If all that’s not enough to think about in terms of a case, here are even more considerations. The size, the ease of disassembly, the options of front USB and other ports, and other factors can be important depending on your preferences.
Ease of disassembly—or how easily a case cover comes off and a case comes apart—is a paramount concern of hands-on PC enthusiasts. Tool-free cases have covers that come off without the use of tools, while traditional chassis require two or more screws (and a screwdriver) to secure the cover. In addition, some covers wrap completely around the case to cover both sides, while others are modular, with panels that cover the left and right sides separately.
Mounting a motherboard in a case is one of the most important parts of PC assembly. Some chassis make it easier than others. Many cases have removable motherboard mounting plates that let you mount and service a motherboard without having to dig through the inevitable snake’s nest of ribbon and power cables when you have to work inside the case. Removable motherboard plates are a godsend for processor or CPU cooler upgrades.
As with all PC parts, the case plays a roll in the heat conductivity of the PC. We’ll discuss cooling in depth in Chapter 5, but for now all you need to know is that the cooler it stays inside your PC, the better it is for your components. That’s why aluminum cases are becoming increasingly popular. Aluminum conducts heat better than steel and allows the heat from the inside of the PC to dissipate throughout the case itself and mingle with the cooler outside air.
The size of your case is another consideration. Before buying a new case, you should measure the area in which you plan to put it and make sure there’s enough room for the case you select. You may have big modding plans for a full-tower server case, only to discover that only a mid tower will fit into the available space. Most case manufacturers list the dimensions of their inventories on their web sites.
As a matter of convenience, some case manufactures have started offering front-mounted USBs and sometimes even FireWire ports. Similarly, some motherboards have auxiliary USB connectors that can be connected to these front-mounted ports. Since it’s a pain to struggle around to the rear of a large case to plug in a USB peripheral, and because USB hubs cost money that you may not have to spend, front-mounted USB ports are a blessing. Be aware that not all motherboards will work with front-mounted USB and other ports.
Finally, ventilation is a factor. A good case will have a lot of fan mounts for 80mm fans and possibly a large mount for a 90mm or larger fan. It will also have lots of ambient ventilation holes to let air flow in or out of the system, depending upon whether you have a negative or positive airflow system (see Chapter 5).
Beware of Dell Power Supplies:
Until the year 2000, Dell used proprietary power supplies and motherboards that looked a lot like ATX equipment. However, if you try to install a new motherboard with a Dell power supply, you risk damaging the motherboard. The only way to upgrade one of these Dells is to buy and insert both a motherboard and a power supply at the same time.
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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