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Chapter 39. Upgrading Your PC's Case and... > What to Look for When Shopping for a...

What to Look for When Shopping for a New Case

Although the process is not exactly like buying a new car, when shopping for a new computer case, you want to look for certain features. Here are some of the features in a new case that definitely make your life easier and your upgrades smoother:

  • Multiple drive bays— The main reason you are purchasing a new case is probably to add additional drives (hard disk drives, CD-RW drives, DVD drives, removable media drives, and so on), so make sure that your new case has more drive bays than you currently need so that you have room to expand (see Figure 39.1). Most cases have a mixture of 3 1/2-inch and 5 1/4-inch drive bays. The 3 1/2-inch drive bays are used to add additional hard disk drives (possibly also a second 3 1/2-inch floppy drive), and the 5 1/4-inch bays are used for CD-RW and removable media drives. If you run out of 3 1/2-inch bays with the proper mounting hardware, you can place a hard disk drive into a 5 1/2-inch drive bay. Keep in mind that some replacement cases may come with only one or two 3 1/2-inch drive bays.

    Figure 39.1. A computer case with extra drive bays.

    If you have SCSI hard disks, CD-RW drives, or removable media drives in your PC, it is possible to purchase a separate case that only houses your SCSI drives. These SCSI cases include their own power supply and fans and are a good way to remove some of the devices responsible for the heat buildup inside your PC. You will have to purchase a new cable for your SCSI chain because the cable you have now only works inside your PC. If you do decide to pursue this option, and you plan to retain some devices inside your PC as well, make sure that your SCSI card supports both external and internal devices simultaneously. Some SCSI cards don't.

  • Multiple fans— Keep in mind that as you add additional drives and other components into your PC, you also add more devices that produce heat. Look for cases with at least two fans to help disperse the extra heat buildup—in addition to the fan on the power supply. If possible, try to find a case with large fans or check the documentation to see whether you can add an extra fan.

  • Large power supply— In this case, “large” means wattage, not physical girth. Try to get a power supply in the range of 250 to 400 watts. Keep in mind that those additional drives you plan to add all require extra power to operate.

  • Extra power connectors— Although extra power connectors are not essential, having a few extra saves you a trip to the local computer store to purchase Y-connectors (see Figure 39.2).

    Figure 39.2. You can supplement extra power connectors with a few Y-connectors.

  • Sturdy construction— If you purchase locally, rather than through the mail, examine the case before you buy it (be sure to examine the actual case you purchase, not just a display model). Try to get a case that seems like it is constructed with heavier gauge steel rather than a flimsy type of sheet metal. Look to see whether the seams are even and that all seams meet with no gaps. Check to see that the cover or door fits securely and is easy to open or remove. If you purchase your case by mail order, try talking to several computer consultants in your area to see whether they can recommend one or more brands for you to purchase.

  • Front panel indicators and controls— Many cases come equipped with several front panel indicators and controls. Although not all are essential, some can come in handy. The essential controls include a reset button, an on/off switch (which prevents you from having to reach around back to turn on your PC), and a drive activity indicator light. Make sure that instructions are included with your case to let you know how to connect the front panel controls and indicators to your motherboard. If your existing case has front panel indicators and controls, make note of how and where these controls are connected to your motherboard.

  • Removable mounting plate and drive bays— A removable mounting plate (see Figure 39.3) makes it easier to install and access your motherboard. Removable drive bays, both internal and external, make it easier to install and access any drives that you install in your PC.

    Figure 39.3. A removable mounting plate makes it easy to access your motherboard.

    External drive bays hold drives that are physically accessible to you, such as floppy disk and CD-RW or DVD drives. Internal drive bays are bays holding drives that you don't need to physically access, such as hard disk drives.

  • Color choices— While hardly essential to upgrading, a lot of manufacturers have caught on to the fact that many PC users are tired of staring at beige or dull gray cases and have started offering cases in virtually every color of the light spectrum, including clear or transparent.



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