by Paul Sanders
If you're interested in building your own computer, you'll need a new computer case to house all of those shiny new computer components, like your hard drive, motherboard, video card and optical drives. But a computer case isn't just a box to put your components in. Computer cases protect, cool and provide stability for those expensive components. It's important to know a few things about computer cases and how they affect how you build your computer. Here are a few tips to help you choose a computer case that will work for you.
Style: Computer cases often come with stylized features. The color and shape of the chassis varies from utilitarian to science fiction. Clear side panels on a desktop computer tower are not uncommon, and LED lights on exhaust fans and buttons come in a variety of colors. While you're building your own great machine, why not have a computer case that is just as impressive?
Case size and motherboards: Computer cases are typically built to house specific sizes, or "form factors," of motherboards. If you buy a large computer case, it should fit most motherboards. Check the form factor and dimensions specifications for the motherboard you plan on using and be sure your computer case can hold that size.
Connection ports: Most of your computer's connection ports will be in the back of the computer case, but you may want ports located in the front as well. It may be convenient to have a headphone jack, USB ports or Firewire ports on the front side of the computer tower so they can be easily accessed.
Weight: You don't always want a lightweight computer case. Sturdy, vibration-resistant computer cases will help protect your computer against bumps or common vibrations that may cause damage to components like your hard drive and disk drive. You should also consider what type of surface the computer case will be resting on. If you're using a heavy computer case, make sure that your desk, table or other surface can support the weight without shaking.
Number of drive bays: Drive bays are spaces inside your computer case that hold optical disk drives. Some computer cases come with drive bay clips which hold the drives in place. Other cases hold bays on sliding rails. Rails tend to offer more stability. Check descriptions to find out which system your case will use.
Expansion slots: If you plan on installing expansion cards like a sound card or video graphics card, you will need both a motherboard that has expansion slots and a computer case that has expansion slot panels on the back. These panels can be removed to expose the connection ports on the back end of expansion cards. Your computer case will need a number of expansion slots equal to or greater than the number of slots on your motherboard.
Cooling fan slots: Computer components are vulnerable to heat, so it's important to ensure good airflow through the computer case. Many computer cases have two or more slots for cooling fans. Be sure that you have enough fans installed in your computer case and that all expansion panels are in place, as this may affect your airflow.
Power supply: Computer cases may or may not include a power supply. You will need to review the technical specifications of all the computer components you plan on running to ensure you purchase a power supply that can power all of your components simultaneously. Usually, a power supply of 400W or more will be enough to power your computer. If you are building a computer with really powerful components or multiple components, you may want to buy a bigger power supply.
Internal access: You will need to open up your computer case from time to time, either to update components or clean out harmful dust. Some computer cases simply have sliding side panels, while others use screws or thumbscrews to secure their panels. Depending on how often you plan on opening your computer case, you may want an easy to open panel.