve the same thing by simply touching a metal surface that's connected to earth ground periodically while you're working.
Where do you find a grounded metal surface to touch while working? When you're working on a PC, there's one that's always close at hand: the power supply case.
Here's what I suggest. Before you start any other work, get your power supply out of the box and plug it in. Put it on the table where you're going to do your work. Find a bare metal surface on the power supply case. If there are no bare metal surfaces, an unpainted screw head on the case will work. The key is bare metal attached to the case.
As long as the power supply is plugged in with a three-pronged plug, you can now ground yourself at any time by touching that bare metal surface.
You don't have to keep in contact with the grounded metal all the time, although it's ideal if you do (which is why they invented those grounding bracelets). But do ground yourself frequently while working, at least every few minutes, and every time you return to the work station after walking around. Walking around is is a great way to accumulate static charge. Another good time is whenever you're about to open an anti-static bag or start handling a new part.

Assembling the motherboard

You should find detailed installation instructions for assembling your motherboard in its packaging. If you bought a retail-packaged CPU, it should also include its own instructions for installing it in the motherboard.
You should follow the setup instructions in your motherboard's documentation, since every board is a little different. In general, though, here are the steps:

Video card precautions

If you're assembling everything on a tabletop without a standard PC case, the video card's connection to the motherboard will be fragile, since it won't have the structural support that a normal case provides. The PCI slot is really only meant to provide the electrical connection; it's not meant to provide structural support or anchor the card in place.
You'll definitely need to secure the card physically in your eventual installation in the pin cab. For testing purposes, though, you can work with this flimsy setup as long as you're careful not nudge anything while the power is on. Even a little nudge, like someone bumping into the table, can be enough to momentarily interrupt the electrical connection in the socket. I'd avoid that; in most cases the only harm will be to make the PC reboot itself immediately, but these cards really aren't meant to be hot-plugged (taken in and out with the power on) and could be damaged by this.

Power it on

Once you have everything assembled as described above (and according to any additional instructions in your motherboard's documentation), you're ready to give it a test run.
Modern PC motherboards have "soft power" controls, so even though it's already connected to the power supply, it won't actually turn on until you press the "on" button. If you have a case, the "on" button is the one on the case. If you're working without a case, though, you have to find the "Power Switch" pins on the motherboard. Check your motherboard documentation to find the right pins. The motherboard manual will tell you that these are the pins to connect to the "Power Switch" connector wires from your case.
Once you identify the "power switch" terminals, you turn the PC on simply by shorting these two pins together for a moment. They're usually right next to each other on the motherboard, so if you don't have the right kind of connector handy, you can simply touch a metal screwdriver tip to both pins at the same time. (Be careful not to touch any other pins while doing this, of course.)

BIOS Setup

When the PC first powers up, you should see a brief message flash on the screen telling you to press a key on the keyboard to enter the BIOS Setup. It's usually one of the function keys, often F8 or F12, but it varies by motherboard. You'll just have to watch for the message to find the right key. You should also be able to find this information in your motherboard's documentation.
You should be able to reboot by pressing Alt+Ctrl+Del on your keyboard, which should give you another chance to press the magic BIOS Setup key. You can also power cycle by shorting the "Power Switch" pins together again to turn the PC off, then wait a few seconds and do it again to power up again.
You have to press the magic BIOS Setup key at just the right moment after the power comes on. It usually works to tap on the key rapidly while the machine is powering up.
The BIOS Setup lets you configure the machine's hardware and verify that everything you physically attached (memory, disk, video card) is being properly recognized by the motherboard. It's worth running the setup as a very basic test, since the fact that it runs at all confirms that the video card, keyboard, CPU, and memory are all working.

15. Windows Setup

Once you have the PC hardware set up, the next step is to install Windows.
We won't try to provide a Windows installation tutorial here, since the Web has much more comprehensive information on that than we could provide here - and you probably won't need to look at any of that anyway, since Microsoft has managed to make the process fairly automatic in most cases. But we do have some recommendations for settings specifically for pin cabs.
So continue below after you've gone through the basic Windows installation procedure.

DON'T turn off UAC

User Account Control (UAC) is a Windows security feature added in Windows Vista, and present in all Windows versions since, that makes Windows ask for your permission when an application tries to do something that affects core resources in the operating system, such as altering a system registry setting.
You might see advice on the forums telling you to turn off UAC to avoid those prompts. I recommend ignoring that advice. Leave UAC enabled.
I recommend against disabling UAC because doing so can cause software compatibility problems. UAC is an integral part of modern Windows systems, and removing it actually changes the way Windows works internally, which can break some application software. If you're technically inclined and curious about the details, see Mark Russinovich's article in Microsoft's TechNet Magazine, June 2007, Inside Windows Vista User Account Control. For a less technical explanation, try a Google search for "Why not disable UAC". Disabling UAC also increases your vulnerability to system damage from malware and unintentional software bugs.
Any advice you see about disabling UAC is likely outdated. The notion comes from the early days of Windows Vista, when UAC was first introduced. A lot of software at the time wasn't properly designed for the tighter security rules added in Vista, so some people resorted to disabling UAC in an attempt to keep their old software running. As time has gone on, though, most software has been updated to work properly, and UAC itself has been improved to make it less intrusive.

Arrange monitors

If you're using multiple monitors, Windows will combine their display areas into a single large virtual desktop.
Windows lets you adjust the way the monitors are arranged within the virtual desktop via a control panel. The idea is that if you have two physical monitors sitting side by side on a desk, you can arrange the virtual desktop to match. To reach this control panel, bring up the Display control panel, then click Adjust Resolution.
This control panel shows a diagram of how the physical monitors are lined up across the virtual desktop. You can drag the monitors in the diagram to rearrange them. How you arrange your monitors is mostly up to you, but there's one important rule you should follow:
The main display should be at the upper left of the virtual display area.
Note that the "main display" isn't necessary display #1. The numbering is just a way to identify the monitors and is somewhat arbitrary. The "main display" is simply the one you designate as such using the "Make this my main display" button in the control panel.
I recommend the following layout:
Some versions of Windows only allow certain monitors to be the main display, so you might not have the option to make your playfield monitor the main one. If you can't, you should still arrange things so that the main monitor is at the left end of the row.
The reason I recommend this arrangement is that some software, notably VPinMAME, can have odd problems if the main monitor isn't at the left extreme of the virtual desktop. Windows internally assigns the "origin" of the pixel coordinate space to the top left of the main monitor, so any monitor that's to the left of this (or above it) in the virtual desktop area will have negative pixel coordinates. Some software (like VPinMAME) gets confused by the negative coordinates. If you don't follow this advice about the layout, VPinMAME won't be able to properly remember your screen layout, because it incorrectly interprets negative coordinates as errors.

Turn off "Sticky Keys"

Most pinball software uses the Shift keys to control the flippers. Windows has an accessibility feature called "Sticky Keys" that locks the shift keys on if you press them several times in a row. The feature is well-intentioned - it's there to help people who have difficulty pressing several keys at once - but it interacts horribly with pinball games. It can make the flipper get stuck in the up position after a bunch of rapid flips.
Sticky Keys is an accessibility feature, so you'll find it on the "Ease of Access Center" control panel, which you can find in the main Control Panel window.
On most versions of Windows, you can also find this control panel by pressing Windows+S ("Search") and typing "Sticky Keys" into the box. Look for "Change how your keyboard works" or "Make the keyboard easier to use" in the search results.
Once you find the dialog, look for the checkbox labeled "Turn on Sticky Keys". Make sure it's un-checked.

Automatic login

Windows normally asks you for a username and password every time you start up the computer. This is great for office or work PCs. It's not great for pin cabs, where you want to be able to turn on the machine and get straight to playing pinball. It's a little crazy to have to get out the keyboard and log in first.
Fortunately, Windows lets you disable the login requirement, so that the machine boots straight to the Windows desktop each time you turn it on. Here's the procedure:
The next time you boot, Windows should automatically log in to the account you selected and go straight to the desktop.

Remove (or don't install) anti-virus software

On any gaming PC, it's best to minimize the number of background tasks running. Background tasks take CPU time away from the main program that's running. This can have a visible effect on the animation in a game, since even a very short interruption in the animation updates can cause momentary glitches and stutters.
Probably the most important background task to get rid of is third-party antivirus or anti-malware software. Virtually all of these programs use significant system resources and will noticeably hurt game performance. If you built the PC yourself and did a fresh install of Windows, you can simply elect not to install any third-party security software. If you bought a pre-built PC, and the vendor larded it up with "free trial" security software, I'd remove it all.
It might seem crazy in this day and age to run a PC without any security software, and I certainly wouldn't recommend going without on an ordinary PC, but a pin cab isn't an ordinary PC. The difference is that you'll probably only use it for playing pinball - not for browsing random Web sites, opening random emails, or downloading random programs. As long as you're careful about what you install, your risk of encountering any malware should be small. Stick to the well-known pinball programs and add-ons, and always get them from reputable sites.
An exception: you can (and should) leave the built-in Windows security features enabled, particularly Windows Defender and the Windows Firewall. Those have a negligible impact on system performance, and they provide a good baseline level of protection.

Backing up your system data

Everyone knows how important it is to back up the data on a PC, in case you ever need to recover from hardware failures, accidental file deletions, or malware attacks. It's a lot of work to set up all the software on a pin cab, so backups are as important for a pin cab as for any other PC.
The approach I've used for a long time is to back up to external USB hard disks. Those are reliable and fairly inexpensive, and most of them come bundled with backup software. More recently I've added cloud backup as a second layer of protection. There are several good on-line backup services that run about $10/month for reasonable storage quotas.
Here are some things I consider important when setting up your backup plan:

16. Pinball Software Setup

Now let's look at the software needed to transform this from a plain Windows PC to a pin cab machine.
The main software you need, of course, is the pinball simulator. To take advantage of the special features of a cab, you also need some add-ons to display the backglass artwork and control the feedback devices. You'll also want a "front end" program that provides an interactive menu for selecting tables to play. We'll look at the options for all of these in this chapter.

Should I use "Run as Administrator" for everything?

The simple answer is No. You might find advice in the forums or FAQs or other guides saying that you should routinely run everything in Admin Mode. My advice is to ignore that other advice, because it's usually outdated or misinformed.
What is "Admin Mode" anyway? Microsoft divided things into "Admin" and "User" spaces to protect the internals of the system from being accidentally damaged by software bugs or user errors, or intentionally damaged by malware. Programs running in User Mode have some restrictions on what they can access, but Admin Mode programs can access everything. Admin Mode is supposed to be reserved for special system programs that have a legitimate reason to modify your system internals - programs like installers, disk management tools, and system control panels. Everything else is supposed to run in regular "User" mode.
So why do so some people on the forums tell you that you should use Admin Mode routinely, when Microsoft says you shouldn't? The reason is mostly "history". In the old days, there were a few isolated software components in the pinball simulation ecosystem that really did require Admin Mode to work properly. The snag is that Windows erects protective barriers around an Admin Mode program. Those barriers prevent it from interacting with regular User programs. But the pinball ecosystem is made up of a bunch of programs that were designed to interact with each other. So if you run program X in Admin Mode, and program Y needs to interact with it, then you also have to run program Y in Admin Mode. I think you can see where this idea that "you've got to just run everything in Admin Mode all the time" came from - it was a blunt instrument, but it was a way to get around these program interaction problems that Admin Mode created.
Okay, so if "Admin Mode everywhere all the time" is a simple way to solve thorny problems, why am I saying you shouldn't use it? The main reason is that, while it might solve some problems, it creates others. Microsoft doesn't want you to use Admin Mode routinely for everything, so you're always somewhat fighting with Windows if you do. It also reduces your system's security by defeating all of the protective mechanisms that Microsoft designed into Admin Mode in the first place.
The right solution - from a security perspective, and in terms of simplicity - is to stop using Admin Mode for any of your pinball software. If you run everything in regular User Mode, everything will be able to interact as it was designed to, with no hassles at the system level. Remember how I said that this whole Admin Mode fiasco is historical, because it was a requirement for certain components in the old days? Fortunately, it really is mostly relegated to the past now. Those old Admin Mode requirements were almost all due to software bugs, not actual engineering requirements, and all of the cases that I'm aware of have been fixed in modern versions. As of 2020, I don't think that any of the common pin sim components require Admin Mode, as long as you've updated to current versions.
If you do encounter any up-to-date pinball-related programs that say "Admin mode required", you should take a critical look at them and make sure the requirement is real, not just a misunderstanding. There's still a lot of confusion about this, so you can't always trust the FAQs and guides. My personal policy is that I simply won't run programs with unnecessary Admin Mode dependencies until the developer fixes them. I realize that not everyone can bring themselves to be so ruthless, when faced with a fun new feature that they really want. If you find a program that you can't live without, and there's just no way around its "requires Admin Mode" problem, I'd at least try to hold firm on one thing: don't let it "infect" the rest of your system with its Admin Mode requirement. One concrete thing you can do is to use PinballY as your front end. It has the ability to launch Admin Mode programs without running in Admin Mode itself. A major cause of the Admin Mode infection is that none of the other front ends can launch Admin Mode programs unless you also run them in Admin Mode, and of course if you do that, everything they launch will be in Admin Mode. And as I said, that might seem like it works for a while, but it's likely to eventually cause its own problems.

Customization log

Before you do anything else, I think it's a good idea to create "customization log" file. This is just text file for your own use - you can create it with Notepad and leave it empty for now. Put it someplace where you'll be able to find it easily in the future, such as right on the Windows desktop on your cab PC.
The point of this file is to jot down all of the special customizations you make to Visual Pinball and other software. VP in particular forces you to make some customizations in ways that you'll have to repeat each time you update to a new version. For example, some customizations require that you hand-edit VP's shared script files, and those changes will be lost on each update because VP will overwrite the scripts with its own updated copies. That's not a very friendly design on VP's part, I know, but it's just the way some things in VP work.
I'll mention this file again in other chapters when these sorts of changes come up, with a suggestion that you make a note in your customization log file. For now, just create the file so it'll be ready when you need it. In the future, whenever you make a change that warrants inclusion, add a note about it to the file. When it comes time to update VP or other software, you can refer back to this file to reinstate any customizations that got lost in the update process. The same goes if you ever have to rebuild your Windows system due to a system upgrade or disk failure.

Free pinball players

There are three main free pinball player programs for Windows:
Visual Pinball is the essential program for a virtual cab. VP is an open-source project with an active developer community and frequent updates. Hundreds of tables are available, including re-creations of a pretty good percentage of all of the real pinball machines across the decades, plus many original tables. VP has excellent support for the whole gamut of special pin cab features: backglass monitors, DMDs, feedback devices, plunger inputs, accelerometer nudging.
I counted VP 9 and 10 as two separate programs because they're not compatible with each other's tables, so you really have to install both. There's also a much older version 8, plus a couple of different, mutually incompatible versions of VP 9. Some people like to keep all of these installed because, again, individual tables are all tied to specific VP versions, so you need all of the VP versions if you want the ability to play all of the tables out there. (VP isn't very good at compatibility.) Fortunately, there's a combined installer that sets up the whole collection of VP versions with a single download and a single install process.
Future Pinball is another free player, but unlike VP, it's no longer being maintained or updated. Its original creator abandoned it a long time ago and never released the source code, so it's basically a dead end. Even so, you might want to install it to gain access to its tables, since there are a few re-creation tables (particularly from the 1970s or before) where there's an FP version but no VP version.

Visual Pinball 9 and 10

Visual Pinball 10, or "VP X", is the latest version, and VP 9 is the previous version. You'll want to install both versions because they're not compatible with each other's table files, and you'll want to be able to run both kinds of tables.
You can recognize VP 9 tables by the ".vpt" filename suffix. VP 10 tables use the ".vpx" suffix.
The easiest way to set up both versions is to use the VP Installer. VP is actually a collection of about five programs that work together, and in the old days, you had to go download them all individually and then go through a complex series of steps to configure them. The VP Installer bundles everything into a single download, and provides a Windows Setup program that configures it all automatically.
Here are the steps to install VP (both versions 9 and 10) with the VP Installer:

Future Pinball

Future Pinball isn't as essential as VP. It's an older system that hasn't been updated since 2010, and it's unlikely that it ever will be updated again, since its author abandoned the project without ever publishing the source code. I don't find its physics as convincing as VP's, and due to its age, FP's support for special cabinet features is limited.
Even so, many cab builders think FP is worth installing, since it's free and it has lots of tables available.
You can recognize tables written for FP by the ".fpt" filename suffix.
To install FP:

Commercial pinball players

Some good commercial pinball games are also available. Here are the main commercial titles popular with cabinet builders:
The commercial games are playable on pin cabs, but they cater mostly to desktop users, and have limited support for pin cab features (DOF, multiple monitors, real DMDs, etc). Pin cab users aren't a big enough market to attract much commercial support, and of course the open-source developers who created all of the pin cab technologies are unable to modify closed-source commercial products.

Cabinet enhancements

Visual Pinball and the other pinball player programs are basically PC video games. To take full advantage of a cabinet, there are some additional pieces of software that you need.

Backglass display software

To display backglass artwork when playing Visual Pinball games, you need an add-on program called B2S Backglass Server. B2S is installed automatically along with VP if you used the VP Installer. If you set up VP manually, you'll have to install B2S separately.
Getting B2S working takes a few additional steps beyond just installing the software. We cover the details in Chapter 17, Backglass Software Setup.

Tactile feedback and lights

If you're installing any feedback devices in your cab - solenoids, shaker motors, flashing lights - then you need some additional software called DOF (DirectOutput Framework) to control the feedback devices.
DOF is an add-on program that lets Visual Pinball and other software access your output controller. DOF acts as the coordinator between the simulated game and the physical feedback devices, to synchronize feedback effects with the game action: firing your flipper solenoids when the flipper flips, activating the shaker motor when the castle is destroyed, etc.
DOF is a fairly big subject, so it gets its own chapter: Chapter 46, DOF Setup.


PinVol is a utility I wrote to make it easier to control the audio volume during play. It lets you adjust the volume using cabinet buttons, and its special ability is that it helps equalize the volume level across different tables. It remembers your volume settings for each table individually, and automatically restores the table-specific settings whenever you switch tables. It has some additional special features for pin cabs, such as "night mode" (to reduce volume across all tables for late-night play) and individual level controls for multiple sound cards, all accessible from cabinet buttons.
You can find the download link and installation instructions on the PinVol page.

Game selectors, or "front ends"

When your pin cab is finished, you'll probably want it to give the appearance of being a full-fledged arcade machine, not a plain old Windows PC. When you turn on the power, you won't want to see the Windows desktop at any point; you'll want something that looks more like a video game instead. It's also important to be able to operate all controls with the basic set of pin cab buttons - flipper buttons, Start, Exit.
This can all be accomplished with a program known on the forums as a "front end", so-called because it's the first thing you see when you walk up to the pin cab. A front end program serves as a replacement for the Windows desktop. It provides a video game-style user interface that lets you browse through your installed tables, launch tables, and switch between tables. A good front end will let you operate everything with the pin cab buttons so that you don't have to reach for the mouse or keyboard.
The most widely used front end currently is PinballX, which is free but closed-source. The original front end, HyperPin (also free-but-closed-source), is still around, but it's not very widely used any more; most people consider PinballX's user interface to be more modern and more pin-cab-friendly. There are also two newer options: PinUp Popper, another free/closed-source program; and my own PinballY, free and open-source.


This is my own project, brand new in late 2018. I tried to make it easy and quick to set up so that you can try it out without a lot of hassle. It's designed specifically for pin cabs, and has built-in integration with most of the pin cab ecosystem, including DOF, real DMD devices, joysticks (for button input), and multiple monitors. It's also highly customizable via a built-in Javascript scripting engine.
Downloads and more information are available at the PinballY Project Page.
PinballY is similar to the other front ends in terms of user interface appearance and functionality. The main reason I wrote it was that I wanted an open-source option (all of the other front ends I know of are closed-source).

PinUp Popper

This is a newer program released in early 2018. It's free, but closed-source. See for download and install information.


PinballX is currently the most popular front end for pin cabs. It has a minimalistic user interface that's well designed for pin cabs, letting you access all functionality with just four buttons (flippers, Start, and Exit), but also letting you use other buttons if you have them (e.g., MagnaSave).
You can download PinballX from its home site, It's free to download, but it's closed-source, and installed versions "expire" after a period of time, requiring you to update. Follow the Download link from the main page to download the installer.
After running the installer program, you have to run the Settings.exe program in the PinballX folder. PinballX needs to know a bunch of things about your system before it will work properly. You should go through at least the Basic settings. Pay particular attention to the following:

Adding tables to the PinballX menu

PinballX doesn't go out and find your tables by itself. You have to enter each table into PinballX's menu list yourself. You do this using the Game List Manager program in the PinballX program directory. Before running this, make sure you configured the directory locations with the PinballX Settings program as described above.
The PBX installer will pre-populate the menu list with a few games for demo purposes, so the first thing you'll probably want to do is delete these. Simply click the Delete button next to each game in the list. Note that there are multiple game lists (Visual Pinball, Future Pinball, MAME), so you'll have to select each list with the drop list at the top of the window and delete its games.
Each pinball game you set up has a bunch of associated "media" items: a "wheel" image, which provides the title graphic shown in the menu when you navigate to the table; a playfield image; a backglass image; a DMD image; the advertising flyer for the game; an instructions card; video versions of the table and backglass images; and audio to play when you launch the game. You can set up each of these items individually, but that's extremely tedious, especially if you have lots of games to add.
Fortunately, there's an easier way.
The quick way to set up a game is to use the "Import Media Pack" button at the top. This lets you add a game, along with all of its related media items, in one operation. You'll still need to select the game's playable file (the .vpx file for VP 10, for example), but everything else will be set up automatically.
To set up a game using the "import" button, start by downloading the game's media pack. You can find media packs on vpforums. Select "Frontend Media & Backglass" on the navigation bar, then click "Complete Media Packs" under the Media Packs section. This will take you to a gigantic list of "HP Media Pack" files. The "HP" is for HyperPin, but PinballX knows how to read these same files. Navigate through the list to find the game you're looking for.
Each of these "HP Media Pack" files is an ordinary ZIP file. Don't unpack them. Simply download them to the Tables directory for the appropriate pinball player version. For example, if you're setting up a Visual Pinball 10 game, download the corresponding table pack to the Visual Pinball 10\Tables folder.
Now go to the PinballX Game Manager. Select the list for the appropriate pinball player at the top (e.g., select "Visual Pinball"). Don't click Add Game at any point. Instead, click Import Media Pack. Select the ZIP file you downloaded. This will automatically create a new entry for the game and populate it with the media items in the ZIP file. Now click on the Select button next to the Game field for the newly added item. Choose the playable game file from the list. Note that this will only show you a list of game files you've already installed in the Tables folder, so you'll have to actually download the game into the Tables before you can complete this step.
After you exit out of the Game Manager program and restart PinballX, you should now see the newly added game show up in the menu.
As you add tables to your system, you'll need to repeat this process for each one.


HyperPin was the original front end for pin cabs. It's an offshoot of the similarly named HyperSpin, which is a popular front end for home-brew video game cabinets. Since HyperPin came from the video game world, it was designed around an assumption that you have a big bunch of buttons. Pin cab builders tend to prefer a more minimalistic approach, with only a small set of buttons closer to what's found on most real pinball machines. This has always made HyperPin a little ill-fitting on a pin cab, since its UI depends on having a fairly large number of buttons that can be mapped to individual functions. A lot of early pin cab builders designed their cabs specifically for HyperPin by installing four or five extra buttons on the front panel dedicated to front-end functions. But most of us don't like the extra buttons on aesthetic grounds, because they take away from the real pinball look. That's a big part of why so many pin cab builders migrated to PinballX when it became available.
The home site for HyperPin is Click the Download button in the main navigation bar, then look for "HyperPin" in the Category list.

Where to find tables

Visual Pinball tables: The biggest collection I've seen of VP cabinet-mode tables is vpforums. Click "Visual Pinball Tables" in the navigation bar at the top. The popup menu has several sections; the ones you'll want to look in for pin cab use are "VP9 Cabinet Tables" and "VPX Tables" section. VP 9 requires tables to be designed specially for cabinet use, which is why it has a special section. VP 10 unifies cabinet and desktop modes, so it doesn't have a separate cabinet section - any VPX table should work in cabinet mode.
vpuniverse also hosts VP tables, although their collection isn't as extensive. Click the Downloads link in the navigation bar to find tables.
Future Pinball tables: As with VP 10, all Future Pinball table files are playable in cabinet mode. You just have to adjust the camera settings for each table to get it lined up properly for cabinet play. vpforums has a large collection of FP tables: click "Downloads" in the navigation bar, then look in the "Future Pinball Tables" section.
Backglasses: Some tables include the B2S backglass files with the Visual Pinball table files, but most don't, so you'll usually have to download backglass files separately. vpforums has a large collection of these: click "Frontend Media & Backglasses" on the navigation bar, then select "dB2S Animated Backglasses" under the Backglasses section.
PinballX & HyperPin media: vpforums has a large collection of media packs for the front-end menu program. Click "Frontend Media & Backglasses" on the navigation bar, then select "Complete Media Packs" from the "Media Packs" section. "HP Media Pack" files work in both HyperPin and PinballX.

17. Backglass Software Setup

If your pin cab has a separate backglass monitor, you'll want it to display the appropriate backglass artwork for the current game. And you'll want this to be more than just a still image, since the backglass is an active part of many games, showing information on score, bonus features, etc.
Fortunately, this is well supported in Visual Pinball. VP can display live, animated backglass artwork that synchronizes with the game action. VP requires an add-on program called B2S Backglass Server to do this. B2S works alongside Visual Pinball to display the animated backglass artwork, simulating the same backglass lighting effects, score displays, and animated elements that you'd see on a real machine. B2S is specifically designed for a cabinet setup where you have a separate monitor for the backglass.
To get all of this working, you have to install the B2S software itself, and then there are some extra setup steps required for each table. This chapter explains how to set up the B2S software and configure tables to use it.

B2S Installation

The first step to getting backglasses working is to install the B2S software itself.
If you installed Visual Pinball using the VP Installer program, B2S should have been installed automatically as part of the setup process, so you're already set.
If you didn't use the VP installer (that is, you installed VP manually from ZIP files or something like that), you'll have to install B2S separately. To find the download:
There might be several versions of B2S Backglass Server in the file list. I'd recommend picking the one with the highest version number to make sure you have the latest update. Click the link, which will take you to the download page. That should contain links for downloading the file and for installation instructions. Note that you'll have to create a vpforums account to download a file, if you don't already have one.
Click the "instructions" link on the download page and follow the steps. Here's the basic procedure:

Download backglass files

Okay, you've installed B2S, loaded up a game in VP... and didn't see any backglass artwork. That's because installing B2S isn't the last step. You also have to do a little extra work to set up each table. This is work that you'll have to repeat for each new table you download, but fortunately it's only a one-time job for each table.
Most VP table files are distributed without any backglass artwork. Some authors bundle the two together, but in most cases you have to download the backglass file separately.
Fortunately, it's fairly easy to find backglass files. has a large collection:
Files are listed by table title, so just find the title of the table you're looking for and click through the links to download the file.

Are B2S files and .vpt/.vpx files paired?

No. You don't have to find the exact matching B2S version for your table. Any B2S for a given title should work with any .vpt/.vpx game for the same title. E.g., you don't need a specially paired B2S for "Funhouse_NightMod_ToyMod_991_v26.vpt"; any B2S for Funhouse should work.
This is the whole reason that the table files and backglass files are usually distributed separately. The B2S files and VP table files are more or less independent in terms of their operation and design. A particular .vpt or .vpx file should work with just about any .directb2s file for the same table. There's no need to find a matching set for a particular version of either.

2-screen and 3-screen versions

Some of B2S backglasses have "2-screen" and "3-screen" variants. The difference is how the speaker/DMD panel graphics are handled:
In cases where both types are available, choose the one that matches your physical cab setup. But it's also okay if only one type is available and it's the "wrong" one for your cab. You can always use either format. The worst that happens with the "wrong" format is that the geometry will be a bit distorted because the proportions were designed for a different monitor layout.

Installing the .directb2s file

After downloading a backglass file, perform these steps:
It's essential to put the .directb2s file in the same location as the table file and to rename it to match the .vpt/.vpx file name. That's how B2S finds the file. If the name and location aren't matched like this, B2S can't usually locate the file and won't show any backglass artwork.
(B2S does actually have some "fuzzy matching" that tries to find a matching file even if the name doesn't exactly match, but in my experience, that does more harm than good. B2S's fuzzy matching usually just picks something random and wrong, and the fact that it's doing it at all makes it that much harder to figure out why the wrong file is getting picked. The only way to make B2S pick the right file reliably is to give it the exact same name as the table file.)

Enable B2S on each table

There's one more step before the backglass artwork will appear during a game: you have to enable B2S mode for each individual game. This is a one-time step, but you have to do it separately for each table.
Most VP 10 tables will automatically use B2S if present, so this step isn't usually required for VP 10. However, if you try a VP 10 table and it doesn't work, it might be an unusual case that requires the VP 9 procedure below.
Some later VP 9 tables, from 2016 and later, also will automatically work with B2S.
Given that most VP 10 tables and some VP 9 tables will work "out of the box" without any modification, the first step is to simply fire up the game in VP and see if the backglass appears. If so, you're all set with that game. If not, try this procedure:
If none of the above helped, and the table is a re-creation of an older EM (electro-mechanical) game from the 1970s or earlier, the game will need more extensive modification to make it work with B2S. The work needed is beyond the scope of this chapter. Your best bet might be to contact the author of the table and request a B2S-capable update, or see if someone else on the forums wants to take it on.

18. Optimizing Performance

Virtual pinball is in essence a video game, and video games place special demands on PC performance. The first prerequisite for adequate performance is adequate hardware, particularly the CPU and graphics card. You can find advice on selecting suitable components in Chapter 11, Designing the PC.
Even with fast hardware, though, you'll need to do some tuning to get the best video game performance out of your system. This chapter offers some advice on things to try.
Here's my quick list of the most fruitful optimizations with VP:
  1. Minimize background tasks and other running programs (see General Windows optimizations)
  2. Use a CPU affinity tool to give VP exclusive access to a group of CPU cores (see Controlling CPU affinities)

How to approach system optimization

The whole point of optimizing is to make the game play better, in your subjective view. It's worth making a point to keep that in mind, because it's easy to get bogged down in the numbers, trying to make specific benchmark figures or performance metrics as perfect as possible. It's best not to get too obsessed with any one benchmark, because there's no benchmark that captures everything, and there's always a point of diminishing returns when you start focusing on making one number as high as you can get it.
That said, objective metrics are extremely helpful when making adjustments. For many of the adjustments you can make, there's no one-size-fits-all ideal setting, since the effects vary by system, so you'll have to experiment in many cases to find the right setting. You'll also have to experiment to see which types of adjustments make any sort of difference. Objective numbers can be really helpful to see if adjustments are having any effect and if they're moving the needle in the right direction. It's easy to trick yourself into seeing differences that aren't there if you don't have some kind of hard data to look at.

Measuring VP performance: frames per second

The most common performance metric in video games is the "frame rate", in Frames Per Second or FPS. This is the number of times per second that the game software can fully render the scene and update the video graphics.
VP can display the current frame rate and some other statistics on-screen while you play. Activate this display by pressing F11 while a game is running.
At first glance, it might seem strange that this isn't identical to your video card's refresh rate, usually 60 Hz (updates per second). The reason for the difference is that most video games (VP included) do their graphics rendering on their own schedule, according to how quickly they can do the computing work to produce each frame.
In order to produce smooth animation, VP's frame rate has to be at least as fast as the hardware refresh rate. If VP can't produce a new frame in time for the next hardware refresh, the TV will keep displaying the same frame as on the last refresh. This will make the picture momentarily freeze on the TV, which makes the motion appear jerky.
In practice, it's not good enough for the VP frame rate to merely be higher than the TV's refresh rate. It has to be much higher, by a factor of two or more. This is because the FPS rates that VP shows you is an average over many frames. The actual time it takes to produce any individual frame can vary quite a lot from one frame to the next. Some frames might take two or three times as long as the average frame to produce. If your average FPS rate is only marginally above the TV's refresh rate, all of those slower-than-average frames will take longer than one refresh cycle to generate, so you'll see a lot of repeated frames and jerky motion.
What makes a frame take longer than average? It's a matter of the complexity of the physics and graphics models that go into making up the frame. You'll typically see the frame rate slow down during multiball sequences, for example, since the physics engine has to compute the motion of the additional balls.

How to check your graphics card refresh rate

This will show you the list of screen resolutions and refresh rates that your GPU supports.
Most graphics cards and TVs use a standard 60 Hz video refresh rate. Many LCD TVs have nominal refresh rates of 120 or 240 Hz, but this isn't the video signal rate; it's just the LCD panel update rate, which uses interpolation to synthesize fake frames between the actual frames. A small number of TVs and computer monitors can accept true video signal rates higher than 60 Hz, but to take advantage of that you also need a video card that can generate such signals.
It's always best to use a graphics mode that exactly matches the native resolution of your TV: 1280x720 for a 720p TV, 1920x1080 for a 1080p TV, or 3840x2160 for a 4K TV.

How to reduce stutter

The jerky motion that happens when frames are repeated due to slow rendering is called "stutter". It's more or less impossible to make VP absolutely stutter-proof, since there are occasional oddball situations in any game where the physics computations get extremely complex and overwhelm even the fastest hardware. But it's at least possible to reduce stutter to the point where you'll hardly ever see it.
There are really two separate sources of stutter, which require separate solutions.
The first source of stutter is the raw computational time that VP spends updating the physics and rendering the graphics. The physics updates are done on the main CPU, and the rendering is mostly done on the graphics card (the GPU). So the obvious route to faster updates is faster hardware. For most people, that's something to consider in the planning stages, but it's not practical in terms of budget to update your whole PC every time a table is too slow. Barring hardware updates, the main way to increase VP's raw rendering rate is by adjusting VP's graphics options. We'll cover that below in VP video settings.
The second source of stutter is a little more subtle. Windows multi-tasks - runs many programs at once - by letting programs take turns using the CPU. Windows lets each program run for a fraction of a second, then interrupts it and lets another app take its turn. With most applications, you never notice this turn-taking, because it happens so quickly that it creates the illusion that every program is running at the same time. The illusion can start to break down with video games, though. The problem is that the turn-taking interruptions can happen at inopportune times that make VP miss its window for updating the graphics in time for a video refresh cycle, causing repeated frames and thus stutter.
One obvious way to reduce these interruptions is to minimize the number of other running programs, as outlined in General Windows optimizations below. That only goes so far, though, as you can't shut off everything else. To deal with the programs that have to keep running, there's a powerful technique known as CPU "affinity", which lets you partition your hardware and give special VP special access to parts of it. We'll talk about that later in Controlling CPU affinities.

General Windows optimizations

You can find lots of advice on the Web about general Windows tuning and gaming PC tuning. There's so much advice of that sort available that I won't try to reiterate it all in detail here, other than to mention the main points:
The last one (removing third-party antimalware programs) might make you uncomfortable. It's up to you, obviously, but I think it's worthwhile for a machine that you use as a dedicated pin cab PC and not as your main PC. There are two reasons I think you can go without. First, Windows 7 and later have pretty good protection built-in, in the form of Windows Defender. That's positioned for marketing purposes as "basic" protection only, to give you the impression you need something stronger, but it actually scores fairly high in most independent testing. Second, you can greatly reduce your exposure to malware by using the pin cab PC exclusively as a pin cab PC: don't store sensitive personal files on it, don't use it for email, don't use it for random Web browsing (limit Web use to trusted sites), and don't download random files (only download from trusted sites). Email and random Web browsing are the primary vectors for malware, so you can minimize exposure to avoiding those vectors as much as possible.

Controlling CPU affinities

The most powerful tool I've found for reducing stutter is CPU affinity. This a mechanism inside Windows for assigning each running program to a preferred group of CPU cores.
A "core" is a CPU within your CPU. The processor chips used in modern PCs, such as Intel i5 or i7 chips, are actually made up of multiple CPUs packed onto one piece of silicon. For example, an i5-8250 chip contains four complete CPUs. The term "core" is used to distinguish these CPU sub-units from the chip as a whole, which is also commonly called a CPU.
Windows has built-in support for multi-core chips. It automatically spreads work across the cores to optimize overall system throughput, and for most purposes you don't even have to think about it. As usual, though, video gaming doesn't exactly fit the typical program profile that the Windows default settings are designed for. The core affinity feature in Windows lets you override the defaults to optimize performance for special cases like games.

CPU affinity goals

The basic idea is to partition your CPU's cores into two groups: VP, and everything else. When you're running a table in VP, the game itself is the only performance-critical task in the whole system; everything else can take a back seat and wait its turn. So we're going to give the lion's share of your PC's computing power to the game, and give all other running programs the leftovers. For CPU affinity settings, the smallest unit we can work with when dividing things up is one CPU core, so if your CPU has N cores, we're going to allocate N-1 of the cores to the game, and give the one remaining core to everything else.
The point of this partitioning is to give the pinball software the most exclusive access we can to a set of CPU cores. This reduces the chances that another program running in the system will be able to interrupt VP or its components in the middle of some time-critical tasks. (And virtually everything VP does is time-critical, since it's a real-time physics simulation.)
In practice, I find that this makes a night-and-day difference in stutter, reducing it from noticeable to practically never on my pin cab.

CPU affinity tools

PinAffinity: This is a simple CPU affinity setter I wrote specifically for pin cabs. It's designed to be extremely simple to set up and completely automatic once configured, and it's free and open-source. You can find it here: PinAffinity.
Instructions for basic pin cab setup are included in the download, but here's a quick overview:
Other tools: On my own cab, I used to use a freeware program called PriFinitty. Unfortunately, it's no longer available; the developer abandoned the project a long time ago and never released the source code.
Another option is Process Hacker 3, available here: Process Hacker is a full Task Manager replacement, so it's not specifically designed for the pin cab use case, but it has the basic function we need (the ability to set CPU affinities persistently on a per-program basis). Note that you'll need a "nightly build" version of Process Hacker 3. The current public release version, Process Hacker 2, can control CPU affinities for live processes but can't save them or apply them automatically to new processes.

Recommended CPU affinity configuration

I recommend the following basic configuration:
PinAffinity uses those settings by default.
Why three cores for VP? You might have read that Visual Pinball is single-threaded, so it might not seem like it would benefit from more than one core. It's true that VP's core physics and graphics run on a single thread, but if you look at a VP process with a tool like Process Explorer, you'll see that it has about 20 threads running. Where are they all coming from if VP is single-threaded? Mostly from the external subsystems that VP uses. VPinMAME runs on its own thread; DirectInput and DirectSound create multiple threads to service I/O events; DOF creates a thread for each output controller it accesses; and most video card graphics drivers create several additional threads.
The main VP physics/rendering thread and the VPinMAME thread each consume significant CPU time; the rest of the threads do little actual computing work, as they only exist to service I/O events and timed events as they occur. The VP and VPM threads probably don't come close to saturating the CPU on your machine; you'll probably see only 10% to 20% CPU usage on these threads. But even so, they both benefit from having a free core available because they both need "real time" responsiveness to keep up with external events. In the case of VPinMAME, it has to respond to game events immediately when they happen, and has to maintain precise time sync with the audio playback to prevent audible glitches in the soundtrack. In the case of VP, the physics/rendering thread has to keep in precise sync with the video refresh cycle; any lag in rendering is visible as stutter. It also has to respond quickly to input events to avoid perceptible latency (e.g., so that the flippers don't feel sluggish when you press the buttons).
That's why three cores seems to be the sweet spot for VP performance. We have two threads that run more or less continuously (the main VP physics/rendering thread, and the VPinMAME thread), and a bunch of other threads that need to respond quickly to events but do little work. If you give this collection of threads three cores to work with, Windows will be able to balance the load so that everything has near-real-time CPU access.

One video card or two?

One of the frequently asked questions on the forums is whether it's better to use a single video card that can support multiple monitors, or a separate video card for each monitor. (Most pin cabs have either two or three monitors: the main playfield TV, the backglass TV, and possibly a third monitor for the score display or "DMD" - the dot matrix display.)
This question actually contains two components, so let's unpack it. The first part is: can my video card handle multiple monitors? The second part is: would I get better performance by adding an extra video card for the second and third monitors?
The answer to the first part is basically always yes. All modern gaming cards have support for multiple monitors and provide built-in ports for connecting two to four monitors. And Windows has excellent, fully automatic support for multiple monitors built in. When you're setting up your system, there shouldn't be anything special you have to do with either your video card or Windows to configure multiple monitors; you shouldn't have to do anything more than just plugging them all in.
What about performance, though? Intuitively, it seems like more video hardware should translate to faster performance, for the same reasons that CPUs with more cores run faster. It seems like an extra card would take some load off the main graphics card. In practice, though, adding a second card makes most systems run slower. I can only speculate about the reasons for this, but I suspect that it has to do with contention for the data bus that connects the CPU and GPU. A second video card creates bus contention that doesn't exist if there's only one video card. Whatever the reason, most system in practice run faster with a single video card handling all monitors.
"One card is faster" isn't an absolute rule, though. I have heard from people who found that adding a second card actually did improve performance on their systems. But this seems relatively uncommon; for most systems, it seems that you'll get better performance by buying one fast video card than by trying to split the load across two or more cards.

Input lag

A common performance problem in video games is input lag: a noticeable delay between pressing a button and seeing the result on-screen. On a pin cab, this is mostly noticeable with the flippers. Input lag makes it feel like the flippers are slow to respond when you push the buttons.
Latency can come from many sources, but in most cases, the culprit turns out to be the TV. That's the place to focus your efforts to fix the problem, in part because it's almost always the biggest contributor to lag by far, and in part because there aren't really any adjustments to be made anywhere else in the system. Everything else is probably already running as fast as it can.
You can find more about input lag and how to minimize it in Chapter 7, Selecting a Playfield TV. We won't repeat all of the detail here, but the main point is that you should be sure your TV is set up with as little image processing as possible, especially enhancement modes related to "motion smoothing". Look for a Game Mode setting in your TV's setup menus; that usually selects the right combination of settings to minimize lag, since this is a concern for video games in general.

Audio lag

Audio lag is a noticeable delay between visual events appearing on-screen and the playback of the corresponding audio effect. This fortunately isn't a common problem. If you experience it, though, here are a few things to try.
Check your sound card's settings. (Open the Windows "Sound" control panel, select your card, and click Properties.) Make sure that everything is turned off under the Enhancements tab.
Some sound cards have extra properties tabs that control special hardware features of the card. Check any extra you see and make sure that any processing modes, effects, or enhancements are disabled.
If you're using an add-in sound card (rather than motherboard audio), and it came with its own separate settings program, go through that and make the same kinds of checks: look for any effects or processing modes that might be slowing things down, and disable any you find.
If you're using your TV's built-in speakers through the HDMI video connection, check the setup menus to see if there's a setting specifically for audio delay or audio sync. Your TV might be intentionally delaying the audio signal so that it syncs up with delays in the video signal processing, and it might let you adjust the delay time. If so, make it as short as possible.

VP video settings

Visual Pinball has a number of options related to graphics rendering that can affect performance. To access these options, start VP without loading a game, in editor mode. On the menu, select Preferences > Video Options.
The effects on performance of the different settings vary by system, and many of them trade off between quality and speed, so you'll have to experiment to find the ideal settings for your system. Here's an overview of the main settings that affect performance:

19. Customizing VP Tables

One of the great things about the Windows virtual pinball environment is that so many tables are available in a format that lets you modify and customize them in any way you please. The free pinball player programs (Visual Pinball, Future Pinball) are also full pinball construction programs. You can open any table for Visual Pinball or Future Pinball in its editor and make your own modifications.
(The same can't be said of the commercial pinball games, such as Farsight's Pinball Arcade or Pinball FX/2 and FX/3. With those, you're stuck with what they sell you, which is never a perfect fit for cabinet play. That's one big reason that VP is so popular with pin cab builders.)
This chapter provides an overview of how to customize tables in Visual Pinball. We go into detail on a few of the key customizations often needed to adapt a table to cabinet play. Many of the tables available for VP were designed with regular desktop in mind, and weren't tested on a cab by their original authors, so they need some tweaking to look and play their best on a cab.

Opening a table in the VP editor

Visual Pinball is, at its core, a pinball construction program that also happens to let you play the tables. So editing a table is really the default thing that VP does.
In VP 8 and 9, the first thing you see when you start the program is a blank table editor window. Use the File > Open menu command to open a table in the editor.
In VP 10, they tried to make VP a little friendlier for the "average user", who just wants to play existing tables rather than creating their own. So VP 10 starts by bringing up a "Select Table File" dialog when you first start the program, and then immediately starts a game session with the table you select. If you want to edit a table instead, you have to bypass this initial dialog. Just click Cancel in the dialog, then use the File > Open menu to open a table in the editor, just like in VP 8/9.

Adjusting the viewing angle

When VP runs a game, the image you see on the display is a rendering of a 3D model of the table. To construct this image, VP uses an imaginary camera that views the model from a selected position in space. You can adjust this camera position to create different views of the table.
I find that most of the VP tables I download need some adjustment in their viewing angle to look their best on a pin cab display. And most pin cab builders feel the same way, because the ideal viewing angle is subjective. No one viewing angle will satisfy everybody.
VP 9: Adjusting the viewing angle in VP 9 is a bit tedious because you have to do it by typing numbers into a property sheet in the editor, and then run the game to test the results. I always have to iterate this process five or ten times before I find a satisfactory solution.
In the Backdrop properties window, the Colors & Formatting section contains all of the viewing angle options. The exact settings vary a lot from one table to the next, so there's no one-size-fits-all setting list I can give you. You'll just have to experiment with the different settings to see the effect they have. Change a setting and run the table to see the result. Change one thing at a time so that you can see each setting's individual effect.
Here's an overview of the individual settings and what they do:
VP 10: You can use exactly the same procedure as above with VP 10, but VP 10 also has an interactive "camera mode" that's a little easier to use. Camera mode lets you see the effect of each change immediately on the rendered table, without having to switch back and forth between editor mode and play mode repeatedly.
To activate camera mode, use the menu command Table > Camera/Light Edit Mode, or press F6. Follow the on-screen instructions to cycle through the settings and make adjustments. The settings listed above for VP 9 all have the same meanings here.
The camera mode controls are a little cumbersome, and it's hard to set exact values with them. You can always go back and fine-tune the values with the properties editor (using the VP 9 procedure above) to make any final adjustments.

Fake 3D table elements

One thing to note is that a lot of tables have some "fake 3D" table elements that don't respond well to viewing angle adjustments.
For example, consider Rudy's head in Funhouse. On the real machine, of course, Rudy is a rather large 3D chunk of plastic. But some VP versions of Funhouse don't use a 3D model object for Rudy; they just use a photo of Rudy pasted onto a flat surface in the VP model. That's what I mean by a "fake 3D" element: it's meant to look like it's 3D, but it's actually just a flat photo in the software.
The problem with these fake 3D objects is that the viewing angle captured in the photo will stay the same no matter how much you change the viewing angle of the table. The photo is, after all, just a photo. If you change the overall table viewing angle too far, it will become extremely obvious that the flat photo is now from the wrong perspective.
There are a few ways you can deal with this when you run into it:

Viewing and editing the table script

Many customizations in VP are made through the table's "script". Every table has a script, which is basically a little computer program that carries out certain operations when you're playing a game with the table. It's called a "script" by way of analogy to the script for a movie or play. A movie script is a series of things the actors are supposed to say and do during the movie; a VP table script is a series of things the computer is supposed to do while the the is running.
To view a table's script:
That brings up a text editor window showing the script. You can simply type into this window to edit the code.
Table scripts are by their nature utterly unique, meaning there are no fixed patterns that they have to follow. However, there are certain conventions that many table authors follow, so you'll start to see patterns after you've looked at a few scripts.
VP scripts are written in the Visual Basic language. (Which makes for some confusing initials: VP scripts are VB scripts!) If you want to be more technical, VP actually uses a variant of Visual Basic called "Visual Basic Scripting" or VBS. Beware example code you find on the Web, because many Web examples of "Visual Basic" use a different variant known as "Visual Basic for Applications" or VBA. VBA is much more powerful, so unfortunately, many generic Visual Basic examples on the Web just won't work in VP's simpler version of the language.

Option variables

As mentioned above, many VP table authors follow common conventions and patterns for how scripts are arranged. One of these common patterns you'll often see is a set of "option variables" defined near the top of the script, that let you select some pre-programmed variations on the table's behavior. It's always a good idea to scan through the script for a new table you've installed to see if it has any option settings and customize them to your liking.
To see if a table has any option variables, read through the comments near the top of the script. A comment in VP starts with an apostrophe ('), and the VP editor usually shows it as green text:
' Funhouse / IPD No. 966 / Williams, November, 1990 / 4 Players ' VP9 12.0 by JPSalas 2009
Script options are typically defined as Visual Basic variable assigments or Const (named constant) definitions. Most authors group these near the start of the script, to make them easy for people to find without having to read through the whole of the script, and prominently label them with comments so that you'll know what they're for.
For example, here are the options at the top of Whirlwind for VP 9:
' ************************************************* ' OPTIONS ' ************************************************* ' Controller ' 1=VPinMAME, 2=UVP backglass server, 3=B2S backglass server Const cController = 3 ' DMD rotation Const cDMDRotation = 0 ' VPinMAME ROM name ' enter string of valid ROM Const cGameName = "whirl_l3" ' flasher and GI on or off option ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable the flashers Const Flashers_ON = 1 ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable GI Const GI_ON = 1 ' some cabinet sound options ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable the flipper sounds Const Flippers_Sound_ON = 1 ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable the slingshot sound Const SlingShot_Sound_ON = 1 ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable the bumper sound Const Bumpers_Sound_ON = 1 ' some more table options ' 0, 1 or 2 to set 'storm sound': 0 is off, 1 is fan, 2 is storm Const StormMode = 1 ' 0 or 1 to disable or enable the "fan rotated" Williams W Const RotatingWilliamsW_ON = 1 ' 0 or 1 to choose the standard or blue colored apron Const BlueApron_ON = 1 ' 0 or 1 to aim the plunger outlane: 0 up the inner orbit or 1 up the ramp Const Plunger2Ramp_ON = 1
You don't have to be much of a programmer to know what to do with these: just change the number after the "=" in any line where you want to change to a different setting.

How to fix up tables for a real plunger

Many VP 9 tables require some scripting changes before they'll work properly with a plunger device. Most VP 10 tables work with plungers automatically, but you might run into a few that need the same kind of fixup as is often needed for VP 9. The changes are sometimes fairly complex, so we cover this topic in a separate chapter: Chapter 39, Fixing VP Plungers.

How to enable B2S backglasses

Most VP 10 tables will work with B2S without any modification, as will some later (2016+) VP 9 tables. Earlier VP 9 tables often require some slight modifications to the table script to enable backglass art, though. See Chapter 17, Backglass Software Setup for details.

How to play table sound effects through the backbox speakers

If you have a separate set of playfield effects speakers inside your cabinet, VP decides whether to use your main backbox speakers or your playfield effects speakers as follows:
If you don't have a separate set of playfield effects speakers, all sounds are played through your main speakers. See "Playfield effects speakers" in Chapter 41, Audio Systems for more about setting up the extra speakers.
Assuming you do have playfield effects speakers, you might want to override the rule about playing all of the non-ROM sounds through the playfield effects speakers. VP lets you override it on an effect-by-effect basis.
First, let's think about why the rule is set up this way in the first place. The ROM soundtrack is the game's original soundtrack from the arcade game, so on the real version of the machine, all of the sounds from the ROM were played back through the real machine's backbox speakers. So it makes sense that we'd want to do the same thing in a virtual cab. What about the "non-ROM" sounds? Those are sound effects that the VP table author added into the simulation of the table. These are almost all meant to simulate the sound made by something mechanical on the playfield, like the ball rolling around and bumping into things, bumpers bumping, etc. So in almost all cases, you want these to sound like they're coming from the playfield area rather than from the backbox.
Now let's think about why you might want to override this for some sounds. Occasionally, you might have a mechanical sound that actually would have come from the backbox on the original real machine. For example, some EM-era machines had scoring bells situated in the backbox. Likewise, any simulated score reel sounds ought to come from the backbox area. In addition, some tables might have the occasional added voice or music effect that supplements the game's original ROM soundtrack, so you might want these to play through the backbox speakers as though they were part of the ROM soundtrack.
In VP, table sound effects are tied to one or the other set of speakers (playfield or backbox) on an effect-by-effect basis. All of the sounds are initially set to play through the playfield effects speakers. To change an effect to play through the backbox speakers instead, here's the procedure:
If you want to go the other direction - change a sound that's already on the backbox speakers to use the playfield effects speakers instead - the process is exactly the same with VP 10. Just select the sound in the list and click Toggle BG Out to switch it back to Table mode. The process in VP 9 is rather ugly: you have to export the sound effect to a WAV file and re-import it. What's more, some VP versions have a bug that won't let you export a sound that's been set to the backglass output, so you're kind of stuck. The best workaround would be to download a fresh copy of the table, export the sound from that fresh copy, and import the sound into your modified version of the game.
What about changing some of the ROM sounds to play back through the table effects speakers? Sorry; it can't be done. All of the ROM sounds are handled by VPinMAME, which doesn't have any options for changing the speakers for a specific sound. Remember that the ROM software is more of a "black box" than a VP table, since it's emulating an old arcade machine that didn't work like a PC with modern abstractions like WAV files. VPinMAME doesn't have any way to make a simple list of the sounds in a ROM that you could use to choose speakers like you can with the table sounds in VP.

How to enable DOF

DOF support is similar to B2S support: for most VP tables and some later VP 9 tables, DOF support is automatic, whereas earlier VP 9 tables usually require some script modifications. See Chapter 46, DOF Setup for details.

Removing sound effects for DOF play

If you have DOF mechanical feedback devices (solenoids, gear motors), you'll usually want to disable the digitized sound effects that tables play back to simulate the same events, since the digitized sounds tend to sound fake (not to mention redundant) when real mechanical devices are firing at the same time. Chapter 46, DOF Setup describes how to remove the unwanted sound effects.

How to fix EM tables that use the wrong coin keys

Some re-creations of EM (electro-mechanical) tables use the "wrong" keyboard keys for some functions, especially the coin-in buttons. If you're having problems with an EM game where it won't respond to your pin cab's coin buttons, this might be the cause.
The reason you see this in EM tables in particular (as opposed to more modern "solid state" games - the type with electronic displays of some kind) has to do with VPinMAME. VPinMAME is the part of the Visual Pinball system that normally handles most of the keyboard functions, including coin handling. The thing is that EM re-creations don't typically use VPinMAME, because VPM's function is to emulate the original ROM software from an electronic game. Part of the definition of "EM" is that it doesn't have any software, ergo no VPM involvement. And without VPM, it's completely up to the table script to handle all of the keyboard interaction, including the coin keys. EM table authors often hard-code the coin function to a specific keyboard key, which might not match your pin cab's button setup.
Fortunately, it's not too hard to fix these when you find them. The procedure is to find the place in the table's script where the coin key is handled, and change the script to test for the correct key.
The special symbol AddCreditKey is VP's way of referring to the key assigned to the coin function in the VP option settings. If the script was using a hard-coded scan code, this change should make the table use the correct key as set in the options.

20. Cabinet Building Tools

It's hard to overstate the importance of using the right tool for a given job. Good tools can make a seemingly difficult task easy, and can let an amateur produce professional-looking results. Here are some recommendations for the tools needed to build a virtual cab.

Basic hand tools

These core tools are needed for the most basic DIY projects. You'll probably already have most of them on hand for routine home maintenance needs. You'll probably need most of these even if you're starting with a pre-assembled cabinet, and you'll certainly need them if you're assembling a cabinet from a flat-pack kit or from scratch.

Basic power tools

Some basic wood-working power tools are good to have on hand even if you're starting with a pre-assembled cabinet, to facilitate finishing work and simple customizations.

More power tools

If you're building from a kit or from scratch, you might also want:


If you're building a cabinet from a flat-pack kit or from scratch, it's good to have a router on hand. A router is a versatile power tool with a high-speed rotating bit that can move over a piece of wood to cut grooves, holes, and edges. Some of the things a router can help you accomplish:
If you're starting with a flat-pack kit, most of the cuts and joinery edges should be pre-cut, but a router is still useful for a few tasks that the kits usually leave for you to do. In particular, a router is required to cut the edge grooves needed to install the plastic holders for the playfield glass, and you can also use it to cut custom holes for speakers, fans, and buttons. For this type of light usage, a hand-held router is adequate; good options are available for under $100.
If you're building a cabinet from scratch, a router is required for creating cabinetry-style joins at the corners. For joinery work, you'll probably want a table router. You might want to buy an inexpensive hand router as well, since they're easier to use for some types of jobs (such as cutting small openings).
Recommended bits:


21. Cabinet Body

We turn now to what is arguably the essential element of our project, the thing that makes it special and different from video-game pinball on a PC: the cabinet itself.
The goal for most of us is to replicate as closely as possible the exterior appearance of a real pinball machine. That's what I set out to do with my own virtual cab, and for the purposes of this section, I'll assume it's your goal as well. This section is therefore basically a guide to building a highly accurate replica of an actual WPC-era pinball machine cabinet, using the same materials and parts. There are naturally a few customizations that are specific to the "virtual" aspect of our project, but they're actually relatively minor; for the most part, you could work through this section to build a replacement cabinet for a real machine.
When I was building my own cabinet, I discovered that the design of pinball cabinets is something of a secret art. Not exactly by intention; it's just that there's a lot of knowledge in the design of the real machines that doesn't seem to be written down anywhere. Pinball machine owners can absorb a lot of this by observation, but if you don't have a real machine to take apart and examine, you pretty much have to guess. I'm fortunate to have some real machines at home, and that turned out to be a huge help when I was building my virtual cab. Whenever I was unclear on something, I could look at the real ones to see how they did it. I took advantage of that access many times. So my goal in this section is to pass along as much of that secret knowledge as I can, in this one place, in an order that essentially provides a recipe for building one of these machines.
Not everyone wants their cab to look exactly like a real machine. Even if you're aiming for something novel, though, it can be helpful to understand how the standard design works. Many of the elements are the way they are because certain constraints had to be solved, and the modern cabinet design is the result of decades of refinement. You can always look to the standard design for ideas when you run into geometry constraints of your own.

Build, buy, or convert?

There are three main options for creating the body of your cabinet:
If you're new to virtual pinball, the approach that might seem most appealing at first glance is to convert an old real machine. Indeed, this was the most popular approach in the early days of virtual cabs. It has the advantage that it's already a perfect match to the real thing from the very outset. It also saves you the trouble of coming up with the cabinet design from scratch - figuring dimensions, identifying and source parts, etc.
The conversion approach was popular for a while, but it's become a lot less appealing lately because of increasing prices. Pinball has become a collector's item, so even a beat-up old machine can command a pretty high price from someone looking for a restoration project. If you're lucky enough to find a donor machine that no one wants to restore, it'll probably be in such bad cosmetic condition that it might actually be cheaper and easier to start from scratch. (You should also be prepared for some negative comments on the forums, since there's a growing preservationist sentiment, even among the virtual pinball crowd. Many people see pinballs from past decades as works of historical significance that can't be fully or genuinely re-created once lost.)
Happily, the "build" and "buy new" alternatives are both quite practical, and I consider both of them superior to conversion, even without the price considerations. You can buy high-quality reproduction cabinets that look exactly like the real thing, and you can get these in kit form or fully assembled. Or, if you have some basic woodworking skills, you can build an excellent reproduction cabinet yourself. The real machines use fairly simple designs that you don't have to be a master carpenter to reproduce. This section provides detailed plans for building a faithful reproduction of the late-model Williams cabinet design.
What's more, it's easy to obtain all of the genuine cabinet hardware (metal rails, legs, etc) needed to fit out a custom-built cabinet and make it look exactly like a real machine. All of the hardware is very standardized across machines, and there are several online pinball suppliers that sell the parts. You can thank the collectors for that - they buy these parts to repair and refurbish their real machines, so there's a healthy market demand that keeps the parts readily available for us to buy, too.
Here are my recommendations:

Economics of new vs used

If you're set on the idea of re-purposing a used cabinet, I'd suggest doing a little research first to make sure you don't overpay. The question you want to ask is: would I actually save money buying the used cab, or would it be cheaper to buy the same parts new?
To answer this, ask the seller for a list of all the hardware parts that the used cabinet includes - the legs, side rails, lockbar, etc. Don't assume that everything is included, because a lot of eBay sellers strip all of the parts out and sell them separately; a used cabinet might not come with anything beyond the wood box. And only consider the hardware that you'll actually use on your virtual cab, since those are the only parts you'd have to buy if you were starting from scratch. Only count parts that you actually need in the virtual cab (e.g., don't count the playfield, bumper caps, etc), and only count used parts if they're in usable condition.
To help you get started here's a list of the main parts that real machines and virtual cabs have in common. See Chapter 10, Cabinet Parts List for a more detailed parts list with descriptions. We left the price column blank, since prices obviously vary over time and from one vendor to the next, so you'll have to fill that in by checking current prices at your preferred vendor(s) (such as VirtuaPin, PinballLife, or Marco Specialities). For the "wood body" line item, you can use VirtuaPin's flat pack or unfinished cab body offerings for comparison. Remember, only include the parts that the seller is including with the new cab, since you want to compare new-vs-used for what you're actually getting from the seller.
Add up the prices of the new parts, and compare the result to the seller's asking price for the used cab. If the asking price for the used cab is cheaper than the new parts, and everything's in good enough shape that you can actually use it, you've found a good bargain. If the seller is asking more for a beat-up used cab than what you'd pay new, I'd pass on the deal.
Description Price New
Main cabinet wood body $
Backbox wood body $
Legs (qty 4) $
Leg levelers ("feet") (qty 4) $
Leg brackets (qty 4) $
#8 x 5/8" wood screws for leg brackets (Williams ref 4108-01219-11, 4608-01081-11) (qty 32) $
Leg bolts (⅜"-16 x 2¾" or 2½") (qty 8) $
Side rails (qty 2) $
Lockdown bar $
Lockdown bar receiver $
Coin door $
Coin acceptors ("coin mechs") $
Cashbox tray (Williams ref 03-7626) $
Cashbox lid (Williams ref 01-10020) $
Cashbox nest bracket (Williams ref 01-6389-01) $
Cashbox lock bracket (Williams ref 01-10030) $
Carriage bolts, black, ¼"-20 x 1¼" (qty 6: 4 for coin door + 2 for lock bar) $
Flange locknuts, ¼"-20 (qty 6: 4 for coin door + 2 for lock bar) $
Top glass $
Rear plastic channel for glass $
Side rail plastic channels for glass (qty 2) $
Plunger (ball shooter) assembly $
Ball shooter mounting plate (Wiliams ref 01-3535) $
#10-32 x ¾" bolts for mounting plunger assembly (qty 3) $
Backbox hinges (qty 2) $
Backbox hinge backing plates (qty 2) $
Carriage bolts, ¼"-20 x 1¼" (qty 6, for backbox hinges) $
Flange locknuts, ¼"-20 (qty 6, for backbox hinges) $
Pivot bushing carriage bolts (qty 2) $
Hex pivot bushings (qty 2) $
Backbox latch $
Backbox latch bracket $
Backbox lock plate assembly $
U-channel, metal, ⅝" x ⅝" x 27⅛" (backbox speaker panel holder) $

Where to find used machines

Your best bet for finding a used machine at a good price will be local sellers. Search your local craigslist and local newspaper classified ads. A particularly good place to find a deal is at an estate sale. Heirs often want to clear out the house quickly and won't have any sentimental attachment to an old pinball.
If you can't find anything locally, eBay will give you access to sellers nationally (and even internationally). But I wouldn't get my hopes up; it's hard to find a good deal on a used cab on eBay these days. For one thing, shipping a cabinet is expensive due to the size and weight; shipping can add about $400 to the price. For another, eBay sellers know they can get top dollar for used cabs, so the base price is unlikely to be a bargain. Most eBay sellers are also savvy enough to strip a machine of all of the parts and sell them off separately, which largely defeats the purpose of reusing an old machine.

Kits and pre-built cabinets

If you can't find or don't want to use a salvage machine, but you also don't want to build everything from scratch, there are several companies that will sell you a brand new cabinet. For options, search the web for "new pinball cabinet" or "pinball cabinet restoration". One vendor I can recommend from personal experience is VirtuaPin. They sell cabinets in both kit form and fully assembled, and can customize them to your specifications.
You should be able to find options ranging from "flat pack" kits that you assemble yourself, to fully assembled cabinets with all of the hardware and artwork installed.
The cheapest and most DIY option is a flat pack kit. This is like an Ikea bookshelf: it consists of the wood parts, pre-cut and pre-drilled, ready for you to assemble. This is the cheapest kit option, since you provide the assembly labor, and because shipping is cheaper than for a bulky assembled cab. The degree of difficulty is slightly higher than for assembling Ikea furniture, but only slightly; no real woodworking skills are required, and you'll just need basic tools like screwdrivers and hammers. You might also have to do some sanding to even out corners and edges. And you'll have to do your own finish work (painting, staining, or applying decals). I used the VirtuaPin flat-pack kit for my own cabinet, and I highly recommend it. They use a good furniture-grade plywood, and the design is an extremely faithful reproduction of the WPC cabinets that Williams shipped in the 1990s, so the result is exactly like a brand new real machine.
The next step up in price and completeness is an assembled cabinet shell. This is just the wood shell, typically unfinished (ready for you to paint, stain, or apply decals), and without any of the cabinet hardware accessories installed. This eliminates the assembly work required for a flat pack. It's considerably more expensive to ship because it's so bulky.
At the high end price-wise, you can buy a fully assembled cabinet with all of the hardware and graphics pre-installed. VirtuaPin sells these in addition to their flat-pack and assembled-but-unfinished products. All of the VirtuaPin options use the same materials and design as their flat pack, so they all yield excellent reproductions of the 1990s Williams machines. There are other vendors selling pre-built cabinets as well, but check their designs carefully before buying, because I've seen a couple of other vendors who use their own ad hoc designs that look a bit cheap and cheesy to my eye.
Tip: Ask about the button hole layout. If you order a kit or pre-built cabinet, ask the seller for details on the locations of button holes they pre-drill, and ask them to customize the drilling to your plans if you have something else in mind. The vendor might drill holes by default that you don't want. Pay particular attention to the placement of the plunger and flipper button holes. Many virtual cab builders choose non-standard locations for these to accommodate the playfield TV (see "The dreaded plunger space conflict" in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting and "Positioning the plunger" in Chapter 37, Plunger). If you're not sure how you want to handle this at the time of your order, you can simply ask the vendor not to drill any holes for the plunger or other controls. That will give you the flexibility to drill them yourself later when you know how everything will fit together.

Scratch build

If you have the necessary wood-working skills and tools, the cheapest and possibly best option is to build the whole thing yourself from raw materials. It's easy to get all of the parts and materials needed for an extremely accurate replica.
Here are the recommended wood materials:
Some people use MDF (fiberboard or particle board) instead of plywood for the entire cabinet. I strongly recommend using plywood instead. It's what all real pinball machine bodies are made of, and it's simply a much better material for this job. The main virtue of MDF is that it's cheap. It's also very uniform, which makes it attractive for some applications, but that's not particularly helpful for this project. The downsides of MDF are that it's very heavy, and it's not as sturdy or as durable as plywood. The weight difference is a significant factor for this project because it's a very large piece of furniture; a pinball body built from plywood is already plenty heavy.
(Despite what I just said about the evils of MDF, the original William cabinets actually did use particle board in two places: the cabinet floor, and the back wall of the backbox. I have to assume this was a cost-cutting measure, based on the idea that these surfaces don't have to look pretty because they're not visible to players. I'm normally all for meticulous adherence to the originals, but in this case I don't see any merit to it; the originals would have been better if they'd used plywood instead, as it's not uncommon in old pinballs for the MDF floor to sag in the middle.)
For the woodworking, you'll need some basic power tools:
You'll also need the cabinet hardware parts. Many of these are specialized pinball parts, which are available as replacement parts from arcade supply vendors. See Chapter 10, Cabinet Parts List for the full parts list, with part number references for standard pinball parts.
I personally prefer to use real pinball parts wherever possible, instead of trying to improvise something out of common hardware parts. It can be a bit more expensive to use the real parts, but they tend to look better, and in many cases they're easier to work with because they're purpose-built for a specialized job. That said, a fair number of the parts that go into a cab are truly generic hardware, like nuts and bolts, that you can buy anywhere; there's no reason to buy special pinball-certified #8 machine screws, for example. But even some of the generic-sounding hardware can be hard to find outside of pinball vendors. Anything that I listed with a Williams part number in the master list (Chapter 10, Cabinet Parts List) is probably one of those hard-to-find items.

Choosing a cabinet design

As far as I'm concerned, there's only one cabinet design that we need to concern ourselves with: the "WPC" cabinet. This is the cabinet that Williams (and its co-brands Bally and Midway) used for all of their machines in the 1990s. The name comes from the electronics platform used in that generation of machines, which was called the Williams Pinball Controller or WPC.
One good reason to use the WPC cabinet design is that it's by far the easiest to find parts for. Machines from this generation are still widely deployed and remain some of the most popular pinballs of all time, so there's plenty of demand for replacement parts from owners of the real machines. If you design to the WPC specs, you'll be able to use these readily available parts to outfit your machine. Using the real parts will give your machine a completely authentic look, and it's a lot easier than fabricating your own custom metal parts.
Another reason to use the WPC cabinet plan is that it's the same plan used by most real machines from the modern era. Williams used it for nearly all of their 1990s machines. Stern's 2000s machines are built to almost identical plans, as are the machines from the boutique pinball makers like Jersey Jack and Spooky Pinball. This cabinet style is what you'll see almost every time you encounter a late-model pinball in an arcade or bar. A virtual cab following the same plan will look exactly like what everyone expects a real pinball machine to look like.
For a DIY project, you're always free to come up with something completely different, either to fit your particular needs or purely to be unique. I personally place a lot of value on simulation fidelity, so I like the idea of a virtual machine looking as much as possible like a real machine. But that's just me; you might have other priorities or different taste. If you have other ideas for how your cabinet should look, you can take as much or as little from the WPC design as suits you.
We provide detailed plans for the standard WPC design later in this section. Before we get to the plans, though, there are some variations that you might want to consider, so that you can customize the plans for your project's specific goals.

Standard and Wide-body cabinets

The WPC design is what we usually call the "standard" cabinet, because Williams/Bally/Midway used this for most of the machines they shipped in the 1990s. However, they also used a variation of this plan that differed by making the main cabinet wider. This wider variation was used for seven titles in all: The Twilight Zone (1993), Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (1993), Judge Dredd (1993), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993), Popeye Saves the Earth (1994), Demolition Man (1994), and Red & Ted's Road Show (1994). Williams marketed these seven games as "Superpin" machines, so the wider cabinet style is sometimes called the Superpin cabinet, but everyone in the virtual pinball world calls it the "wide-body" cabinet.
The wide-body design is identical to the standard WPC cabinet in every particular, except for the width of the main cabinet, which is about 2½ inches wider than the standard body. All of the other dimensions are exactly the same as in the standard body. The backbox size is identical in both versions. (It might seem intuitive that the wide-body WPC machines would have had extra-wide backboxes as well, but they didn't. They used the same backbox dimensions as the regular WPC machines. So there's really no such thing as a "wide-body backbox", at least as far as the original WPC machines go.)
The wide-body machines obviously require wider variations for some of the hardware trim parts, to match the wider cabinet dimensions. If you build your own wide-body design, you'll need to get the wide-body versions of the affected parts. Be aware that the wide-body trim parts can be a little harder to find and a bit more expensive than the standard-body parts. Fortunately, you don't actually need very many wide-body-specific trim parts for a wide-body cabinet, thanks to the way they kept everything except the width the same as the normal cabinets. The only special wide-body trim parts required are the "lockdown bar" (the metal trim piece across the top front of the machine, also known as the front molding) and the glass cover.
The lockdown bar is mated with a second piece known as the "lockdown bar receiver", which doesn't require a separate wide-body version. The standard receiver works with both standard and wide-body lockbars.

Custom width

In addition to the WPC standard-body and wide-body designs, there's a third option for custom builders: you can design a cabinet with a completely custom width that doesn't match either of the official Williams designs.
The main reason to build to a custom width is to get an exact fit for your playfield TV. It's not possible to order a TV in a bespoke size; we can only buy what the TV manufacturers offer on the mass market. We can, however, build our cabinets to whatever sizes we want. So some people build their cabinets to fit their top TV pick, rather than settling for TV that only approximately fits one of the standard cabinet sizes.
Customizing the width has implications for the associated cabinet hardware, obviously, since off-the-shelf parts are only available in the standard sizes. To minimize these implications, you can use the same principle that Williams did when they designed the wide-body variation: as long as you keep all of the other dimensions the same, you can change the cabinet width to any size desired, and the only custom hardware required will be the lockdown bar and the cover glass.
The lockdown bar is the main challenge. Fortunately, there is a source for custom-width lockdown bars: VirtuaPin. They're the only source of these I know of, so hopefully they'll keep selling them. Expect to pay about double the price of the standard-size lockdown bar (which I think is a pretty reasonable premium, considering that it has to be custom-made on demand).
Note that the lockdown bar is mated with a second part known as the "lockdown bar receiver". The receiver does not need to be customized for different widths; the standard receiver will work with any lockbar width, as long as your cabinet is wide enough (minimum 19½ inches inside width) to accommodate it. (This is no problem if you're making a wider-than-standard cabinet, but keep the minimum size in mind if you're designing a miniature cabinet that's narrower than usual.)
The glass cover is easy to order in a custom size, and won't cost any more than a standard size. Don't bother looking at online pinball vendors; simply order from a local window glass supplier. Any glass shop should be able to fabricate a custom glass sheet for you in almost any desired size. Once you know the inside width of your cabinet, order a tempered glass sheet in the required width, by 21" length, by 3/16" thickness.
When calculating the required width of your glass, take into account the overhang beyond the inside dimensions. The easy rule of thumb is to make the glass ½" wider than the inside width of your cabinet (that is, the distance between the insides of the side walls). For example, the standard body cabinet has an inside wall-to-wall width of 20½ inches, so the standard playfield glass is 21" wide.
One more tip about ordering custom glass: ask the vendor to omit any marking or etching that identifies the glass as tempered. Glass shops will often include a special marking on tempered glass to certify building-code compliance, in case you're planning to use it for something like a shower enclosure where tempered glass is legally required. But a marking like that can be an eyesore in a virtual cab; it might end up in a corner where it's in plain view. Tempered glass is good for a virtual cab for safety reasons, but there's no legal requirement for it, and thus no need for certification marks.

How to choose a cabinet width

If it weren't for the constraint of fitting a TV, I'd just tell you to use the standard-body plan and leave it at that. Using the standard dimensions produces a machine with exactly the right proportions to look like authentic, and lets you use readily available off-the-shelf parts for all of the hardware. It's the easiest approach and yields great-looking results.
But sadly, TV manufacturers don't always cooperate with our virtual pinball plans. TV manufacturers only make TVs in certain sizes, so we're stuck with whatever sizes are on offer. The TV you pick based on price and performance might not be available in exactly the right size for a standard cabinet.
What size TVs will the standard cabinet sizes accommodate? There's no absolute rule here, since the nominal diagonal size of a TV doesn't tell you the exact exterior dimensions - the only way to be sure is to measure the TV. (You might also be able to find the dimensions listed in the specs on the manufacturer's Web site or on a retailer site.) Generally speaking, a standard-body cab will accommodate most 39" TVs, and can handle some 40" models, and a wide-body can handle most 45" TVs.
My personal preference is to try to stick to the standard-body width if at all possible, meaning that I'd try to find a 39" TV that fits the standard cab's 20½" inside width. I prefer the proportions of the standard cabinet as a matter of aesthetics. If the TV you want to use is only available in a larger size that won't fit the standard-body design, I'd switch to the WPC wide-body, since it works with entirely off-the-shelf cabinet hardware. I'd accept the trade-off of some "dead" space in the cabinet if the TV didn't quite fill the full wide-body width, to keep the cabinet hardware standard.
I'm personally a little leery of building a cab to a custom size, not so much because of the extra cost of the custom parts (which really isn't all that huge a difference), but because it could preclude ever replacing or upgrading the TV. The odds are against any future model having exactly the same dimensions. At the very least, you won't be able to get the glove-like fit that made you choose the custom size in the first place.

Custom length

As long as we're on the subject of custom widths, we should consider lengths as well.
As with a custom width, the main reason to build to a custom length is make a TV fit exactly. As discussed in Chapter 7, Selecting a Playfield TV, a real pinball playfield is much more elongated than a 16:9 TV screen; a typical 1990s era playfield is more like 20:9. So placing a 16:9 TV in a standard-sized cabinet leaves a few inches of dead space at the front and/or rear of the cabinet. Some cab builders don't like that idea because they want to fill every square inch with TV display area.
One way to deal with the extra space is to remove it by shortening the cabinet length to exactly fit the TV.
In my opinion, it's better to stick with the standard cabinet length and accept that there will be some extra front-to-back space. The main problem with a custom length is that you won't be able to find side rails or glass guides; no one sells those in custom sizes as far as I know, and they'd be difficult to fabricate yourself unless you have some good metal-working tools. Besides, the extra space can be put to good use for features that you might want anyway:

Custom backbox sizes

As with the main cabinet dimensions, some virtual cab builders choose to deviate from the standard backbox sizing to better fit a selected TV.
Finding a backbox TV that fits the available space can be even more vexing than finding a playfield TV. There are two big problems here. The first is proportions: modern TVs all use the 16:9 aspect ratio, but the translites in the WPC design are much squarer: approximately 13:9, closer to the old-fashioned NTSC 4:3 ratio. The second problem is that there are very few models available that are even close to the right size. 32" is an extremely popular size, but sadly, a 32" is much too wide for a standard backbox. The next size down tends to be 27" or 28". A 28" TV will leave about an inch of dead space on each side, and a few inches above and below. A 29" would be close to perfect, but at the moment those just don't exist.
You can't control what sizes the TV manufacturers make available, so you can either live with a little dead space around the perimeter, or you can resize the backbox to fit the TV. I personally think the dead space is the better compromise, in part because it lets you use standard off-the-shelf pinball parts, but mostly because the backbox shape will look "wrong" if you change it from the standard. This is a case where I think a lot of cabinet builders tend to fixate on the wrong thing during the planning stages, by focusing on the dead space rather than the overall proportions. The thing that you might not appreciate during the planning stage is that any dead space tends to disappear into the background when you're actually playing. Your eye sees what's there (the backglass graphics), not what's missing (the dead space around the edges). The proportions of the overall outline, on the other hand, are always noticeable.
If you do want to consider custom dimensions for the backbox, keep in mind that some of the associated hardware parts are sized for the standard dimensions, so you might not be able to use off-the-shelf parts for everything. Here are the parts that will be affected (see the illustration below if you're not familiar with all of these):

Mini cabs

A popular variation on the basic cab design is to scale things down a bit from the real machines. This can be especially attractive if you don't have a lot of space in your house, since a full-sized cab is a rather large and imposing piece of furniture. Downsizing a bit might also help gain acceptance from spouses and other family members who aren't as enamored with pinball as you are.
There's no "standard" mini-cab design, but you can find ideas from other people's builds by searching the cab forums at sites like vpforums. Many people who've built their own cabs post build logs with details of their design.
If you want to design a mini-cab from scratch, you can start with the basic WPC design, and just scale down all of the dimensions based on the playfield monitor you choose. A 32" TV makes a good core to build a mini-cab around; if you scale everything down proportionally, it yields a cab that's about 3/4 of the full size. That's enough of a reduction to fit more comfortably into a residential setting, but it's still big enough to be free-standing.
A few people on the forum have shrunk things down even further, to table-top or hand-held size, using a small computer monitor or tablet as the playfield.
For a mini-cab in the 3/4 scale range, you should be able to build it pretty much the same way that you'd build a full-size cabinet. You'll have to make the same adjustments to cabinet hardware discussed above under "custom width" and "custom length", but otherwise you should be able to use standard materials (such as ¾" plywood for the enclosure) and many of the standard hardware parts. One thing to keep in mind is that interior space will be a bit tight for the electronics, but you should be able to fit the necessary computer parts and a basic set of feedback devices.
If you reduce the scale to table-top or hand-held dimensions, you'll have to invent a lot more of the design on your own, since most of the standard hardware will be too large. That's beyond the scope of this guide, but you should be able to find one or two examples in the forums or elsewhere on the Web if you're looking for inspiration. Note also that all of the pinball software discussed in this guide is for Windows PCs, so if you're considering something else (like a tablet or Raspberry Pi) as the computer core, you'll also have to find other software to use. There are some decent commercial pinball games for tablets that could serve, but the commercial games don't tend to have any integration with cabinet features, so it might be challenging to make everything work the way you want it to.

WPC cabinet plans

We now present our WPC standard-body cabinet plans. These are based primarily on measurements taken from actual WPC pinball machines, with some additions and modifications to accommodate the peculiarities of virtual pinball. I've tried to identify all of the deviations from the real machines, for those with a special interest in accurately re-creating the originals.

Other Internet plans

There are several other pinball cabinet plans available on the Web, including other replica WPC designs. Some of the other WPC plans I've seen have slight variations from mine, so you might want to compare and contrast any others you find as a sanity check, and to see if there's anything you prefer in the variations. I've taken a great deal of care to check my plans against actual WPC machines, and I believe the version presented here is the closest to the real thing that I've seen, but of course that doesn't mean they're the ideal plans for every build, just that they're close to what Williams actually did build. You might have good reasons to deviate from that. Most of the details can be changed in small ways without much affecting the usability of the finished machine. (One usability detail that think you should avoid tinkering with unless absolutely necessary is the placement of the flipper buttons: that's very uniform on the real machines, so players are likely to notice a difference in how it feels if you change this more than very slightly.)
One set of alternative plans that I'll call out in particular is Jonas Kello's Sketchup model, available on github:
The nice thing about his 3D model is that you can look at it from different angles, which might be helpful whenever my illustrations leave something unclear about spatial relations between components. Jonas's model appears to have been prepared with excellent attention to detail. One warning, however: he explains that he took physical measurements from a wide-body WPC machine (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and adjusted them to the standard-body dimensions. This creates an opportunity for errors and inconsistencies to creep in, and in fact I came across a couple of errors in his model that are clearly due to this. My measurements were taken from actual standard-body machines (Theatre of Magic and Medieval Madness), so while I'm sure I have some errors and mis-readings of my own, my readings at least are free of that particular source of error. I also noticed some very slight variations (on the order of 1/16" to 1/8") between some of my measurements and Jonas's, which I'm sure can be attributed to some combination of our respective judgment calls squinting at the ruler, and variations in the original manufacturing. Williams historically used multiple subcontractors to produce their cabinets and playfields, so I imagine there had to be some variations from unit to unit for any given game, let alone different titles manufactured years apart.


In wood-working, joinery is the art of forming joints where pieces of wood meet. There's a lot more to this than just nailing boards together; joins can involve angled edges to hide seams, and interlocking tabs and slots to add strength. Joinery is a huge subject that's well beyond my expertise, so I won't try to offer a primer here. However, I do want to provide a quick overview of the way we handle the corner joins in the main cabinet, because you might want to adapt these - either to something simpler, if you don't have the tools for what we use, or to something better, if you have other styles you prefer.
Apart from the corner joins, most of the joins we use in the plans are straightforward enough that you probably won't need to change them. Most of the joins (save the corners) are simple dado or rabbet joins that you can execute with ordinary straight router bits (or even a table saw).
Now, on to the main cabinet corner joins, where the walls meet at right angles. There are several ways to execute these. The original WPC cabinets used a sophisticated technique called a lock miter join, which looks like this (viewing the front left corner from above):
Lock miter join, at the front left corner of the main cabinet, viewed from above. This is the type of join that Williams used for the original WPC cabinets from the 1990s.
This is a very nice join aesthetically, since the seam between the two pieces is invisibly placed exactly at the corner. But it's a really difficult bit of carpentry. You need a special router bit to cut it, and it's notoriously hard to get the positioning of the cuts just right. What's worse, even with the right tools and skills, you still might not be able to get it to work with most plywood. The advice I've seen on most carpentry forums is that this join is good for solid wood joins, but not for plywood. The owner of Virtuapin, which sells reproductions of the Williams cabinets, has said that Williams was only able to make the lock miter work on their cabinets because they were able to source a custom plywood that's stronger than what you can commonly buy from lumber yards today.
A better alternative is a mitered rabbet, which combines a miter joint (a 45° diagonal cut at the corner) and a rabbet (a squared recess along one edge):
Mitered rabbet join, at the corner between the front wall and left wall of the cabinet.
Top view of the front section, with a mitered rabbet at each corner.
The mitered rabbet has the same aesthetic advantage of the lock miter, placing the seam exactly at the corner, but it's easier to cut, and it works with common plywood.
To cut a mitered rabbet, you can buy a special router bit set just for this join, or you can cut it in multiple passes with a couple of basic bits: a 45-degree chamfer bit and a straight bit. This is a popular joint for general woodworking, so you should be able to find tutorials and instructional videos with a little Web searching.
If the degree of difficulty were no obstacle, I'd definitely go with one of the joins illustrated above (the lock miter or mitered rabbet). They both have the virtue of being cosmetically seamless, thanks to the 45° diagonal cut to the outside corner. Both are strong joins that will fit precisely; if you use one of these, assembling the cabinet will be like snapping together puzzle pieces.
If you don't want to invest in the special tools required for one of the "advanced" joins above, I can suggest an easier alternative: the double rabbet. This join dispenses with the diagonal cut out to the corner, and instead uses square interlocking notches. The big advantage is that it can be implemented with common tools (a table saw or a straight router bit). But it has a couple of drawbacks. For one, it leaves a visible seam along one of the joined faces. For another, it makes it a little trickier to translate the cabinet measurements to the wood pieces, because of the way one piece slightly extends the apparent length of the adjoining piece.
Double rabbet join, as used in Williams System 11 cabinets. This is a simpler alternative to the mitered rabbet used in the WPC cabinets, but it has the drawback that it leaves a seam along one of the adjoining faces.
Williams used something similar to the double rabbet join in their System 11 machines in the 1980s, and VirtuaPin uses it in their reproduction cabinets and flat packs, so I can hardly say that it's not "professional" when actual pros used it. It's strong and allows a reasonably precise fit. But a rabbet join leaves that visible seam, so I consider the mitered options to be superior, if you have the tools for them.
If you do decide to use the double rabbet join, there are a couple of things you can do to minimize the visibility of the seam. First, note that the seam only affects one or the other adjoining wall at each corner, so you have a choice of which wall that will be. I'd recommend placing the seam on the side wall rather than the front. Second, cut the front piece a tiny bit wider (1/16", perhaps) than the final size, so that it leaves a little overhang when initially assembled, as illustrated below. After assembly, sand down the excess material until it's flush with the adjoining section. It's almost impossible to get the surfaces perfectly flush in the initial cut, so your best bet is to start with a slight overhang and remove material, as you can't add material if you start with an underhang.

Adjusting dimensions for joinery

Pay close attention to the effects of your chosen corner joins on the overall dimensions.
The dimensions shown in our plans assume that you're using the joinery specified. In the case of the corner joins between the side walls and the front and back walls, this means we assume you're using one of the mitered joins we described above, either the lock miter or mitered rabbet. (Our illustrations mostly use the mitered rabbet, so you'll see that join in the close-ups. The lock miter is equivalent in terms of all of the measurements, though, there's no need to make any changes if you're using the lock miter.)
With the mitered joins, note how each piece's dimensions from corner to corner exactly match the assembled cabinet's outside dimensions for that section:
In contrast, with the rabbet join, note how the "inside" piece (the one forming the face with the seam) is slightly shorter than the assembled cabinet's outside dimensions. This will be shorter at each corner by the depth of the rabbet groove, which is typically half the plywood thickness, so assuming there's a join like this at each end, the overall piece will need to be cut shorter than the desired final outside dimensions by 2 × ½ × the plywood thickness = 1 × the plywood thickness:
Our measurements are based on using one of the mitered joins at the visible corners, so be sure to adjust the dimensions before cutting if you're using a different join.

Edge finishes

On the original WPC cabinets, the outside bottom edges of the side and front walls are finished with a very slight chamfer (a 45° bevel), about ⅛" wide. The purpose is to soften the edge; plywood tends to have sharp, splintery edges when cut square. The chamfer makes for a softer edge to reduce the chances of snagging your clothes on the sharp edge, scratching up your hands carrying the machine, or cutting yourself if you bump into it.
The chamfer is just one way to soften an edge. Alternatively, you can go over the edge with a roundover router bit to give it a curved edge, or just smooth it out with a power sander. You could even leave it square, if the sharp edge doesn't bother you. This isn't a cosmetic feature; the only time you'll notice it is when you try to lift the machine by that edge or bump into that side.
The WPC machines had square corners for the front vertical edges (at the corners between the front wall and the left and right walls). Some of the newer Stern machines round those out slightly. If you want rounded corners, you can go over the corners with a roundover router bit after assembly. You should at least use a power sander to gently smooth the corners, but I wouldn't try to achieve a visible curvature that way, since it's too hard to make it uniform. Use a router if you want a pronounced curve.

Exploded view

This view shows all of the pieces making up the main cabinet body.
The triangular wood pieces at the corners are for the leg fasteners. Metal fastener plates fit over these on the inside, and two bolts go through each one at a 45° angle to the adjacent walls.
The two pieces at the top rear form a "shelf" that the backbox rests on. The rectangular routed opening in the horizontal piece is to pass power and video cables between the cabinet and backbox. The opening shown is what's used on the real machines, and it works well for a virtual cab as long as you only need to pass cables through. You might need a larger opening, though, if you plan to use a large monitor in your backbox that needs to extend into the main cabinet. This isn't an issue for a typical three-monitor setup with a laptop display for the DMD (or a real DMD device).
The smallish slat near the bottom front attaches to the floor on the real machines to form a niche to hold the cashbox. (The cashbox sits under the coin slots to collect the inserted coins.) Most virtual builds omit this piece to leave more room for the PC motherboard, which most people situate on the floor of the cab about halfway back.

Side walls

Here are the side walls. The views are from the interior of the cabinet, to show details on the joinery routing.
(The flipper button holes and leg bolt holes are marked, but for the sake of readability, the dimensions aren't shown here. We'll provide close-up diagrams for these elements, with all of the measurement details, later in the section.)
Left side wall, viewed from the cabinet interior side
Right side wall, viewed from the cabinet interior. The right wall is a simple mirror image of the left wall.
Remember that we're measuring the dimensions of the pieces based on a mitered join (either a mitered rabbet or lock miter) at the front and rear corners, meaning that the piece's dimensions match the outside dimensions of the assembled cabinet. If you're using a different join at the corners, be sure to make any necessary adjustments. See Joinery above.
Some more views to help with visualization:
The backbox pivot is a ½" hole for attaching the WPC-style backbox hinge. If you're using different hardware to attach the backbox, omit this.
The "dado" at the bottom is a groove to join with the cabinet floor. Use a ¾" router bit to cut a straight groove ⅜" deep (that is, halfway through the thickness of the plywood). This runs parallel to the bottom edge, ¼" from the bottom edge. This is on the inside of the wall; the cabinet floor slots into this groove when assembled.
Left cabinet wall showing the dado (groove) for joining with the cabinet floor. Route the dado with a ¾" bit to ⅜" depth, ¼" from the bottom edge. This groove runs the whole length of the side wall. This is on the interior face, since it joins with the cabinet floor. The diagonal/step shape along the vertical edge at the left is the mitered rabbet cut for joining to the front wall, illustrated in more detail above.

Edge finishes

The original WPC cabinets use a slight chamfer (a 45° bevel) on the outside bottom edges of the side walls, to soften the edge and reduce splintering. This is optional, but it will reduce the chances of snagged clothes and cuts from bumping into the side. See Edge finishes above.

Leg bolts

The leg bolt holes are a little tricky. The bolts go through the corners at a 45° angle, so they bore through both adjoining walls at each corner. So, as shown in the illustration, the left and right walls only have "half a hole" for each bolt - really more of a semicircular notch.
Leg bolt holes, front (above left) and rear (above right). The distances are shown from the bottom of the cabinet. Note that the front legs are mounted higher on the wall than the rear legs. The legs themselves are the identical parts front and back, so the different mounting position is used to give the cabinet its characteristic tilt angle. The bolt shafts are ⅜" diameter.
Cutaway view (with the front wall removed) showing the leg bolts installed, to better illustrate how the bolt holes intersect the side wall. The triangular wood piece that normally fills the gap between the metal plate and the inside wall is also hidden.
Illustration of how the leg install positions affect the cabinet slope. The legs are mounted higher on the cab in the front, which effectively raises up the back end slightly to slope the machine down toward the front. Standard pinball legs come with adjustable foot pads that you can use to make sure all four legs touch down and to fine-tune the playfield slope. The slope isn't needed for "physics" reasons on a virtual machine, but it's still desirable for an authentic appearance, and it also improves the viewing angle for the main TV.
There are two approaches to drilling the holes:
With either method, the holes should end up being a tight fit for the bolts. That's good, since you don't want your 300-pound cabinet to have wobbly legs. But the holes might end up being so tight that the bolts won't fit at all at first. If that's the case, use a small round file to expand the holes slightly. Ream out a little bit at a time and test the fit frequently with a bolt, stopping as soon as it fits.

Flipper buttons

Here's the drilling plan for a set of two flipper button holes on each side. The front button in each set is the regular flipper button, and the rear button is the "MagnaSave" button, which is for the benefit of some pinball games that have extra controls beyond the regular flipper buttons. The rear buttons are optional, and not everyone likes them since they're not all that common on real machines, but I think it's good to include them because of the large number of virtual tables that make use of them. See Appendix 4, Tables with MagnaSave Buttons for more about these buttons, and a list of some of the tables that use them.
Note! Many older side rails (from before the WPC type) have pre-drilled holes for the flipper buttons. The WPC side rails don't need flipper button holes because they don't extend far enough down the side to cover the buttons, as most older rails do. If your rails cover the flipper button area, ignore our button drilling locations. Instead, use your side rails as drilling templates, since the holes in the cabinet will have to line up with the ones in the rails.
Flipper button drill hole detail for WPC-type side rails. Measurements are in inches; distances are to the center points of the holes. (Don't use these locations if you're using older side rails that cover the flipper buttons. Instead, use the pre-drilled flipper button holes in your rails as drilling templates, so that the cabinet holes line up with the holes in the rails.)
Drill the flipper button holes with a 1⅛-inch diameter hole saw or Forstner bit. The distances in the diagram are measured are from the center of the drill holes to the front and top edges of the wall, square with the front edge.
Variations: The rear (MagnaSave) buttons are optional. If you don't want to include them, simply don't drill the holes. There's no need to adjust the front hole positions, as the standard flipper buttons go at the same position whether or not the extra controls are present. Another variation is to change the positions of the rear buttons so that they're either directly below the flipper buttons, or diagonally behind and below the flipper buttons. Some people find these alternatives more ergonomic. The positioning we chose matches what Williams used for the MagnaSave games of the 1980s, but that doesn't make them more "real", since there were other real games over the years with the other arrangements.
How to drill: I recommend simply drilling a hole straight through with a 1⅛-inch hole saw or Forstner bit. On some of the real machines, they drill a more complex pattern where they drill partway through from each side with the 1⅛" bit (5/16" deep from the outside, 3/16" deep from the inside), and go the rest of the way with a ⅝" bit. This matches the shape of the flipper button, which has a large outer section and a narrower stem. However, I prefer using a single 1⅛" diameter hole all the way through, because it makes it a lot easier to install LEDs behind the button to illuminate it from the inside.
The distances shown are from the outside front corner of the finished cabinet. Assuming you're using a mitered rabbet join, that's the same as the outside front edge of the work piece, so you can simply measure from the front edge of the work piece. Be sure to make any necessary adjustments to the measurements if you use a different join type, so that the position of the holes ends up at the indicated distance from the outside front corner of the cabinet when assembled.

Glass channel slots

If you're going to install the standard side rails and a glass cover over the playfield, you should also install a set of "glass channels". These are plastic "U"-shaped trim pieces that fit under the side rails, along the left and right edges. These hold the glass at the sides.
Because the glass channels are "U" slots along the length of the machine, you can slide the glass in and out of the channels through the front of the machine, after removing the lockbar. This is part of the tried-and-true design of the real machines that lets an operator easily open up the machine for maintenance access, and I think it's a great thing to replicate in a virtual cab.
The glass channels are installed under the side rail. Here's a close-up of how they look when installed:
The channels attach to the side wall via a "spine" sticking out of the bottom of the plastic channel. The spine which fits into a slot in the top edge of the side wall.
This is a neat design, in that you don't need any fasteners or adhesives. You just press the spine into the slot, and it's held there by friction. If it's ever necessary to take the channel out, you can just pull it out. On the other hand, it presents us with another little wood-working challenge: how do we cut that precise little slot?
Fortunately, it turns out that there's a specific tool for this job, which make the slot really easy to cut. The tool is a special type of router bit called (naturally) a slotting cutter. These come in various slot widths and depths. For this job, you need a 3/32" slot width. Any depth ⅜" or higher should work. The exact bit I used for this when building my cab is Freude part #63-106.
Once you have the necessary slot cutter bit, cut a slot along the top edge of the sloped portion of each side wall, centered along the edge, starting about 1½" from the front and ending at the top of the sloped section. Cut the slot (at least) ⅜" deep.

Front wall

The front wall is the most complex section of the cabinet. It has a whole bunch of things attached: the coin door, several pushbuttons, the plunger, the lockbar, and the leg bolts. There are so many things vying for a limited amount of space that the positioning of each part is pretty constrained; everything fits together like a 3D puzzle.
I initially tried to cram all of the measurements for all of the cutouts into a single diagram, but I quickly abandoned that idea, since it was way too busy. So instead, I've broken it out into several diagrams, one for each set of cutouts. We'll start with the basic outline and its overall dimensions, with the purpose of each cutout labeled.
Main cabinet front panel, viewed from the front (exterior side).
Remember that we're measuring the dimensions based on a mitered rabbet join at the corners, and that you might need to adjust the dimensions slightly if you're using a different join style. See Joinery above.
More views for visualization:
The overall width is based on the standard-body design. If you're building a wide-body or custom-width cabinet, adjust the width of this piece accordingly. Keep the coin door cutout centered horizontally at the new width, and keep the buttons and plunger at the same distance from their respective side walls.
The dado at the bottom is for joining with the floor of the cabinet. This is exactly the same as the ones in the side walls: route a ¾" wide groove to a depth of ⅜" (half the thickness of the plywood) along the whole bottom edge, on the interior side, ¼" from the bottom.
The leg bolts go through the corners of the front face at a 45° angle, just like the way they work with the side walls. Route notches for the bolts exactly as we described earlier for the side walls. Use the same positioning (measured from the bottom edge) as for the front legs on the side pieces. The front notches in the side walls need to align with the notches in the front wall when the cabinet is assembled.
If you want to get fancy, cut the top edge of the front wall to match the slope of the side walls. The slope is 10°, which corresponds to a rise of about ⅛ over the thickness of the plywood. In other words, the height at the back face (the side facing the interior of the cabinet) should be about ⅛ taller than the height at the front face (the exterior side), as illustrated below.
Side view of front panel (viewed from right) showing the slight angle at the top, to match the slope of the side walls.
Cutting the top edge at angle as shown results in the best fit. But if you want to keep it simpler, I think it's okay to skip the angle and cut it square, using the shorter exterior height. Using a square cut means that the back top edge won't quite align with the top edges of the side walls. But this whole area is covered by the lockbar when the machine is assembled, so it'll only be visible at all when you remove the lockbar to access the interior. The gap won't affect alignments for any of the trim hardware, so it won't have any functional impact.
If you do use the sloping top edge, note that all of the measurements shown in our diagrams and plans are based on the front face - the shorter exterior side. Things will be off by ⅛" if you measure with reference to the top edge of the back side, since it's slightly taller. So be sure to do all of your measuring and drilling from the front side.

Edge finishes

The original WPC cabinets use a slight chamfer (a 45° bevel) on the outside bottom edge of the front wall, to soften the edge and reduce splintering. This is optional, but it's a little nicer than a sharp square plywood edge. See Edge finishes above.

Coin door cutout

The rectangular cutout in the center of the front wall is for a standard pinball coin door, of the style used on 1990s-2000s machines. All of the doors used by all of the manufacturers from the mid 1980s onward have the same dimensions, so you can use any late-model Williams or Stern parts. SuzoHapp makes a universal replacement door that fits the same cutout. Older doors from before the mid 1980s might have different sizes, so measure your actual hardware first if you're using an older model.
Note! The gaps between the coin door cutout and the four bolt holes around the perimeter are very small (only about 3/16"). Be as precise as you can when measuring, and be careful when drilling.
The four 5/16"-diameter drill holes around the perimeter of the coin door cutout are for the carriage bolts that fasten the door to the plywood. Use ¼"-20 x 1½" carriage bolts for these. Mate them to ¼"-20 hex nuts, which go on the inside. The carriage bolts are available in black, which is what the WPC machines use to match the powder black finish of the WPC-style doors. The bolts are also available in stainless steel, chrome-plated steel, and silicon bronze, one of which might look nicer if you have a door with a metallic finish.
The coin door is usually centered left-to-right. If you're using a custom width, simply figure the position so that it's centered horizontally. Don't try to center it vertically, though. The vertical position has to align with your lockbar receiver, because the coin door's top center bolt hole has to align with the receiver's center bolt hole, as illustrated below.
If you're using the standard WPC-era parts (a 1990s coin door and a Williams WPC lockbar receiver), the vertical position shown in our diagrams should align the receiver properly. If you're using different parts, they might have a different design, so you might need to adjust the vertical position to match. See the "dry fit" procedure in the lockbar receiver section below for advice on how to figure the right position for different parts.
If you're not using a coin door at all, you should obviously omit the rectangular cutout, as well as the drill holes around the perimeter. Note that the top center hole is shared by the coin door and lockbar receiver, though, so if you're using a standard lockbar receiver, you'll still need to drill that hole even though you don't need it for the coin door.

Lockbar receiver

The three small drill holes shown at the top of the front wall plan are for the carriage bolts that fasten the lockbar receiver to the front wall. (If you're not sure what the receiver is or what it's for, we'll explain more about it shortly.)
As with the coin door, use the center point of the front wall (left to right) as the horizontal reference point for the center hole.
The receiver has to be positioned vertically so that the lockbar will fit properly when inserted into the receiver. The vertical position of the bolt holes in our plans is specifically for a Williams WPC lockbar receiver, to place it at the right height so that the lockbar will fit properly.
But be warned! Our plans assume that you're using the WPC lockbar receiver, and that you're using all of the mating parts, including standard side rails with glass guides. The thickness of the rails and guides is important to the overall positioning.
If any of this is different in your setup - different brand of lockbar, different generation, different side rails, no side rails - then you'll probably need to adjust the position. It's difficult to figure the right position on paper because there are so many factors. It's easier and more reliable to just measure it with a mockup or "dry fit" with all of the parts together. That means that you set up the parts in their assembled positions without actually gluing or fastening anything yet:
You can now take it all back apart, and drill at the marked positions instead of the ones in the plans.
If you're not using a standard receiver, you can omit the left and right drill holes. The center hole is still needed for the coin door, if you're using one, even if you don't need it for a receiver.
In case you're not already familiar with how all of the pinball trim pieces work, here's a brief overview.
The "lockbar" (also known as the "lockdown bar") is the metal trim piece along the top front edge of the machine. It's so named because it serves to lock the top glass cover in place. It also functions as a trim piece, for the sake of appearance as well as to provide a comfortable place to rest your hands while operating the flipper buttons. Standard lockbars have nice smoothly rounded corners. Try playing a round on a machine with the lockbar removed if you want experience for yourself how unpleasant the plywood edges are as a hand-rest.
If you're using standard pinball parts, the lockbar mates with a part inside the cabinet called the "receiver". A couple of prongs that stick down out of the lockbar fit into receptacles in the receiver, where there are some spring-loaded latches that grab the prongs and secure the lockbar. A lever on the receiver, which you can reach through the coin door opening, lets you release the latches and free the lockbar. With the lockbar off, you can slide out the glass to access the interior. It's all cleverly designed to let an operator open up the machine quickly and without any tools, while keeping it buttoned up against intrusion by mischief-makers.
The receiver attaches to the inside of the front wall of the cabinet. It's fastened with three carriage bolts. This is what the drill holes at the top of the front wall are for. The center bolt is shared between the coin door and receiver - both parts have holes in this position that align when everything is assembled. This is why the vertical position of the coin door is so important: the coin door aligns with the lockbar receiver, and the receiver has to align with the top of the wall so that the lockbar fits properly.

Front panel buttons

The three large circular holes at the top left of the front panel diagram are for buttons that the player uses to start and exit games and otherwise interact with the software. Our plans assume that you're using SuzoHapp small pushbutton (pictured at right), which are the type used for most of the front-panel button on real machines since the 1990s. These are the exact type that most pinball suppliers will sell you if you buy a replacement Start button, Extra Ball button, or generic "pushbutton with lamp assembly". There are other similar buttons available from other companies that you can use as well, but you might need to adjust the drilling dimensions and/or spacing for other models.
For the standard pushbuttons, drill the holes in two stages. First, route a 1⅜"-diameter depression on the exterior face to about half the plywood thickness (⅜"). That's the larger circle depicted in each button hole. Then route or drill a 1" hole the rest of the way through, on same center as the routed depression. If you're using a drill, use a 1" hole saw or Forstner bit to do it cleanly. (Don't use a spade bit; spade bits make ragged holes in plywood.) The depression recesses the pushbutton enough that it's flush with the front surface of the cabinet, which makes for a nicely finished look.
Above left: Drilling detail for the button holes, viewed from the exterior face. Route a 1⅜" diameter depression to ⅜" depth (about halfway through the plywood). Drill a 1" diameter hole the rest of the wall through, on the same center, using a router or a drill with a hole saw or Forstner bit. Above right: when installed, the buttons are recessed in the routed depressions, so the button faces are roughly flush with the outer surface of the cabinet.
The routed depression is optional. It's the way that the buttons were mounted on the real 1990s machines, and I think it makes for a clean, finished look. But if you want to keep things simpler, you can skip the routed inset and simply drill a 1" hole straight through. The buttons will jut out by about a quarter inch if you omit the inset, but this won't look "wrong", since the buttons are trimmed to work with this mounting style as well.
Our plans show the positions for three buttons, but you can vary this slightly. As far as software usability goes, the virtual pinball software more or less requires a minimum of two buttons: "Start" and "Exit". The third button in our plans can assigned be any extra function of your choice. See Chapter 34, Cabinet Buttons for recommendations. I think it's a good idea to include some third button even if don't have a clear use in mind, just for the sake of flexibility. I assigned my third button as "Extra Ball", since that's used on a lot of real machines from the 1990s. Another useful function is "Coin In" (to simulate inserting a coin), although I prefer implementing that via the coin return buttons on the coin door, since that's a more natural and inconspicuous place for it. In any case, if you change your mind about the button's function later, it's easy to reassign these buttons in software, and relatively easy to relabel them physically.
Omitting a button is easy. If you only want to include two buttons, simply drill the top two holes at the positions shown, and skip the bottom one.
Adding buttons is more difficult, as space is tight. With the three buttons positioned as shown, there's not enough room for a new fourth button at the top, since the lockbar receiver will get in the way, nor at the bottom, where the leg fasteners will conflict. However, you just barely make room if you move the top button up about ½" (that's the limit before it conflicts with the lockbar receiver) and then tighten up the spacing on the other buttons by about ⅛". That will give you just enough room for a fourth button at the bottom.

Plunger and Launch button

Our plan includes a traditional mechanical plunger, at the standard position used on nearly all real machines, at the upper right corner corner of the front face. We also include a Launch Ball button, situated just below the plunger, to accommodate tables that originally used a button or trigger in place of the traditional plunger.
Be aware that this traditional plunger position doesn't work for everyone! In particular, it can get in the way of the TV if you want to place the TV very close to the front wall. See "Other plunger/Launch button layouts" below for an alternative plan that swaps the positions of the plunger and launch button to make room for the TV. If you haven't thought about the TV conflict issue, see "The dreaded plunger space conflict" in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting and "Positioning the plunger" in Chapter 37, Plunger.
Drilling positions for plunger and Launch Ball button, with the plunger in the standard position used on real machines, and the Launch button below.
Drilling pattern for the plunger opening. Reference the vertical location from the main plan to the top dotted line. For the standard plunger-on-top configuration, this is 2½" from the top of the panel.
To cut the plunger opening:
The illustration at right shows how this looks when assembled.
This arrangement with the plunger on top and a Launch button below is the one I prefer. It has two main virtues. First, it looks like it should, because the plunger is at exactly the standard position used in practically all real machines. Second, it's nice to have the dedicated Launch button for tables that use one, and this placement looks natural. You won't actually find any real tables that have both the plunger and the Launch button, so it's artificial in that strict sense, but it looks perfectly normal even so, because plenty of real machines have some sort of extra control below the plunger (e.g., an Extra Ball button).

Other plunger/Launch button layouts

The traditional plunger location shown above doesn't work for everyone, because it can create a space conflict with the TV if you want to position the TV at the very front of the cabinet. Before you drill anything, take a moment to consider if you'd prefer some other setup. Here are the most common options:
For more advice on choosing among these options, see Chapter 37, Plunger.

Inverted plunger/Launch button

Here's the inverted layout, with the plunger below the Launch button. This places the Launch button at the exact position used on real machines that use this control (which also happens to be the standard plunger position, not surprisingly), so it'll look authentic as far as that goes; of course, the addition of the plunger below the button isn't to be found on any real machines.
Inverted arrangement with the Launch button on top and the plunger on the bottom.
Note that the spacing between the plunger and Launch button is a tiny bit tighter with the inverted layout than with the normal layout (by about an eight of an inch). This is due to space constraints. The plunger can't safely be moved much lower, because the exterior side of the plunger housing will conflict with the front right leg if you do. If you really need to move the plunger even lower than shown (to make room for the TV, for example), you might be able to eke out a few extra 16ths of an inch, but it might be an uncomfortably tight fit. Measure your actual parts carefully before making changes.

Other cutouts

I don't recommend any other controls or ports in the front wall, since this is the most conspicuous part of the machine other than the playfield area, it's already pretty busy with just the standard controls. However, there are a few extra items that some people add here:
I'd personally avoid the front panel for all of these and place them on the bottom or back of the cab instead, where they'll be less visible.
For volume controls, I'd recommend using doubled-up flipper buttons instead of a separate knob (see my PinVol page for an explanation). But if you really want a separate knob, and you don't want to have to reach under the machine to operate it, one way to make it inconspicuous is to install it in the coin door, by drilling a hole for the knob stem.

Rear wall

After the insane complexity of the front wall, it'll be a welcome relief that its posterior counterpart is rather simple.
Rear wall, viewed from the interior side.
The only mandatory elements are the leg bolt notches and the floor dado. The fan openings and power outlet are merely suggestions, which you should customize as you see fit.
The joinery for this piece is the same as for the front wall.
Top view of rear section, showing the joinery shapes at the rear corners. This uses the mitered rabbet as described in the side walls section earlier.
The leg bolt notches work exactly like on the front and side panels. Use the same measurements as the rear leg notches on the side panels, since those need to align with the ones on the back wall when the cabinet is assembled. See the side wall section above for details.
The floor dado is a routed groove. The floor will slip into this groove when you assemble the cabinet. This is the same as the floor dados on all of the other pieces: route a ¾" wide groove, ⅜" deep (about half the thickness of the plywood), in a straight line ¼" from the bottom of the wall. See the side wall section above for a diagram.

Power inlet

The hole near the lower right of the back wall plan is for the main AC power inlet. On the real machines, this is a 2½" diameter hole positioned as shown. There's nothing special about this location for a virtual cab; move it and/or resize it as needed for your own power supply setup. If you're not sure how you're going to set up the main power supply, you can just follow the generic plan, since it's pretty versatile; the opening is large enough that you could just feed a power strip's cord or an extension cord through it, and it could also accommodate a C14 inlet mounted in the opening. You can drill a hole of this size with a hole saw bit, or using a hand router with a circle jig.

Fan openings

The fan holes in our back wall plan represent a deviation from the real WPC cabinet design, to meet the special needs of the virtual cab. Real pinball machines don't need much cooling for the main cabinet, so the WPC cabs just have a pair of small passive vents at the back. A virtual pin cab, in contrast, has a big-screen TV in the main cab, and usually locates all of the PC components there as well. This all generates enough heat that active cooling is required.
Our plans provide two openings in the rear wall designed for PC case fans. The idea is that you place an exhaust fan (blowing air out of the cabinet) on the inside of each opening. The cabinet floor (which we'll get to next) has another similar opening for an intake fan. This arrangement is designed to work with the natural air flow from the tilt of the monitor: the tilt makes the monitor higher at the back, so warm air will tend to flow towards the back of the cabinet as it seeks higher ground. The exhaust fans at the back will help remove the hot air and pull cooler outside air into the cabinet from the floor vent.
The holes shown in the diagram are for 120mm fans (about 4¾" inches diameter). This is a common size for PC case fans, but other sizes are available; some people like to super-size their fans because larger tends to be quieter. Resize the openings for your fans as needed.
There's nothing magical about our placement of the fan openings, so move them as needed. I recommend keeping them relatively high up on the wall to take advantage of the natural flow of rising warm air. The point is to remove the hottest air from the cabinet, and that will tend to move towards the upper portion of the space.
For more on cooling, see Chapter 28, Cooling Fans.

Other rear wall cutouts

Here are some other optional items that you might want to consider, as long as you're drilling holes in this piece. There's no standard placement for any of these, so use whatever location is convenient for your setup.

Back rails

The real WPC cabinets have a pair of wood rails on the back, as illustrated below. Each rail typically has 1" hard plastic furniture slider pads attached at each end. These are designed to let you stand the machine on its back, with the backbox folded. The machine is more compact in this configuration, which can be helpful for moving, shipping, and storage.
These rails are optional. If you want to include them, cut the two strips at the size shown. On the WPC machines, the ends are beveled at about 30°.
Shipping configuration: legs removed, backbox folded down, placed on back. The machine can be strapped to a pallet and boxed or plastic-wrapped. This is good for freight shipping because it has relatively small footprint and it's easy to move with a pallet jack.


Our plan for the floor of the cab makes some concessions to the special needs of the virtual cab, so its cutouts aren't quite identical to the normal WPC floor design. In particular, we moved the subwoofer from roughly the middle to closer to the rear of the cab, and we added an opening near the front for a PC case fan to actively draw outside air into the cabinet, to supplement the fans at the back that blow hot air out.
Main cabinet floor, viewed from above.
The joinery for this piece is as simple as can be. Simply cut the edges square. The edges fit into the dados (grooves) in the four walls.
The "cashbox fence" isn't a cutout - it simply marks the location of a short wall installed here on the real machines, mostly to hold the cashbox in place. (The cashbox is a plastic box that sits under the coin slots to collect the booty. It comes in a standard size for Williams machines; you can buy one from a pinball vendor.) If you're not planning to use the standard type of cashbox, you can omit the fence, which will leave more open space for PC parts. However, you'll certainly need some sort of container to collect coins, if you're using them; you don't want loose metal discs rolling around your electronics-packed cab interior. The standard cashbox is a convenient solution. But it's also awfully large. On my own cab, I improvised a much more compact coin box using a plastic food container.
If you want to install the fence, it's 3" tall by ¾" thick. Cut the length to match the inside cabinet width. Mount it at the position shown (or whatever position is right for your cashbox, if you use something custom). This isn't a structural element, so it doesn't have to be very strong; you can fasten it with glue and/or nails. Note: the distance shown (11⅛") is from the front of the floor piece, which recesses into the dado in the front wall by about ⅜". If you install this after assembling the rest of the cab, it goes 10¾" from the inside front wall.
The subwoofer opening is shown at the size used in the WPC machines, but the position is further back than in the real machines, where it's closer to the midpoint. In a virtual cab, we need a large contiguous section of floor space to mount the PC motherboard, so we pushed the speaker further back to open up more space. I don't think it makes much (if any) difference acoustically where the subwoofer goes, so feel free to move it further back still if you want an even bigger stretch of open space. Also consider changing the diameter to match the speaker you select. The WPC machines used 6" drivers, which are pretty small as subwoofers go; you might prefer an 8" to 12" speaker. It'll sound better if the opening is roughly the same size as the speaker aperture.
The large fan opening towards the front isn't part of the original WPC design. It's a virtual cabinet add-on for our greater cooling needs. This is meant to be an intake fan, with a PC case fan mounted on the interior surface and oriented so that it blows air into the cab. This helps draw in cool air from the bottom to replace hot air being blown out by the fans at the back. See Chapter 28, Cooling Fans for more on this subject.
As with the fan openings in the back wall, the position and size shown are only suggestions, and there's nothing special about the exact placement shown, other than that it's generally close to the front of the cabinet to promote front-to-back air flow. The opening is sized for a common 120mm PC case fan. Some people think it's better to use two intakes to match the two vents in the back, so you could add a mirror-image opening on the opposite side (near the power button). But I wouldn't go too overboard on adding fan vents, as they eat into the space available for the PC components and other items.
The two small (1½" diameter) vent holes towards the rear are from the the original WPC design. You can drop these given the larger PC fan opening we added, but I'd keep them anyway; more cooling won't hurt, and they don't away any significant floor space.
The power button opening is shown at the standard position for real machines, which works equally well in a virtual cabinet. The real machines use a hard on/off switch here that controls the AC power to the main transformer. On a virtual cab, we usually don't want a hard power switch, since we're working with a Windows PC, and Windows hates having the power cut off abruptly. Instead, we need to use a soft power control. PC motherboards provide a connector for this purpose, to which you can attach any sort of pushbutton switch. I use one of the common SuzoHapp rectangular pushbuttons, which fits the cutout nicely. This type of switch can be mounted as illustrated below, which recesses it nicely into the opening.
Installing a SuzoHapp rectangular pushbutton (part #D54-0004-5x) in the power button opening. Cut a small piece of plywood (about 2" x 3") to serve as the mounting plate. Drill holes as shown. Mount the button on the plate, then insert the button into the cutout. Attach the mounting plate to the cab floor with a couple of small wood screws.
A minor historical note on materials. The real WPC machines had particle board floors. I'm usually all for faithful replication of the originals, but this is a detail that I only see as a negative; I'm sure it was only to save a few dollars. I'd stick with the same plywood here that you're using for the rest of the cab. The problem with particle board is that it tends to sag over time, especially in a big unsupported horizontal span like this. That's been known to happen in older real machines, and I suspect it might be even more likely in a virtual cab, because we tend to install more things on the floor.

Customizing cutouts to accommodate the PC

Before finalizing your floor cutouts, you might want to figure out where you're going to place the PC components, so that you can customize the cutouts to better suit the PC. Some particular things to consider:
See Chapter 27, Installing the PC for more on planning the placement of the PC components.

Other floor cutouts

Here are some ideas for other cutouts you might want to make in the cab floor, as long as you're working on this piece. These aren't things you'll find in the real machines, and there's no particular standard place to put them in a virtual cab, but you can consider making provisions for them if they look useful for your build.
The bottom of the cabinet is a good place for controls that you want to keep hidden but accessible. There's an even better place for controls that you want to be restricted, not merely hidden: inside the coin door. Controls located there will not only be out of sight during normal play, but won't even be accessible to ordinary users who don't have the key, preventing kids or guests from messing with anything you don't want messed with. It's the same reason the real machines locate the operator menu buttons on the inside of the coin door. See Chapter 40, Coin Door.

Cashbox fence

Cashbox fence; attaches to the cabinet floor just behind the cashbox area.
This is a short wall on the floor of the cabinet that delineates the space at the front of the machine where the cashbox goes. On the real machines, it serves to create a little cubby hole for the cash box and keeps it in place under the coin slots, as illustrated below.
This element is optional on a virtual cab, as it's not structural and it's not visible to players. If you're not using a standard cashbox, there's no good reason to include it. The standard cashbox is rather large, so most virtual cab builders omit it, to leave more space for the PC components and other electronics. However, if you are going to use a regular cashbox, I'd include the wall, since it makes a tidy spot for the cashbox to sit and keeps it from moving around.
Cashbox fence. Note the little metal tab sticking up at the back of the cashbox: this is the "cashbox lock bracket", which is attached to the fence. A slot at the back of the cashbox lid slips over this tab to keep the box in place.
Cashbox lock bracket (Williams/Bally part 01-10030 or 1A-3493-1).
While you're cutting the piece for the fence, also cut two triangular pieces that we'll use to attach the fence to the side walls on the cabinet. Slice a 2x2 strip in half diagonally (at a 45° angle) lengthwise, then cut two pieces, each 3" long. See the illustration above. Note that a nominal "2x2" actually measures 1½" on each side.
After cutting the piece for the wall, attach the lock bracket as illustrated below. You'll need to do this before installing it, because it'll be too difficult to drill the holes for the bracket once the wall is installed in the cabinet.
Center the lock bracket left-to-right, with the bottom of the bracket flush with the bottom edge of the wood.
To fasten it, you can simply use a couple of wood screws. But I prefer to use nuts and bolts, since they won't strip the wood; for that, you'll need to pre-drill holes. Use the bracket itself as the drilling pattern. The screws go through the upper and lower holes, assuming you have the type in the illustration; improvise for other types.
The real WPC cabs use T-nuts on the back side of the wall, instead of separate nuts. That's a little neater because it doesn't leave anything sticking out in back. If you want to get fancy like that, first drill the bolt holes, then route shallow depressions (⅛", say) on the back around the bolt holes, then install T-nuts by placing them in the depression with the spiky side facing the wood, and then pounding them into place with a hammer.

Rear shelf

Rear shelf. The top piece is the flat part of the shelf, viewed from above. This should be the same width as the outside width of your cabinet. The bottom piece is the front lip, which attaches below the bottom front edge of the top piece. This should be the same width as the inside width of your cabinet.
How the two shelf pieces fit together. The seam is usually hidden in the finished product, because the rear glass channel (a plastic trim piece that holds the playfield glass) covers roughly the top inch of the front face.
Routing detail. This view shows the bottom side of the shelf. Route out ¾" wide channels on the left, back, and right sides; this should match the thickness of the plywood used for your main cabinet walls. The depth of the channels should be half the thickness of the shelf, so ⅜" if you're using standard ¾" plywood.
How the shelf fits into the main cabinet.
This pair of pieces forms the shelf at the back of the cabinet where the backbox rests. The large opening is for passing cables between the backbox and main body; these match up with corresponding openings in the backbox.
Adjust the width to match your cabinet if you're using a wide-body or custom width. The center opening and bolt holes should be left at the same size (assuming you're using a standard backbox), and should remain centered left-to-right.
The 7/16" holes on either side of the opening are for bolts that secure the backbox in the upright position. Install a ⅜"-16 T-nut on the bottom side of each bolt hole. (T-nuts are threaded bolt sockets, permanently installed in a wood piece. Insert the barrel into the hole as shown and pound it in to secure it.)
These bolts are an important safety measure, by the way. Don't ignore them. You might think that the latch that conventionally goes on the back of the backbox is enough to secure it. Well, the real pinball machine operator manuals always have a big flashing red warning about that latch, saying that its only purpose is to hold the backbox up while you're screwing in the bolts. The bolts are what really hold the backbox up. The latch is a huge safety hazard in that it gives you a false sense of security; the backbox is so heavy that it'll easily rip that latch clean off at the first opportunity. The bolts will truly secure the backbox when properly installed.
The center opening is based on the design in the real machines, which use it to pass through a couple of big cable bundles. This setup works well in most virtual cabs as well, but there's at least one common situation where a larger opening is required: an oversized backbox monitor that needs to recess partially into the cabinet. In this case, expand the opening as needed.
If you customize the cutout shape, remember to make the same changes in the cutouts in the backbox floor. For alignment, use the back edge as the reference point, because the backbox's back wall will be flush with the cabinet's back wall when the backbox is installed and placed upright. For left-to-right alignment, use the center point as the reference; the backbox is wider than the shelf, but it'll be centered horizontally when installed, so the center points will line up.

Leg bolt spacers

One last detail. We need some spacers for the brackets used to fasten the legs.
The material required for the leg spacers is a 2x2 wood strip. Select a soft wood such as pine, since that will be less likely to split. Note that what they call a "2x2" at the hardware store is actually 1½" on a side. These typically come in lengths of 6' to 8'.
Cut four 6" lengths of the 2x2. Then slice them in half diagonally (at a 45° angle), lengthwise, to form the triangular wedge shape.
Drill two ½" diameter holes for the leg bolts as shown below. You can also just use your brackets as drilling templates. Drill through the diagonal face (the widest face), on the centerline, square through that face towards the opposite corner.
Drill starting on the diagonal (widest) side, square into that face. The hole should come out on through the opposite corner.
One hole will be near the center (vertically) of the wood piece, and the other will be near the edge. Make four identical copies of this piece.


The backbox is (happily) a whole lot simpler than the main cabinet. It doesn't have as many cutouts, and we don't have to get as fancy with the corner joins. The top and bottom surfaces are typically out of view, so we can use joins that leave seams, by hiding the seams on the top and bottom edges where they won't be seen. All of the joins for the backbox can be accomplished with straight router bits.
The backbox is mostly built from the same ¾" plywood used in the main cabinet. There's one exception, though: the back wall is made from ½" plywood. The original WPC backboxes had ½" thick back walls, so we're sticking to the same plan to keep the interior dimensions the same.
If you want to substitute ¾" plywood for the back wall, it's fairly easy. You just have to adjust the routed grooves in the other walls where the back wall joins to accommodate the thicker panel. We'll give you a reminder about that when we get there.
Exploded view of backbox
Corner joins, viewed from the front. This type of join leaves a seam along one face, but we orient the joins to place the seams along the top and bottom , which are normally out of view.

Translite and DMD guides

The backbox requires some simple rectangular wood strips that acts as guides to hold the translite and speaker/DMD panels in place.
2½" plywood4¾" x ¾"
2½" plywood15" x ¾"
1¾" plywood27⅛" x ¾"
2¾" plywood12⅜" x 1"
The pieces above aren't visible to players, so don't worry about making the edges look pretty.
In addition, there's a more challenging trim piece that requires an angled cut. This one is deployed in plain view, so you might be more concerned with its cosmetic quality. Start with a 1x2 strip, and cut it lengthwise so that it has this approximate cross-section:
These measurements are based on original Williams machines, but you don't have to reproduce the shape perfectly. It's not important to align the diagonal cut in exactly the right place. This piece doesn't have any functional purpose, and the wedge portion doesn't have to align with anything else; it's just for the sake of cosmetics. Any wedge shape that fits the overall dimensions will look okay.
In the diagram above, we show rounded corners, because that's what the trim on the real machines looks like. The rounded corners aren't critical; they're just to make it look more finished. You can just round out the corners a bit by sanding if you like. If you want to get fancy, you can round them out with a suitable router bit.
One way to create the wedge shape is to use a table saw with the blade set at a 25.5° angle to the vertical, like this:
Alternatively, you might be able to find a pre-cut wood molding in roughly the same shape at a hardware store. Look for a 3/4" reducer molding. These will typically be a little deeper than the required 1-1/2", so you might still have to trim it on the thicker side, but that's a little easier than making an angled cut in a regular 2x2.
Once you have a strip in that shape, cut it to a length of 27⅛".

Translite lock plate preparation

If you're planning to install a translite lock plate, there's some preparation you can do at this stage that will make installing the lock easier and more secure when you get there. If you don't know what the translite lock plate is, you can learn about it in the "Translite lock" section in Chapter 23, Cabinet Hardware. Briefly, it's a keyed lock that you can install at the inside top of the backbox to secure the translite against removal. You probably don't need that much security on a home machine, but you might want to include the lock anyway, merely for the sake of appearances, since it's a visible element on all of the WPC machines.
The translite lock is installed in the front translite guide (described in the section above), which is part of the ceiling of the backbox. The front guide has a gap of about 2 inches in the middle, specifically for the lock.
On the real machines, they install the lock plate with #8-32 security Torx machine screws (the Torx variation with tamper-resistant heads). The important thing to note here is that they're machine screws, not wood screws. Machine screws won't self-tap in wood; they need to be fastened with nuts. If you look at the arrangement pictured above, you can see that there's no way to install ordinary hex nuts by hand with this setup, because you'd have to get behind the wood trim somehow - and it's going to be glued in place by the time you're ready to install the screws. So the question is: how do you install a nut in a place you can't reach? The answer is a T-nut. A T-nut is threaded like a hex nut, but it's permanently installed in the wood rather than being screwed on by hand. They're specifically for this type of situation where you need to pre-install a nut someplace you won't be able to reach later.
So, if you want it to install it the professional way, the required preparation is to pre-install T-nuts in the 12⅜" x 1" trim pieces:
All of this prep work is optional, at two levels. First, it's completely useless if you're not going to install the translite lock. Second, even if you're going to install the lock, there's a simpler alternative: throw out the wacky Torx machine screws that come with the lock plate kit, and use ordinary wood screws instead. Wood screws will happily self-tap straight into the trim, without any other fasteners. So why would anyone (even the pros) bother with the T-nuts? In a word, security. Apart from the tamper-resistance of the security Torx screws, the T-nuts add a lot of strength. It's easy to pry out wood screws; it's almost impossible to pry machine screws out of T-nuts, short of ripping out the whole wood trim piece.

Extra routing for translite lock

For a good fit, there's a little extra routing you need to do for the translite lock.
In the 27¾" x ¾" x ¾" piece, route a 2" wide notch in the center of one side, to ⅜" depth.
This is necessary to leave room for the lock tab when it's in the "locked" position. The tab is slightly wider than the slot, so it needs this extra room on the other side.

Backbox sides

Backbox left and right sides, shown from the interior side to detail the routed grooves for the joins. These are mirror images of one another. Note that the rear groove's width should equal the thickness of your back wall plywood. Our plans assume you're using ½" plywood for the back wall, so the groove is shown at ½" width.
3D view of the routed grooves in the side walls, to clarify the geometry.
The routing at the back edge assumes you're using ½" plywood for the back wall. If you're using a different thickness, simply increase the width of the groove to match the thickness of your back wall.

Backbox top

The top of the backbox has a few special features:
Backbox top piece (roof)
To match the slope of the front sides, the front edge of the top piece should be cut at a 7° angle. This is an edge-on view from the left side.
3D view of top piece, viewed from top front, to show routing detail on the top side. The grooves at the wide are ⅜" deep and ⅜" wide, all the way to the outer edges.
Top piece, bottom side, viewed from the back, to show routing detail on the bottom side.
If you're planning to install any "toppers" (decorations on top of the backbox, such as a rotating beacon, fan, bell, or flashers; see Chapter 42, Backbox Toppers), consider pre-drilling any openings in the roof that will be needed for mounting hardware or wiring.

Backbox floor

Backbox floor
To match the slope of the front walls, cut the front edge at a 7° angle. This is an edge-on view from the left side.
3D view of backbox floor, viewed from back side, to show routing detail. The groove at back is ⅜" deep and ½" wide, flush with the back edge. The ½" width should match the plywood thickness of the back wall.
Backbox floor, bottom side, to show routing detail.
Above: Cutouts in floor of backbox. The rectangular cutout is for passing cables between the backbox and cabinet. The 1"-diameter holes on either side of the cable cutout are for safety bolts that lock the backbox in the upright position. The ¼"-diameter holes along the outer edges (three on each side) are for the WPC-style hinge brackets that attach the backbox to the main cabinet. The hinge bolt positions shown are for a standard-width main cabinet - they need to be adjusted for a wide-body or custom-width cabinet (see below).
Cable cutout: The rectangular center cutout is meant to match the corresponding cutout in the "shelf" at back of the main cabinet. If you're customizing the shape of the cutout, remember to make the same changes in both places. To figure the alignment between the two parts, use the back edge as the reference point in both places. When the backbox is installed and placed upright, its back wall will be flush with the back wall of the main cabinet. For left-to-right alignment, use the center point as the reference: the backbox is wider than the shelf, but it will be centered side-to-side when installed, so the center points will line up.
Lock bolts: The 1"-diameter holes on either side of the center cutout are for locking bolts. These should be aligned on the same centers as the corresponding ½" holes in the main cabinet shelf. If you had to move those to accommodate a custom center cutout, move these holes to match. Note that the shelf holes are ½" diameter, whereas the corresponding backbox are 1" diameter. As with the center cutout, the reference point to use for alignment is the centerpoint of the back edge, because that will line up on the shelf and backbox.
Hinge bolts: The ¼" diameter holes near the outer edges (three on either side) are for carriage bolts that attach the WPC-style hinges to the backbox. Drill these only if you're using the WPC-style hinges.
Important! The positions shown are for a standard-width main cabinet. If you're using a wide-body or custom-width cabinet, or a custom backbox width, you'll need to refigure the positions. Use this formula:
Inset = (Backbox Width - Cabinet Width - 2⅜") ÷ 2
Plug in the outside widths of the backbox and cabinet (as they will be when assembled). The result is the inset of the bolt holes from the left and right edges of the floor, so simply substitute this for the measurement shown in our diagram.
If you don't want to take chances on getting the measurements perfect before-hand, you can wait to drill these holes until you've assembled your cabinet and backbox, at which point you can set it up and use the hinges themselves as a drilling template to mark the proper positions. This is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but here's the procedure:

Backbox back wall

The back wall of the backbox on the real machines is typically 1/2" plywood. It's a simple rectangular piece, with some holes for passive cooling.
Backbox back wall. The holes near the top are for passive ventilation. Note that the back wall uses ½" plywood rather than the ¾" plywood used for the other walls.

Backbox ventilation

The original WPC backboxes used passive ventilation, via seven 1½"-diameter holes along the top of the back wall. ("Passive" meaning that they didn't use fans to circulate air; they relied the natural air flow effects of hot air expanding and rising.)
Some virtual cab builders add fans to the backbox for extra cooling. If you want to add active cooling, I'd remove the passive vent holes and replace them with one or two larger circular openings for 120mm PC case fans, similarly placed near the top of the back wall. You could also add some intake vents at the bottom, although I don't think that's necessary, as air will be drawn in from the main cabinet through the openings in the backbox floor.
Is active cooling required? Based on my own empirical experience, the answer seems to be no. I use passive ventilation for my own cab (exactly as shown in the diagrams here), and I haven't had any obvious heating problems. (Which doesn't necessarily rule out non-obvious heating problems, such as reduced component life, but I can at least say that I haven't had any catastrophic overheating.) If you want something more theoretical, you can do a rough calculation comparing the heat generated by the electronics in a real WPC pinball machine's backbox to the heat generated by a TV in a virtual cab backbox (see Chapter 28, Cooling Fans). That calculation comes out about even between the two scenarios, which strengthens the case that passive ventilation is adequate.
On the other hand, there's little downside to adding a fan or two, other than the added space they take up. Just make sure you have room for a fan with your TV and any other equipment you'll be installing.

Backbox back door

Some virtual cab builders make the back of the backbox into a door rather than a fixed wall.
The plan I'm presenting here uses a fixed back wall, following the original Williams design. On the real machines, most of the main control electronics are mounted on this wall - the CPU board, sound board, power supply board, etc. To access these parts for service, the operator simply removes the translite and accesses the interior from the front side.
The complication for a virtual cab is that we fill most of the backbox with a TV. Some cab builders mount the TV in such a way that it can't be easily removed, in which case you won't be able to access anything behind the TV through the translite side. That's where a back door comes in handy.
I don't have an alternative set of plans to offer using the back door approach, so if you want to go that route, you'll have to improvise something. Other people have built such schemes into their cabs, so you might be able to find ideas by checking build threads on the forums.
I personally prefer the fixed back wall, instead of a door. The main reason is that it makes the backbox a lot stronger if the back is a solid, fixed panel. I also don't like the idea of using a permanent mounting for any of the TVs, since doing so makes it very difficult to repair or upgrade the machine later. I prefer to install all of the TVs (and other major components) in such a way that you can remove them non-destructively when necessary. In the case of the backbox TV, I favor mounting it so that it can be removed through the front of the backbox, preferably without having to disassemble anything. That removes any need for a back door. It also makes it easy to replace the TV, if that should ever become desirable or necessary.
See Chapter 30, Backbox TV Mounting for some ideas about how to mount the TV so that it can be removed.


If you're installing some kind of "topper" (a decoration on top of the backbox, such as a beacon, fan, bell, or flashers: see Chapter 42, Backbox Toppers), consider pre-drilling any openings needed for the mounting hardware and wiring.

How to assemble the cabinet

Before you glue everything together more or less irrevocably, it's a good sanity check to do a "dry fit" of the pieces (fitting them together without any glue or nails) to check that everything is the right size and aligns as expected. Check for any dados that are too tight, and use sandpaper or a file to expand them slightly as needed. Check the alignment of the rabbet joins.
Have a good quality wood glue on hand. This will be used at all of the joints. Optionally, you can also use finish nails (perhaps ¾" #18 brads) along the seams, spaced a few inches apart. Nails will add some strength and will serve to hold the joints in place while the glue dries, but the trade-off is that they create a certain amount of risk of splitting wood around the edges. I used nails for my own build, but I don't think they're really necessary. If you're using the joins we suggested (dadoes at the floor seams, and either the mitered rabbet or double rabbet joins at the corners), I think glue alone will be plenty strong.
Another good thing to have on hand is an assistant! The job is easier with two people.
It should be fairly obvious how the pieces fit together, but here's a suggested assembly order.

Pre-assemble the shelf

Install a #6-32 x ⅜ on the bottom side of each bolt hole. (These are there to mate with safety bolts screwed in through the matching holes in the backbox, to secure the backbox in the upright position.)
Glue together the two pieces that make up the shelf as illustrated below. The front edge of the lip should be flush with the front edge of the top piece.
Set the assembled shelf aside for the glue to dry, so that it'll be set when we're ready to install it in the cab later on.

Main cabinet

On to the main cabinet! Start by joining the floor to one of the side walls. Put glue along the inside of the dado (groove) at the bottom of the side wall as illustrated below. Don't use an excess of glue - you just want a single continuous bead down the center of the groove. Insert the floor into the groove. Make sure the front and rear edges are properly aligned and flush, and ensure that it's pressed down all the way into the dado.
Beware that this arrangement is precarious! The floor piece will want to tip over; the dado isn't strong enough by itself to hold it upright. Keep the floor piece supported so that gravity doesn't stress the joint. It's good to have an assistant to hold things in this position until you get to the next piece.
Next, add the back wall. Put glue along the dado and edge of the back wall that we're about to join, as shown below. Again, use continuous bead of glue. Put the back wall piece in place. As before, make sure that the edges are aligned properly and that the floor is pressed all the way into the dado in the back wall.
Now do the same thing with the front wall.
Add the remaining side panel.

Leg brackets

The next step is to install the leg brackets. The brackets will be permanently installed in the cabinet, so this is a one-time step that you won't have to repeat when you want to attach or remove the legs.
The procedure here assumes you're using the standard brackets used on newer machines, Williams/Bally part 01-11400-1. These brackets have integrated threading for the bolts, so no additional nuts or other fasteners are needed - you just screw the bolts into the brackets.
You'll need four of these brackets. The matching bolts are ⅜"-16, in 2½" or 2¾" lengths. Note that you'll probably want to buy the bolts from a pinball vendor rather than use generic hardware store bolts, for cosmetic reasons: the ones made for pinball machines have nice shiny finishes and rounded heads that look nicer than generic galvanized hex-head bolts. You'll need eight bolts (two per leg). No washers or nuts are needed, as the brackets are threaded and serve as the fasteners.
The recommended brackets have their own threading for the bolts, which lets you attach and detach the legs purely from the exterior of the cabinet. In other words, there's no need to reach inside the cabinet with a wrench to turn a nut or other fastener, since no other fasteners are needed - the bolts screw directly into the threaded holes in the brackets. That's important because it's difficult to reach into the interior corners (especially with a wrench) once all of the equipment inside is installed. So the threaded brackets make things much easier in the long run, but they require some extra work for the initial installation, since you have to align them and fasten them inside the cabinet. That's what the procedure below is intended to accomplish.
All four legs are interchangeable - there's no such thing as a "front leg" or a "back leg" or a "right leg" or a "left leg". You should simply have four identical parts for the legs. The same is true of the metal leg brackets.
Before we begin, it's worth noting how the positioning of the leg bolts relative to the floor of the cabinet affects how the brackets and spacers are installed. The bolt holes are higher up on the wall in front, lower in back, to give the cabinet a slight forward tilt when it's set up. (The legs themselves are all the same length, so we get the tilt by mounting the legs at different heights.) Because of this asymmetry, we can flip the brackets upside down in front to keep them lower on the wall.
We'll start with a dry fit (no glue) to make sure everything fits, before we finalize the install. The bolt holes tend to be tight, which is good in that you don't want a lot of play or wobble when the legs are attached. But the bolt holes in the wood can be so tight initially that the leg bolts just won't fit. We need to make sure that the bolts will fit properly.
With the cabinet on its side, place the leg in position, and insert the bolts through the leg holes and into the cabinet. If the fit is too tight to get them through by hand, use a round file to ream out the holes enough to get them to fit.
The point of using the legs for this step is just to make sure that the spacing of the bolt holes in the legs matches the spacing in the cabinet. We're not actually attaching the legs permanently yet; we're only attaching the brackets at this point. The legs can be easily attached and detached at any time once the brackets are installed.
Once the bolts fit comfortably, slip the triangular wood space piece over the bolts.
Now attach the metal leg bolt bracket. Screw in the bolts to make sure everything still fits.
If anything is wrong with the fit, go back and use a round file to open up the holes in the cabinet walls and/or the spacers as needed. (Obviously, don't attempt to modify the legs themselves or the metal bolt bracket! We consider those to be the source of truth here - they're the reference points we're trying to match with the wood parts.)
Once you're satisfied with the fit, take the bracket off and remove the spacer. We're now ready to install this all permanently.
Keep the legs and bolts in place, since we still want them there as the reference point for final alignment.
Apply glue to the sides of the spacer that face the cabinet walls. (Those are the narrower sides. Don't glue the wider side that faces the bracket.) Use a thin layer of glue covering the whole face. Avoid the area around the bolt holes to avoid too much glue oozing in there.
Put the spacer back in place. Press it against the cabinet walls to attach the glue.
Reattach the bracket and screw the bolts into it. Screw them in all the way this time so that the leg is firmly attached. Don't over-tighten.
Use #8 x 5/8" wood screws to attach the metal bracket to the cabinet walls and to the spacer. The standard plates have holes for three screws on each side and two more in the middle to attach to the spacer. Don't leave out any screws; we want the bracket attachment to be very sturdy, so we want to distribute the load over as many screws as possible. Tighten the screws but be careful not to over-tighten and strip the wood.
Use #8 x 5/8" wood screws to fasten the leg bracket to the cabinet and spacer at the locations shown (arrows).
Once the wood screws are all in place, unscrew the leg brackets and remove the leg.
Repeat this process for each corner until all four leg brackets are attached.

Cashbox fence

If you decided to include the fence that delineates the cashbox area, this is a good time to install it. Flip the cabinet upright for this step.
Figure the desired position for the fence. Assuming you're using the standard type of cashbox, the front surface of the fence should be 10¾" back from the inside of the front cabinet wall. If you have your cashbox on hand, you can try placing it to ensure you have the distance.
Without using any glue yet, set the fence in place at the desired position.
Apply glue to the two square sides of the 3"-tall triangular pieces that you cut along with the fence. Making sure to keep the fence at the desired position, press the triangular pieces into place on the rear side of the fence at each side, to fasten the wall to the two sides of the cab.

Back rails

If you want to include the back rails, attach them to the back of the cabinet, oriented vertically, near the edges. The exact positioning isn't particularly important, as long as the rails form a stable base for standing the machine on its back, so make any adjustments needed to keep clear of your fan vents and other openings in the back wall.
Attach these to the back with glue and finish nails (1¼" #18 brads should work). Nail down the centerline, with a nail every 4" or so.
If desired, affix 1" hard plastic furniture slider pads near the ends.


At this point, you can install the shelf that you assembled back at the start of the build process. We saved this for last (in particular, until after the leg brackets were in place), because the shelf gets in the way when you're trying to work around the back wall. For exactly this reason, you might want actually want to skip the shelf for now, and come back to it later, after you've had a chance to install the internal items that you may plan to attach to the back wall:
If you want to hold off installing the shelf for now, you can just set it aside and make a mental note to come back here when you're ready.
If you haven't already done so, install ⅜"-16 T-nuts in the holes on either side of the central rectangular opening, on the bottom side of the board. These mate with the wing bolts that are meant to be attached through matching holes in the floor of backbox. The bolts are an important safety measure to secure the backbox in the upright position while deployed.
Once you are ready to install the shelf, start by flipping the cabinet upright.
Run glue around the edges of the shelf where it joins the main cabinet (as shown below), and set it in place.
If the top of the shelf sticks out at all from the side or back walls, use a power sander to remove excess material until it's flush with the adjoining wall.


Assembling the backbox is much like assembling the main cabinet. Start with the top and one of the side walls. Apply a bead of glue to the groove on the side piece, then fit the top piece into the groove.
Attach the floor.
Add the remaining side wall.
The back wall should now fit into the grooves along the back edges of all four walls. Apply glue around the grooves, and put the back wall into place. It should fit so that it's flush with the edges of the walls.
The back should be flush with the back edges of the adjoining walls when installed.
In addition to the glue, you can add some finish nails to strengthen the back wall. Use small finish nails, such as 1" #18 brads. Drive them in from the back of the back wall, around the perimeter, set in about 3/16" from the edges. Space them every few inches; four or five nails on each side should be sufficient.

Corner bracing

The original WPC backboxes had steel braces at the corners to strengthen the joints. The glued corner joints are actually pretty sturdy all by themselves, if you construct them using the rabbeted design described above, but apparently Williams deemed it necessary to add some heavy reinforcement. I'm sure that came out of long experience with commercial operators who banged the machines up with rough handling and then complained when they broke.
In my opinion, you shouldn't need any corner braces for a machine in home use. The glued corners should be plenty strong. But if you'd like to reproduce the original construction faithfully, or you just don't trust the glue joints, here are the details for the Williams design. The Williams part number for the braces is #01-9167, and they're fastened to the backbox walls with ¼"-20 x 1-¼" carriage bolts (black finish, 4320-01123-20B) and ¼"-20 flange nuts (4420-01141-00). You'll need four of the braces and sixteen each of the carriage bolts and flange nuts. Place one brace at each corner, more or less all the way back against the back wall, and use the holes in the brace as a drilling template to drill holes for the carriage bolts. Insert the carriage bolts with the heads on the outside, and fasten with the flange nuts on the inside.
WPC backbox brace, Williams part #01-9167, installed at the upper corner. The real WPC-era machines used one bracket like this at each corner. If you want to go this route, use the brace as a drilling template to drill ¼" holes for the bolts, and fasten the brackets with ¼"-20 x 1¼" carriage bolts (on the outside) mated with ¼"-20 flange nuts (on the inside).
The Williams corner bracing is about as strong as you can get. You'd have to rip the wood apart before those bolts would come out. The downside is the bolts are visible on the outside of the backbox. (Not too visible, though; the WPC machines use black bolts that tend to disappear into the artwork unless you're looking closely.)
How the carriage bolts look on the outside. They have smooth rounded heads (with no screwdriver slots), and come in silver and black finishes.
If you don't care about using the exact original parts, but you still want some kind of corner reinforcement, you might consider using generic steel 1" corner braces instead. You can buy these at any hardware store. Use ¾"-long wood screws to attach them, in a size that fits the holes in the corner braces you buy (#6 screws will usually work). Use two or three braces per corner. Keep them within 5" of the back wall, so that they won't be visible when the translite is in place. This setup won't be as strong as the Williams brackets and carriage bolts, but it provides some reinforcement, and it doesn't require any externally visible fasteners.
Alternative reinforcement using generic hardware-store corner braces, fastened with wood screws. Be sure to keep the braces behind the translite plane (5" from the back wall), so that they're not visible.

Translite/DMD guides

The WPC backbox has some little wood blocks along the walls that act as guides for the translite and DMD/speaker panel. These might or might not be interesting to you for your virtual cab, because a virtual backbox is a little different from a real one. Specifically, our backbox uses a TV in place of the normal translite, and in some cases a single TV replaces both the translite and DMD panel.
But it's not a simple matter of TV or translite. You might actually still want something similar to a translite, to mask out the bezel around the perimeter of the TV. There are two common ways to handle this:
Both serve the same function, of hiding the TV's bezel so that you only see the screen, but I very much prefer the second option. The first option calls way too much attention to the virtual-ness of the cab. The second makes it look like a real pinball machine.
(There's a third, less common option. Some people route grooves into the side of the backbox exactly deep enough to contain the TV's bezels. This requires an extremely thin bezel, and requires that you use a custom backbox size chosen to perfectly match the TV, so it's not compatible with the standard plans.)
If you're planning to use a custom wood cover instead of a translite, you can skip this section, as your custom cover won't need the guides that hold the conventional parts in place.
Before proceeding with installing these, there are some cases where some of the guides should not be installed:
Assuming that you're using the standard translite and the early 1990s style of speaker/DMD panel, here's a cutaway view showing the placement of the guides on the sides of the cabinet. Note that the right side wall isn't shown in this view, but (as you would probably expect) has the same two guide pieces shown on the left wall, at the same positions in mirror image.
Guides for the translite and speaker/DMD panel on side walls. The distances shown are to the inside surfaces of the back wall and floor in the assembled backbox. Note that some backbox TV installation designs work better without the 15" upper pieces, so you might want to defer installing these until you've finalized your backbox TV plan. Also note that the lower pieces are only used for the "original" style of speaker/DMD panel, not the WPC-95 molded plastic type.
The top piece is 15" x ¾" x ½", and the bottom is 4¾" x ¾" x ½". Orient them so that the ¾"-wide face is against the side wall. Both pieces run parallel to the rear wall.
There's nothing sophisticated about the installation of these on the real machines - they're just glued and nailed. You should do the same thing. Apply a little glue on the back of each piece and nail it into place with finish nails (I'd suggest 1" #18 brads). Use one nail about every 4" down the length of each strip, centered in the strip.
Here are the guides on the inside of the backbox "roof":
Cutaway side view of the top guides. The pieces labeled "A", "B", and "C" are detailed below.
Note how the "A" and "B" pieces align with the translite groove in the ceiling.
Note that piece "A" should be installed with the notch facing the ceiling of the cab.
Top guides, viewed from below.
All three pieces run parallel to the rear wall.
Aligning the T-nuts in the "B" pieces: If you installed the T-nuts for the translite lock plate as described earlier, you should make sure they're correctly aligned for your lock plate when you install the "B" pieces. Use this procedure:
This will ensure that the "B" pieces end up perfectly aligned with the lock plate. If you install the pieces separately, very slight variations in the measurements could leave the T-nuts so misaligned that you wouldn't be able to fasten the screws.

22. Cabinet Art

If you're building your machine's cabinet from scratch, you'll want to decide on what the exterior will look like. This might be a simple flat black paint job, or you might prefer full-color graphics like on a modern real pinball machine.
Real pinball machines have always featured eye-catching artwork on the exterior of their cabinets. The motivation was always crassly commercial, of course, but the industry nonetheless produced a great deal of quality artwork over the decades, and created some distinctive and influential graphic design styles. So naturally, many pin cab builders want to re-create the graphic style of a real machine.
Reproducing the style of a real pinball can mean rather different things, though, depending on which era you're talking about. Machines built in the 1950s through 1970s tended to use abstract graphics, painted in three or four bold colors with stencils. The stencil artwork continued into the 1980s, but the graphic became more intricate and representational. In the 1990s, the manufacturers started using a multi-color silk-screening process, which allowed for high-resolution graphics, and eventually photorealistic graphics. The newer technologies allowed the artists to create much more detailed designs.
Top left: Gottlieb's Abra Cadabra (1975), with abstract stencil graphics typical of machines built in the 1950s through 70s. Top right: Williams's Space Station (1987), with the more intricate stencil graphics of the 1980s. Bottom: Bally's Theatre of Magic (1995), which used the high-resolution silk-screen graphics typical of the 1990s.
In the 2000s, the remaining manufacturers switched to plastic decals to reduce cost. (Direct silk-screening onto plywood requires some very specialized and expensive equipment.) Plastic decals can be inexpensively printed in high resolution at full color, so this change of technology didn't affect the capabilities available to the designers. Pinball machines of the 2000s continue to use detailed full-color designs.

When to install artwork

I think it's best to paint or install decals after completing the assembly of the wood cabinet, but before installing any of the internal parts (like the PC or TVs), and certainly before installing any of the trim.
I'd wait until after assembly to do any decorating, because that lets you do a final pass with a power sander to even out surfaces, smooth corners, and remove any excess glue. It also eliminates the risk of scratching or marring the artwork during the assembly process.
And I'd paint and/or install decals before installing anything beyond the basic wood box, to keep the cabinet maneuverable and keep all of the surfaces unobstructed. You'll want to be able to flip the cabinet onto different sides while working on paint or decals, so you don't want it weighed down with internal parts. Exterior trim can obviously get in the way of areas where paint or decals will go.

Virtual pin cab design options

As a virtual pin cab builder, you have several good options available. The right option is a matter of taste and budget.
Natural wood style. This isn't common, but some people choose to make their cabs look like a piece of fine furniture or cabinetry, on the basis that it's going to be situated somewhere in their home. If you want this kind of look, you can use a cabinet-grade plywood and a wood stain finish.
Single-color painting. This is another simple, understated look that some people use to make their machine relatively inconspicuous for the home environment (as inconspicuous as a six-foot-tall, five-foot-long, three hundred pound wood box can be, anyway). The most common single-color paint job is a solid flat black.
Stencil graphics. To a lot of people, the electromechanical era (1950s through 1970s) is the Golden Age of pinball, and these machines define what a pinball machine is supposed to look like. To be sure, the EM era's graphical style is unmistakeably distinctive and is iconic of pinball in popular culture. The stencil graphic style that these machines used is also something that you can reproduce on your own, at low cost and without any special equipment. You just need to make a stencil mask out of cardboard and masking tape, and then apply spray paint in as many colors as desired.
Full-color decals. Many pin cab builders want to reproduce the look of machines from the modern era (1990s and onwards). These machines use elaborate designs printed in full color at high resolution. The real machines from the 1990s used high-res screen printing; newer machines almost all use plastic decals to achieve the same look. Happily, professional custom decal printing is readily available for one-off print jobs, and is even relative affordable. This isn't something you can do at home with DIY equipment, since it requires special industrial printers, but there are lots of print shops that have the equipment and can do the job for a reasonable fee. And since the printing is done on what's essentially a giant industrial version of an ink-jet printer, you can print virtually any custom design by preparing the graphics with a PC photo editor program.

Using decals

Most pin cab builders these days opt for decals, since they allow for such unlimited creativity in the artwork.
First-time cabinet builders are sometimes skeptical about decals, thinking that they'll look like cheap stickers. It might reassure you to know that most of the newer real machines now use decals for their artwork, using the same materials that a good print shop would use for your cab decals. If you can find a newer Stern machine to look at, you can get a first-hand look at what kind of finish you can expect. When printed on quality stock and applied properly, you can achieve a finish that's pretty close to the screen printing used in the 1990s machines. Decal printing is actually superior in some ways; you get a wider color gamut and finer dot pitch, and the plastic finish is more resistant to light scratches.

Surface preparation for decals

Before applying decals, you have to do some basic preparation to the plywood surface to ensure good adhesion and a smooth finish.
The key preparation step is to make the wood surface as smooth and clean as possible. The type of decals we use are printed on a heavy vinyl film stock, and when you first look at it, you'll probably think it's thick enough to hide any imperfections in the underlying surface all by itself. But surprisingly, it's not. The adhesive is so strong that the film will exactly conform itself to the surface, so closely that you'll be able to see the wood grain through it. It ends up looking a lot like the graphics are painted directly onto the wood. So you'll want to get the wood surface as smooth as you can before applying the decals.
You'll definitely want to start by sanding. Go over the surface with a power sander in several passes, finishing with a fine-grit finish sandpaper (something in the 400 grit range).
Even after sanding, though, the wood grain will still be visible. Wood has pores that run all the way through (so no amount of sanding can eliminate them). Decals will adhere just fine even with the wood grain still showing, but the appearance will be a little different from the real machines, which have a perfectly smooth finish. If you want to get rid of the wood grain texture, you have to use some kind of wood filler. There are lots of products designed for this; look for the kind of filler that painters use to prepare wood cabinets for painting, such as Aqua Coat or DAP DryDex. Follow the product instructions for the filler you choose. Most wood fillers are designed to be applied in several thin coats, drying between coats, and sanding at the end with a fine-grit sandpaper.
Paint or no paint? Some people prime and/or paint their cabinets before applying decals, and some apply the decals directly to the bare wood. Check with your print shop for their advice on this, since the right approach might depend on the type of print stock they use for your particular decals. My print shop's advice was that it was fine either way (paint or no paint), but I wouldn't assume that's true of every type of decal.
I ended up painting first, with a coat of primer and a coat of black latex enamel. The black layer is nice because it covers up the tiny gaps in the decals around the corners. (My decal artwork has a mostly black field, so the edges of the decals fade into a black under-layer nicely. If your decals have a mostly red field, say, you'd probably want to use a matching red paint instead.)
One drawback of my paint job is that I applied it with a brush, and the brush stroke texture is visible through the decals (just like I was saying earlier about the wood grain). This isn't a major problem - it's not even visible unless you look closely - but it's one of those minor things that bothers me. If I were doing this again, I'd still use a primer coat, but I'd apply it by spraying rather than brushing to get a smoother finish. I'd also skip the black layer except at the corners and edges. I'd still want the black background to fill the small decal gaps at the corners, but the rest of the black coat is essentially wasted work and expense, since it's completely covered up by the decals.

Applying decals

Your print shop will give you full instructions, but here's the basic procedure I used:
You might read about having to spray a soap solution onto the decal during application, or see videos about that. Hopefully you won't have to do anything like that - that's for older decal material that I hope no one is using any more. Modern decals shouldn't require anything like that; they're self-adhesive, and you just peel and stick. Modern decal stock should also be resistant to air bubbles; it should be porous enough that any trapped air will be able to escape through the pores rather than being permanently stuck under the plastic. Even so, you should try to force out any visible air bubbles as you adhere the film. Use a felt squeegee or similar tool to press bubbles out through the leading edge as you press the decal onto the surface.

Trimming edges

Most print shops will print the decals slightly larger than the final size you want to install, usually about an extra inch on each side. This is intentional; it's to give you a little room for error in the final alignment.
The standard procedure is to align the decals, affix them, then go around the edges with an X-Acto knife to trim the decals to be exactly flush with the edges. This is surprisingly easy; you just let the edge of the wood guide the knife. As long as the knife is sharp, it should make a perfect cut exactly at the edge.

Cutting out holes

When you design and apply the decals, you should simply let them cover the holes in the cabinet for the flipper buttons, front panel buttons, and coin door cutout. After installing, use an X-Acto knife to trace around the edge of each opening. Cut from the outside, and let the edge of the opening guide the knife - the same procedure used to trim excess material around the edges.

Finding a printer

My decals were printed by Brad Bowman a/k/a Lucian045 on VP Universe (also reachable at I highly recommend him. Brad is a serious virtual pinball enthusiast who also happens to run a professional sign printing shop. It's great to work with a printer who knows how pin cabs are set up, because that means he'll be able to picture what you have in mind for any special customizations. The decal stock that Brad uses is also just great: very easy to work with and very durable. I of course can't guarantee that Brad will still be offering print services by the time you read this, but you can always drop him a line to find out.
Other options include VirtuaPin and Both offer custom decal printing. VirtuaPin specializes in pin cabs and I think they use similar print stock to what Brad Bowman uses. GameOnGrafix is more oriented towards home-brew video game cabs, but they also provide a template for pinball cabinets, and anyway it's basically the same sort of decal for either type of machine.
You can also try any shop that does commercial sign printing. This is a common commercial service, so you can probably find local vendors in your area, especially if you live near a major city. The type of adhesive plastic material used for pin cab details is also commonly used for commercial signage.

Artwork requirements

Any decal print shop will expect you to provide the artwork in electronic format. The exact format requirements will of course depend on your vendor, but that's just a matter of file format conversion. You should be able to use any photo editor or painting program on your PC to create your graphics and convert them to an acceptable file format.
Decal printing is essentially the same as printing on a home ink-jet printer, so the artwork you provide will have to be prepared at photo-quality resolution. If you're using raster (pixel) graphics, that means you should plan on about 300 dots per inch resolution. Check with your print vendor for more specific guidelines. Yes, a 50" x 30" piece of artwork at 300dpi is a lot of pixels; thank goodness we're in the era of 64-bit Windows machines.

Designing your artwork

There are three main options for coming up with your artwork.
Design it yourself. If you're feeling creative and you're good with a graphics editor like Photoshop or Illustrator, you can design your own original artwork.
Opting for a completely original design gives you complete freedom to come up with whatever look appeals to you. But starting with a blank page is also pretty intimidating. Here are some ideas for where to begin:
Commission original custom art. A fellow who goes by "stuzza" on vpforums creates original art on request for forum members, for a fee. A stuzza design is generally a pastiche of pop culture clip art based on a theme you provide. See the long-running thread "Cabinet Artwork I have created" for his contact information and examples of his work. VirtuaPin also offers custom graphic design services for a fee.
Use a pre-made design. Stuzza on vpforums has also released a number of free designs that you can download and use without a commission fee. See the "Cabinet Artwork" thread mentioned above for links.
Reproduce artwork from a real pinball. Some cab builders opt to use the original artwork from their favorite real machine. Be aware that the graphics from commercial machines are copyrighted, so a reputable print shop won't accept an order that reproduces a real machine's artwork without proper clearance from the rights holders, which requires paying a license fee. VirtuaPin sells authorized reproductions of the original art for several popular classic pinball titles. You can also find reproduction artwork for more titles from pinball supply vendors, who sell decals for people restoring old machines.

23. Cabinet Hardware

This section covers the hardware trim on the main cabinet, with details on what all the hardware does and how to install it.
We assume that you've already built the basic plywood cabinet as described in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, and that you've already painted it and/or applied decals, as described in Chapter 22, Cabinet Art. It's best to finish the artwork before installing any hardware, since some the hardware will get in the way of painting or applying decals once installed.
The sections below are arranged in our recommended order of installation. The order matters in some cases because of dependencies among parts. For example, you should install the side rails before installing the lockbar, since the lockbar's final alignment depends on the side rails being there, and you have to install the glass channels before the side rails because the channels act as spacers and supports for the rails. We've tried to present things in the easiest overall order, to get alignments right the first time and to minimize backtracking.

What to buy

We'll describe the parts needed at each stage as we go, but the full list of hardware parts can be found in Chapter 10, Cabinet Parts List.

Leg brackets

You should attach the leg brackets early in the cabinet build, during the basic wood assembly. The brackets are meant to be permanently installed; they can be left in place with the legs on or off the machine.
If you followed our plans in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, you should have already installed the leg bolt brackets on the inside of the cabinet. If you haven't done this already, see the section on Leg brackets in that chapter.
You probably won't want to attach the legs themselves early on, since you'll probably want the cab sitting on the floor or workbench while you install the PC, TVs, and other internal components.
Note that we won't get to the legs themselves until near the end of this chapter, as you'll probably want to keep the cab on the floor or on your workbench while you're installing the PC, TVs, and other internal components.

Glass channels

These are plastic pieces that go under the side rails, to hold the top glass cover in place.
The glass channels aren't visible, so they're not "trim" in the cosmetic sense, but they have two important functional roles. The first is that they let you slide the top glass in and out of the machine at any time, without tools. To remove the glass, you just unlatch and remove the lockbar, then slide the glass out the front. To put the glass back, slide it in the front, and pop the lockbar into place.
The second important functional role of the glass channels is to act as vertical spacers and supports for the metal side rails. All of the side rails made since the 1970s or so are designed to be paired with the glass channels. The geometry of the rails simply takes it for granted that the plastic channels will be there - if they're not, there will be a big gap under the rails, which would make them too weak.
To install the glass channels, the first step is to route a groove along the center top of the side wall. (If you followed our construction plans in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, you should already have done this.) There's a special router bit for this job, called a slot cutting bit. For this particular slot, you need a slot cutter bit with a 3/32" slot width and a depth of ⅜" or greater. I used Freude part number 63-106; equivalent bits are available from other brands.

Alternative to routing the slot

Some virtual cab builders forego routing the slot, because it seems too difficult, or just because they don't want to buy a special tool that they'll only ever use once. But they still want to install the channels. How do you make the spine fit without the slot? You can't, but you can chop off the spine to take it out of the picture. The glass channels are a fairly strong plastic, but they are just plastic, so it's possible to remove the spine with a sharp utility knife, a Dremel tool, or something similar. With the spine removed, you can install the channel with staples or glue. You don't have to go overboard with a super-strong attachment, since the metal rail will sit directly on top of the channel, and that by itself will largely keep it from going anyway.
Personally, I don't recommend this approach. I'd install it the "right" way with the slot, since it makes a tidier installation and doesn't risk damaging the plastic piece. Cutting the slot probably seems intimidating if you haven't done that sort of thing before, but the special bit makes it really easy.

Installing the channel

Once the slot is routed, install the plastic channel simply by pressing the "spine" that runs along the bottom of the channel into the plywood slot. Don't use any glue or fasteners; the spine will be held in place by friction, and if that's not enough, the side rail on top of it will prevent it from going anywhere.
You should expect the spine to be a tight fit in the slot. You'll need to press it in fairly firmly. Don't force it too aggressively, though - you don't want to split the plywood. If the channel is way too tight, you can always go over the channel with the router bit again to widen it out slightly.

Alternatives to the glass channels

What if you don't want to include the glass channels? Not all virtual pin cab builders do, either because they're not using the cover glass at all, or because they want to install it some other way.
My own recommendation is to use cover glass and use the standard glass channels. That'll look the most authentic and it'll be easier to set up than something improvised. But if you're intent on another approach, you'll still need something to serve as spacers under the rails.
If all you need is to fill the space, and you don't care about sliding the glass in and out, you can use any material of the right size. Something like foam tape or rubber weather-stripping material would work. The target size for the spacer is about 7/16" thick, 5/8" wide, and 42" long. Affix your chosen spacer material with glue or double-sided foam tape, starting about 3" from the front of the cab.
Be sure to take the thickness of the adhesive into account when sizing the spacer - the total overall thickness (height) of the spacing material should be about 7/16", including any adhesive layer. If you're using foam tape that's ¼" thick, for example, the spacer material would only need to be about 3/16" thick.
Improvised spacer material under the side rail. Only use this if you're not using the normal glass channels! The point is to substitute something that provides the same vertical spacing and support as the glass channels if you're not using the actual glass channels.
If you're using cover glass and want to be able to slide it in and out, I don't think there's any reason to look for alternatives to the standard plastic channels. They're the exact right thing for the job.

Side rails

These are trim pieces that go along the top side edges of the cabinet. On all modern machines, they're made of sheet metal, usually with a stainless steel finish.
(In the very early days of pinball, the side edges were trimmed with wood molding instead of metal, which is the source of the term "wood rail pinballs" that's often used to refer to such machines. If you want to use something like that, it would require custom wood-working; there's no such thing as a "standard" wood side rail, and nothing of the sort that you can buy off-the-shelf, as these haven't been used in real machines for many decades!)
WPC-style side rail. Note that the rail is narrow enough along the side wall that it doesn't reach the flipper buttons. Older side rails (from the 1980s and before) extend further down the side and typically do cover the flipper buttons, requiring holes in the rails for the flipper buttons.
The design of the side rails varies by manufacturer and vintage. The illustration above shows the WPC style from the 1990s, which continues to be the standard for everything made since. It's the type I'd recommend if you're buying new parts from a pinball supply vendor. It's the easiest type to find, too, since it's the only type anyone has been using in new machines for the last 30 years or so.
If you're using side rails salvaged from an older (1980s or earlier) machine, they might look different. The big difference with the older designs is that they usually extend further down the side, far enough to cover the flipper buttons. The older rails thus usually have pre-drilled holes for the flipper buttons, so you have to be careful to drill the button holes in the cabinet at the right locations to match the pre-drilled holes in the rails. The WPC design is easier to work with because it doesn't intersect the flipper buttons, so there are no pre-set hole locations dictated by the rails; you just have to make sure that the buttons are placed below the rails.
The WPC-style rails are symmetrical. They don't have "left" and "right" versions because the same rail can be used on either side. Simply flip the rail over to switch sides. Older rails with pre-drilled flipper button holes can't do that trick, for obvious reasons.


Before installing the side rails, you should first install the plastic channels that hold the top glass (see "Glass channels" above), or some kind of equivalent spacers in place of the channels. Part of the function of the channels is to act as vertical supports for side rails, so you need something in that space, either the channels themselves (recommended) or a similarly sized filler of some kind.
The rails attach to the cabinet with a #8-32 x 1¼" carriage bolt (and matching lock nut) at the front, double-sided foam tape along the side, and another bolt or nail at the rear. On the real machines, they usually use a small nail at the back instead of a bolt, since it's not a visible location. But I prefer using the same bolt as in the front; if you ever have to remove or replace the rail, a bolt is more reusable.
You can buy the right kind of tape from the pinball vendors (search for "side rail tape"), but there's not really an "official" type of tape that you need. Any good quality double-sided foam tape should work. Use tape that's ¾" wide and about .03" thick. (The original Williams spec called for .032" thickness, but you don't have to match that precisely; I'm sure that was just the spec for the material they actually had in stock at the time.) You'll need about 80" total.
Start by installing the tape on the inside of the metal rail. This goes along the inside side surface - the surface that will face the side wall of the cabinet. Only expose the adhesive on the side facing the metal rail at this point - leave the backing in place on the other side.
Next, do a "dry fit" to the cabinet, placing the rail in position, resting it on top of the glass channel. The front of the rail should be almost flush with the front wall of the cab. Leave just enough of a margin (1/16" to 1/8") that it doesn't stick out at all, so that it won't snag anyone's clothing.
We're going to assume that you haven't drilled the holes for the side rail carriage bolts yet. This is the time to do that. Mark the cabinet positions where the holes in the rails line up. There's one bolt hole at the front of the rail, and another at the back. Remove the rail and drill at the marked positions (straight through) with a #29 drill bit or 5/32" drill bit.
Warning: if a decal is installed over this area, be careful not to damage it. You might want to use an X-acto knife to cut out the area where you need to drill. This area will be covered by the side rail when you're done so it's okay to cut out an area slightly larger than the drill hole.
You're now ready for final installation. There are two ways to proceed from here: you can stick the rail to the cabinet with the foam tape, or you can leave the tape un-sticky for now and only use the bolts. The first way - using the tape - is the way it's meant to be done for permanent installation. The second way - without sticking the tape yet - is better if you're not ready to commit to the final setup yet (for example, if you might want to touch up the artwork later). The bolts by themselves will hold the rail in place well enough for testing and casual play, so there's no hurry to finalize the tape yet.
In either case, start by setting the rail in place again and lining it up with the holes you just drilled for the carriage bolts. Insert the bolts from the outside, and attach the nuts on the inside. If you don't want to finalize on the tape yet, just tighten the nuts and call it done for now!
If you want to finalize the installation by attaching the double-sided tape, here's the recommended procedure:

Rear glass trim

Assuming you're going through this section in order, you've already installed the glass channels that go under the side rails. If not, you should go back and do that before proceeding.
After the side glass channels are installed, there's one more part to install for the top glass, which a piece of plastic trim at the back of the machine. This provides a slot for the rear edge of the glass to fit into.
This piece of trim attaches to the "shelf" at the back of the cabinet with a few screws, so it's pretty simple at that level (no wacky new router bits required!). But I found it a bit tricky to get the alignment right when I installed it on my machine.
The thing that makes it tricky to install is that the opening in the trim for the glass is just about the same thickness as the glass, so there's not much room for error in aligning it. If the trim isn't aligned perfectly with the glass, the glass will snag on the edges of the trim when you try to slide the glass into place.
The procedure I used was to try to position the trim using the glass itself as a guide. Like I said, I found this a bit difficult in the execution, but I don't have any better ideas.
At this point, the obvious thing to do is to put the trim back at the marked position and screw it into the shelf with some wood screws. That's indeed how I proceeded. The problem I had is that the position we marked above had the glass already in place, and the glass tends to apply a little pressure on the bottom lip that tilts it down slightly. If you install it at exactly this position, the bottom lip of the trim will spring back up without the glass there, so when you try to insert the glass, it'll get hung up there.
I ended up just iterating this a few times with test installs before I found the magic spot. Before you commit to a position, try testing the proposed location with something to hold it in place temporarily, such as masking tape, or a trusty assistant. Slide the glass in and out at the test position. Adjust until you find the spot where the glass will slide in smoothly.
Once you find the right spot, fasten the trim to the rear wall with wood screws. #6 x ¾" should work.
For what it's worth, the install positions on the real machines I've looked at vary from the top of the trim being flush with the top of the shelf, to being as much as ¼" above the shelf. So maybe there's not a mathematically predictable position, as it seems that even the pros resorted to ad hoc alignment.

Lockbar and receiver

The "lockbar" is the metal trim piece at the front top of the cabinet, so named because it serves to lock the glass cover in place. You'll also see it called a "lockdown bar" and a "lock bar" and various other variations on the "locking" theme, since no one seems to be quite sure of its real name. That's worth noting if you're trying to find one on a pinball supplier's web site, because the suppliers can't agree on precisely what it's called, either, even within their own sites. Interestingly, all of these "lock" terms are vernacular; the real name, the official technical name as you'll find it in the Williams parts lists and operator manuals, is the rather nebulous "front molding assembly".
The lockbar (the name we'll settle on here) serves three main purposes. The first is that eponymous "locking" function, to hold the top glass in place. In the standard setup that the real pinball machines have used for decades, the lockbar secures the glass, and removing the lockbar lets you slide the glass in and out through the front. The lockbar itself is secured by some latches inside the machine, which can be engaged and released via a lever you can reach by opening the coin door.
The second function of the lockbar is cosmetic, to serve as shiny edge trim along the front (as suggested by the official Williams name for the part, "front molding assembly").
The third function becomes apparent the first time you try playing a round of pinball on a machine with the lockbar removed: the lockbar's rounded corners provide a comfortable place to rest your hands, in contrast to the brutally sharp edges of bare plywood corners.
All of this is to say that if you're not planning to use a genuine pinball lockbar, you should make sure that you come up with a substitute that adequately covers these key functions, especially the part about providing a comfortable hand-rest.
In the standard setup, the lockbar mates with another part, usually called the lockbar receiver. (Although, once again, Williams used a different and strangely vague term for it in their parts lists: "lever guide assembly".) The receiver attaches to the inside of the machine, at the top of the front wall, and isn't visible to players.
The receiver is installed at the top of the front wall, on the interior side:

Fire button

Several Stern machines from the 2000s feature a button on the top of the lockbar, usually labeled "Fire" or something similar. The button typically activates a special feature in the game at certain times, so it's a useful extra control in those games.
You really don't have to replicate this physical button on a virtual cab just to play these games, because Visual Pinball re-creations almost always use the MagnaSave buttons as substitutes for special extra controls like this. (See Appendix 4, Tables with MagnaSave Buttons.) However, the playing experience isn't quite the same when you substitute a different physical button, and one of the huge reasons to build a virtual cab in the first place is to replicate the original playing experience as faithfully as possible. So if you're a big fan of the Stern games that include Fire buttons, it might be worth including one on your cab to better reproduce the original game's feel.
To include a Fire button on a virtual cab, I think the best bet is to buy a Stern lockbar and receiver combo that's specifically designed for the button. A regular lockbar doesn't have a hole drilled for the button. You might be able to take a regular lockbar and drill the hole yourself, but I think this would be difficult to do cleanly, as it requires a largish hole (1⅛" diameter), and you'd have to drill through two metal layers (the outer stainless steel trim piece itself, and the epoxied steel plate inside with the prongs). You'd also have to drill some holes in the lockbar receiver, since the regular receiver will get in the way of the button, and doesn't have the mounting holes for installing the microswitch that goes with the button.
As far as I can tell, there's no such thing as a "generic" lockbar-with-button. They're all made for specific games (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, AC/DC, etc), and all of the ones I can find come with powder-coat finishes (not the standard chrome) and special game-specific badges. The game-specific badge in particular would be a big negative for me, in that it would clash with my custom theming, but it's actually a separate part that you could remove and replace with something custom. You'd also almost be forced to use the matching powder-coat finish on the legs and side rails. That might be something you want anyway, as it can look snazzy, but it would increase the cost for those parts. And finally, keep in mind that these lockbars are only available in the standard-body cab width, so these wouldn't be an option if you're building a widebody or custom size.
Feedback request: I'd sure like to know if there are any generic lockbar-with-button options (with the button hole, in the standard chrome finish, and without any game-specific badging). Please pass along a pointer if you know of such a product available commercially. Also, if you've personally modified a regular lockbar and receiver combo to include a Fire button, I'd like to hear about how you did that and how well it turned out. I'd be thrilled to have detailed conversion plans to add to this section. The options above seem regrettably limiting.

Installing the lockbar receiver

Before you install the lockbar receiver, install the side rails, as described earlier in this section. The lockbar should fit snugly on top of the side rails, so the rails have to be in position before you can fine-tune the lockbar positioning.
Start by fitting the lockbar into the receiver (with nothing installed in the cab yet).
Put the lockbar/receiver assembly into position. On the inside of the cab, the vertical part of the receiver should be flush with the front wall. On the outside, the lockbar should be resting on the side rails, slightly overlapping their front edges so that there's no gap. The front of the lockbar should overhang the front wall of the cab slightly (by about 1/8" to 3/16").
If you haven't already drilled the holes in the front wall for the receiver's three carriage bolts, mark the center positions of the bolt holes in the receiver on the inside wall. The positions of the bolt holes are illustrated below. After marking the locations of the holes, remove the lockbar/receiver assembly and drill them at 5/16" diameter. Put the assembly back in place.
The receiver attaches with three ¼-20 x 1¼" carriage bolts and ¼-20 lock nuts. These are available in silver or black finishes. The real machines usually use black bolts to make them less conspicuous. If you can't find them in black at a local hardware store, you can order them from pinball supply vendors like Pinball Life or Marco Specialties.
Insert the carriage bolts from the outside of the cabinet:
Attach lock nuts on the inside. You might need to pull the lever on the receiver to access one or more of them, since parts of the mechanism can slide in front of the bolt holes. If it's too hard to fit the nuts onto the bolts with the lockbar in place, remove the lockbar for that step. I'd put it back in place before final tightening, though, to make sure things stay properly aligned. The receiver provides a little bit of play in the bolt holes to let you fine-tune the position, and the best way to do that is to use the lockbar itself as the guide.
Note that the center bolt is shared with the coin door, so you should leave that out for now if you're going to install a coin door next. I'd still insert the center bolt during the fitting process to make sure the holes are all properly aligned, but don't actually fasten it yet.
Check final alignment by removing the lockbar and then putting it back in place. You should be able to smoothly remove it and re-attach it, and it should still be sitting at the desired position when latched in place again. If it's too tight or too loose, you can loosen the bolts again and tweak the receiver positioning to improve the fit. The receiver has oversized bolt holes to give you a little play to get the position right.
You can also adjust the locking tension slightly via the two brass adjustment screws on the top of the receiver, as illustrated below. Tighten the screws (turn them clockwise) to push down on the latches and increase the tension when the lockbar is installed.

DIY alternatives to real pinball lockbars

Some pin cab builders don't use real lockbars because of the cost, or because they're building an unusual cab design where the standard lockbar doesn't fit the style or the available space.
If size (not price) is the only factor, note that you can buy lockbars in custom widths (made to your specifications) from VirtuaPin.
Fashioning your own metal lockbar seems like a challenging job for a DIYer, short of having access to a well-equipped metal shop. I'm afraid I don't have any workable suggestions here; it's not the sort of thing you can make on a 3D printer, which is the magic answer to almost everything else these days. The closest starting point might be an "L" bar, which you can buy from hardware stores in various metals and thicknesses - but I'm not sure how you'd mold that to the more complex shape of a standard lockbar with its rounded corners at each side.
If you're going for a furniture look with wood trim all around, it's possible to craft a wood version using fairly ordinary wood-working tools. Here are some vpforums threads that might be helpful:
Another possibility is to use a 3D printer to fabricate a plastic lockbar. Here's a vpforum thread about that, with advice about materials and finishes to make it look like a metal lockbar:

DIY alternatives to a real lockbar receiver

To save a little money, some virtual cab builders omit the receiver, even while using a real lockbar. The receiver is a purely internal part, so it doesn't serve any cosmetic function, and some pin cab builders find the price (currently about $80) unreasonable for a part with such a simple job. The main thing that makes a standard receiver so expensive is that it has to be rather heavy-duty to fulfill its role as a security lock. For a home machine, you might not be concerned about teenagers trying to pry the thing apart to steal quarters.
One simple solution might be to use Velcro. You'd have to attach some filler material to the bottom of the lockbar to fill the space between the lockbar and the top of the front wall. Once the two areas are in contact, you can simply glue a bunch of Velcro to each side. This would hold the lockbar reasonably well, although obviously not in a truly "locking" way, and it would probably feel a bit wobbly compared with the real ones.
A more elaborate home-made alternative is described here:
Briefly, the idea is to place a pair of toggle latches on the inside front wall of the cabinet, positioned to align with the hooked prongs that stick out of the bottom of the lockbar. To fasten, you reach in through the coin door, hook the latches to the prongs, and engage the latches. To release, you again reach in through the coin door and disengage the latches. The downside is that it would require a fair bit of dexterity to reach the latches through the coin door, since they need to be positioned around the corner on each side. In contrast, the standard receiver can be engaged and disengaged with a lever that's positioned within easy reach.
Note that some of the newer Stern machines actually use lockbars with a similar toggle-latch design. Compatible Stern lockbars are equipped with under-carriage latch-hook parts that are specifically designed to be used this way, so you might find it easier to use this approach with a compatible Stern lockbar than with a lockbar designed to fit the standard Williams/Bally receiver. Refer to these parts:


If you're planning to drop coins into the coin slots, you'll need something to catch the coins on the other side. You don't want them rolling around loose where they could randomly short out wiring or get wedged in something mechanical.
The real machines' solution is the "cashbox". It's a low-profile plastic box with a metal lid, with slots in the lid that line up with the coin chutes. It sits just inside the coin door. When a coin goes through one of the chutes, it drops straight into the cash box. The cash box is sized to fit through the coin door, so the operator can easily collect the machine's income when making rounds.
The cashbox has essentially just one design these days, which looks like the illustration above. Older machines used a variety of shapes and sizes, but nearly all pinballs made since the 1990s use the same design that Williams used in the WPC machines. Since it's so close to a standard, it's the one you can buy from pinball vendors. Most of them sell it in two separate pieces: a plastic tray, and a metal lid. They don't separate them just to make your life difficult; it's for modularity, so that the same tray works with lids with different slot patterns for different coin door layouts. The three-slot lid illustrated above is for the typical US coin door configuration. If you have a non-US coin door, you should be able to find a matching cashbox lid at a European pinball parts vendor.


The cashbox itself doesn't require installation per se; you just pop it into the space at the front of the machine. But you do have to install two brackets to hold it in place, plus a little "fence" or divider wall, called out in the illustration above.
The first bracket goes at the front of the cab, directly under the coin door. This is the "cashbox nest bracket", Williams part 01-6389-01. It prevents the box from sliding back and forth.
The nest bracket has three screw holes. The center one is meant to align with the bottom bolt in the coin door, so that you share the same bolt between the coin door and this bracket. If you haven't already installed the coin door, slip a carriage bolt (¼-20 x 1¼") through the hole from the front of the cab for alignment. (If you've already installed the coin door, just remove the nut from the bottom bolt.) Slip the nest bracket's center hole over the bolt to position the bracket. Make sure it's level, then fasten the two outside holes to the cab's front wall with wood screws (#6 x ¾" should work).
If you've already installed the coin door, reattach the nut on the center bolt. Otherwise just leave that off (and take the bolt back out) for now; you'll install it when you get to the coin door.
The second bracket is the "cashbox lock bracket" (Williams part 01-10030 or 1A-3493-1), which attaches to the fence called out in the earlier illustration. If you followed our plans from Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, you've already installed that. If not, you should go back now and follow the plans in that chapter under "Cashbox fence".
Once both brackets are in place, installing the cashbox is a simple matter of dropping it into the space delineated by the fence, fitting the slot at the back of the cashbox lid over the lock bracket. To remove the cashbox, lift the back edge high enough to clear the lock bracket, and pull the cashbox out. This is all meant to be done through the coin door, since the cashbox is sized to fit through the door.
(If you look more closely at the lock bracket, you'll see that it has a little slot at the top. That's for attaching a padlock, to add an extra layer of security to protect the booty even if someone gets past the coin door. Probably not something you'll need in a home machine.)

DIY cashbox

Apart from cost, the main reason you might want to consider designing your own home-made cashbox substitute is that the real ones are rather large. The standard cashbox is great at its job, but it takes up a whole foot of floor space at the front of the cab, which impinges on space you might want to use for PC parts or feedback devices.
Improvising a home-made cashbox isn't too challenging, since it's just a box with a couple of holes in the lid. You could easily fashion one out of plywood or acrylic. I created one using a plastic food container; I found one with about the right depth, and used an X-acto knife to cut slots in the lid that line up with the coin chutes. I use a bungee cord (connected to a couple of eyelets screwed into the floor) to hold it in place. It's certainly not as elegant as the real cashbox (particularly the bungees pinning it down), but it only takes up about 5" of floor space.

Coin door

The coin door is a complex enough subsystem that we've devoted a whole chapter to it (Chapter 40, Coin Door). But we'll go over the basic installation process here.
If you're using a standard lockbar-and-receiver combination, it's easier to install the receiver before installing the coin door. Follow the procedure above. The receiver shares its center attachment bolt with the coin door, so you'll need to remove the center bolt in the receiver if it's currently in place.
The standard coin door assembly comes with the door itself and the frame already assembled, so there's not much to installing it. Start with the door closed and locked. Fit it into through the coin door opening in the front wall.
Holding the door in place, insert carriage bolts (¼-20 x 1¼") through the four holes around the perimeter of the door frame. Fasten them on the inside with ¼-20 lock nuts.
The top bolt in the coin door is shared with the lockbar receiver, if you're using one. Thread the bolt through the matching hole in the receiver mechanism, and attach the lock nut on the interior side of the receiver, so that it secures the receiver as well as the coin door.
If you're installing the full set of cashbox hardware, the bottom bolt in the coin door frame will be shared with the cashbox "nest bracket". Thread the bolt through the matching hole in the nest bracket and attach the lock nut on the interior side of the bracket.

Coin mechs

If you bought a brand new coin door, it probably didn't come with coin "mechs" (mechanisms), the gadgets that sit behind the coin slots to validate inserted coins. You can buy those separately. The mechanical quarter acceptor used in typical US coin doors is an inexpensive add-on (about $10 each). I think it's worth including these in a virtual cab, for the added realism of being able to use real coins. The installation procedure is detailed under "Coin mechs" in Chapter 40, Coin Door.

Custom coin slot inserts

On most types of coin doors, it's possible to replace the illuminated "25¢" signs (known as "inserts") on the coin slots, to show different coin denominations, or better yet, your own custom graphics. See "Custom coin slot inserts" in Chapter 40, Coin Door.

Coin door position switch

On real pinball machines, there's a switch inside the cabinet that detects whether the door is open or closed, just like the light switch in a refrigerator door. You should install the same switch in your virtual cab, because many of the modern ROM-based pinball tables use it to control access to their setup menus.
Full instructions on setting up the physical switch (as well as connecting it to the virtual pinball software) can be found in Chapter 40, Coin Door, under the section "Coin door position switch".


If you bought a full plunger assembly, it probably came assembled. If not, or if you bought the separate components, assemble as shown below.
If you haven't already routed the opening in the front wall for the plunger, see "Plunger and Launch button" in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body.
For installation in the cabinet, you'll need three #10-32 x ⅝" machine screws (¾" length will also work) and a ball shooter mounting plate (Williams/Bally part 01-3535). You can improvise something to replace the mounting plate if you prefer, but the plate makes things a lot easier and only costs about $2.
Fully assemble all of the plunger parts (except for the mounting plate) as described above, then fit the assembly through the triangular opening in the front wall, from the outside. The three prongs in the front of the housing should fit in the obvious way at the corners of the triangular cutout. Align the mounting plate on the inside, fitting the large hole at the center over the shooter rod. The mounting plate should sit flush with the front wall of the cabinet. Screw in the three #10-32 bolts.


You'll probably want to leave the legs off for most of the build process. It's easier to install the internal parts (the PC, TVs, buttons, feedback devices, etc) with the machine on the floor or on your workbench. That's why we've saved this for near the end of the hardware chapter. On the other hand, it's easy to attach and detach the legs as needed, so you can always test them for fit.
Assuming the leg brackets are already installed (see above), attaching the legs is pretty easy. You'll need eight bolts (two per leg), ⅜-16 by 2½" or 2¾". The longer length is usually needed if you have leg protectors of some kind. You should buy the bolts from a pinball vendor rather than using generic hardware store parts, as the pinball bolts look nicer; this is a cosmetic item.
The legs on modern machine are all interchangeable front/back/left/right, so you should have a set of four identical legs. (The front and back legs are the same length. The forward tilt of the machine comes from the back legs being attached lower on the cabinet than the front legs.)
If you haven't already attached the "levelers" (the round foot pads) to the legs, do so before installing the legs. These simply screw in to the holes on the bottoms of the legs.
The levelers let you adjust the slope of the machine slightly, and also let you adjust each leg so that all four legs are planted on the floor (to solve the classic wobble problem with a four-legged table on an uneven surface). It's best to screw all of the levelers all the way in initially (so that they're as "retracted" as possible), then adjust as needed once the machine is situated. The levelers can get a little wobbly themselves at their maximum extension, so keep them retracted and only extend as needed.
Start by setting the machine on its back. This lets you attach the front legs without any weight on them.
Position each leg at the corner of the cabinet where it goes, aligning the bolt holes in the leg with the bolt holes in the cabinet. If you're using leg protectors, they go between the leg and the cabinet.
Insert the two bolts and thread them into the bracket. There's no need for any nuts or washers, as the brackets themselves are threaded and serve as the fasteners. Use a hex driver or wrench to tighten the bolts. They should be tight enough that the legs won't wobble, but don't tighten so much that you strip the threads or crush the plywood.
Tip the machine forward until the front legs touch down on the floor, then lift the back of the machine high enough to attach the back legs.
Have an assistant hold the back of the machine up while you install the rear legs, which bolt on just like the front legs. Be sure to have your assistant continue holding the machine off the ground in back until all of the rear bolts are fully tightened.
When the machine is situated at its permanent location, adjust the leg levelers (the foot pads at the bottom) to level the machine, so that all four feet are firmly on the floor without wobble. (On a real machine, you'd also take this opportunity to adjust the leg levelers to fine-tune the cabinet's tilt to level the playfield side-to-side and make its slope match the manufacturer's prescription. But this is superfluous on a virtual cab, where game gravity only exists within the simulation.)
To remove the legs, simply reverse the procedure.

Top glass

If you've set things up as we described above, with the plastic channels for the glass along the side rails and in back, the glass can be easily installed and removed at any time, without tools.
To install the glass, remove the lockbar, and slide the glass through the front of the machine, fitting the edges into the plastic channels under the side rails. Slide it back until it's nested in the trim at the back. Put the lockbar back in place to keep the glass from sliding back out on its own.
To remove the glass, simply reverse the procedure.

24. Backbox Hardware

This section continues with the cabinet trim hardware, moving on now to the backbox.
We assume that you've already built the wood shell of the backbox as described in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, and that you've already painted it and/or applied decals, as described in Chapter 22, Cabinet Art. It's best to finish the artwork before installing any hardware, since some the hardware will get in the way of painting or applying decals once installed.
As with the Chapter 23, Cabinet Hardware chapter, we try to present things in an order you can follow for installation.

Translite lock

The real machines have a keyed lock at the top of the backbox that secures the translite, so that arcade customers can't steal the translite or get into the backbox to mess with the electronics.
The operating principle is pretty simple. In the locked position, a metal tab on the lock sticks into the slot at the top of the backbox trim that the translite fits into. This prevents lifting the translite, which is necessary to remove it.
In the unlocked position, the metal tab swings out of the way, letting you lift the translite into the slot, which in turn lets you remove it.
With the lock open, there's enough play that you can remove the translite, as described below. With the lock closed, the tab prevents moving the translite far enough to free it from the top and bottom trim channels, so it's effectively locked in place.
The translite lock is purely for the sake of security. It's not needed to keep the translite from falling out on its own; it's just there to keep people you don't want removing it from removing it. So there's no functional need for it in a home machine (unless perhaps have obnoxious friends). But you might still want to include it merely to complete the look. It's a cheap part that's easy to install.

Installing the translite lock

First, assemble the pieces of the lock plate. Slip the lock through the hole in the plate, slip the hex nut over the back of the lock, and tighten the nut.
It should look like this when assembled.
The pinball vendors sell the lock plate assembly as a complete kit, which includes a pair #8-32 machine screws with security Torx heads. There are two reasons you might want to discard these and substitute your own wood screws. The first is that they're the security Torx type, so you need the special security type of Torx driver to use them. "Security screwdriver" is a bit hyperbolic when you can buy it at Home Depot, but most people don't have one lying around (which is the whole point: this is, after all, a lock; you don't want people circumventing it with common household tools). The second reason is that they're machine screws, not wood screws. They won't attach well to plain wood. They require T-nuts, which go behind the trim, as explained in "Translite lock plate preparation" in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body. If the T-nuts aren't already there, it's probably too late. Fortunately, wood screws are a pretty decent alternative, especially if you're not concerned about the security aspect of the lock.
Before installing the lock plate, use a key to check the orientation of the lock. Turn the lock so that it's in the extended position, with the lock tab sticking up perpendicular to the plate. Be sure to install it with the tab facing the back of the backbox.
If you did already install T-nuts for the Torx screws, simply put the lock plate in position, and fasten it with the Torx screws.
If you didn't install the T-nuts, discard the Torx screws that came with the kit, and substitute a pair of wood screws. I'd go with #6 x ¾". Rounded-head screws will look better, as will black screws if you can find them (if not, you can just paint the heads black after installation if you want).
Line up the lock plate over the gap in the top trim. It should be centered over the gap, which should be the same as centering it side-to-side overall in the backbox. Mark the positions of the screw holes. Remove the plate and drill pilot holes for the #6 screws. Put the lock plate in position again and fasten the screws.

Where to keep the keys

With the real machines, the standard way to keep track of your translite keys is to keep them on a little hook inside the coin door. The WPC and SuzoHapp doors provide a hook specifically for this purpose, located next to the coin mechs.
If you're not installing a standard coin door or can't find the key hook, you might put a little eyelet or hook on the inside wall of the cab somewhere convenient, and hang the keys there.

DIY alternatives

If you don't need the locking function, but your backbox has the gap in the trim where the lock plate goes, I'd simply install a 1" x 4" plate, either metal or a thin piece of wood, painted black. Screw it in with #6 x ¾" wood screws, at holes placed about ⅜" from either edge. Use rounded-head screws, and either use black screws or paint the heads black after installation.
If you haven't yet installed the wood trim where the plate goes, I'd simply run a single piece of wood all the way across rather than replicating the gap in the standard plans.

Backbox hinges

Real pinball machines are designed with a hinge that lets you tilt the backbox forward until it's lying flat on top of the main cabinet. This is an essential feature if you want to transport a pinball machine, as it would be too tall, top-heavy, and fragile with the backbox in the normal position. And you certainly wouldn't want to remove the backbox every time you moved the machine, as that's a major operation that requires disconnecting a lot of wiring, which always creates a risk of breaking something when you reassemble it.

WPC hinges

The WPC machines use a clever mechanism that attaches the backbox to the main cabinet with little lever arms on the sides. The lever arms attach to the cabinet with a pivot that serves as the hinge.
I call this setup "clever", in part because it's not the naive way that I'd have come up with, had I been the one tasked with designing it. My naive solution would probably have been more like the "door-hinge" approach used in the System 11 machines (which we'll come to shortly). It's also clever in that it makes the folded configuration a little more compact by moving the folded backbox further towards the narrower front end of the main cabinet, and by eliminating the pedestal needed in the door-hinge setup to make the geometry work (as we'll see below in the System 11 example). And finally, it's clever in that it's easier to assemble than door hinges, at least when using the purpose-built parts. If you've ever tried installing a room door or cabinet door, you know how tricky it can be to get hinges aligned properly.
So assuming you're building a full-scale cabinet, the WPC approach is all upside. And it's not particularly expensive to use the standard parts; they'll only set you back about $30. The only reason not to use the WPC style is if the standard parts won't work because your cab is too small for them. In that case, you might skip down to the "alternative" section below to see more on the door-hinge approach, which isn't as elegant, but is easier to adapt to different sizes, since you can get generic hinges in many sizes.

Installing the WPC hinges

As I said, one of the advantages of the WPC mechanism is that it's easy to set up. If you followed the WPC cabinet plans in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, you've already drilled the mounting holes in the main cabinet and backbox. To review, the parts get mounted here:
...and here:
See "Backbox floor" in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body for drilling locations, which depend on your cabinet width. If you haven't already drilled these, an easy way to figure the exact position is to use the hinge arm itself as a drilling template, after attaching it to the main cabinet first. We'll point out the right time to do that in a moment.
You should already have your side rails installed at this point, since the hinges will get in the way of installing them later.
Note that there's a "left" and a "right" hinge arm - they're mirror images. Be sure to install the correct one on each side. They should be oriented with the pivot point pointing towards the front of the cabinet, and the little "wing" that attaches to the backbox pointing away from the cabinet side:
Start with the hinge pivot joint. This uses the ½" diameter hole drilled in the side of the main cabinet:
When tightened, this arrangement should leave a little clearance (about 1/8") between the hinge arm and the main cabinet, and you should be able to rotate the hinge arm around the pivot. (It's okay if it's tight.)
Install both hinge arms (left and right) using the procedure above.
Position the backbox on the shelf at the back of the cabinet, centered side to side, with its back flush with the back wall of the main cabinet. (Have an assistant hold the backbox steady while you're working so that you don't accidentally knock it over.)
Rotate the hinge arm around the pivot until the side with the three bolt holes meets the bottom side of the backbox. Be careful about rubbing the sides of the cab so that you don't scratch the artwork.
If you haven't already drilled the holes in the backbox floor for attaching the hinge bracket bolts, this is the time! Make sure the hinge arm is flat against the bottom of the backbox, and that it's precisely parallel to the side of the cab. You should be able to see a little gap between the hinge arm and cab across its whole length. The hinge shouldn't be pressing against the cab anywhere, since that could scratch the artwork when you rotate the backbox. Once you have it aligned to your satisfaction, mark the positions of the three bolt holes. Repeat on the other side. Remove the backbox and drill ¼" holes at the marked positions.
On the inside of the backbox, position the backing plate (01-9012) over the bolt holes.
Install three ¼"-20 x 1¼" carriage bolts in each hinge arm, inserting from the bottom side, and through the mounting plate. Fasten each with a ¼"-20 whiz flange locknut. Tighten securely.
The backbox is now attached! You should be able to freely tilt it forward so that it lies flat against the top of the cab. (It's a good idea to put down some padding when doing this, so that you don't scratch up the side rails or the front edges of the backbox.)
If you ever need to remove the backbox, just take out the carriage bolts attaching the hinge arms to the bottom of the backbox. You can leave the hinge arms themselves attached permanently.

Alternative hinge mechanisms

The WPC hinge mechanism described above has been used on most real machines made from the 1990s to present. Earlier machines use other hinge styles. The Williams System 11 machines (1980s), for example, used what were essentially door hinges attached at the bottom front of the backbox, as shown in the picture below.
Williams System 11 backbox mounting (Space Station, 1987). This used door hinges at the front of the backbox. Note the increased shelf height required by this geometry.
If you're building a mini-cab or other custom-sized cabinet, this sort of hinge arrangement might be easier than trying to replicate the WPC-style hinges with improvised parts. If you use this approach, though, pay close attention to the way it requires a higher "shelf" between the backbox and main cabinet than on the WPC machines, to make room for the front portion of the backbox when it folds down. The standard WPC plans won't work well with a hinge like this because of that geometry problem. If you want to adapt the WPC plans for this arrangement, be careful to work out the hinge placement so that everything fits properly when you fold the backbox down.

Backbox latch

This is a minor bit of hardware that helps when setting up the machine, by temporarily securing the backbox in the upright position, preventing it from falling forward if bumped. The standard part is a simple toggle latch that attaches to the back of the main cabinet, with a mating bracket that attaches to the back of the backbox.
I said "temporarily", because the toggle latch isn't really strong enough to count as a permanent way of securing the backbox. Let me show you the warning that they silkscreen on the back of the real backboxes in big yellow letters:
Their point is that this little toggle latch isn't all that strong; it could fail if the backbox were bumped too hard. The backbox is quite heavy and has a lot of leverage, so you need something a lot stronger to truly secure it. The solution is to install the wing bolts described below. The toggle latch is just meant to be a temporary helper while you're getting the wing bolts in place.
Install this after you've set up the backbox hinges, so that you're working in terms of the actual final alignments.
For fasteners, use any suitable wood screw. On the real machines, they usually use #6 x ¾" sheet metal screws with hex heads. (I know, "sheet metal screw" doesn't sound like the right thing for screwing into wood, but they actually work just fine as self-tapping screws with plywood.)

Backbox safety bolts

As the warning placard above points out, the little toggle latch on the back of the backbox is helpful to keep the backbox from flopping over while you're setting up the machine, but it's not strong enough to rely on beyond that. For a deployed machine, you need something stronger, specifically a couple of big bolts installed in the floor of the backbox.
The parts required are a pair of ⅜"-16 x 2" "wing bolts", like the one pictured below. Wing bolts are basically just regular bolts with wing nuts in place of the heads. This lets you turn them by hand, for tool-free installation. (The wing nut at the top isn't a separate part; it's integral, like the hex head on a regular bolt.) The wing nut head also serves as a built-in washer.
You can buy wing bolts in the right size from pinball vendors. You might be able to find them at some hardware stores as well, although they're too obscure for the big-box stores like Home Depot. In a pinch, you could substitute ordinary hex-head bolts of the same size, but note that you'd need to use some kind of giant washers (over 1" outside diameter) in conjunction, because the hex heads by themselves will slip right through the 1" top holes (defeating the purpose).
If you've done the necessary prep work as described in the "Rear shelf" section in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body, installing the bolts is trivial. Just pass them through the holes on either side of the floor opening and thread them into the pre-installed T-nuts. There's no need for washers or other parts. Hand-tighten. You don't have to go beyond hand-tight, since they don't have to hold the backbox up most of the time; gravity takes care of that for the most part. The bolts only kick in if the backbox gets bumped or pushed.

What is a translite?

We're all pinball nerds here, so a quick digression on definitions is in order! There's a bit of a disagreement between virtual pinball people and real pinball people about what "translite" means. So to avoid confusion, I want to make sure we're all clear on what we mean by the word.
Throughout this guide, I use the term "translite" to refer to a clear plastic or glass sheet that you install in front of the main backbox TV. There's no artwork printed on it (other than perhaps some masking around the edges, to hide the TV bezel), since we want to let the TV handle all of the artwork display. The virtual translite is thus essentially a bit of trim in a virtual cab to disguise the TV-ness of our virtual setup and make it look on the outside more like a real pinball machine.
Okay, so that's how I use the term in this guide. It's also how the term is commonly understood in the virtual pin cab community, so that's the way you'll usually see it used on the forums. But technically speaking, it's wrong! At least, it's not what it means to (most) pinball people when they're talking about the real machines. Technically, in a real pinball context:
Those are the technical meanings, but even real pinball people often use the words translite and backglass loosely and interchangeably. They'll often call the translite-plus-glass assembly a translite, or even a backglass. So I think we virtual pinball people can be forgiven for appropriating translite to mean kind of the opposite of what it really means, in that we use it to refer to the plain glass sheet without any artwork.

Creating a translite

The basic material for the translite is a clear sheet of either glass or acrylic. If you're using glass, it should be tempered glass. I personally prefer acrylic for the translite because it's so much lighter than glass.
Dimensions for the standard WPC-style translite:
The size obviously depends on your backbox dimensions. The size above is for the standard WPC setup, with the backbox built to the standard dimensions and a standard-sized speaker/DMD panel installed. If you're not using a speaker panel, you'll probably want to increase the height to cover the entire backbox area, so you'd make it about 26½" high if you're using the standard backbox dimensions.
Where to buy: The clear glass or plastic sheet isn't something you can find as a standard pinball part from any vendor. Fortunately, it's easily found as a generic part.

Edge masking

It's nearly impossible to make the backglass TV fill the entire space that's available for the translite in the standard backbox design. Part of the reason is that a TV's viewable screen area never completely spans the full height and breadth of the unit; there's always at least a thin bezel around the edges. The other factor is that the backbox space is much squarer than the 16:9 aspect ratio that's all but universal on current TVs. It's impossible to find a TV that fills the vertical space fully, given the constraint of also fitting in the available width. You can get down to a fraction of an inch of dead space on the sides, but you'll still have more than an inch at the top and bottom in the best case.
Most cab builders want to cover up all of the dead space around the edges of the TV, so that only the live display area of the TV is visible. Understandably, they don't want the insides of the backbox to be visible.
One way that some cab builders deal with this is to create a wood (or similar) cover with a cutout for the TV area.
I don't personally like this look very much, because to my eye, it calls attention what it's meant to hide. I mean that it makes it more even more obvious than it otherwise would be that there's a smaller TV embedded in a bigger backbox space. I also find that it looks too different from the real machines, which creates an impression of home-brew-ness that's at odds with my goal of a realistic appearance.
Given that we're talking about translites, I think you can probably guess that the approach I prefer is to use a clear glass or plastic cover for the whole area. That's exactly what the real machines use, so it looks as close to authentic as you can get, given the inherent differences in what's behind the glass. But that still leaves the problem that you can see into the dead space around the TV, since a clear glass or plastic cover is, after all, clear.
The best solution, in my opinion, is to combine the "cutout" idea from the wood cover with the clear translite, by masking out the edges of the translite. There are two ways to do this:
I used decals printed in the conventional way, to adhere to the front side of the translite. It would have been better to print them in a reverse format, with the adhesive on the graphics side so that they could have been stuck to the back side of the translite. This would have created a more uniform finish on the front, just like why you want to paint on the back if you're using a painted mask.
I really like the way my translite with decals turned out, but for practical purposes you might be better off with a simple black mask. The thing that you might not expect about the decals is that you simply don't see them while playing. The TV display is so much brighter that it completely overwhelms them to the point of utter invisibility. Which is exactly what you want, as it turns out: you want it to look like the backbox of the game you're playing, not like a TV embedded in a virtual cab. So that works out great, but my point here is that as far as playing goes, there's no difference between decals and black paint. And when the cab is powered down, the decals arguably create the same visual impression that I said I don't like with the wood cutout approach - the way the visible borders call attention to what's missing in the middle. But somehow I don't dislike the look in this flat "2D" version; in person, it actually looks very much like a real translite, even if it would be a rather art-impoverished one on a real machine. Even so, a plain black paint mask would do a better job of hiding the TV cutout when the power's off; it would just like a solid dark sheet. You could easily mistake it for a regular translite with really dark graphics that need some backlighting to come to life.

Assembling the trim

The standard WPC translite setup uses four trim pieces around the edges:
They're all dead simple to install. Each is a plastic piece with a U-shaped channel that the glass/plastic sheet fits into. Just align each piece at the center of its respective edge and press it onto the glass.
Note that the trim pieces don't cover every millimeter of the edges - there's a little uncovered space at the corners. That's normal.

How to install the translite

If you installed a translite, make sure it's in the unlocked position (with the tab rotated out of the way of the top trim channel).
Holding the translite at an angle, lean the top edge against the guides at either side of the backbox, and slide it upwards into the slot at the top.
Lift it high enough into the slot that the bottom edge clears the bottom trim channel. Holding it by the "lift trim" at the bottom, move the bottom edge forwards until the translite is flat against the guides, then lower it into the bottom trim channel until it's seated.
If you installed the translite lock, you can now turn it to the locked position to secure the translite.

How to remove the translite

If you installed a translite lock, it must be in the unlocked position before you can remove the translite.
Holding the translite by the "lift trim" at the bottom, slide it upwards until the bottom clears the lip of the bottom trim channel. That lets you tilt the bottom outwards.
Now just lower the translite out of the top slot. It's now entirely free of the backbox trim, so you can remove it.

25. Cabinet Grounding

All of the externally exposed metal parts in your pin cab should be "grounded", meaning that the metal parts are all electrically connected to the Earth ground wire in your AC power plug. This includes the leg bolts, side rails, front lockbar, coin door, and plunger housing.
Grounding serves several puproses:

When to install

Grounding is infrastructure work that should be done early in the build. The best time is after you've assembled the cabinet body and installed the metal trim parts, and before you've started installing the internal components (PC, TV, feedback devices). Running the grounding wire is easier while the cabinet is still mostly empty.


The ideal type of wire to use for grounding is flat copper braid. This is a bare (no insulation) wire bundle with a large number of small wires woven into a wide, flat braid.
Braided wire is great for this because it has high current capacity, and the flat form factor makes it easier to connect to metal parts by providing a large surface for contact. The high current capacity is important because the whole point is to carry the large surge current that would occur if a power supply voltage is ever shorted to ground. The ground wire has to be robust enough that it won't melt before the fuse or circuit breaker trips and cuts off the power at the source.
I'd recommend 1/4" (or larger) tinned copper braid. 20 or 25 feet should be adequate. You can find this at electronics vendors, Amazon, or eBay.

What is Earth ground?

Earth ground is pretty much what it sounds like: an electrical connection into the soil. If your house is wired properly, there's a big metal stake driven into the ground somewhere in or around your foundation, and the stake is wired to the "third prong" in all of the AC outlets in your house. In the US, that's the round prong at the bottom of the plug. (In older houses, a buried water pipe might serve in place of a metal stake, and in older houses still, where the old two-prong outlets are installed, you might not have any Earth grounding at all.)
For the purposes of a pin cab, we rely on the house wiring to provide the connection to Earth ground, via that third prong on the AC plug.

How to connect to the Earth ground

One end of your grounding wire needs to connect to the Earth ground in your house wiring. To get there, we can piggy-back on the AC power connection you're using for your PC power supply. That should have a three-conductor power cord, since your PC power supply needs to be grounded.
There are several ways to tap into that ground connection. The best option will depend on your setup and the type of power supply you're using, so look these over and pick the one that works best for you.

Option 1: ATX case

If your PC power supply has a bare metal case, the case itself can serve as the ground connection.
Any ATX power supply with a metal case will have its case connected to Earth ground, for the same safety reasons we need to ground the metal parts on the pin cab. If the case isn't painted, you should be able to get good electrical contact to ground using with the case itself.
It's a good idea to test this with a multimeter, to make sure there's not some kind of coating that insulates the case. With the PSU unplugged from power, and your meter set to resistance (Ohms) mode, measure the resistance between the ground prong on the power supply's AC wall plug (in the US, that's the round bottom prong) and random points on the exterior of the case. It should read close to zero Ohms (you might see a very small resistance on the order of 1 ohm or less). If you get consistent near-zero readings at various random points on the case, the case will make an excellent grounding connection.
To connect the ground braid to the power supply case, you can simply pin the braid under the power supply, pinching the braid between the PSU and the cabinet surface where you're installing it. As long as the PSU is attached tightly to some surface, pinning the braid under it should keep the braid in place and provide a nice solid electrical connection.

Option 2: ATX case screw

If your PC power supply has a painted or lacquered case that prevents the first approach, you might still be able to use the case, by connecting to one of the mounting screw holes - the screw holes intended to be used for mounting the PSU inside a PC tower or desktop case. Even if the case is painted, there's a good chance that the threaded screw holes will be conductive.
You should be able to check this visually. If the threads look metallic, this is probably a good place to connect.
If the visual check looks promising, try the multimeter test. With the PSU unplugged from power, and your meter set to measure resistance (Ohms), test the reading between the ground prong on the PSU's AC wall plug (the bottom round prong, in the US version) and the threads in the screw hole. If you see a reading close to zero Ohms, you have a good place to connect ground.
To use this method of connection, you'll need:
To install:
The last step can wait until you're ready to install the power supply in the cab. The dangling ground wire should serve as enough of a reminder, but put it on your to-do list if you think you might forget! And when you're running the grounding braid around the cabinet, make sure you bring it close enough to the area reserved for the power supply that the ground wire will be able to reach it easily.

Option 3: AC plug

If you can't find a way to make a connection to your ATX power supply, you can connect directly to the power line. I don't recommend this approach unless you have some electronics experience, since it requires cutting into the main AC power wiring. This approach also has the downside that it doesn't make the ground connection as permanent as the others, since it uses a removable plug. Someone down the road might decide to unplug it because they want to use the outlet for something else, without realizing how important it is to leave it in place.
In order for this approach to work, you'll need a setup that follows the basic plan we outlined in Chapter 12, Power Switching. Something like this:
Specifically, you'll need an unswitched power strip that connects directly to the wall outlet. All of the outlets on that power strip will have a connection to Earth ground through the wall outlet plug, so we can get the Earth ground connection we need inside the cab via an unused outlet on the power strip.
The idea here is simple: we need a power cord that only has a connection to the ground prong in the outlet. I can suggest three ways to achieve this:
For all of these options, plug the plug into a free outlet on the unswitched power strip. Connect the ground wire from the plug to your braid with a "ring" terminal: connect the ring terminal to the wire (by crimping or soldering, for example), slip the ring over a wood screw, and drive the screw through the braid into the cabinet wall or floor.
Whichever type of ground plug you choose, it would be a good idea to do something to lock the plug into the outlet it's using, so that it doesn't fall out on its own and so that you don't remove it while working on something and forget to put it back. This is the crucial link for all of the grounded metal, so it should always be connected. Wrap a couple of loops of electrician's tape around the plug and the power strip, for example. At the very least, put a big "do not unplug" placard on it.

Option 4: Tap into the power strip

If you're confident that you know what you're doing, there's a better alternative to the approach above: tap directly into the power strip's internal wiring. It's better in that it's not easily undone (unlike the plug-in approach above, where someone could unplug the plug, thinking it's not important). But it's dangerous unless you know exactly what you're doing, since it requires modifying the power strip.
The idea is to connect an additional wire directly to the ground wire in your main unswitched power strip.

How to connect cab parts to the ground braid

The basic technique is to run a single, uninterrupted braid around the perimeter of the cab, bring it into contact with each metal part that needs to be connected.
The reason it's best to use a single run of wire is that it greatly reduces the chance of severing the connection to multiple parts. Consider what might happen if you daisy chained separate wire segments from one metal part to the next: suppose the Earth ground connects to A, and A connects to B, and B connects to C. If the connection between A and B gets disconnected for some reason, you lose not only the connection to B, but also the connection to C. With a single braid, in contrast, the only way that could happen is if the braid itself were to break, which is highly unlikely.
Here's a suggested routing:
Use staples to fasten the braid to the cabinet wall every few inches between connections, so that it doesn't flop around.
Remember that the ground braid is uninsulated, so you don't want to let it come into contact with exposed terminals on any powered devices. Ideally, you should avoid having any bare wire or exposed terminals (other than the ground braid) in the first place, since they're inherently dangerous. If possible, cover any exposed terminals that are present on devices you install with some kind of insulator, such as heat-shrink tubing, electrical tape, or a plastic cover.
To connect an individual metal item to the braid, all you have to do is bring the braid and the metal into contact.


Simply run the ground braid under each leg bolt plate.

Side rails

The side rails are held on by carriage bolts at the front. Those are metallic, and they're in contact with the rails, so we can ground the rails by grounding the bolts. The bolts don't by themselves offer much surface area to make contact with the ground braid, though, so we have to add something to serve as a connector.
My approach was to use a small metal plate with two holes, one for the bolt itself, and a second for a wood screw. I ran the braid under the plate, and fastened the wood screw through the braid to ensure a solid electrical connection.
On some of the real machines, they simply pin the braid under a washer.

Plunger housing

Run the ground braid under the mounting plate, or fasten it with a wood screw through one of the free holes in the plate.


Route the braid under a portion of the lockbar receiver where it attaches to the front wall, or fasten it with a wood screw through one of the free holes in the receiver.

Coin door

You can ground the coin door through the carriage bolts that attach it. (It'll also be grounded indirectly through the lockbar receiver, assuming you've grounded that, since the top coin door bolt also is in contact with the receiver.) Run the ground braid alongside one or two of the carriage bolts on either side of the door, and pin it under a washer.


There's not any metal trim in the standard backbox setup, so you might not need to extend the ground wire there. However, the real machines do, because they have some hidden metal pieces that benefit from grounding. In particular, they place a metal grating over the vent holes along the top of the back side of the backbox, primarily to serve as radio frequency shielding. That needs to be grounded to be effective as shielding. They also run the ground braid under the metal backing plates that mate with the carriage bolts that fasten the hinge arms, as safety grounding for the exposed carriage bolt heads. (I guess there actually is some metal trim on the backbox, if you count those bolts.)
If you do want to run a ground wire to the backbox, I'd use a separate braid loop in the backbox, and connect it to the braid in the main cabinet via a run of regular hookup wire (14 gauge or thicker). The reason to use hookup wire to bridge the sections is that this portion will need to be long enough to cover the added distance when the backbox is folded down.


Before declaring the grounding project complete, test that you have a good connection between the metal parts and the ground plug on your main power inlet.
Set your multimeter to resistance (Ohms). With the power unplugged from the cab, measure the resistance between the ground prong on your main AC power plug for the cab and each of the exposed metal parts. It should read close to zero Ohms in each case.

26. Inside the Cabinet

The modern virtual pin cab can be pretty complex on the inside. A decked-out cab can actually have more equipment packed into it than a real pinball machine, which is kind of perverse given that this is all about software simulation. But it makes sense when you consider that we're not just building a computer; we're building a computer/pinball hybrid. The computer part by itself has more to it than most desktop systems, because of the extra monitors and the specialized input/output peripherals. And the pinball part includes a pretty large subset of a real machine.
With so much to install, making everything fit can be a challenging 3D puzzle. I'd like to be able to present a simple, one-size-fits-all layout here, but that's not really possible. Pin cabs are too individualized. But I can at least offer one possible solution. In this section, we'll walk through a model pin cab that includes just about everything I can think of, and look at where each major element goes in this setup. The model takes into account the space constraints, and it also follows my philosophy of serviceability, meaning that it's designed so that everything can be accessed fairly easily for repairs and upgrades, even after the machine is fully built.
The arrangement described in this section is based on my own cab, so I consider many of the design decisions to be tried and true. It's not an exact replica, though. I've made some revisions in an attempt to improve things that weren't ideal in my original design. I also made room for additional equipment that's not in my build. My cab is pretty decked out, but for the purposes of this section, I've tried to imagine an "ultimate" cab with all of the toys.
This is, of course, not the only possible solution to the question of how to arrange things, and I'm sure it's far from the best solution. Some of it might not work at all for your setup, given that you might have completely different constraints from your PC packaging or TV size. So I'll try to explain the rationale behind each element's placement, so that even if you can't use the exact layout as presented, you can at least gain some insight from it to use in formulating your own layout.

Playfield, apron, and flashers

These elements (or some subset of them) form the top layer in the main cabinet.
The basic arrangement is pretty straightforward, but the details can be surprisingly hairy. First, there's the placement of the TV: do you place it flush with the top of the cab, or recessed like a real playfield? How far in? At what angle? All the way at the front, or set back to make room for the plunger? These are all among the most frequent questions that new cab builders ask. You can see from the diagram what I prefer, but this is a matter of aesthetics, and there are other schools of thought. Second, once you've decided upon the desired look, you still have to implement it physically. That's trickier than it might look, especially if you want to fulfill my admonition to make the machine serviceable (Chapter 6, Serviceable Design). Serviceability requires that the TV be easily removed. You can probably guess I'm not in favor of just nailing it in there and calling it done.
There's enough to this subject that we've given it its own chapter, Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting.
It's extremely important to plan out exactly where the TV goes before you start arranging anything else inside the cabinet. The TV assembly forms a ceiling that constrains the vertical space available to everything else, so you need to know where that is.
If possible, you should actually install the TV early on, not just make plans, so that you can see the space it delineates for real rather than just as measurements. But don't do that unless you're using a mounting that's easily removable, because you won't want the TV in the way while you're installing everything else. If you use a mounting system like the one I outline in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting, you'll be able to install and remove the TV with little effort.
Some notes on the flasher panel. I've depicted the back panel with the traditional five flasher domes. Each is a clear plastic dome with a 3W RGB LED inside. This is such a ubiquitous setup that the most popular pinball software (Visual Pinball with DOF) is programmed to assume it's there. However, some people replace the five-flasher panel with an array of individually addressable LEDs - sort of a coarse dot-matrix display. The physical setup for that is basically the same; just remove the flasher domes and substitute addressable LED strips or arrays. Some people also do both, by installing a five-flasher panel as shown and adding an addressable LED strip or two, across the top and/or bottom. See Chapter 56, Flashers and Strobes and Chapter 65, Addressable Light Strips.
You could also fit one or more light strips across the "lip" (illustrated below) that sits below the backbox shelf. Keep in mind that there's a standard trim piece for the top glass that also affixes here, so check how that will fit before finalizing plans. See "Rear glass trim" in Chapter 23, Cabinet Hardware.

Power inlet

Okay, let's take the TV out and look inside the cab. We'll start with some simple infrastructure: the power strips. I like to put these at the very back of the cabinet.
Why at the back? For one thing, that's where the power cord customarily comes in. For another, it's a really good fit for the geometry: most power strips are long and narrow, which is a shape that fits nicely along the bottom of the back wall. And finally, it's good to put something low-maintenance back there, because that area is relatively difficult to reach into once everything's assembled. The very back is blocked from above by the backbox shelf, so it's a little bit of an inconvenience to access. It's just reachable enough for plugging and unplugging AC cords, but you wouldn't want to have to get back there with tools if you can avoid it.
I recommend installing two power strips: a small strip that you'll plug directly into the wall outlet, and a second, larger strip that acts as a "smart" strip, providing power to its outlets only when the PC is powered on. All of the accessories (the TVs, audio amplifiers, and feedback devices) plug into the switched outlets, which lets you turn the whole cab on and off with the PC soft power controls. You can implement the switched outlets by buying a smart power strip (they don't design them for pin cabs specifically, but it's the same idea: they're for turning off your monitors and printers when you're not using the computer), or by building your own. This is all covered in much more detail in its own section, Chapter 12, Power Switching.
I'd put the large put strip along the base of the back wall, and mount the smaller strip on the rear wall a little ways above. Put it high enough up that it won't be in the way of the plugs on the main strip. We have enough stuff to pack in here that it's important to think three-dimensionally, so utilize wall space when it makes sense.
The power strips should be secured in place somehow. As always, I'd avoid anything permanent, such as gluing them down: think serviceability when choosing installation methods. Adhesive Velcro on the bottom would be a good choice for the large strip mounted on the floor. I wouldn't use Velcro for anything mounted on a vertical surface; the glue on it doesn't hold up over time when under constant tension from gravity. I'd use some sort of screw-in brackets instead. Or you could build a little shelf for it (jutting out from the rear wall), and Velcro it to the strip to the shelf.

Rear exhaust fans

As long as we're looking at the back, don't forget the exhaust fans. As mentioned above, the backbox shelf makes this area at the back cumbersome to access when the cab gets fuller, so it's good to get the fans in place early.

Rear wall exclusion zone

After installing the power strips and exhaust fans, there's still a lot of open space on the rear wall. I'd recommend leaving this space unused for now, for several reasons:
After everything else is assembled, you can reconsider this space if there's "just one more thing" you want to install and you can't find space for it anywhere else. At that point you'll have a more concrete idea of the constraints on this space, so it'll be easier to decide if it makes sense to mount anything else here. In my cab, I find this space so hard to access that I wouldn't put anything here besides what we've already covered.


The subwoofer's position is forced by where you placed the floor opening for it. That should be installed next, so that you can take it into account when positioning other things.
Most subwoofers have screw holes around the perimeter of the speaker opening. Use suitable wood screws. If you're using a screen cover, place it between the speaker and the cabinet floor. For a plastic screen, you might want to pre-cut holes where the screws go; driving a wood screw through the plastic can bend or twist the plastic.

Intake fans

As with the subwoofer, the intake fan or fans are constrained to be placed at the openings you made for them, so they should be installed now to ensure that you don't create space conflicts for them later.
Most PC fans come in square mounting frames (like the one illustrated above) with screw holes at the corners that you can use to secure the fan to the cab floor.
Note that you can buy dust filters for PC fans. Since this is an intake fan, it's a great place to put a filter, to reduce dust buildup inside the cab. Place the filter between the fan and the cab floor.

PC power switch

The SuzoHapp "large rectangular button" (part number D54-0004-5x) is a good form factor for the main power button. It fits in the power switch opening used in the standard WPC plans, and it's large enough that it's easy to operate by feel (which is nice because it's hidden on the bottom of the cabinet, so you want to be able to just reach under and press it without having to see what you're doing).
You can install this type of button by creating a small mounting plate using plywood or any other convenient material. Cut holes in the mounting plate using the drilling template below, then assemble as illustrated. Then simply screw the plywood mounting plate into the cab floor from the inside. This will leave the button perfectly recessed in the switch opening.
Drilling template for SuzoHapp large rectangular pushbutton (part D54-0004-5x)
You can easily substitute any of the other similar SuzoHapp pushbuttons (small round pushbutton, square pushbutton) if you prefer. I like the large rectangular button because it fits the opening nicely and it's large enough that it's easy to operate by feel, which is helpful given the hidden location.

Coin door switch

On a real machine, there's a switch that senses whether the coin door is open or closed. This is also useful to include on a virtual cab, because some of the emulated ROMs use it to control access to the operator menus. See Chapter 40, Coin Door for more.
The coin door itself should have a pre-installed metal plate that acts as an actuator for the switch. This is positioned at the bottom of the door on the hinge side. It's attached to the door, so that it swings out when the door opens.
There are different ways to mount a coin door switch (which you can read more about in the Chapter 40, Coin Door chapter), but my recommendation is to use the standard pinball parts. They're purpose-built for this, so they're easy to install and reliable, and they're not particularly expensive. The standard parts consist of a metal mounting bracket and a "plunger" switch. The bracket is designed so that the plunger switch simply snaps - a couple of plastic clasps on the switch hold in place.
Snap the switch into the plate, then mount the plate so that actuator on the door presses the switch plunger all the way in when the door is closed. The plate mounts to the front wall of the cab with wood screws.
Note that the standard mounting plate has slots for two switches: a large switch with six connectors, and a small switch with three connectors. On the real machines, the large switch is used an interlock to cut off high-voltage power to the playfield when the door is open, and the small switch is connected to the CPU to let the software know when the door is open. For a virtual cab, most people don't bother with the high-voltage interlock, since we don't tend to have any exposed high voltages to worry about in the first place. So you probably only need one switch, for the software. The large or small version will work equally well for that, so just install whichever one you bought and leave the other slot in the mounting plate empty.

Front buttons

If you're using the common SuzoHapp "small round pushbutton" assemblies, they're easy to install. Start by disassembling the button. Gently twist the squarish base about 1/8 of a turn to free it, then pull it out. Unscrew the nut
Now just insert the button through the front wall hole (from the outside) and reverse the disassembly procedure: screw the nut back onto the shaft, and pop the lamp base assembly back into place, giving it a slight twist to lock it. The lamp base only fits in a certain orientation, so just rotate it until you find the magic spot.
If you're installing a Launch Ball button, it works the same way.

Flipper buttons

The flipper buttons simply fit through the holes and are fastened with Palnuts on the inside. The rounded knob on the outside end of the button tends to be a tight squeeze - I guess that's intentional to keep them from getting wobbly over time. But it can take a little effort to force them into the hole the first time you install them. Seat them by applying pressure from the outside until the collars are flush with the cabinet wall. (I wouldn't try to force them flush by overtightening the Palnuts, since I'd be afraid of stripping the plastic threads.)
Note that if you drilled the flipper button holes straight through at 1⅛" (which is what I recommend), the Palnuts will be about the same size as the holes, so they won't clamp the buttons down very well. Don't worry - this will be fine as long as you're using one or both of the following:
If you're planning to install one of those, you can just leave the Palnuts loose for now and come back to this later. If you're not using one of those, and the Palnuts are too loose, you might need to add a suitable washer.
If you're installing the LightMite LED boards, they'll go under the Palnuts as illustrated below. You'll need to assemble them with LEDs and connectors first, so hold off on installing them if you haven't gotten to that yet. See Chapter 55, Button Lamps for more.
If you're installing the VirtuaPin leaf switch holders, they also install under the Palnut - it should be pretty obvious how those work.
If you're not using the VirtauPin leaf switch holders, you'll need to mount the leaf switches to the cab wall instead. This takes a tiny bit of improvisation.
Here's what I did. The standard leaf switches have little insulator plates at the bottom that separate the switch leaves. The whole thing is held together by a pair of bolts fastened with nuts. To attach these to the cab wall, you can take out the nuts and bolts and substitute wood screws. Use screws long enough to pass through the whole leaf switch assembly, with about 1/2" left over to screw into the cab wall.
That's almost all there is to it. But there's a slight snag: the switches will be too close to the cab wall if you mount them as-is. You need to add a little spacer to move them out from the wall about a quarter inch. I found that ⅜" plywood was just about right, so I cut some small (1" x 1") squares and used those as the spacers.
One last note before you actually install the switches. If you're installing a plunger, spacing on the plunger side will be tight. The flipper buttons happen to be positioned right alongside the plunger rod.
On the real machines, they leave just enough room to make it work, but we virtual people have an added challenge here, which is that we also need to install a plunger position sensor of some kind. That can add bulk around the plunger rod that isn't there on the real machines. All of the commercial and DIY sensor designers know this is an issue, and they take it into account in their designs, but space is so tight to begin with that some of the sensors push the limits here. So you might find it difficult to make everything fit.
There are two tricks that can help. The first is that you can mount the switches sideways or diagonally, instead of vertically as shown in the illustrations above. That can help get them out of the way of the moving plunger parts. I'd stick with vertical mounting if it's doable, though, since sideways mounts can create other conflicts (with the TV or apron, for example). The second trick applies if you're using the VirtuaPin flipper buttons. Those are ¼" longer than the standard type - VirtuaPin uses the extra-long type to accommodate their plastic leaf switch holders, which require the extra shaft length. If you can't make those work, you can switch to standard (shorter-length) flipper buttons, which you can buy from any pinball supply vendor, and replace the plastic VirtuaPin switch holders with a direct wall mount as described above.

Adjusting the leaf switch gap

Everyone in the pinball world agrees that leaf switches are the only thing that feels right for flipper buttons, but they do have one downside, which is that they're notoriously finicky. Good operation depends on having just the right gap size between the contact points.
(Asterisk: the optical switches they use for flipper buttons on modern machines also "feel right", at least to most people. But it's practically unheard of to use those on virtual cabs, since they're expensive and somewhat more difficult to set up, so we won't concern ourselves with them here.)
I wouldn't worry about making adjustments when first installing brand new leaf switches. I'd assume that they were adjusted correctly at the factory. However, once you start using the buttons, keep an eye out for any flaky behavior: missed presses, random flipper flipping while holding a button down, weird auto-repeats, etc. If you see anything like that, you can take a closer look at the switches to see if they need adjustment. You might even have to re-adjust them from time to time, too, since leaf switches are rather low-tech mechanical parts that will wear over time, but I wouldn't expect needing to do that more than once a decade or two for a machine in light home use.
Whatever you do, don't clean the contacts with anything abrasive. You might see advice in "real pinball" contexts about sanding or scrubbing leaf switch contacts to remove oxidation. That's only for real pinball machines with high-voltage leaf switches, which use tungsten contact points. For a pin cab, it's better to use switches with gold contact points, since those work better for low voltages. Abrasive cleaning is bad for the gold contacts since it can remove the thin gold plating layer. The main reason that you see people recommend harsh scrubbing for the old tungsten switches is that tungsten oxidizes over time (especially in the presence of constant electrical switching), and the oxide layer is a good insulator, so you have to periodically scrape it off. Gold doesn't oxidize, so gold-contact switches don't tend to need much cleaning in the first place. But if you think your switches do need cleaning, use a slightly damp soft cloth and rub gently.
Testing: If you suspect flaky behavior from your leaf switches (or any other switches), but you're not sure, you can use the Pinscape Config Tool to take a closer look. (Assuming you're using Pinscape as your key encoder - if not, check your key encoder's instructions to see if it has a similar testing function.)
Fire up the Pinscape Config Tool, and click on the Button Tester icon on the main screen. This will bring up a window that gives you a direct view of each button switch at the hardware level. For the button or buttons that you suspect, press and hold the button and observe the status shown in the tester window. If the button is working properly, the on-screen status should show a nice, steady "On" indication, without any blinking or flickering. If you see the "On" indication flicker at all, you should try adjusting the leaf switch as described below. Likewise, when you release the button, the on-screen display should show a solid "Off" indication.
Tools: This is one of those jobs where you really need a special-purpose tool. The right tool makes this otherwise quite difficult job pretty easy. The right tool in this case is a "leaf switch wrench", which is essentially a little metal rod with a slit in one end that fits over a switch leaf and lets you bend the metal by a precise amount at a precise point. You can buy these from pinball vendors. On Pinball Life, search for "Ultimate Leaf Adjuster Tool". I bought one of those a while back for work on my real pinball machines, and I highly recommend it.
Dennis Miller on vpforums sent me a great description of how he created his own leaf switch tool from scratch, so I'll pass that along in case you'd like to build one yourself as well:
All leaf bending needs to be done with the proper tool. I made mine out of 1/8" steel rod. I cut a slot 1/2" deep into the end of the rod with a hacksaw. I then heated and bent the rod at 90 degrees just above the slot so that the slot was almost parallel to the shaft. Slide the tool's slot over the leaf at its base insulator stack and bend very gently, a little at a time, to coax the leaf into position. The off-angle slot enables working close to cab walls.
How to adjust: Approach this as an iterative process. Make small adjustments, test, and adjust again as needed. Make your bends towards the bottom of the leaves, close to the insulators.

Tilt bob

The tilt bob conventionally goes at the front left corner of the cab. The exact placement isn't critical; just mount it in some free space below the left flipper buttons. Be sure to leave enough space that you'll be able to work on the wiring to the front buttons and coin door.
If you buy your tilt bob as a pre-assembled unit with its own mounting plate, mounting it is just a matter of screwing the mounting plate to the cab wall. It's almost as easy if you don't get the assembled version, though; you just have to mount the pendulum bracket and the contact ring separately, in the same arrangement as used in the pre-assembled units. See the illustration below.


This isn't something you have to "install", exactly; it just drops in. But the standard type does take up a big chunk of space, so if you're using that, you might want to keep it in place (or keep it handy) while you're doing your space planning so that you take its bulky presence into account.

PC and PSU

We're just about out of the standard "real pinball" parts, so let's turn to the virtual part of the system. I'd start with the PC, since it has a fairly large footprint.
Let's look at what we have available, now that we've taken into account most of the items that have to go at pre-determined locations:
Given this layout-so-far, there's an obvious place where something the size of an ATX motherboard or enclosed PC case would need to go:
We have a little flexibility with the power supply, but only so much: it has to be close enough to the motherboard that the power cables for the motherboard and video card can reach their sockets. The obvious place is just behind the motherboard. That also happens to take good advantage of the space there, which is somewhat constrained by the presence of the subwoofer.
Setting up the PC hardware is a fairly significant project in itself, so we give that its own chapter, Chapter 27, Installing the PC. That section covers other ways of installing the PC components, such as enclosing them in a conventional desktop case, and goes into more detail about choosing a location and implementing the installation.

Secondary power supplies

If you're installing feedback devices, you'll need to install power for them. More details can be found in Chapter 45, Power Supplies for Feedback, but the executive summary is that you can generally cover most of the bases with ATX power supply (that is, a separate unit of the same type used for the PC motherboard's power supply) and one or two generic OEM power supplies for higher voltages (such as 24V and/or 48V).
For the secondary ATX PSU, a good location is the mirror image of where we placed the PC power supply: on the other side of the subwoofer. Assuming you centered the subwoofer, there's a nice ATX PSU-sized space on either side, so we might as well use it that way.
The typical OEM power supplies come in long, low cases that fit well into the space remaining at the back of the cabinet, between the subwoofer and the power strips.
The OEM supplies are usually a good physical fit for this space, and they're also a good functional fit, in light what I said earlier about how the back section becomes increasingly inconvenient to work in as you build out the cabinet. The power supplies are a good set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing for a hard-to-access space. They don't have any controls; you just plug them into power.
You do have to be able to access their power outputs, though, whenever you want to plug in a new device. So there's a bit of advance planning you should do when you install them. Specifically, you should wire their outputs to connectors located somewhere more accessible in the cabinet, more towards the front. Many people set up a group of terminal strips like the one illustrated below somewhere readily accessible, one for each voltage level, so that they can easily connect each new device to its appropriate supply when the time comes. (Be sure to protect any exposed terminals like these with plastic covers, so that loose wires don't accidentally inject high voltages into unsuspecting logic boards.)
A nice side benefit of installing the two ATX power supplies across the aisle from one another is that we can use them to construct a little shelf across the width of the cabinet. That'll be useful later: you can see that the floor space is already almost all gone, and we still have a number of important things left to find room for.
If you've been paying attention, you know how important I think it is that you be able to access everything in the cabinet even after it's fully assembled - the principle I call serviceability. So you should be sure that this shelf can be easily removed! Don't glue it in or anything like that. At the very least, fasten it with a couple of easily removable screws. But better yet, use something you can undo without tools: attach it to the power supplies with Velcro, for example, or use toggle latches to lock it down. That way it'll only take a few seconds to remove it if you have to get to the power supplies.

Chime unit

See Chapter 64, Chimes and Bells. This is a little percussion instrument that replicates the iconic bings and bongs of the electro-mechanical pinballs from the 1960s and 70s. The best way I know to accurately reproduce the original sound is to find an authentic used chime unit from an old machine, as they have some engineering that's hard to replicate in a DIY design. The real units are quite bulky, though, which limits where we can put them. The only place where a chime unit will fit in our hypothetical fully-loaded cab is in a corner at the back.
The original chime units are designed to be mounted to a side wall. Use wood screws to attach it via the integrated mounting plate.
Try to keep the top within about 7" of the floor. This will help avoid any clearance issues with the back of the TV when you lift it up. (Assuming you opt for a liftable TV mounting, as outlined in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting.)
Much as I don't like hiding things away in the back of the machine, we really don't have much choice when it comes to the chime unit. There's just not enough space anywhere else. If your cab won't be as fully loaded as the one we're developing here, though, you might have some space for it in a more convenient area, so by all means put it somewhere better if possible. I don't think the placement makes any significant difference acoustically. For what it's worth, most of the original machines that used these units also placed them in a corner - typically the right front corner, below the plunger.


See Chapter 61, Shaker motors. The shaker is another bulky toy, and in this case it must be mounted on the cabinet floor to get the proper effect. Fortunately, we have one large floor section still remaining, mid-cab, opposite the PC motherboard.
Happily, this works out well, as this is just about exactly where we'd put the shaker anyway, to get the best tactile effect, if space were no concern. You want the shaker to be mounted with its motor axis parallel to the cabinet's long axis, and that's a perfect fit for the available space. You also want the shaker to be in roughly the middle of the cab front-to-back so that it imparts a balanced sideways motion. There's no benefit in centering it side-to-side, so I'd mount near the wall, to leave more room around the PC for cable connections.

Gear motor

See Chapter 62, Gear motors. These are meant to reproduce the sound of the motorized playfield features on many pinballs from the 1980s and 1990s, such as Thing from The Addams Family or the castle gate from Medieval Madness. To localize the sound effect properly, the gear motor should be somewhere towards the back of the cabinet, since the playfield features it's meant to imitate are typically towards the back of the playfield. (The playfield features in question are all unique to each game, so they're all in their own unique locations, but for the most part they're somewhere near the center rear of the playfield.)
There are two rather different types of motors that pin cab builders tend to use for these. One type is the small robotics servomotors you can buy on eBay. Those are so compact that space planning really isn't an issue for them. The other popular type is an automotive windshield wiper motor. Those are quite a lot larger, and do require that you block out some space for them. We'll proceed with the assumption that you're working with the larger type and need to find a place for it.
If you're using a liftable TV frame design, you might be able to mount the gear motor on the bottom side of the TV frame. That would let you put it right in the middle of the playfield area, which is the ideal location for the sound effect, plus it's easy to access for service. This is the right option if you have a compatible TV mounting.
In the illustration above, we're assuming that the contactors for the bumpers and slingshots are also mounted under the TV. A gear motor should fit nicely between the "bumper" rows in the back half of the playfield. See "Mounting contactors under the TV" below for more about this.
If an under-the-TV mounting doesn't work in your cab, there are several places it might fit. One possibility is to place it alongside the shaker:
A second option is to use the little shelf we built over the ATX power supply and subwoofer area:
The shelf is probably the best location in terms of localizing the audio effect, and it's a great location in terms of service access. The only problem is that there are a couple of other devices we'll come to later that we'll need the space for. So we're not going to be able to leave it here in the model we're developing, but you can keep this location in mind as an option in your cab, if the space ends up being available after you consider where the rest of the parts go.
A third option is to place it in a corner at the back:
If you go this route, try to keep the top within about 7" of the floor. This will help avoid any clearance issues with the back of the TV when you lift it up. (Assuming you opt for a liftable TV mounting, as outlined in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting.)
As I've said a few times, this isn't a great area to mount just about anything, because it's hard to reach into in an assembled cab. But gear motors tend to be zero-maintenance, so if you have to put something back here, a gear motor isn't the worst choice. What I'd recommend is to use a mounting apparatus that you can remove without tools if necessary. Something like this, perhaps:
If you do need to access the gear motor, this will let you take it out as a unit without having to do anything too complicated in the confined space. Once it's out, you can make whatever changes are needed, and just as easily put the whole unit back in place.


See Chapter 13, I/O Controllers. A pin cab requires some special USB devices to connect the button inputs, plunger sensor, and feedback devices. There are several options for these, but whichever you choose, you're going to have some little circuit boards that you'll need to mount somewhere in the cab. Most cabs need two or three boards, most of which are on the order of 4" by 4".
Most of these boards can go just about anywhere that's convenient, but there's one type of board that's pretty particular about location: the accelerometer, also known as the nudge sensor. That board should be mounted horizontally, close to the front of the cab, preferably close to the center of the cab. The accelerometer senses the cabinet's motion, and it does the best job at that if it's mounted in a central location near the front.
If you're not using a full-sized cashbox, then you still have a nice open space at the front, where the cashbox would go on a real machine. That's an ideal spot for the controllers.
If you are using a full-sized cashbox, we're in a bit of a jam now, because there's enough floor space left for the controllers. This is, in fact, why I don't have a real cashbox in my own cab. But I don't really like my hokey improvised substitute (a plastic food container that happens to be about the right height, with holes cut in the lid to line up with the coin slots). So given that this section is about an idealized ultimate cab with everything, let's see how we could make this work.
My proposal is basically to create some new floor space, by thinking three-dimensionally:
What you're looking at is a shelf, running the width of the cabinet, about 6½" above the floor, positioned over the back portion of the cashbox.
This reclaims the floor space that we gave up to the cashbox. It's at the right position for our accelerometer, and it gives us enough space to mount a typical complement of I/O controller boards.
Some important considerations:


See Chapter 84, Fuses. Fuses can be used to protect your output controller from overloads. You don't necessarily have to include a fuse for every device, but it's good to cover the higher power devices, such as motors and solenoids.
Your output controller might have its own built-in fuse holders, but most of them don't, so fuses usually have to be installed separately. We're going to assume you're installing them separately.
There are many types of fuses and fuse holders. For my own cab, I went with the type that's common on the real pinball machines (not for the sake of realism, but just because it saved me the trouble of researching all of the other options). Those are the so-called 3AG glass cartridge fuses, which look like this:
These can be used with little plastic holders that look like this:
This type of holder is designed to be mounted to any sort of surface with a screw (which you can see in the photo), so we can mount these on any convenient wood surface on the cab, such as the floor, a wall, or that center shelf we created earlier over the ATX power supplies and subwoofer:
I like the idea of centralizing the fuses in one big set like this, since it makes it easier to find the fuse for a given circuit. However, it has some disadvantages: it takes up a big block of space, and it requires extra runs of wire to and from the central fuse panel. You also have to make a chart of what each fuse is connected to.
Another option that you might prefer is to place each fuse near the device it's connected to. The individual fuse holders are small and can mount just about anywhere, so ad hoc placement per fuse avoids the need to allocate space for a central fuse panel. And it can save a lot of wire, since you can place each fuse somewhere along the section of wire that you'd have to run out to the device anyway. Finally, it might be easier to figure out which fuse goes with which device this way, as long as you can manage to place each fuse physically close to its device.
Keep in mind that the type of fuse holder pictured above has two exposed metal terminals. If you're creating a central fuse panel out of these, you should consider placing a plastic cover over it to protect it from accidental contact from tools or loose wires. If you're scattering the fuses (rather than creating a central panel), you might want to use a more fully enclosed fuse holder instead of the open type. For example, take a look at the Littlefuse 155 series in-line twist-lock holders. Those are designed so that there are no exposed terminals.
Littlefuse 155 series in-line 3AG fuse holders

Contactors (and other solenoid simulators)

See Chapter 59, Flippers, Bumpers, and Slingshots. The real pinball machines have a lot of powerful solenoids that kick the ball around and actuate other playfield mechanisms. They're are strong enough that you can not only hear them but feel the kick. Virtual pinball software can manage the audio part with recorded audio, although that tends to be a weak imitation that you'd never mistake for the real thing. In a pin cab, we can do better, by simulating the kick of the solenoids with actual solenoids. That can get a lot closer to the real sound, and can also reproduce the tactile effect.
There are several types of solenoid-based devices that pin cab users employ as substitutes for pinball solenoids: contactors (such as the Siemens type pictured below), automotive starter relays, generic open-frame solenoids, and even real pinball solenoids and their associated mechanisms.
Common devices used to simulate pinball coil effects: Siemens contactors; Ford starter relays; generic open-frame solenoids.
For the purposes of our illustrations, we'll use the Seimens contactors. The Ford starter relays and most open-frame relays should comfortably fit the same spaces, so you should be able to substitute them without making other changes.
The standard complement of contactors consists of 10 units:
The goal is to locate each contactor so that it matches up with the position of the device it's intended to simulate, as it'll appear on the main TV screen when you're playing a game. So you want the contactor that's going to serve as the "left flipper" to line up roughly with where the simulated left flipper is drawn on the TV screen. It's obviously impossible to get that perfect for every game when you're going to have hundreds of simulated games to choose from. But all pinball playfields tend to follow the same template for the core elements around the flipper area, and anyway, we don't have to get it perfect, just close enough to be convincing.
So, taking the desired positions into mind, here's how we can arrange the ten devices to fit the available space. Note that the devices illustrated on the left wall are mirrored on the right wall, but we're leaving them out of the diagram for the sake of readability.

Mounting contactors under the TV

If you're using a liftable TV mounting like the one described in Chapter 29, Playfield TV Mounting, you can move most of these to the bottom side of the TV mounting frame, as illustrated below.
Here we've moved all of the contactors except the flippers to the underside of the TV frame. We left the flippers where they were (on the side walls), because the natural place for them on the TV frame is a bit too close to the shelf where the I/O controllers are located. If we didn't have that shelf, we could easily move the flipper contactors to the TV frame as well. This is what it looks like when we lower the TV back into its normal position:
As you can see, there's lots of room for everything, except for the area around the I/O controller shelf.
The under-TV mounting style has some distinct advantages:
I don't think there are any real disadvantages, either. I think it's the right way to go if you have a suitable TV mounting. And it's practically required if you plan to use real pinball mechanisms for any of the solenoid devices; they're too large to be workable with the side-wall mounting.
There is one important consideration if you go this route. You'll definitely need to use a pluggable connector for the wiring to the contactors, so that you can remove the whole TV-and-frame assembly from the cab without having to cut wires. I recommend using one of the Molex .062" wire-to-wire connectors, which are available in plugs with up to 12 pins. That lets bundle the wiring for the whole set of contactors into a single plug.

In-cab speakers

See Chapter 41, Audio Systems. We've already covered the subwoofer, which traditionally goes on the floor in the middle of the cab. But many cabs also include a set of mid-range speakers inside the main body. These are usually in addition to the speakers in the backbox, and serve a different purpose. The backbox speakers are there to play the ROM music and voice effects. The speakers in the cab are there to reproduce mechanical sounds that aren't already covered by the solenoids and contactors. For example, the sound of the ball rolling and bumping into things.
Visual Pinball has the ability to separate the music from the mechanical effects and play each type of through a separate set of speakers. Playing back the mechanical effects through speakers inside the cabinet makes them seem to come from the playfield, improving the illusion. VP 10 takes this one step further, by supporting a four-speaker "surround sound" arrangement that localizes each sound effect to the right point in the playfield plane.
There are several ways to configure in-cabinet speakers. If I were building a new cab today, the only option I'd consider would be a four-exciter system. This takes advantage of VP 10's spatial localization capability to position effects in different parts of the playfield.
An "exciter", by the way, is a type of speaker that works by making the surface it's attached to vibrate. A conventional speaker works by vibrating a paper cone. An exciter uses whatever it's attached to in place of the paper cone. They're better than conventional speakers for an in-cab speaker system for several reasons:
The ideal mounting positions are at roughly the corners of the TV. That's the arrangement that the VP software assumes when it calculates the volume mixing levels to create the illusion that the sound is coming from a particular point in space. It's pretty simple to install exciters this way: just install two on each side wall, below the TV, one near the front and one near the back. Most exciters are quite flat and compact, so it's not hard to find room even with everything we've installed so far.
Some people add one or two subwoofers to this setup as well. I personally don't think that's necessary. For the types of sound effects we're talking about in a pin cab, the only reason you'd want a subwoofer is for more of a tactile effect. Exciters are already good at producing tactile effects because of the way they transmit the sound energy through the cab wall, so I think a subwoofer is redundant. Besides, if you really need more bass from these channels, you can make Windows mix the low-frequency bands from the surround channels into the main subwoofer output.
I built my own cab before VP supported the four-channel surround system, so I took a simpler approach, with two regular speakers and tactile subwoofer:
This produces a decent effect, certainly better than no in-cab speakers at all, but the lack of spatial positioning is sometimes too obvious. It's particularly noticeable when the ball is near the top or bottom of the playfield, since the sound always comes from a fixed spot in the middle. That's why I'd go with the four-speaker system now that it's an option.


See Chapter 41, Audio Systems. Unless you're using powered speakers, you'll need some amplifiers. Most pin cab builders use small car amps, since they're compact and (like everything automotive) run on 12VDC power. Most of the cheap units can power a stereo speaker pair or a stereo pair plus subwoofer (the latter being known as a 2.1-channel amp). Many higher-end car amps can power four independent channels.
You'll typically need the following:
I've been keeping space for a couple of these units open on the shelf over the subwoofer area:
What you can fit here will obviously depend on the specific equipment you choose. You can probably fit two small car amps, and maybe three, if you're able to stack two of them vertically.


In the backbox, as in the main cabinet, we have a top layer that's visible to the player. In the backbox this consists of the translite, backglass TV, and speaker/DMD panel.
Those are all covered in detail in other sections:
There are some additional items that we can fit into the backbox, mounted on the back wall.

27. Installing the PC

This section is about physically installing the PC components in your cabinet. It's not about building the PC per se - things like how to plug RAM into the motherboard, connect disks, install the graphics card, connect the power supply cables, and so on. That sort of thing varies depending on the exact mix of parts you're using, so that's more the domain of the instructions that came with your components. What we're going to talk about here is how all of the PC parts fit into the pin cab.


For most of the physical design of a virtual cabinet, we can refer to the real machines, and emulate what they did, rather than having to invent everything out of whole cloth. But with the PC, we enter new territory where the real machines don't offer a very good model, for the simple reason that they didn't have PCs inside!
It might seem at first glance that there's at least a close parallel we can follow in the real machines. The solid-state machines from the 1980s and later do have computers of a sort inside. If we could follow what the real machines do in this respect, we'd put the PC in the backbox. That's where all of a real machine's control circuitry - their equivalent of our PC - is located.
But that design, with the logic boards in the backbox, doesn't translate to virtual cabs. The space requirements of the respective "computers" are too different. In the real machines, the designers had control over the physical design of the circuit boards, so they were able to design them around the space available in the backbox. We don't have that option; we have to work with standard PC motherboards, which are designed to fit in a standard PC case, not the more confined space of a backbox. When you take into account that we also have to fit a TV into the backbox, we only have about 1" of depth to work with - which wouldn't even be enough room for a CPU fan, let alone a video card.
With the backbox ruled out, that leaves the main cabinet. (Assuming you want the project to be self-contained, anyway, which is what most cab builders want. If that's not a requirement for you, it opens up the additional option of building the PC in its own separate case and keeping that outside of the cab, such as placing it on the floor next to the cab.)
Fortunately, the main cabinet works nicely as the location for the PC. It's a large space, and it's mostly empty in a real machine, so we don't have to give up any standard real-pinball elements to make space available for the PC. And even though we're adding a TV to the main cabinet, we actually get more space to work with than in a real machine, because we don't have a playfield to contend with. We just have the TV. A modern flat-screen TV is much thinner than a typical pinball playfield, because playfields always have a bunch of big solenoid coils and other mechanical parts sticking out from the bottom side. So we come out a little ahead of the real machines in the transaction, in terms of usable interior space.

Enclosure options

There are several different approaches to installing the PC. Here are the ones I've seen on the forums:
I think the last option (no case) is probably the most common. It's how I set up my own cab, and it worked well for me. But each approach has its own merits. I wouldn't say that there's any single way that's best for everyone, or conversely that any of them are flat-out wrong. So let's look at each one in detail, to help you decide what will work best for your cab, and give you some ideas about how to implement your chosen approach.

Conventional case, inside the cab

This is the most straightforward approach: build your PC in a conventional desktop or mid-tower case, and then stick the case inside the pin cab.
Typical PC mid-tower case, 16" x 16" x 7", lying on its side in the cab just behind the cashbox area.
The big question to ask when considering this approach is whether or not it'll fit. If you're building a full-sized cab, and you're using a typical ATX desktop case or mid-tower case, it should work, although it'll be a little tight. A typical mid-tower ATX case is in the neighborhood of 16" x 16" x 7", and a standard-body WPC cabinet has a floor space of 20.5" x 50", so there's room for the case's footprint no matter how you orient it. Vertical space is tighter. The cabinet interior is about 14" high at the front and about 21" high at the back, but remember that also have to fit a TV into the same space. What's left over after installing the TV will depend on exactly where you position the TV. Some people like to put it at the very top edge of the cab, millimeters from the glass, but most people like to set it further in, at about the depth of a real pinball playfield. The latter case is the more difficult one in terms of space left for the PC, so to be conservative, that's the one we'll assume. If the TV is about 4" thick, a playfield-level mounting will leave about 7" of vertical clearance at the very front - just enough for the 16x16x7-inch case lying on its side. But that's only at the very front; you get more headroom the further back you put the PC, since the TV slopes up. And you'll actually want to put the PC back a little further anyway, to leave room at the front for the coin door and plunger. So the answer is yes, it'll fit, at least for this hypothetical 16x16x7 case.
Advantages of this approach:
Considerations if you choose this approach:

Open-frame case

An "open-frame" PC case, also sometimes called a motherboard tray, is an interesting compromise between using a full conventional PC case and no case at all.
An open-frame case is basically just the backbone of a regular PC case, without any enclosure. It has the usual mounting apparatus for the motherboard, power supply, disks, and expansion cards, in the usual spatial arrangement. Installing all of the parts works just like in a regular case, except that there's no cover to put on when you're done. These cases are sold mostly for people doing test builds and experimentation, where they want easy access for frequent component changes.
Considerations for using an open-frame case:

No case

Or, to put it another way, use the pin cab itself as the case. This is how I built my own cab, and I think it's the most common approach. I like it for its flexibility, especially the ability to position the components to make room for other things in the cab. But it's more work since you have to come up with custom mountings for everything.
Tips for a no-case installation:
Possible placement of the PC motherboard and power supply. This leaves room along the side opposite the motherboard for external USB devices such as key encoders, plunger/nudge devices, and feedback device controllers.

External case

A rather different option from what we've been talking about thus far is to "think outside the box": placing the PC in a conventional tower case sitting on the floor next to the cab.
This doesn't yield the kind of integrated, self-contained, stand-alone pinball machine replica that most pin cab builders are shooting for, so it's definitely not to most people's taste. But it has two features that might make it interesting to some people. The first is that it lets you share a PC between the cab and other uses, such as using it as your regular desktop PC most of the time. It's hard to deny that buying a whole separate PC that will never be used for anything but playing pinball is a bit of an extravagance. By the same token, it's hard to deny that building a giant piece of furniture just to play video pinball is an extravagance; but sharing the PC is one way to rein in the cost where you can. The second thing that might make an external PC attractive for some projects is that it uses zero space inside the cab. That's not much of a concern for a full-size cab, but if you're building a sufficiently "mini" mini-cab, you might not have all that much free space to work with - or you might want to save the space for something else, like more feedback devices.
The only integration work with an external PC is to run the video and USB cables between the PC and the cabinet. You'll probably want to minimize the number of cables, both to reduce visual clutter and to make it easier to connect and disconnect cables when you want to switch the PC between pinball mode and desktop mode.
My first suggestion is to place a USB hub inside the cabinet. Connect all of the USB devices in the cab to the hub; all of that wiring will be hidden inside the cab, and you won't need to touch any of it when you connect and disconnect the PC. Then you just need one external USB cable, between the PC and the hub.
My second suggestion is to use Keystone or similar wall plate connectors for the USB cable and all of the video cables. See "External I/O plugs" below for more on this. I'd set up all of the external ports on the back wall of the cab. That will at least centralize all of the cable connections in one place, which will make it easier to keep the cable bundle neat, and will also make it easier to plug and unplug everything when you move the PC. Putting the connectors in the back will keep the rat's nest of cabling as out of view as possible.

External I/O plugs

If you're using a wired keyboard or mouse, or a wired Ethernet connection, you'll need a way to plug these into the motherboard from outside the cabinet.
A simple way to accomplish this is to drill a hole in the cabinet big enough to accommodate the wires, then simply pull the cables through the hole and plug them into the motherboard. This isn't very convenient when you need to unplug or reconnect the cables, though, since you'll have to open up the cabinet to get access to the plugs.
A better way is to install a set of the appropriate jacks on the exterior of the cabinet. Then you can easily plug the devices into the external jacks at any time, and just as easily unplug them. This is fairly easy to set up, thanks to connectors you can buy for home theater and office installations, where many people want to put USB connectors and Ethernet cables in wall outlet plates.
For the keyboard and mouse connector, I recommend placing two USB connectors (one for each device) on the floor of the cabinet near the front. For the Ethernet connection, I recommend putting a port on the back wall of the cabinet near the power inlet.
Warning! Before you install these jacks, you should figure out how all of the internal parts in your cabinet are going to be laid out, so that you're sure the chosen locations for the jacks won't get in the way of anything else. The jacks require cutting holes in the cabinet, so you can't easily move them if the locations end up conflicting with something else.

USB, keyboard, mouse

For the keyboard and mouse ports, here are the parts I recommend:
Note: you can get a 3-gang plate if you want to install the keyboard, mouse, and ethernet in one spot, and you even get a 4- or 6-gang plate if you want to add even more connections beyond these. I personally prefer having the keyboard and mouse connections near the front of the machine, since that's where I tend to use those devices, and I prefer to have the Ethernet port in back to keep that cable out of the way. That's why I recommend separate plates for these - it's simply because I like to locate the two sets of plugs at opposite ends of the machine. But if you want to minimize the number of holes to drill, you might prefer to put everything in one plate instead.
To install: figure out where the plugs will go. I recommend the floor of the cabinet near the front. Using the wall plate insert as a template, mark the area on the floor inside the cabinet where the rectangular middle section of the plate will go. This is the area to cut out. Note that you should mark this area from the inside to make sure there's room for the screw tabs on either end of the plate.
If you're using a jigsaw to cut this out, drill a hole at one corner big enough to start the cut, then carefully cut the rectangular area out with the jigsaw. If you're using a router, carefully route along the cutting outline.
Once the hole is cut, mount the plate on the inside of the cabinet, with the outside of the plate facing out through the opening. Screw down the plate with four 1/2" wood screws, one through each screw tab.
Insert the two USB couplers (or one USB coupler and one PS2 coupler, if you're using that type) into the square openings from the inside of the cabinet. They should attach so that the jack on the underside (exterior) of the cabinet is flush; the body of the coupler should stick up into the interior of the cabinet. Grab the matching 4' cables and plug one end of each cable into the corresponding coupler. Plug the other end of each cable into a suitable port on the motherboard.
That's it! This will give you a neat, recessed opening with the two jacks for the keyboard and mouse. You can now plug your devices into the jacks without having to open up the cabinet.


The procedure for the Ethernet connection is the same as for USB ports. Here are the required parts:
As before, find the location in the cabinet where you'd like to install the port. I recommend putting this connector on the back wall of the cabinet near the power inlet, since it's tidier to keep the Ethernet cable behind the machine rather than having to route it underneath. Repeat the procedure to mark and cut the opening required for the plate. Install and screw in the plate as before, pop in the Ethernet coupler, and connect the short Ethernet cable between the coupler and the motherboard Ethernet jack. Now you can plug an external Ethernet cable between the external cabinet jack and your router or wall plate.


Keystone HDMI coupler modules are available that work just like the USB and Ethernet modules. Follow the same procedures as described above.

Other video

DVI-D, DisplayPort, and VGA connectors are too large for the standard Keystone jacks, so you generally can't find these as Keystone modules. However, you can find non-Keystone wall plates specially made for the various video connectors. So if you're using an external PC and need a set of video connectors, don't give up when you can't find them in Keystone modules; instead look for one-off dedicated plates for the video connector types you need. The procedure to set those up is generally the same as for the Keystone plates.

28. Cooling Fans

The TV and the PC components inside a pin cab generate heat when running, so it's necessary to ventilate the cabinet to keep it cool. Most pin cab builders accomplish this by cutting a couple of air vents in inconspicuous places on the cab and installing fans in the vents to move air through the cabinet.
Most cab builders use PC case fans for this. They're a good fit because they're designed for exactly this type of use, and they're quiet and inexpensive. They also fit well with our electrical setup, since they're built to work with a standard PC power supply, which we'll already have to run the PC components.

How many fans?

It seems pretty standard to use two exhaust fans at the back of the main cabinet, using common PC case fans. Most people also add one or two intake fans on the floor of the cabinet. Passive intake openings (without additional fans) will also work, since the pressure from the exhaust fans will draw air in through the intakes anyway, but intake fans will help increase the air flow.
This design is driven more by the practicalities of available space than anything else. The back wall of the cabinet can easily fit a couple of PC case fans, and you can usually find room on the floor of the cabinet for at least one more, as an intake. I haven't attempted any sort of quantitative analysis of how much cooling is needed, or how much cooling this fan arrangement provides, but I think it's pretty well proven in practice. Lots of people have built cabs with roughly this setup, and I don't think I've ever seen reports on the forums of significant problems with heating.

Fan placement

Our goal with the ventilation system is keep air moving throughout the entire cabinet. We don't want any stagnant pockets of air that can sit there and gather heat; we want to continually discharge the hot air within the cab and replace it with fresh air from outside.
The best way to accomplish this is to put vent openings at each end of the cabinet, front and back, and drive air through the vents with fans at each opening. The fans should be oriented so that the fan at one end is drawing air into the cabinet, and the fan at the other end is blowing air out of the cabinet.
One set of fans should be installed in the back wall of the cabinet. This is an obvious place in terms of cosmetics, since the back of the machine isn't normally visible. It's also good in terms of air flow, since it's at one end of the cabinet in the long direction. What's more, you can take advantage of the tilt of the playfield TV. The TV is normally installed at an angle, rising towards the back. Since hot air naturally rises, heated air will tend to move towards the raised back end of the playfield. Take advantage of this natural convective flow by placing the rear vent(s) fairly high up on the back wall, and orienting the fans so that they blow air out of the cabinet.
The other set of fans should be installed near the front of the cabinet. You almost certainly won't want to cut fan vents in the front wall, for cosmetic reasons, so most people place the front fan or fans in the floor of the cabinet, close to the front of the cab. To maximize air flow, orient the front fan(s) to draw air into the cabinet. The positive pressure (into the cabinet) of the front fans will combine with the negative pressure (out of the cabinet) of the rear fans to maintain a constant flow of air front-to-back.
If you're planning to use coins with the coin chutes, remember to leave room at the front of the machine for a container to collect inserted coins. There's a standard coin tray design used on the real machines, described in the "Cashbox" section in Chapter 23, Cabinet Hardware. That requires about 12" of clearance at the front.
Typical cabinet fan arrangement. One or two fans are placed in the floor near the front of the cabinet, with the blades oriented to draw air into the cabinet. Leave room for the coin collector box at the front (12" for a standard pinball cashbox). Another set of fans is installed high up on the back wall, oriented to blow air out of the cabinet. This will maintain air flow through the whole cabinet from front to back.

Selecting fans

Most cab builders use 120mm PC case fans, similar to the type pictured at right. The "120mm" refers to the diameter of the opening; 120mm is about 4¾ inches.
Case fans come in several sizes, from 70mm to upwards of 200mm. Larger diameter fans are generally quieter, and gamers building high-end rigs can sometimes get so obsessed about it that fan size can seem like a fetish. If you could fit a ceiling fan into a gaming rig, that would probably be a thing. In my experience, though, you can get good results in a pin cab with ordinary 120mm fans. Good ones can be pretty nearly silent, certainly quiet enough to be inaudible over the pinball action.
Like most PC components, case fans have a standardized form factor that allows any fan of a given standard size to fit any case designed for that size. The fan housing includes screw holes at the four corners for attaching it to the PC case. For our purposes, we can use wood screws through these holes to attach the fan to the cabinet wall or floor.
I'd recommend looking for a fan with a 3-or 4-pin Molex plug like those pictured below. This is the most common design in current use, so it's the easiest to find and the most likely to be compatible with your motherboard. These plugs are designed to fit into a mating connector on your motherboard. Note that the 3-pin plugs are compatible with 4-pin motherboard connectors (no adapter needed), so you can buy a fan with either type if your motherboard has 4-pin connectors.
If your motherboard doesn't have a fan connector at all, you'll have to plug your fans directly into the ATX power supply. For a fan with a 3- or 4-pin Molex fan plugs, you can do this with an adapter cable.
3- and 4-pin fan plugs, for connecting to your motherboard's "SYS FAN" or "SYSTEM FAN" headers.
I don't have any particular brand recommendations. Fans are standardized enough to be interchangeable, so once you decided on a size, shop by price and/or user reviews.

Cutting the openings

Once you decide where to mount your fans, you should simply cut circular openings in the cabinet wall and/or floor of the appropriate size. If you're using 120mm fans, cut a circular opening 120mm in diameter for each fan.
You don't have to get the size of the opening exact, since the fan itself doesn't have to fit into the hole. The opening is purely for the air vent. The fan itself will simply mount flush against the inside surface of the cabinet wall or floor, covering the opening.

Installing the fans

Before installing the fans, figure out which way it blows air so that you can install it with the air flowing in the right direction, into or out of the cabinet.
How do you tell the direction the fan goes? Look for an arrow printed or stamped on the side of the housing: if you can find one, it should indicate the direction of air flow. Failing that, you can simply connect the fan to power and check which way the air is blowing.
Once you determine which direction the fan goes, simply position it over the opening with the appropriate side facing outwards, according to whether you want it to serve as an intake fan or an exhaust fan. Attach it to the cabinet wall or floor with four wood screws. #4 wood screws should work well for most fans.

Powering the fans

The next step is to connect the fans to power.
If your fan has a 3-pin or 4-pin Molex connector (like the ones at right), look for a SYSTEM FAN or SYS FAN connector on your motherboard. Most modern motherboards have one or two of these connectors.
Motherboard fan connector. These are usually labeled SYS FAN or SYSTEM FAN. Most modern motherboards have at least one fan connector, usually two.
You can safely plug a 3-pin fan plug into a 4-bin motherboard fan header. The connectors have keying slots to make sure the pins line up correctly even if mixing 3- and 4-pin connectors. As long as the fan plug physically fits the header, you can just plug it in directly without any sort of adapter.
If you have more fans than available headers on your motherboard, you can buy a splitter (also known as a "Y" cable) that lets you connect multiple fans to one motherboard header.
If your motherboard doesn't have any fan connectors (which is uncommon), you'll have to plug the fan directly into the power supply instead. ATX power supplies don't typically include connectors for the small fan plugs, though, so you'll need an adapter cable. You can find these at PC component retailers: search for "fan ATX adapter cable", and look for a cable with a male fan connector.
If your fan has a larger 4-pin connector like the one pictured at right, it's designed to plug directly into your ATX power supply rather than plugging into the motherboard. You should find several mating connectors on the power cords coming out of your power supply. You can simply plug the fan connector into the matching power supply connector.

Extension cables

You'll probably need a longer cable than what's attached to the fan. The fan's built-in cable will be designed for the relatively confined area of a normal PC case. Full-size pin cabs are quite a lot larger, so the fans will probably be further away from the motherboard than in a regular PC.
You can buy a fan extension cable from a PC parts vendor if necessary. Alternatively, if you don't mind doing some soldering, you can simply cut the existing fan wires in half and solder as much additional wire as you need between the two segments to extend the cable length. If you do this, be sure to wrap the exposed solder joints with electrician's tape to insulate the wires.

Backbox cooling

Some cab builders also put a fan or two in the backbox, to provide active ventilation for the TV there. Others use passive ventilation - no fans, just vent holes in the rear wall of the backbox.
If you're using an older TV with a display technology that generates significant heat, such as a plasma TV or an LCD TV with a fluorescent backlight, a fan is worthwhile. Newer LCD panels with LED backlights run cool enough that a fan probably isn't necessary, as long as you provide good passive ventilation.
The standard cabinet design for most real machines in the 1980s and 90s used passive ventilation, typically with seven 1½" diameter holes running across the width of the back wall, located about 1" from the top and spaced 1" apart.
Typical backbox passive ventilation holes used in real pinballs from the 1980s and 90s. Seven holes are drilled across the width of the backbox's rear wall. Each hole is 1½" in diameter; holes are spaced 1" apart and 1" from the top.
Note that the standard backbox design allows for some air movement between the main cabinet and the backbox, via the large opening in the floor of the backbox. That's why the ventilation holes are only needed at the top of the backbox: as warm air rises through the backbox and exits via the top vent holes, cooler air will be drawn in through the cabinet opening. If you don't use the standard design with the opening between the backbox and main cabinet, you should add some air intake holes at the bottom of the backbox.
Is passive ventilation really enough for a TV? Let's consider how much heat the traditional design was intended to handle in a real machine, and compare that to our needs for a virtual cab. We'll use electrical power as a proxy for heat. The real machines housed their main control electronics in the backbox, along with their score displays and about a dozen small incandescent bulbs for lighting the backglass artwork. The total power usage of all of this equipment adds up to about 50W. A 32" LED-backlit TV runs at about 55W. TVs will probably get more efficient as time goes on, plus a backbox TV is usually a little smaller than that (which usually translates to less heat), so that 55W estimate is probably erring on the cautious side.
In other words, our TV should produce a pretty similar amount of heat to what was in a real machine, so if the passive cooling was good enough for the real thing, it should be adequate for a virtual cab as well.
On the other hand, it seems that we don't have a lot of headroom here: a TV will use up most of our estimated heat budget. If you're also installing other backbox elements that generate significant heat - particularly a plasma DMD - active cooling might start looking like a good idea.
If you do decide to include a fan in the backbox, I can suggest two configurations:
Be sure to consider space conflicts between the fans and the TV and other backbox elements.

CPU fans

The CPU chip on your motherboard will probably require a separate fan mounted directly on top of the chip. The CPU generates a great deal of heat in a very concentrated area, so this fan is needed to quickly move heat away from the surface of the chip.
The CPU fan shouldn't require any extra cabinet planning or cutting, since it mounts directly on top of the CPU chip itself. It's basically part of the CPU/motherboard assembly. If you buy your CPU in retail packaging, a matching fan is usually included, so the only thing you have to do is install it when you assemble the motherboard. If you buy an unpackaged "OEM" CPU, you'll probably need to buy a fan separately. You have to buy a fan designed for the particular chip type, because it has to match the CPU's size and shape. You should be able to find suitable fans on or other sites that specialize in PC components.

29. Playfield TV Mounting

This section is about how to install the main TV - the one that takes the place of the playfield.
TV installation is one of those areas where pin cab builders have always been on their own to improvise a mounting scheme. We can't just copy the engineering from the real machines the way we can with the basic cabinet design, since the real machines don't have TVs for playfields! (Kind of by definition: it's what makes them "real".) What's more, since you can't get a TV that's exactly the same size as a real playfield, or in the same proportions, this isn't just a matter of substituting one for the other. There's yet more improvisation involved in how we deal with the size and shape mismatch.
So a lot of this section is about all the different ways that cab builders have approached the mechanics of the installation and the design challenges presented by the TV-vs-playfield size differences. I have some strong preferences (which I won't be shy about advocating), but I try to give the alternatives a fair hearing as well, since I know not everyone has the same goals and priorities in creating their cabs.
In addition to the survey of alternatives, this section also presents my attempt at an all-purpose, universal mounting system design. When I was building my own cab, I found the TV mounting to be one of the more challenging problems, and I spent many hours working out the geometry issues and searching for hardware options. Ideally, the all-purpose design will serve as an easy-to-follow recipe that can be used "off the shelf" in most cabs, saving you the time it would take to invent your own scheme from scratch. It's at least an option to consider, and if it doesn't fit your plans, it might still give you some ideas to draw on.
We're assuming here that you've already picked out a TV to install. If you're still shopping for a TV, there's a separate section with advice about that, Chapter 7, Selecting a Playfield TV.


The playfield TV is always installed in "portrait" mode, to fit the proportions of the cabinet. This represents a 90° rotation from the standard way you view a widescreen TV.
But should it be 90° clockwise or 90° counter-clockwise?
Most virtual cab builders install it with the bottom of the TV facing left in the cab:
In principle, it really shouldn't matter. Windows and all of the pinball software should let you select whatever rotation you want. But this is one of those cases where you can save yourself some hassle by doing it the same way everyone else does it. There's still a lot of older software in use in the pinball ecosystem, and some of it might not be as adaptable as modern programs. I don't know of any actual examples of software that will outright fail to work with other rotations, but I know from helping people out with PinballY that monitor rotation in general can cause configuration headaches, especially with some of the commercial games.

Positioning options

Before we get to the mechanics of installing the TV, let's consider exactly where you want to position it. To a first approximation, of course, it goes "where the playfield goes". But a TV isn't quite the same as a regular playfield, in either its nature or its size and shape. So saying that the TV goes where the playfield goes is too vague to constitute a plan. It leaves a couple of important questions unanswered:
Judging by how often these questions come up on the forums, many new cab builders agonize over these quite a bit.
I want to offer some thoughts about how to decide these questions. Most new cab builders focus on how the placement will affect playability. That's certainly the right priority. But the thing is that playability actually won't be much affected, no matter what TV positioning you go with. When you're playing, your eye adapts to whatever setup you have, and before long you won't even notice it. It's the same principle that makes the curtains around a movie theater screen disappear once the film starts rolling. When you're playing, it doesn't much matter where the TV is relative to the rest of the cab. All of that disappears; your eye pays attention to the table. This should be reassuring if you're been agonizing over the question, because it means that you'll likely be happy with your cab's playability no matter what you decide.
TV placement can make a big difference to the aesthetics of the cab, though. Since playability isn't much of an issue, I think the aesthetics are the better focus when making these decisions. In addition, there are some functional considerations, since the TV placement affects the space layout inside the cabinet. You might have space constraints that decide some of these variables for you, before you even get to think about how it'll look.

The dreaded plunger space conflict

See also "Positioning the plunger" in Chapter 37, Plunger.
One of the key space constraints that affects TV placement is the plunger. This is an issue because the most natural placement of the TV and of the plunger put them into conflict: they both want to occupy the same space.
The natural place for the TV is all the way at the front of the cabinet. The natural place for the plunger is where it goes on the real machines. The problem is that the plunger sticks into the cabinet by about 3", so if the TV is all the way at the front, it overlaps the plunger.
Why isn't this a problem on the real machines? In part, it's because the plunger sits just above the playfield on a real machine, so they're in different planes vertically and thus don't collide. In addition, on the real playfields, they cut a notch out of the playfield at that corner specifically to make room for the plunger. That lets you lift up the playfield without hitting the plunger.
If we could cut a notch out of the TV, we could solve this the same way, but that's not really an option. Our options all involve moving either the TV or the plunger to make room for the other:
Which option is best comes down to the priority ranking you would assign to these three goals:
Basically, you get to pick two of these, but you can't have all three. Pick the two that you think are the most important, and that decides the question for you:

Inset depth

The first decision you have to make about TV positioning is whether to install the TV screen flush with the top of the cabinet, or recessed into the cab by some distance. In the latter case, most cab builders think of this in terms of placing the TV at the normal playfield depth of the real machines.
These two main options are illustrated below, for the sake of clarifying our descriptions, but I wouldn't try to make an aesthetic judgment from the diagrams alone. The differences in question are subtle enough that it's hard for an illustration or photo to capture the full effect.
First, placing the TV flush with the top:
Playfield TV flush with the top of the cabinet, taking the place of the top glass. The top glass can be added if you set the TV back by about 1/4" to make room.
And second, recessing the TV into the cabinet to about the depth of a normal playfield:
TV at roughly the same depth as a normal pinball playfield.
In comparing these for aesthetics, note that we've made the "filler" areas at the top and bottom more conspicuous than they'd be in a real build. You'll probably make these a darker color in your actual build (probably black, maybe with some graphics decorations). We wanted to make it obvious in the illustrations that they're not part of the TV screen, which they might appear to be if we made them a flat black.

Pros and cons

Aesthetically, I have a strong preference for the inset version. I've seen both setups in person, and I find the flush-top version to look too much like a video game, with the whole top being a TV screen.
For playability, as I said earlier, I don't think it makes any difference one way or the other. Some people think the flush-top version is better on the theory that the simulated pinball tables already depict a portion of the inset depth. I don't find that reasoning convincing; if you think a partial video depiction of the side walls makes any difference to how the game will play, then you should actually prefer the deeper inset, because real side walls will look much more convincing than a flattened 2D rendition with the distortions of perspective required. In addition, most of the pinball programs let you tweak the point of view to better fit whatever setup you choose.
Functionally, each version has its advantages. The inset version allows for a flasher panel at the back, which I see as a major plus, as well as LED strips along the sides. It also allows for a raised apron at the front, which I also see as an advantage, because raising it a little over the TV screen plane adds another 3D element, which I think improves the overall look and feel. The flush-top version has the advantage of consuming less vertical space in the cabinet; for a mini-cab, this might be important, but not so much in a full-size build.

What is the standard real playfield depth?

If you're using an inset to simulate the playfield depth of the real machines, what's the authentic distance?
We actually have a fairly large range to choose from, because the real machines vary quite a bit, mostly by vintage. In the 1970s and earlier, most machines had very shallow playfield insets: the playfield surface was typically only about 1½" to 2" below the top glass, all the way from front to back, and the top of the apron was almost flush with the glass. In the 1980s, the depth started to increase to make room for the three-dimensional features that became common, such as ramps and two-level playfields. A mid-1980s machine might have an inset of 3" at the front and 6" at the back. Note that this generation started sloping the playfield relative to the top glass, so that it had more headroom at the back, to allow for taller ramps and other features. As the years went on, the 3D features got even taller. By the 1990s, the playfield depth had increased to around 4" at the front and 8½" at the back. It reached a plateau at that point; the latest Stern machines tend to be about the same.


I much prefer the "inset" style over the flush-top design aesthetically, so that's my first recommendation. I'd only use a flush-top design if you have to due to some kind of physical constraint, like an oversized TV that can only sit on top of the side walls.
Assuming you're going with the inset style, the depth and angle are pretty flexible, since the real machines cover such a wide range. I don't think you need to replicate the precise measurements of any particular real machine - I think all you need to do to look "right" is to maintain the general proportions. Specifically, I'd say this means:
In terms of looks, that gives us a pretty wide range to work with. There is one practical consideration that I'd add: if you're using an apron at the front and/or a flasher panel at the back, you'll need to leave a little extra vertical space for those. Exactly how much depends on how you want those features to look. For example, the flasher panel can be horizontal, tilted, or vertical:
I personally like the tilted style best, but that's probably a matter of taste more than anything else. In terms of space, a flat flash panel only needs about 1¼" of headroom, for the height of the domes. A tilted flasher panel needs more, depending on the angle; I'd give it at least 2". A vertical panel needs at least an inch (for the diameter of the domes), but you'd probably want to leave some margin for visual borders as well.
To summarize my recommendations:

Front-to-back positioning

The second decision you have to make about TV positioning is where to put it front-to-back. Assuming you're building a cabinet to something like the standard proportions, the playfield area will be longer than a 16:9 TV, so there will be some leftover space front-to-back. The extra space typically amounts to about 6" in a standard-body cab.
The question here is whether to split the extra space between the front and back ends of the cabinet, like this:
...or to put it all at the back, like this:
In either case, some space at the back is actually nice to have, in that it's a natural place to put a flasher panel (see Chapter 56, Flashers and Strobes) or an LED matrix (Chapter 65, Addressable Light Strips).
Space at the front can also be functionally useful, because of the potential conflict between the TV and the plunger, as described in "The dreaded plunger space conflict" above. So you might have already decided to set the TV back to make room for the plunger.
Even if you're not forced to set the TV back by your plunger setup, I'd still consider it a valid aesthetic choice. Splitting the extra space front and back makes for a more balanced look, in my opinion, and I like the way an apron-like area in the front adds a 3D element.
But many cab builders are very attached to the idea of having the TV all the way at the front, so that might be a higher priority for you. For what it's worth, I also thought that way when I was planning my cab layout, and only reluctantly accepted a front gap after determining that it was the only workable solution for the plunger conflict. But as it turned out, I think I'm happier with the apron-style setup than I would have been with no front gap.

De-case it or not?

When I built my virtual cab, it was common practice to "de-case" your playfield TV, meaning that you disassembled the TV and discarded the outer plastic case, keeping only the bare LCD panel and circuit boards. The point was to remove the bulky exterior bezels around the perimeter of the screen, which at the time were often quite wide. On many TVs, the case extended a couple of inches below the bottom of the viewable screen area to make room for buttons and input jacks. That was a huge problem for cab builders, because we use the TVs in "portrait" mode - turned sideways. So if there was a wide area at the bottom of the TV, it became a wide area along the left or right side when we turned the TV sideways. Obviously quite undesirable in a cab. The solution was to get rid of the case. After de-casing, you'd normally be left with a bare LCD panel. That still had a bezel of a sort, in the form of a metal frame holding the panel together, but it was typically fairly thin - maybe 1/2" wide - and the same on each side.
De-casing is no longer common. There are two big reasons for this.
The first is that it's simply not possible for many newer TVs. Older LCD TVs were built around self-contained panels, so you could fairly easily open up the case and extract the panel. The panel was usually a sealed unit, so it would stay in one piece when you removed it. With many newer TVs, it seems that the TV is the panel. That is, there's no longer anything like a separate component inside that you could call "the panel"; instead, the exterior plastic case serves as an exoskeleton that holds the parts of the panel together. If you take off the case, you're left with a bunch of loose parts that won't stay together on their own. Several people on the forums have reported discovering this the hard way.
The second reason is that there's no longer as much of a need to remove the case (even if you could). The whole motivation in the old days was to get rid of the bulky exterior bezel surrounding the viewable screen area. Newer TVs generally don't have that bulky exterior in the first place. The exterior bezels on newer TVs are usually as minimal as the interior frames were on the old de-cased panels, thanks to the exoskeleton design. Newer TVs also don't tend to have any buttons or input jacks anywhere on the front, so there's no need for one side to be any wider than the others.
I'd only consider de-casing a newer TV if you can find information on the Web about how to safely de-case the particular model you're using. In the absence of reliable information on the specific model, I'd plan on using the TV with its case intact. Take this into account when shopping by looking for a TV that has minimal bezels. Use the full case width stated in the spec sheet when figuring which TVs will fit in your cab. If you're designing a cab around a selected TV, figure the cab size based on the TV's case width.

Side trim

Unless you're building your cabinet to a custom width to exactly fit your TV, you'll probably have some space left over side-to-side between the TV and cabinet walls. Most people want to hide the gaps as much as possible.
The best option I know of is to use black acrylic strips, custom-cut to the required width.
You can have acrylic cut to a custom size by a local plastics store or hardware store. If you're on the west coast, check for a local TAP Plastics store.
You can also order custom plastic online at They have two drawbacks compared to a local shop: you'll have to pay for shipping, and their maximum sheet length is about 31". A TV in the standard-body size range will usually be about 36" wide. You can deal with that by splitting the trim along each side into two pieces, but that leaves a seam.
You attach the trim on top of the TV's side bezels using a strong foam tape.

Tilt-up mounting

In a real pinball machine, the playfield is mounted on a hinge at the back, so that you can tilt it up like the hood of a car.
This gives you easy service access to the interior of the machine. There's nothing to disassemble, no fasteners to remove; you just take off the lockbar and lift the playfield.
The reason we're looking at how the real machines do this is that we can use it as a model for how to mount the TV in a virtual cab. Access to the interior is just as important for a virtual cab. And we can copy more than just the idea - we can adapt the mechanisms used in some of the real machines. As I've said before, it often pays to look at how the real machines accomplish things, because they came out of decades of experience solving some of the same problems.

How it works in a real machine

The exact mechanism used on the real machines varies by manufacturer and vintage. The particular version that I think translates best to a virtual cab is the one used in Williams machines from the 1980s and early 1990s. They used a simple but clever scheme, with a hinge bracket attached to the bottom of the playfield, and a pivot bolt fastened to the side of the cabinet.
Here's a more schematic view:
Taking away the side wall of the cab for a moment, here's how this all fastens to the cab:
The main fastener is the carriage bolt. (That's a type of bolt with a smooth round head on the outside, without any screwdriver slots. This makes it visually inconspicuous on the outside.) On the inside, we slip a pivot nut over the bolt. The pivot nut is basically a round metal sleeve that threads onto the bolt; it provides a smooth pivot point for the bracket. A conventional hex nut is added on the end to hold lock the assembly in place.
The nice thing about using a carriage bolt as the pivot is that it only intrudes into the cabinet by about an inch. It doesn't get in the way of anything inside the cab for maintenance access.
Going back to the bracket, note how it's open at the bottom. The bracket isn't in any way permanently attached to the pivot pin, like it would be in a regular door hinge. Instead, the playfield bracket just sits on top of the pivot. It's held in place by gravity (a playfield is heavy enough that gravity does a very good job of it!). If you want to remove the playfield entirely, it's a simple matter of tilting it up like this and then lifting it straight out of the cab:
That's the really clever thing about this arrangement. With this simple mechanism, we get two levels of access, both without any tools needed:
There's a surprising third benefit to this design: it's fairly cheap. Using the real pinball parts, it comes to about $20. It would be hard to create a similarly functional mounting with generic parts from a hardware store, and even if you could, it probably wouldn't be any cheaper.

Adapting it to a TV

Here's my all-purpose plan for adapting this to a virtual cab TV. The general design should work with virtually any TV and with any cab size, although you'll have to adjust the dimensions if you're not using the standard WPC cab size.
When I say this plan is "all-purpose", I mean not only that it'll fit different cab sizes, but that it'll work with any of the TV placement options we've discussed. The diagrams show the setup I like best, with a recessed TV set about midway front-to-back, with an apron at the front and flasher panel at the back. But that's all for the sake of illustration. The plan doesn't force any of those decisions on you. It's flexible enough to work with many alternative setups:
At each stage in the plan, I'll point out where your TV placement design decisions come into play.


The easiest way to implement this design is with the real pinball parts. The playfield brackets in particular are highly specialized for this job; there's no generic equivalent. Fortunately, the parts aren't expensive.
In addition, there are some generic hardware parts, which you can get from the pinball vendors or from a hardware store:
Finally, the mounting base and bolts:
The plywood base isn't going to be visible, but you should use high-quality material anyway, because it needs to be strong and (maybe more importantly) flat. The cheaper stuff they use for framing and roofing doesn't tend to be all that flat. You want a nice flat piece here so that the TV sits securely and doesn't wobble due to a warped base.
Don't use particle board or MDF. Particle board is terrible at supporting point weights, as we need to do at the hinges. It also tends to sag over time.

Strength and weight

The pivot setup puts all of the TV's weight on the hinges when the TV is raised, so it's reasonable to ask if the hinges are strong enough.
We know that the mechanism has a proven track record on the real machines, so as long as we're not asking more of it in terms of weight than the real machines do, we should be safe. I'd estimate that a pinball playfield (assembled) is in the range of 50 to 75 pounds.
A modern TV in the 40" range is under 20 pounds, and the plywood should be around 10 pounds. That leaves us with a weight budget of about 30 additional pounds for other features that we might want to attach - apron, flasher panel, and solenoid devices to simulate flippers and bumpers.
So I think we're very safe! The only thing to be concerned about might be a full slate of unusually heavy feedback devices. Contactors wouldn't be a problem by any means as they're quite light. Real pinball mechanisms are heavier, though (they're the main reason the real playfields are so heavy), so if you're using those you might want to keep track of how much weight you're adding at each stage. You can always split things up so that some of the devices are mounted to the TV platform and others are mounted in the main cabinet.

How to install

Here's the step-by-step procedure for building and installing the universal, all-purpose tilt-up mounting system.
Step 1: Measure your TV's depth. Place the TV on its back on the plywood sheet you're going to use for the base, making sure it's flush with the VESA mounting area, like it's going to be when installed. Measure the height from the bottom of the platform to the top of the TV.
This measurement will let us figure the alignment position of the platform in the cabinet that will position the TV's screen surface where you want it.
Step 2: Mark where the TV will go. Choose where you want the TV to go in the cabinet, as described earlier in this chapter. In particular, figure out the inset depth where you want the TV screen surface to lie - flush with the top of the cabinet, or set into the cabinet by some distance.
In your cabinet, measure and mark the positions where the bottom of the platform will go towards the front and back of the side walls. The front point should be right around the flipper buttons, and the rear point should be around the rear shelf.
At each point, calculate the desired TV screen inset depth (the distance you want between the top of the cabinet and the TV screen) plus the TV-and-platform depth measured in Step 1.
For example, if you like my recommended inset of about 2" at the front and 4" at the back, and your combined TV-and-platform depth is 4", you'd mark a spot 6" below the top at the front and 8" below the top at the back.
Once you mark the front and rear spots, mark a straight line through the points with pencil or painter's tape. This will be the position of the bottom of the platform.
Mark both side walls the same way.
Step 3: Install the front stops. When the TV isn't tilted up, it needs something near the front to support its weight. I call these the "front stops" - the stops where the front of the TV rests.
Each stop will have to support about a quarter of the weight of the whole assembly (the combined weight of the TV, plywood base, and any feedback toys you attach to the bottom of the base).
You can use a sturdy metal post or a wood block for each stop. It only has to extend into the cabinet by about 3/4" of an inch to do the trick, since we're going to make the plywood platform base almost as wide as the cabinet. I'd suggest using a piece of 3/4" plywood cut to a convenient size, say 2" x 2", fastened to the cab wall with four #6 x 1¼" wood screws.
Align the top of each stop with the position where the bottom of the platform will rest, as marked in the previous step. (If you used painter's tape to mark the position, you might want to remove it before installing the block on top of it!)
Step 4: Figure the length of the base. The base should cover the area from about an inch or two behind the coin door mechanisms, to about directly underneath the backbox shelf.
If you're using the standard-body WPC plans, the result should be about 40".
Step 5: Create the plywood base. Cut the plywood base sheet as shown below, making the following adjustments first:
TV platform template for a standard-body WPC cabinet. Adjust the length and width for your cabinet as described above.
The cutouts at the front are there to provide clearance around the flipper buttons and plunger. They also make it easier to mount an apron at the front, which we'll come to later. The cutouts at the back are for mounting a flasher panel.
The shape shown is only a suggestion - it's really just the simplest shape that fits the requirements. I wanted to provide something that you can use "off the shelf", but at the same time I don't want to imply that this shape is the only one that will work. Don't hesitate to adjust it to fit any special requirements of your own. Just pay attention to the core requirements that went into this design:
Step 6: Measure for the hinges. I'm a fan of using the actual work pieces to make the measurements whenever possible, since there's less chance of making a mistake reading the ruler, and less accumulation of rounding errors. So now that we have the platform ready, we can use it to figure where the hinges go.
This step will also give us a chance to test the fit, to make sure the platform looks as expected and fits the cabinet properly.
Place the platform in the cab where you want it to be situated when finished. Rest the front end on the front stops we installed earlier, and hold up the back end, aligning the bottom of the platform with the pencil line or painter's tape that marks where it goes.
Judge the position mostly by the front: you want this to be within easy reach through the coin door, so that you can use it to lift up the TV when you want to access the interior, while leaving enough clearance that it won't collide with the coin mechanisms and other protrusions inside the door. Also check that the back lines up where expected, right around the front of the backbox shelf. Exact alignment isn't important.
Once it's in the right position, get out your pencil or painter's tape and make another mark, this time making the position of the rear cutout.
You can take the platform out, leaving behind the new rear marking.
Step 7: Determine the hinge position.
Now we come to the question of exactly where to position the pivot point. It should be pretty apparent that the vertical position is purely determined by the desired TV depth. But the front-to-back position doesn't have to go at a fixed point. It has to go somewhere near the back to make the balance work, but beyond that, should it go at the very back, or somewhere closer to the midpoint? Remember from the picture earlier of the real pinball playfield that they positioned it quite a ways from the back. And they did that for a reason, which will become clear shortly.
I'm going to give you a one-size-fits-all location for the hinges, but I also want to let you know how I came up with it, and explain the trade-offs involved. You might want to check my work and figure out if you want to adjust the location for your cab.
First, the one-size-fits-all location: put the pivot point forward of the rear shelf by about the combined depth of your TV and platform, plus 1/2":
This is just a rule of thumb, so it might not be perfect for your setup. But it should be pretty good for most cabs. The reason this works is that it's just far enough forward to create clearance with the backbox shelf to allow the TV to tilt up almost to the vertical.
Now to the details.
The pivot point is at the nexus of some conflicting geometric constraints. On the one hand, a pivot point that's further forward in the cabinet creates more clearance between the playfield and backbox. On the other hand, the further forward the pivot point, the longer the overhang at the back that has to dip into the cabinet, which means you need more empty space within the cabinet to accommodate it.
To illustrate, if we put the pivot point too far forward, we get lots of clearance above, allowing us to lift the TV more than 90°, but we create space conflicts in the cabinet below:
If we put the pivot point too far back, we leave plenty of room in the cabinet below, but we can't raise the TV very far before it hits the backbox shelf:
Note how the further-back position allows us to tilt the TV higher than the further-forward position when we take all of the constraints into account. But if we look between these two extremes, we can actually do even better.
There's no solution where we're completely free of the constraints, but there's a happy medium between the two extremes where we get the best overall combined clearances, and the greatest overall tilt-up angle. That's the good news. The bad news is that I can't give you the magic optimal number for your cabinet. It's probably obvious from the diagrams that the number will be different for every combination of TV size, cab geometry, and what's installed inside the cab. The optimal number for your cab is going to be unique to your cab. So there are two ways you could approach this:
Even though I'm picky about these things, I think it might be just fine to go with the pretty-good solution in this case. In my own cab, I used a less sophisticated hinge mechanism that only lets me tilt up the TV by about 60°, and while that's sometimes an obstacle, it's more than adequate for most jobs. I think you should do even with a merely pretty-good solution with this hinge setup - probably at least 80°. The optimal solution will be slightly better, but I frankly think there will be diminishing returns; if the TV is in the way at 80° tilt, it's going to be in the way no matter what. And remember that this hinge mechanism also makes it easy to remove the TV entirely, so there's a fallback any time the tilt-up limit is a problem, which in my experience will be rare.
Step 8: Mark the bracket position. Using the distance to the pivot figured above, hold the bracket against the side of the cab, with its top aligned with the "bottom of the platform" line marked earlier, and the pivot opening centered on the pivot distance.
Make two measurements/markings, as illustrated below:
Remove the bracket and mark the center of the pivot circle. This is the drilling location for the pivot carriage bolt.
Step 9: Install the pivots. Drill a 7/16" hole in each side wall at the marked pivot position. Insert a 3/8" x 1-3/4" carriage bolt into each hole from the outside. Place a 1" diameter washer over each bolt on the inside, then thread a pivot nut into each bolt and tighten. Add a hex nut and tighten.
Step 10: Install the platform brackets.
Flip the platform over so that the bottom side is face up. Place the bracket onto the platform, using the "distance to bracket" that we measured and recorded in step 8, and aligning the outside edge of the bracket so that it's flush with the edge of the platform.
Mark the locations of the three holes illustrated below.
Drill holes for #6 machine screws at the marked positions.
Fasten the bracket to the base with #6 machine screws and nuts in the drilled holes. Use #6 wood screws in the remaining three holes to further strengthen the attachment.
(In terms of strength, this method of attachment should be at least as strong as on the real pinball machines I've looked at. They use two machine screws mated with T-nuts, plus four wood screws.)
Step 11: Figure the TV position. You could figure the TV mounting position on the platform by measuring and dead-reckoning, but let me suggest a more direct approach that I think is a little easier. What we'll do is create a template for the VESA drill holes, and position the template on the platform using the TV itself itself. That will let you see exactly what it looks like in place, and fine-tune the final position.
To create the template, put the TV face-down, and stretch a strip of paper over the back of the TV, covering the VESA mount area. You can Scotch-tape together a few sheets of 8½-by-11 paper if you don't have something big enough. Use masking tape at the sides and/or front to hold the paper in place.
Locate the four VESA mounting holes on the back and poke holes in the paper at those spots.
Install the platform in the cab, placing it on the hinges and lowering it to the front stops.
Now flip the TV over, and place it on the platform. Position it where you want it to go when this is all done.
Once you're happy with the position, untape the template from the TV, and tape it to the platform instead. Be careful not to let it move at all while you're transferring it.
Use the holes in the paper to mark the positions of the VESA drill holes on the platform. Remove the template.
Step 12: Attach the TV. Drill holes for the VESA mounting bolts at the positions marked in the previous step. Drill 3/16" holes for M4 bolts or 1/4" for M6 bolts. Attach the TV to the base with the appropriate bolts. Use washers on the outside.
Remember that the typical orientation is with the bottom of the TV facing the left of the cabinet.
Step 13: Install and test. Hold the TV-and-platform assembly up so that it's almost vertical. Position it over the pivots in the cabinet. Lower the brackets onto the pivots. Once they're seated, lower the TV onto the front stops. Test the tilt action, checking clearances at the front and back.
Step 14: Add something to hold the TV up. You'll need something to hold the TV in the tilted-up position when you want to work inside the cabinet.
One option is to install a prop rod. The Williams System 11 and WPC machines use this approach. On my own machine, I improvised one using 1" aluminum "L" channel, cut to a suitable length. It's attached to the cabinet wall with a large bolt as the pivot.
On the cabinet side, it's probably good enough to use a large wood screw (perhaps #8) screwed into the cabinet wall as the pivot. This does have to carry some weight, though, so I wanted something more robust in my own cab. I used a bolt screwed into a separate wood plate, with bolts on each side of the plate, and the plate screwed into the cabinet wall with four wood screws.
You could do the same thing more simply with a carriage bolt inserted through the side of the cab wall, if you don't mind another external bolt head adorning your artwork.
On the playfield side, I made a little wood bracket to keep it locked in place when deployed:
The prop-arm approach above has worked well on my machine, and it's not too difficult to set up. If you want a simpler approach, you could use a lanyard or luggage strap in combination with a couple of eyelets - one on the playfield, one on the backbox. Simply attach hook strap to the eyelets to hold the TV up.
Whatever solution you use, make sure it's sturdy enough. It won't actually have to support a lot of weight most of the time, since most of the weight will be on the pivots when the TV is tilted up. But you should make it a little stronger than that, so it won't break or get dislodged if you accidentally bump the TV while working.

Hanger brackets

There's one more engineering detail on the real machines that I want to mention.
In the design above, the front end of the playfield rests on a couple of "stops" on the sides of the cab wall, as described in "Install the front stops" above.
The real machines do something a little different. They use "hanger brackets" to support the front of the playfield. These are metal hooks at the very front of the playfield that fit into slots on the lockbar:
In terms of the main job of holding up the playfield at the front, our front stops work just as well. However, the hanger brackets serve another function that our stops don't accomplish: the brackets also serve to keep the playfield from tilting up whenever the lockbar is in place.
Why is that important? Most of the time it's not, since gravity is enough to hold the playfield down. However, there's one situation where this changes: if you want to tip the machine up onto its back for transport. When you do that, the playfield will want to tip away from the lockbar. On the real machines, the hanger brackets will prevent it from going anywhere, since the lockbar will hold them in place. Our front stops won't do that. If you have a glass cover, the glass will stop it - assuming it's strong enough to support the weight. I'm not sure I'd want to count on that, especially if I were putting the thing on a truck.
Given that we're using the standard pinball parts for the hinges, you might wonder why we didn't also use the standard hanger brackets instead of the improvised front stops. The problem is the fit. The hanger brackets are only available in certain sizes that are designed to fit real playfields. TVs are usually too deep for these to fit directly. It would be possible to adapt them with some more complex construction, but I thought the design was already complicated enough as it is.
I don't have a good alternative solution hold-down solution, unfortunately. I think the best bet if you want to ship the machine anywhere would be to simply remove the TV and box it up separately. It's some consolation that we've made it easy to remove the TV, at least!

Apron mounting

Once you have the platform assembled, it's fairly easy to add an apron equivalent, if you have unused space in front of the TV that you need to fill.
My suggestion is to build a simple box out of thin plywood. The apron doesn't have to carry any significant amount of weight, so this box doesn't have to be especially strong. Attach it at the cutouts we left at the front for the flipper buttons and plunger.
For the visible part of the apron, acrylic works nicely, since it has such a nice flat, polished surface, and it makes a great base for attaching a decal with custom graphics. You could also just use a thin plywood sheet with a nice paint finish. Attach it with whatever means are convenient, such as glue or foam tape, but I recommend Velcro to allow easy removal and replacement should you ever want to make changes.
For ideas about designing the apron's cosmetics, see "Apron" in Chapter 43, Finishing Touches. That section includes a template for laser-cutting an acrylic cover with cutouts for standard-sized pinball instruction cards.
On the real machines, the apron sits well above the playfield, usually 2 to 3 inches. You probably don't want quite that much depth on a virtual cab; this is more about creating an impression than exact duplication. I think a vertical distance of about 1" or a little less looks good. On the other end, the apron should be set in a little from the top glass as well, perhaps another 1" on that side.

Flasher panel mounting

Adding a flasher panel at the back is basically the same as adding an apron at the front. Build a little box to serve as the platform, and mount the panel on top of that.
See Chapter 56, Flashers and Strobes for more on designing and building the flasher panel itself, including the electronics and how to connect it to the software.
One extra detail that you have to pay attention to with the flasher panel is clearance with the lip below the backbox shelf. Depending on how your panel is set up, the domes might stick up above the bottom of the lip. If they stick up too far, they might hit the lip when you lift the TV.
The easiest way to be sure is to test it, but you can also figure it out from the measurements when planning. The key is that everything rotates around the pivot point, so everything always stays at exactly the same distance from the pivot point - that is, everything moves along a circle centered at the pivot. That means that the flasher domes won't collide with the lip as long as the highest point on each dome is within the limit circle of the shelf lip:

Alternative tilt-up design with a sliding pivot

The later WPC machines and modern Stern machines use a different, more elaborate design that I at least want to mention, even though I don't think it translates well to a virtual cab.
The newer machines use a sliding pivot point that lets the playfield slide forward before tilting up. They switched to this new system because it provides more vertical clearance than the old fixed-hinge system, allowing for longer playfields and taller ramps.
This approach might look attractive for a virtual cab, too, because it solves some of the geometry problems that we discussed earlier in "Determine the hinge position". But on closer inspection, I don't think it actually works that well for a virtual cab. The problem is that moving the pivot point forward like this ends up blocking access to a larger portion of the cab interior. That's fine on a real pinball machine, because the cab interior is mostly empty anyway - most of the parts you want to get to for service are on the underside of the playfield. But in a virtual cab, we tend to install lots of stuff in the cab, so the slide-and-pivot design works against us in that respect.
Given those geometry drawbacks, as well as the added complexity, I don't think most virtual cab people will want to implement a design like this. So I'm only going to offer an overview of how it works, rather than going into such great detail as I did with the fixed hinge system. I'd be happy to revisit the subject if there's enough interest, though, so let me know what you think.
In the Williams WPC machines, they implement the pull-out system with a cleverly designed "slider bracket" mechanism, which uses spring-loaded levers and latches to provide the sliding capability and lock the pivot point in place at the forward and aft positions. The slider brackets are mounted to the bottom of the playfield, taking the place of the simple brackets of the older design. As before, these then sit on top of pivot nuts mounted to the side of the cabinet. These work very nicely in the real machines, and I think they'd be pretty easy to adapt to a virtual cabinet, but they're expensive - about $75 for the set. If you're interested in investigating further, the Williams part numbers for the slider brackets are are A-17749.1-1 (left side) and A-17749.1-2 (right side).
Stern's modern machines also have a pull-out system, but they use a completely different mechanism that's simpler, cheaper, and a bit clunky to operate. Stern's design essentially inverts the Williams design: it uses pivot pins on the bottom of the playfield instead of on the side walls, and has rails mounted on the side walls that the pivot pins ride on. To slide the playfield forward, you slide it along the rails until it reaches stops at the front. The clunky part is that they don't have any gadgets to lock things in place at the different positions; they rely on gravity and little bumps in the rails. Here's an illustration of how the mechanism works:
As you can see in the illustrations (which I've tried to keep to scale), the bottom of the playfield ends up positioned much further forward in this design than in the fixed-hinge system. That's really the whole point, since that's how this system deals with the geometry problems of the fixed-hinge system, but it's a negative for a virtual cab because it only gives you access to the front half of the cab. You're likely to have things mounted further back than this.
If you do want to go with this system, I think you could easily adapt the step-by-step installation procedure outlined earlier for the fixed hinge system. The parts in the two systems are analogous, so you should be able to use the same techniques to measure and align everything. Here are the Stern parts you'd need:
Also see the EZ slide playfield support brackets at Back Alley Creations. That's an after-market replacement for the original Stern support rails that's supposed to offer smoother operation. (The Stern parts are all metal, without any wheels or bearings, so there's a lot of metal-on-metal scraping involved. The "EZ slide" replacements use a smooth plastic for the rails to make it less of a nails-on-chalkboard experience.)

Rail mounting

A simpler alternative to the tilt-up mounting is to rest the playfield on rail supports along the sides of the cabinet. This still lets you access the cabinet interior when needed, by removing the TV, although it's not as convenient as simply lifting the TV without removing it as you can do with the tilt-up design.
While this is a little simpler to build than the tilt-up mounting, I wouldn't use it myself. I consider it too inconvenient, since you'd have to entirely remove the TV (and unplug all of its cables) every time you wanted to get into the cabinet. That would turn minor work into a big hassle.
Some random thoughts if you use this type of design:

Routed slot mounting

If you want to use a TV that's slightly wider than the interior width of your cabinet, you can mount it in slots routed into the side walls.
This is similar in principle to the "rail" design above, in that the TV is supposed from the sides. As with that design, you should make sure that your TV is strong enough to be suspended this way, and if not, add some kind of base underneath to support it.
Some people like this approach because it can produce a "wall-to-wall" video screen effect, by entirely hiding the TV's bezels in the grooves. I can see the appeal, but I find the functional tradeoffs unacceptable. In particular, with a routed slot mounting, you'd only be able to get the TV in and by sliding it through the front wall. That's impossible with a conventional cabinet design, since the front wall is permanently attached. To my way of thinking, it's a non-negotiable requirement that you be able to access the interior of the cabinet at any time, without having to disassemble the cabinet. I recommend against this approach for this reason.

Fixed installation

Some people use fixed installations, where the TV is fastened to the cabinet with screws, nails, or glue. I'd definitely avoid anything along these lines, as it makes it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to access the cabinet interior for maintenance or repair work.

30. Backbox TV Mounting

Continuing the theme of installing our TV screens, we turn now to installing the backbox TV.

Positioning the TV and light-sealing

I recommend positioning the TV so that it's centered in the space above the speaker/DMD panel.
If you're using a translite cover, I'd try to position the front surface of the display so that it's flush with the translite, or as close to flush as you can make it. That will make it look very much like the artwork is being displayed on the back of the glass/acrylic, which looks just like the real thing.
On my machine, I put strips of black felt around the perimeter of the display bezel (fastened with double-sided tape). This lets the translite be right up against the monitor face without too much risk of scratching it, and it also forms a nice light seal around the perimeter.

The Jersey Jack Pinball approach

The WPC-era machines didn't have anything resembling a full-sized TV in the backbox, so there's nothing we can directly adapt from their design or hardware to mount the TV. But if we widen our scope beyond the post-WPC era, we can find one example from the real pinball world that's very similar. Jersey Jack Pinball, maker of Wizard of Oz (2013), The Hobbit (2016), and a few other titles, uses a 27" LCD panel in the backbox in place of the WPC-era DMD. They even install a translite (with a cutout for the TV) in front of the panel, so it's almost exactly like the typical virtual cab setup. The only difference is that they place the panel at the bottom of the backbox, whereas we typically place it near the top, so that we can also put a traditional DMD-sized display in the speaker panel area. But that difference in placement doesn't affect the mechanics of the mounting.
Their approach to mounting the panel is straightforward. They start with an uncased OEM display panel, and mount it an MDF backing board with metal clips around the edges. For a virtual cab adaptation, I'd use plywood instead, since it's stronger and lighter.
The backing panel is cut to the height of the panel, so that you can easily fasten it with clips as shown. The width is the same as the inside width of the backbox.
In the backbox, they install metal "L" brackets along each side wall.
These can simply be screwed into the backbox walls with wood screws. The overall weight of an uncased panel plus plywood backing board should be under 10 pounds, so each corner clip only has to support a couple of pounds. So we don't need super-strong hardware here.
To facilitate installing the panel, pre-install a bolt in each bracket, with the end pointing forward as shown below. Secure each bolt with a lock nut.
Drill holes in the plywood backing to match the positions of the pre-installed bolts. Installing the TV is now just a matter of fitting the backing panel onto the bracket bolts. Secure it in place with another set of nuts on the outside.
Some notes on this approach:

Adapting to a TV still in its case

This design works well with a bare, uncased LCD panel, but it requires some changes if you're leaving the TV in its plastic case.
First, use the TV's VESA mounting holes on the back to attach it to the plywood base, instead of the edge clips. You just need four M4 screws long enough to go through the plywood (probably 20mm to 30mm).
Second, with the added depth of a full case, it might be too cumbersome to reach behind the monitor on the sides to fasten and unfasten the nuts that hold it in place. So I'd move those so that they're above and below the TV, where you'll have a little more room to work.

Further improving the design

Even with the bolts moved vertically above and below the TV in the revised plan above, I think it's going to be a little cumbersome to fasten those top bolts. The space above the monitor is quite tight with a 28" display.
So I think the next step in improving this plan would be to substitute some type of hanger hook at the top, such as a heavy-duty picture hanger or "J" bracket. Or perhaps better yet, the latch bracket used on the speaker/DMD panel (Williams/Bally 01-8535), which is designed for this exact function with the speaker panel.
The bottom bolts are easy enough access that we can keep those.
The new installation procedure would look like this:
I used a mounting similar to this on my own cab, and it works pretty well. This should give you a little more than an inch of clearance behind the TV for installing a replay knocker and EM-style shell bells. You'll be able to access those devices for service if necessary, since the TV can be removed fairly easily.

Fixed mounting

Another, easier way to mount a TV in the backbox is to more or less build the backbox around the TV. You get the TV situated and bolted down while the backbox is still being assembled, and then you finish installing the remaining backbox walls.
There are different ways to go about this, but I've seen people use procedures something like this:
If you've read much else in this guide, you can probably guess that I don't recommend any approach that would make it difficult to remove the TV later. If you have to wait to finish the backbox assembly until the TV is installed, you're going to have to reverse those last assembly steps if you ever want to remove the TV, and that could be difficult and destructive.
An argument could be made that it's okay that you can't remove the TV, because why would you ever need to? Modern consumer electronics tend to keep going for years and years without trouble. That's usually true, but not always, plus it ignores the possibility that you might need to access or remove the TV for some reason other than repair: upgrading it to a newer model, say, or changing which video plugs you're using.
There's also a potentially bigger problem: it'll be impossible to access anything installed behind the TV without taking the back off the backbox again. There's at least one part commonly mounted behind the TV that you might at some point need to repair: the replay knocker. This isn't a hypothetical risk, either. I've talked to a couple of people on the forums who had to do major surgery - including taking out nails and glue - to replace a dead replay knocker. So I really strongly advise against any design that would seal up any important components behind barriers that you can't remove, such as a TV with a fixed mounting.
If you are using a fixed mounting, then, you might want to do one of the following:
I don't like any of these trade-offs, so I just wouldn't use a fixed mounting like this.

Ideas from the real pinball world

What follows isn't a how-to plan, but just some food for thought. I'm hoping someone can take the ideas here at some point and turn them into a workable implementation plan. For now, though, these are just some ideas.
The WPC-era machines didn't have anything quite like a backbox TV that we can adapt in terms of mounting hardware, but they did have something analogous that at least provides an interesting idea for how a TV mounting might function.
The WPC machines have something called a "backbox insert", which is a sheet of plywood directly behind the backglass, holding the little light bulbs that illuminate the artwork. This is exactly where our backbox TV goes, so it's worth looking at how they installed this.
Backbox insert: a sheet of plywood installed just behind backglass. The little spots scattered around are the lamps that back-light the artwork.
On the WPC machines, all of the control electronics are mounted inside the backbox, so you obviously have to be able to move the insert out of the way for service work. The WPC design made this really easy. You don't have to disassemble anything or even remove the insert. It's attached with hinges on the left side, so you just swing it out of the way like opening a door.
Backbox insert in open position. It's hinged on the left side so that it can swing open like a door, to provide access to the electronics installed behind it.
It would be great to be able to do the same thing with a TV - just swing it out of the way when necessary, without even having to unplug any video cables.
I'm afraid I don't have a How To plan to offer here to accomplish this, though. My first thought would be to try to adapt the original insert hinge hardware they used on the WPC machines, but those won't work for a TV; they have the wrong geometry for anything deeper than a sheet of plywood, and I don't think they'd be strong enough for a 10-15 pound TV on a long lever-arm like this.
My next thought would be to look for some generic hardware that could do the same thing, but I haven't found any. The sticking point is the depth of the TV. To make the geometry work, we need to place the pivot point at the front corner of the TV, and that means that the TV itself has to be mounted on an articulated platform. To use the TV's VESA mounting, this has to articulate by the depth of the TV. The apparatus would have to look like this:
I think this can be done in principle, but I don't have a concrete proposal for how to build it. I'm not sure how to make a TV platform in that shape that would be strong enough. I don't think plywood is strong enough, given that the full weight of the TV has to be supported at that back left corner (in the illustrations). It might also be challenging to find suitable hinges, although that's probably just a matter of some legwork on Amazon, as there are lots of pivot hinges available; there's probably something strong enough in the right size.
If you can come up with a mechanism that would accomplish this with generic hardware, please let me know! I'd be thrilled to be able to include it in this guide. But for now, I'm going to say that a hinged mechanism isn't practical for our purposes here.

31. Speaker/DMD Panel

The speaker/DMD panel is a fairly complex piece of equipment, and new cab builders can find it challenging to assemble and install. This is one of those features of the real machines that's not well documented anywhere, and it's really not obvious looking at the parts how they're supposed to go together.
There are two rather different styles of speaker panels that were used in the Williams machines from the 1990s that most of us use as the model for our virtual cabs. Both types can be adapted to a virtual cab, so the first step in setting up your speaker panel is to decide which one to use. This chapter provides some details on the two types to help you decide. In the two following chapters, we'll provide detailed instructions for assembling and installing each type. They're different enough that we'll give each type its own chapter.

Original 1990s style

The first type of speaker panel that we'll look at is the "original" style that was used in Williams machines from the early 1990s to about 1995. This style uses an MDF panel with a front plastic facing silkscreened with game-specific graphics. For example, here's the panel from Theatre of Magic (Bally, 1995):
This design is something you can fabricate yourself, since the main elements are the MDF base (which you can make with a router) and the plastic facing (which you can have made by a laser-cutting service). You can also buy the pre-cut MDF panels and the plastic facing (in acrylic) from VirtuaPin.
The original original speaker panels that Williams used had asymmetrical speaker cutouts - a 5.25" cutout on the left and a 3" cutout on the right. This was because they used different speakers on the two sides: a large midrange driver on the left and a smaller tweeter on the right. This arrangement might seem strange in a modern context, where the whole point of a left/right speaker pair is stereo sound. But it makes more sense if you remember that all of the audio source material on these games is monophonic. They had no need for left/right channel separation. It's just a single-channel enclosure with a woofer and a tweeter.
For virtual cabs, everyone (almost everyone, at least) uses a matched stereo pair of full-range speakers instead of the midrange/tweeter combination that the real machines used. As a result, we don't want that bizarre arrangement with two different cutout sizes; we want the same cutouts left and right. So that's what we use in our plans presented later in this chapter: we give you the choice of two 4" diameter cutouts or two 5.25" inch cutouts. VirtuaPin's MDF panels are available with the same options. (VirtuaPin also sells the original asymmetric design for people replacing original equipment on real machines, but you probably don't want to use one of those for a virtual cab.)
Another small difference between the "original original" design and the reproduction design we use for virtual cabs is that the originals used a PETG plastic facing with the graphics directly silkscreened onto the plastic, whereas a reproduction typically uses acrylic with printed decals. There's no practical difference in the results; the arcylic-with-decals approach is just a more DIY-friendly process.

WPC-95 panel style

Most of the Williams machines made in 1995 and later used a revamped design for the DMD panel, which we refer to as the WPC-95 style. In this design, they greatly simplified the manufacturing process by making the whole panel a single piece of molded plastic. They dispensed with the MDF base and the plastic facing, integrated the H-channel trim into the plastic form, and got rid of most of the extra hardware.
They also made the appearance more generic, to make the part interchangeable among games. The plastic facing with the custom graphics for each game is gone; instead, you just see the matte black face of the plastic panel. The only graphics on the production machines were a Williams or Bally logo.
Because of the single-piece molded plastic design, it's not practical to fabricate these as a DIYer. But you can buy new ones as replacement parts from any of the pinball suppliers, for about $100.

Stern Spike 2 style

Many of the newer Stern games, made from about 2016 onwards, feature a 15.6" LCD video display in place of the traditional dot matrix display.
Virtual cab builders have already been using LCD panels of exactly this same size in their machines to emulate the DMD. 15.6" is a common panel size that's widely available, and it just happens to be almost exactly the same width as the traditional 128x32 plasma DMDs used in the 1990s machines, so it's a near-perfect fit as a DMD replacement. A 15.6" laptop panel is obviously a lot taller than the original plasma DMDs, but that's an easy problem to solve: just stick the LCD panel behind a regular speaker panel with a standard DMD-sized cutout, and the panel hides the excess height. Some of the screen area goes unused, since it's hidden behind the panel, but the player doesn't care.
The Stern Spike games take this same setup and open up the cutout vertically to show the full height of the panel. This lets the Stern game designers use the full 16:9 display area rather than confining the graphics to the old DMD area.
You could use the Stern speaker panel design in your virtual cab if you plan on using an LCD panel in place of a DMD, and you want to expose the full area of the panel (rather than just the smaller DMD cutout area). I haven't looked at the details of how the Stern panels are assembled, so I'm afraid this guide doesn't include a separate section with full instructions for that. It would be tricky to fabricate one of these out of wood because of the way the display cutout goes almost all the way to the top and bottom edges. If you want to go this route, you might want to look at buying the original Stern panel, which is metal. Here are the relevant Stern part number references:
Note that the Stern panel doesn't include a mounting bracket for the LCD panel, since the bracket has to be customized to fit the specific panel you choose. You'll probably have to improvise your own bracket to fit.
This panel style might be interesting as future-proofing. At the moment, most Visual Pinball simulations won't take advantage of the extra display height compared to the WPC DMD style, since their score graphics are exact reproductions of the original DMD layout, leaving most of the top and bottom of the screen blank. As time goes on, though, it's possible that newer games will take more advantage of larger displays. I imagine that the newer Stern games will eventually make their way into Visual Pinball simulations, at which point the original full-screen graphics would take full advantage of your larger display area.


Personally, I prefer the original style, mostly because it allows for custom graphics. It's also practical for a DIYer to fabricate them, if you're so inclined. The old design is also flexible about what type of speakers you use, since you can cut the speaker openings to any size you desire (assuming you're fabricating it yourself), and you can drill additional holes in the MDF as needed for fasteners, in case the speakers don't fit the exact layout of the original design.
Some people prefer the WPC-95 style because it looks more modern, being used on the last generation of machines that Williams made. I think it looks a bit plain and generic myself, but that's arguably just what you want on a virtual cab, where you want the cab to be a chameleon. The WPC-95 panel also has the advantage of being more self-contained: there are fewer separate parts to install, since most of the structure is built into the molded plastic. On the other hand, that makes it a pain to adapt speakers that don't have the standard 5.25" geometry, since the integrated speaker mounting points are designed for that size only.

Assembly and installation

The details of the two panel types are very different, so we'll break them out into separate chapters:

32. Original WPC Speaker Panel

This chapter goes into the details of the "original" WPC style of speaker/DMD panel, based on the ones used in the Williams and Bally machines of the early 1990s. These panels feature flat plastic front facings with silk-screened graphics, customized for each game. As an example, here's the speaker panel from Theatre of Magic (Bally, 1995):
Panels for other games from this era have the same overall shape, with the same cutouts for the speakers and display, but each game has its own unique graphics that harmonize with the backglass artwork (which is, of course, positioned immediately above this panel).
Around 1995, Williams switched to a different style of panel, which dispensed with the artwork to make them interchangeable among games, and which was constructed as a single molded piece of plastic to reduce assembly cost. See Chapter 31, Speaker/DMD Panel for more about the two main types of panel, and see Chapter 33, WPC-95 Speaker Panel for details on the WPC-95 type in particular.

Buying or building

Fabricating your own speaker panel from scratch is a fair amount of work, because it requires a lot of precise cuts with a router. If you do want to do it yourself, we'll give you complete plans later in this chapter.
If you want to buy a pre-fabricated panel, there are two options:
Notably, none of the pinball supply companies currently sell the MDF base panels. VirtuaPin seems to be the only place you can get those. (The pinball suppliers do sell all of the miscellaneous hardware for them, at least, such as the latch brackets and H channels.)
The Marco Specialties catalog does include a large number of game-specific "speaker panels" from this era, but those are actually only the silkscreened plastic face plates - they don't include the MDF backing. The same is usually true on eBay; anything sold there as a "speaker panel" is usually just the plastic facing. So if you're looking for the MDF panel, check carefully before buying to make sure you're getting the complete panel and not just the facing.

Installing the panel

Let's start with how you install the speaker panel in the backbox. This is one of the big mysteries for first-time cab builders, so I think it'll help with the rest of your planning to see how the panel fits into the backbox, and how you install it and remove it.
First, there's one set of parts that we have to install on the speaker panel. Specifically, we have to install the latch brackets that hold the panel in place. (If you already have a fully assembled panel with the latch brackets installed, you can skip this step.) These are Williams/Bally part number 01-8535, and they look like this:
They install on the back of the panel at the top corners:
If you bought a pre-cut speaker panel from one of the pinball vendors, it should already have two holes drilled for each bracket, and a T-nut (#8-32) should be installed behind each hole, so all you have to do is line up the brackets and screw them in. Use #8-32 x 3/8" machine screws, of the "countersunk" type illustrated below. If you're fabricating your own panel, see our plans later in this chapter for the drilling locations.
Fasten the latch brackets with #8-32 x 3/8" countersunk machine screws
Next, there's some prep work in the backbox. The DMD panel is held in place by a couple of wood rails attached to the walls (which we call the "guides"), and a "U" channel at the bottom of the backbox.
If you followed our WPC cabinet plans to build the backbox, you should already have installed the guide rails. If not, you should go back and put those in place now. The detailed plans are under "Translite/DMD guides" in Chapter 21, Cabinet Body. (Note that speaker/DMD panel only requires the lower set of guide rails described there. The upper set is for the translite, and you might not need or want those, depending on how you're installing your main backbox TV.)
To save you a little time, here's a quick summary of the plan:
Our WPC cabinet plans didn't say anything about that "U" channel, though. We intentionally saved that for now, because it's easiest to get it aligned properly using the assembled DMD panel as a guide.
The "U" channel is an oddball part in that Williams never assigned it a part number, and it's not sold by Marco Specialties or Pinball Life (although there are some custom-finish versions available from pinball "mods" sellers). This is unusual; Williams was meticulous about assigning part numbers to every nut and bolt and washer in their machines. Every adhesive label had a part number. The little slips of paper with last-minute updates that they slipped into the instruction manuals had part numbers. But these U channels don't have part numbers, even though they were used on dozens on machines over at least 20 years. Weird! But I digress; it just means that we have to figure out what they used by inspection, and it turns out, happily, that it's generic hardware that you can buy at Home Depot.
Specifically, you need a ⅝" x ⅝" U channel, in a length equal to the inside width of your backbox (or maybe ⅛" less for an easier fit; use 27⅛" for the standard WPC design).
This type of U channel is available in aluminum from Home Depot and other hardware stores. Note that it's only sold in fixed lengths (like 4' or 8'), so you'll have to cut it to the right length yourself. But that's easy to do with a hacksaw; the metal is pretty thin.
To prepare it for mounting screws, drill three holes in the bottom of the channel as illustrated below. I'd use 3/4" #6 wood screws for this, so drill to fit those. The exact locations aren't important; just eyeball them, one hole near each and and one near the center.
Paint it as desired before installing. In the original pinball machines, it was always painted to match the backbox interior color (usually black). But it is a visible piece of trim, so some people use a metallic finish to match the side rails and lockbar, especially if they're using custom finishes for those.
To install it, use the speaker panel as a template to figure the alignment:
Any time you need to remove the DMD panel, simply lift it out of the U channel, lift the latch brackets clear of the guide rails, and it's free. To put it back, repeat the procedure above: fit the latch brackets over the rails and lower the bottom into the U-channel until it's firmly seated.

Designing graphics for the panel facing

The speaker panels on the real machines from the early 1980s to mid 1990s were printed with custom game-specific graphics. This was sometimes an extension of the backglass art, such as in Theatre of Magic, and sometimes included extra display features, such as The Addams Family's ☆THING☆ lights or Earthshaker's jackpot value display.
Speaker panel graphics examples: Theatre of Magic (Bally, 1995); The Addams Family (Midway, 1992); Earthshaker (Williams, 1989)
For a virtual cab, this is another area where you can create your own custom graphics. Here's my speaker panel, for example:

Printing the decal

There's a slight complication in using a decal for the speaker panel graphics: the cutout in the middle for the display.
With all of the other decals in your cab, holes in the middle are no problem. You can just cut them out with an X-acto knife after installing the decal, by running the knife around the edge of the hole. That technique works for the flipper button holes, coin door cutout, etc, but it won't work here! The problem is that we're going to affix these decals to the clear acrylic facing, and there's no DMD hole to trace in the acrylic facing. In the original design that Williams used, and in both our plans and VirtuaPin's products, the acrylic facing is continuous across the DMD area with no cutout. The speaker openings are cut out, by necessity, but not the DMD area. This was intentional in the Williams machines, probably mostly to protect the display physically, but it also creates a cleaner appearance.
So if it's impossible to use the X-acto knife tracing technique, what can we do? There are a couple of potential ways to handle this, but really only one good way:
Here's the cutting plan for the decal. This is based on the plans we provide later in this section, so it'll work if you're fabricating your own panel based on our plans. If you're using pre-cut panels from VirtuaPin or another vendor, I'd take measurements from your physical panel instead of relying on this, since there might be some variations in different vendors' versions of the panel.
Some notes:

Assembling the panel

Here's the procedure for assembling the panel from parts. If you bought a partially assembled panel from VirtuaPin, just skip the parts where we talk about things they've already installed for you.
Before proceeding, you should paint the MDF panel in the desired finish color. The panel is invariably painted flat black in the real machines.

Install the T-nuts

Install #8-32 T-nuts for the speakers, latch brackets, and H-channel, as illustrated below. The T-nuts are all installed from the front side of the panel. The front is the side with the insets around the speakers.
When all of the T-nuts are installed, it should look something like this:

Install the DMD screws

The original WPC speaker panels used an unusual type of screw for the DMD attachment points, known as a "spiral fin shank" screw. These have flat nail-like heads, machine screw threading down most of their length, and wood screw threading at the top (head) end. This weird combination is designed so that you can permanently fasten the screw to a wood panel with the threaded end sticking out, to make an attachment point.
These are so minutely specialized that you can probably only find them from pinball vendors like Marco Specialties or Pinball Life. Look for Williams/Bally part numbers 237-5957-00 (#6-32 x 1-3/16") or 4506-01104-20 (#6-32 x 1-1/4").
If you prefer to avoid the special pinball parts, you can make this work with ordinary #6-32 x 1-1/4" machine screws. It takes a little extra improvisation, which we'll explain below.
With either type of hardware, you insert screws from the front side of the panel, as illustrated below.
Note how the screws go in through the front side of the panel so that the threaded ends stick out the back. These screws are going to serve as mounting posts for the DMD device or laptop display screen. The DMD (or mounting bracket for your video panel) has holes that will fit over these screws, and you'll use nuts to fasten it.
The arrangement with these screws is unusual in that you want them locked in place on the panel. You'll use them to secure the DMD device, by fitting nuts onto the bolts - but to make this work, the bolts must be fixed in place so that they can't turn, because you won't be able to access the screw heads after assembling the panel. If you're using the special fin shank screws mentioned above, they're specifically designed to work this way, but if you opted for ordinary machine screws instead, they'll need a little help.
For the special spiral fin shank screws:
For ordinary #6-32 machine screws, the best way I can think of to keep the screws locked to the panel is to glue the heads into place with epoxy or other strong glue. I don't recommend using nuts or other fasteners instead, in part because they might get in the way of the DMD or video panel, and in part because they could loosen over time. You won't be able to access the heads after assembly because of the way the front plastic facing will be attached with adhesiv