I have been building my own desktop computers for many years now. It is a great thing to do because you can choose the specification of a computer that you want and not have this forced upon you when you buy a ready assembled desktop.
If you are into gaming then you may need a more powerful and robust graphics card than the desktop model in the shop offers. Or you may want to add more than one hard drive to your computer. There are many different variations that you can consider.
One of the most important considerations when building your own desktop computer is the type of computer case that you use. I am embarrassed to say that with all of my years of experience building my own computers I have made mistakes with cases before.
The most common mistake I made was not getting a large enough case for what I wanted to do. There are many different types of computer cases available and in this article, I want to explain these to you so that you do not make a mistake and end up with the wrong type of case for your precious new desktop.
Table of Contents
Features of PC Cases
It is essential that you choose the right PC case that will easily accommodate all of the hardware that you intend to include with your new desktop computer. You don’t want to get a case where everything just fits otherwise if you want to expand your hardware you will need to get a larger case.
Modern cases offer a great deal more than just capacity for hardware. Some have features that muffle the sounds of your computer for example. Others have a great deal of inner space so that you get improved airflow to cool everything down effectively.
Some of the modern cases even provide support for water cooling your computer. Then, of course, there are design features such as RGB lighting and really nice tempered glass panels so that you can really show off your precious new desktop.
One thing that you need to know is that most PC cases are manufactured in China. If you live in the United States you can expect to pay more for a PC case now thanks to the new tariffs on Chinese goods. You are going to have to pay between $15 and $25 more than you would have done a year or so ago.
Basic Form Factors of PC Cases
You will have the choice of three major form factors of PC case. These are:
As I keep repeating in this article (I make no apology for this) you must work out the size of the case that you require before you make a purchase. The mid-tower and full tower cases are good for the standard size of ATX motherboard. If you want to go for the smaller micro ATX motherboard then this will fit in both tower cases as well.
Mid Tower Form Factor
There is no precise sizing standard for either of these tower cases. For a mid-tower case, you can expect it to be around 8 inches wide and approximately 18 inches high. A mid-tower case is the most popular form factor out there among people that build their own computers.
The reason for this is with the mid-tower form factor you can include a lot of hardware such as two graphics cards, more than one hard drive a closed-loop CPU cooler and more. Mid-tower cases are also a good size for locating under a desk and being fairly unobtrusive.
Full Tower Form Factor
If you really need more space then a full tower case is the way to go. I have used full tower cases before and I can tell you that they are really big! So think about where you are going to locate this huge case first before you go ahead.
Measurements for a full tower case are usually more than 20 inches in height and they tend to be deeper and longer than the mid tower case. If you are planning to use a large Extended ATX motherboard such as the Asus X399 that supports AMD Thread chipper chips then you will require a full tower case.
The other reason to choose a full tower PC case is if you are planning to use a water cooling setup or want to have an extensive number of hard drives or perhaps you have the need for 3 or more graphics cards. With a full tower case, there is usually support for 5 ¼ inch drives too if you have plans for this.
Mini ITX Form Factor
If space is an issue for you then a Mini ITX form factor case is the complete opposite to a full tower case. You would use a Mini ITX case if you want to go for the much smaller mini ITX motherboard. With a case that is really small, you are likely to face some challenges though.
Space inside the case will be at a premium so the working room is restricted. There is no way that you will be able to use a water cooling arrangement with a Mini ITX case. Always check the length of a Mini ITX case as some of them do not have enough room for full-length graphics cards for example.
You should only consider a Mini ITX case if you are looking for the most basic of computer configurations. This means that you will not have the capacity to add extra hard drives and other hardware. Mini ITX cases are great for space-saving but you will be limited in capacity and performance.
How much will you spend on your PC Case?
After you have worked out how much space you need and what form factor of case that you want the next thing to consider is the price. If you only have a budget of around $50 then you are going to get a very basic case for this kind of money. In this situation, go for a case that has additional fans and other features to improve airflow for cooling.
If you can afford to spend more on a PC case, say up to $150, then you will have a lot more options. Cooling is very important for desktop computers and at the higher price point you can consider water cooling, larger fans and other features for improved airflow.
PC cases up to $150 usually have better cable management facilities and can also come with tempered glass panels and even RGB lighting. I have found that spending around $100 on a quality PC case yields the best results.
Of course, if you want to spend more than $150 on your PC case then you can expect even more features such as sound muffling. Desktop computers can be fairly noisy at times and if this is going to be an issue for you then a high-end case could be the answer.
If the looks of your PC case are really important for you then all of the best designs are going to come at a high-end price. Remember that your new desktop computer will be something that you use and look at every day so you may want to invest in a really fancy looking case.
Best Features in PC Cases
I urge you to think carefully about the features you will need from your new PC case. I have gone for cheaper cases before and really regretted this because they didn’t have the features that I really wanted.
Think about the kind of drive bays that you want. Make sure that there are sufficient 2 ½ inch and 3 ½ inch drive bays for what you need. Are you going to use SSD drives? If so some cases have mounting points for these at the back of the motherboard tray.
What about cable management? With the cheaper cases, you end up with a series of holes to route your cables. The mid-range price cases often have rubber grommets designed to protect cables. You may require cable tie-off points which are available with some cases.
Do you want a “tool-less” design for your PC case? When you go for this type of design you will not need to use a screwdriver to mount everything. You can expect tool-less design with the more expensive cases in the mid-range and upwards.