Your computerís case is where all of the internal peripherals are held. It houses the motherboard, and hence the expansion slots, drive bays, and everything that goes in them. Because this book is all about being a hands-on PC enthusiast, youíll want a chassis thatís large enough for plenty of finger room and expansion. Plus, youíll want to consider factors such as its heat conductivity, mod-ability, size, and more.
Selecting a chassis is a decision thatís more serious than most people consider. Youíll have to live with your decision for a long time. Since youíll be building your computer out of standardized parts, you wonít be building a disposable machine that you can toss out in three years for a newer model; youíre building a fully upgradable beast that you can keep fresh for as long as you wish. Itís all going to live in the case, so donít skimp and buy the cheapest chassis out there.
Of course, cases are, for the most part, as interchangeable as the PC parts themselves, so youíre not absolutely stuck on the first case you choose. If you get sick of your case, or if a mod goes bad and you end up with a hunk of shredded sheet metal, you can always replace your caseóbut itís a labor-intensive process.
Note: Case Selection
Since virtually everything resides in the case itself, swapping one case for another is the most burdensome upgrade you can possibly perform. Thatís why you should take particular care in selecting a case you can live with for a long time. You should focus on a large, roomy case with plenty of drive bays for future expansion.
The term form factor is used frequently throughout this book. Basically, a form factor is the shape, size, and physical specification of a piece of hardware. A 3Ĺ-inch, half-height hard drive fits in a 3Ĺ-inch bay in your case because each follows its own form factor; thatís what makes them compatible. Power supplies fit into cases because they follow the same form factor, making them the right fit for each other.
Through the years, a cornucopia of form factors have been used for computer chassis. These form factors also include the power supply and motherboard, since both components have to fit in the case. The current form factor of choice for cases, power supplies, and motherboards is called ATX, although itís not the only one you might encounter.
Other, older form factors include (but are not limited to) the previously popular AT, the smaller baby-AT, and the LPX. The AT form factor is flexible in that it can accommodate desktop and tower cases of various sizes, much like the current ATX form factor. The baby-AT is shaped around much smaller motherboards, some so small that in the computer shop where I used to work, we called them ďcredit cards.Ē LPX is quite different from current standards, with a typically flat case with few expansion bays that reside on a riser perpendicular to the motherboard; expansion cards are parallel to the motherboard.
For a high-end gamerís mod PC, youíll definitely want to go with ATX equipment. Your choices in chassis are broad. Youíll find cases of different sizes and shapesóflat desktop cases, short mini towers, medium-height mid towers, big full towers, large server cases, and flat rackmount cases. If youíre building and modding your first PC, go with a mid tower or full tower, as theyíre not only the most common cases, but also the most accessible and easiest to mod. Figure 1-1 shows a typical mid-tower ATX case.
Figure 1-1 A typical mid-tower ATX case
This chapter is from Build Your Own High Performance Gamers' Mod PC, by Chen and Durham (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004, ISBN: 0072229012). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.
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