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Considerations for Choosing a New PC Case

Introduction

When assembling a new computer system, you will at some point need to decide what computer case to use. To find the ideal case for your build, you should consider details such as size, weight, compatibility, number of drive bays, and more.

Size / Form Factor

The size of a computer case is an important factor that can determine what type of motherboard you can use, how many internal drives you can install, and more. As the size of the case increases, the number and size of components that you can install increase as well.

Computer cases fall into several categories in terms of size and form factor. For standard ATX form factor motherboards, tower cases are one of the most popular types of cases. They can be categorized as being either full size tower, mid-size tower, or mini tower. Computer cases for smaller form factors such as Mini-ITX and Micro ATX tend to be more varied in design.

Weight

The weight of a computer case is a factor of both its size and materials. There are several types of materials commonly used in computer cases, each with their own pros and cons.

  • Steel – The heaviest type of case material, steel is also very sturdy and durable. Cases that are made from steel are not as transportable due to their weight.
  • Aluminum – Computer cases made from aluminum are relatively light but tend cost more than steel cases. Aluminum is often used to make cases that are designed to be easily transportable.
  • Acrylic – Acrylic is primarily used for clear computer cases to achieve a completely transparent aesthetic. It is also sometimes used in steel and aluminum computer cases that have transparent surfaces or windows.
Drive Bays

There are three types of drive bays, 5.25 inch external bays, 3.5 inch external bays, and 3.5 inch internal bays. External bays are typically used by devices such as optical drives, card readers, and floppy disk drives. Internal drive bays are mostly used for solid state drives and hard disk drives. When choosing a computer case, ensure that it has the adequate amount of internal and external bays for your needs.

Expansion Slots

An expansion slot is used to add and enhance a system’s functionality, such as adding wireless networking or improving graphics performance. Most mid and full tower computer cases can support up to seven expansion cards, which is the ATX standard.

However, larger motherboards such as extended ATX motherboards can sometimes have more than seven expansion card slots. In order to take advantage of the additional slots, you will need to find a computer case that supports E-ATX motherboards with additional slots.

Front Panel Ports

Connecting audio and USB cables to a computer using rear ports can be a hassle and sometimes may require the use of a longer cable. Front panel ports add convenience by providing more easily accessible ports for many different types of devices. When shopping for a computer case, try to find one with a front panel port that is adequate for your needs.