Tips on buying cases

Cases. I’ve been thinking more about cases. Conventional wisdom says get the biggest case you can afford–ideally, grab that 12-bay full tower, just like you get the motherboard with the most slots. But I wonder if that really still holds. Modern motherboards integrate so much more than they used to (even the NIC, sometimes), what would you want to plug in? A better video card, probably. A better sound card, almost certainly. Maybe a SCSI card, unless that’s on the board. But, given five PCI slots, frankly I don’t know what I’d do with them.

With cases, let’s inventory the drive bays. You’ll want a bay for a CD/DVD, and another for a CD-RW (why wear out a burner by reading with it, when you can get a good CD-ROM drive for $35 and let it take the abuse?), and one for the ubiquitous floppy. A patch panel for the sound card might occupy a third 5.25″ bay. So we’ve chewed up four bays. In the past, the rest would probably go to hard drives. But you can get 75-gig hard drives these days. We live in an age, for the first time in about 12 years, that you can buy a hard drive that you can’t immediately fill. And by the time you do manage to fill a 75-gig drive, you’ll be able to supplement it with something even bigger. It seems to me that these days, even a 6-bay case is going to have a lot of empty space in it.

Let’s put together the absolute dream system. DVD drive. CD-R. Some flavor of DVD recorder. Patch panel for sound card. Zip (gack). Jaz (gack). Floppy. Two SCSI HDs for speed. One monster IDE HD for storage. We’ve chewed up ten bays. But how frequently do we put all that stuff in one PC?

The only time I can see using a large number of 5.25″ drive bays is when using high-speed drives that require active cooling.

I just don’t think monster cases are as important now as they used to be. Frankly, the seven-bay Foxconn case that Directron sells for $37 seems more than adequate, especially seeing as it has four exposed 5.25″ bays and two exposed 3.5s. You’ll want a better power supply, but assuming the case doesn’t cut you up, at that price it’s a steal.

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