by Paul Sanders
While other computer components are more essential to performance, your computer case often is a limiting factor when it comes to which types of hardware you can install in the first place. The right features can open up more options for you in selecting cooling systems, setting up hard drive arrays, and fitting in expansion cards. Here are five of the more essential factors to watch for when selecting a computer case for your next custom PC build.
Multiple cooling options: Basic cases might only feature one or two fan ports at the most, leaving you with limited cooling for heat-producing video cards and CPUs. Choose an advanced case with multiple fan ports on the front, back, sides, or top that allow you to produce a custom airflow throughout the case interior. Ports for coolant cables on the back or side walls will leave you the option of upgrading to a liquid-cooling system, which can be necessary for really high-performance systems.
Numerous external ports: The majority of connection ports for your monitor and peripheral devices will be on the back of the computer tower, but you may want a case with multiple USB ports on the front, where you can easily attach a flash drive or USB cable. Headphone and microphone ports are also best when accessible from the front. Ports toward the top of the tower are also easier to reach if your case is below desk level.
Drive bays with screw-less rails: Your optical drives and hard drives will install in drive bays toward the front of the case tower. Depending on whether or not you want to be able to swap them out easily, you may want the bays to be accessible through a removable front panel with sliding rails and clips rather than screws. Each manufacturer handles drive-bay attachments in different ways, with some requiring corresponding hardware on the drives themselves to secure them.
Noise-reduction construction: Multiple fans and hard drives can produce a lot of vibration. Certain case features are meant to address noise, such as silicone or rubber washers for component installation. Some computer case designs even include noise-dampening foam in their construction.
Extra room for components: Certain high-performance graphics cards may not fit in all computer cases due to space limitations. A computer case with larger dimensions will usually have more vertical and horizontal space for your video card as well as a CPU heat-sink fan. Overall, a case with more room for hardware and cables is easier to work on.