Another concern in the hunt for the greatest case is its expandability. How many drives can you stuff into it? How easy is it to get them in there? Does it require (shudder) drive rails?
Every case has a certain number of 5¼-inch external drive bays, which can be filled with peripherals that need to be reached from the outside of the computer, such as CD-ROM drives, tape drives, card readers, front-mounted USB (universal serial bus) ports, and so on. Chassis may also have external 3½-inch drive bays for floppy drives and other small drives such as Zip drives and some tape drives. All chassis will include a number of internal 3½-inch bays, unreachable from the outside of the case, for mounting hard drives. Figure 1-2 shows the interior of a typical mid-tower case.
Figure 1-2 The interior of a typical mid-tower ATX case
As a general rule of thumb, a case with more expansion bays is better than a case with fewer expansion bays. You may be happy with your computer exactly the way it is, but at some point you might see a great deal on, say, a DVD-RAM drive and decide to buy it, and you’ll need an external 5¼-inch bay for it. In addition, if you decide to add a hard drive, you’ll need an interior 3½-inch bay for it.
Another factor in the expansion arena is the ease of adding a new gadget. Some cases let you slide 5¼-inch devices right through their front bezel and secure them with screws, while others require that you add special drive rails to facilitate mounting the device. Drive rails are an unnecessary and annoying extra step in the process.
Accessing the screw holes is another matter. Most cases allow you to slide their covers off and give you reasonable access to the screw holes necessary to secure drives in their housings and expansion cards in their slots. Find out whether a case makes it easy to reach the screw holes and whether the front bezel comes off easily, if necessary, to secure the smaller 3½-inch drives.
Speaking of 3½-inch drives, they can be even more difficult to wrangle into place than 5¼-inch drives. They tend to be tucked in to the front middle of mid-tower cases. Often, and most conveniently, they come in a form of a block that can be removed entirely from the PC, as shown in Figure 1-3. This lets you tinker with them on your table or workbench without having to jam your fingers into a mess of cabling and cramped space, and it prevents you from having to remove expansion cards (such as your video card) to install a hard drive, floppy drive, SuperDisk (LS120) drive, or whatever you plan to plant in the case.
Figure 1-3 The 3½-inch drive bay mount is removable in this 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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