by Terry E. Mercer (c) 1997


Case Style

Power Supply

Power Switch

Case and Mother Board

Drive Bays

LED Display

You need to keep the following things in mind when selecting a case:

1. What style of case do I want? Desktop or tower?

A desktop case usually sits on the desk with the monitor stacked on top. Tower cases often sit on the floor or to the side, and come in three variations, mini (18"), mid (24"), and full size (30"). The size is all that matters here... they all have the same type of ability (i.e., some people say that the large case has more drive bays... this is NOT always true, my mini tower has 9 bays, with 5 open... but is very cramped). Try to give yourself a little growing room. A standard system will take up 2 external slots (the floppy and CD ROM drives), and 1 internal slot (a hard disk drive). Down the road you might want to add an internal Zip, Jaz, SyJet, Rewritable Optical drive, or a CD ROM Writer (commonly referred to as a "burner"). You might want (or need) to add additional hard drives, which will take up additional bays in your case. Remember, if you buy the right case, it can grow with you and your experience and needs. One of my cases started out as a hopped up 286 nearly nine years ago, and is now a Pentium 200 MHz and still doing great!

2. What size power supply does it have?

Some cases come without a power supply (PS). Others have a 150, 180, 200, 230 or 250 Watt power supply. A 230 Watt is the recommended minimum... 250 if you will be adding a lot of extra cards and drives (i.e., multi-media kit and/or modem). Also, check the connectors for drives... many power supplies are strange, impractical, and designed by someone who doesn't compute! There should be 1 - small 3.5" floppy connector, and at least 4 - 5.25" (preferably 6). If not, your only option is to "Y" jack, or split the power between two or more devices.
Also, consider the quality of the Power Supply. Enlight and Kingston have proven to be very high quality, with multiple safeguards built into to help protect your system. Atop, another brand name, on the other hand seems to work well for the average user; however, tested units fluctuate and never seems to be able to hand a lot of stress (or components) inside the system.
If your computer is intermittently locking up or otherwise failing, have the power supply checked... with and without a load. Most of the PS have the following commonalties:
if they recognize a short, they automatically shut off,
if there is no power draw (i.e., nothing connected to them) they won't start up, and
with a "load" they should NEVER exceed OR be more than 3% minus the "standard" levels which have become industry standards.
Testing Power Supplies is fairly easy, but should never be done by a novice, or without someone experienced assisting you. Odds are your life is worth more than the $40 to $300 PS which can kill you if you aren't careful, or send a current the wrong way blowing up parts still attached to it... maybe even hurt yourself.

3. Where is the power switch located?

Some cases have the switch mounted in the rear or on the side of the case. This can be difficult to reach if the system is sitting on the floor. At the same time, I suggest NOT having the power switch located in a place easily bumped or accidentally hit (that can really tick you off). I use a master controller (which sits under my monitor) to power on and off most everything... and it has worked really well for years. My newest cases have an indented power button on the front of the case, which makes it nearly impossible to accidentally turn off.

4. Will the case hold the Mother-Board?

Some cases were not designed for a full sized mother board or have obstructions that may interfere with proper board mounting. In addition, consider the cabling. In Full Tower Cases virtually any motherboard will fit, but usually special "extra long" cables are required to reach the upper part of the cases drive bays. Keep an eye out for two other things that crop up
height of the CPU with a fanned heat sink sitting on top of it (some motherboards place the CPU parallel with the keyboard socket, which just happens to land where many case manufacturers add a drop down internal bay extension.)
RAM is right up against the power supply, and either won't fit or can't be taken out without removing the motherboard (and all of the cards installed in the motherboard). This can be a pain, and is only an acceptable risk (to me) if I don't think I will ever have to touch the RAM again... until the motherboard is traded out two or three years down the road.

5. How many drive bays does the case contain?

There should be at LEAST 3 - 5.25" exposed, 1 - 3.5" exposed, and - 1 3.5" internal drive bays. This is a minimum, we recommend 3 - 5.25" exposed, 2 - 3.5" exposed, and 2 - 3.5" internal drive bays. If you have both floppies, a tape drive, a CD ROM drive, and two hard drives... you will need 6 bays minimum, and won't be able to upgrade (without replacing) unless you have some extra open bays in your case. A person can never go too big on a case, unless they just don't have the physical room to put a larger case.

6. What type of LED display panel does the case have?

A numeric display panel is nice but not necessary, it is a little more difficult to configure but provides a better appearance. It is meaningless, and only signifies whether the Turbo Button has been pushed (even if the motherboard switch itself is permanently jumpered into the fast position). It basically is used to impress the ignorant... I have one customer uses display says "roy" - and another that says "777" (his lucky numbers). Anyhow...
The panel (the front of the case) should at least contain a Power indicator, a Hard Disk Activity indicator. The Reset Switch, and a key lock are optional and not available on many of the newer systems, as they generally caused quite a few problems for beginners..

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