How to buy a computer case
A computer case buying guide
A computer case seems like a relatively simple component of a desktop computer, but choosing which of the many computer cases to buy is an important aspect of assembling a desktop PC. If you're wondering how to buy a computer case that suits your needs, you'll need to keep a few key points in mind. By considering factors such as your hardware and the features available on cases, you can quickly settle on the best computer case to buy for your computer.
>> Consider your hardware
Deciding how to buy a computer case starts with considering the hardware you're planning to put inside of it. If you have a DVD drive, a CD-RW drive, multiple hard drives and a big fan, you need a large enough computer case to fit everything inside of it. The chart below provides the average dimensions for the various computer case sizes.
|Mini Tower ||14" ||7" ||14" |
|Mid-Size Tower ||18" ||7.5" ||18" |
|Full-Size Tower ||22" ||8" ||22" |
The dimensions of particular computer case models can vary a bit, but these measurements should give you a good frame of reference to determine which of these computer case sizes you need.
The motherboard you want to place inside of the computer case is also an important factor in determining how to buy a computer case. ATX is Intel's motherboard form factor, or size, and there are a few different ATX variants. All computer case sizes can fit a micro ATX motherboard, but an extended ATX motherboard is unlikely to fit in a mini tower and may not fit in a mid-size tower. Not all mini towers can hold a regular ATX motherboard either. If you're conducting a computer case comparison, you should make sure the cases you're considering can hold your motherboard.
>> Consider the bays inside the case
You'll also want to pay attention to the bays when determining how to buy a computer case. A case should have enough bays to hold all of the drives and other hardware you plan to install. The larger the computer case is, the more bays it is likely to have. Computer case designs vary, so a mid-size tower may have more bays than a full-size tower. By looking at the number of available bays a case has, you should be able to determine if the case can hold all of your hardware.
Computer case designs also differ regarding the size of the bays they contain. Bays that are 5.25 inches wide fit DVD and Blu-ray optical drives. Bays that are 3.5 inches wide hold hard drives. The 3.5-inch bays on some cases can also hold 2.5-inch drives.
>> Consider the ports
Considering the ports is another step toward successfully knowing how to choose a computer case. Many different computer accessories and peripherals, such as keyboards, mice, MP3 players and external hard drives, are capable of connecting to your computer case if it has the right types of ports. If your devices connect via a USB port, you will want to choose a computer case with USB ports on it. USB 3.0 ports transfer data quickly, so you may want a case with these ports if you have USB 3.0 devices. Some devices use a SATA connection, while others use Firewire. When you're looking at different types of computer cases, you'll want to be sure you can connect your devices to the one you choose.
You should also remember to look at how many ports a computer case has. You can plug in and simultaneously use more of your devices if your computer case has more ports on it.
>> Consider the power supply
The presence of a power supply can help you determine how to buy a computer case. Some computer cases include a power supply and others do not. A computer case that comes with a power supply may be attractive to you because it precludes the purchase of a separate power supply. If the case you are considering does come with a power supply, be sure it will provide enough power to your system. Otherwise, you will end up having to purchase a separate power supply anyway.
>> Consider the expansion slots
When deciding how to buy a computer case, ask yourself if you are planning to upgrade your hardware in the future. Different types of computer cases provide different numbers of expansion slots. A computer case for a regular ATX motherboard usually has six or seven slots, while a case for a microATX motherboard often has four slots. If you're a gamer, you may want more expansion slots for adding powerful graphics cards that require two slots.
>> Consider case material
Considering material should help you decide how to buy a computer case. Manufacturers usually make their cases from aluminum, steel or acrylic. Aluminum effectively conducts heat that the components inside the case produce, so this material will help your components last longer by keeping them cool. Steel is also an effective conductor of heat, though aluminum still performs better in this regard. Acrylic is more of an insulator than a conductor, but many consumers like the look of acrylic. If you choose an acrylic computer case, you'll want to make sure that your fans and heat sinks effectively dissipate the heat the components inside your case produce.
Successfully determining how to buy a computer case requires taking a number of important factors into account. By considering your hardware, the features of cases and your plans to upgrade your hardware, you can determine which computer case to buy in order to meet your needs.