Choosing a Tower For Your Computer Build

By Samuel Wilson

At this point in time, I have gone over several components that can be used to build different types of computers (budget, mid-range, and high-end). Now that most of the components have been chosen for the selected build type, it’s time to find a place to put all those parts. A Tower (computer case) needs to be chosen that best fits the computer build type.

A Tower safely holds all the various components that will be connected/attached to the motherboard. There will be lots of Towers to choose from, so here are some tips to make things easier. Ultimately, the case needs to perform the desired task, fit the space that’s allocated for it, hopefully look good, and be priced within the budget. With all that being said, it’s important that the correct case is chosen. Finding the right home for the new computer components is key. This will help avoid potential headaches down the road.

First and foremost, the Tower will have to be compatible with the size specifications of the motherboard (form factor). Various form factors include, but are not limited to ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX. There are also different case sizes such as a Mini-Tower, Mid-Tower, and Full Tower, each with a varying number of drive and expansion bays.

Next, the case will need to have enough bays for all of drives and accessories that will being used in the build. These include hard drives (3.5” inch bays or 2.5” for SSD’s), optical drives (DVD and Blu-Ray players/burners, 5.25” inch bays), memory card readers, fan controllers, etc. (3.5” or 5.25” inch bays). If necessary, drive bay adapters or converters can be purchased to fit various items in areas where they normally wouldn’t fit otherwise.

It’s a good idea to check and make sure the selected tower has enough room for all of the expansion cards (graphics cards, modems, printers, etc.) that will be needed in the build. Most ATX cases have six or seven expansion slots on the back of the tower. On the other hand, small form factor Towers such as Micro-ATX cases generally have somewhere around four available expansion slots. Other small form factor Towers like Mini-ITX cases, will often times have one or two expansion slots due to their size.

Once all that is said and done, it’s time to figure out how many USB ports are needed on the front/top of the case and what speed the USB port(s) should be (USB 2.0 or 3.0). Whenever possible, USB 3.0 ports should be chosen because of the higher data transfer rates. Front audio and microphone jacks on Towers are pretty standard options for most computer cases. There are also other options such as eSata and FireWire ports as well.

Some Towers come with power supplies, but most do not. Most of the power supplies that come with Towers are generally lower-end and aren’t really great. They generally don’t provide enough stable power for all the components. A budget build may benefit from a Tower and power supply combo because it won’t have lots of power hungry components.

Not all power supplies that come with cases are inferior, especially if it comes from a good manufacturer. A big problem with lower-end supplies that aren’t at least 80+ Bronze rated, is that they don’t efficiently output power, so more power is used up in the end. This in turn, will result in a higher electricity bill.

When looking for a Tower, “Tool Free” or “Tool Less” cases are generally great choices. In these setups, it’s not necessary to use a Phillips screwdriver to secure the components within the case. This makes assembly, future maintenance, and upgrades very simple.

In order to properly cool the computer, there needs to be at least couple of fans (preferably 3 or more) inside of the case. If the case doesn’t have any fans or not enough, additional fans should be purchased. On top of that, if a large CPU cooler or radiator (for liquid cooling) is being utilized, the case needs to have enough room/clearance to mount these items. For the most part, every component that is added to the system will generate some type of heat. More components, means more heat, so keep that in mind. High temperatures and electronics generally don’t go well together.

Finally, the case needs to properly fit in the space that’s allocated for it. Paying close attention to the outside dimensions of the case prior to purchase is key. No one wants to end up buying a case, assembling it, and then realizing it doesn’t fit within that given space.  A good place to start looking for a Tower is Fractal Design, produces quality affordable computer cases that look great. They also offer a great selection of power supplies, case fans, water cooling systems, and various computer accessories.

The above material is just a general guideline to help pick out a Tower for a computer build. Certain cases might not follow the above information, since there are exceptions. Prior to making a purchase, it is very important to read all the specifications on the motherboard, power supply, Tower, CPU cooler, fans, drives, and add on/expansion cards. Stock CPU coolers and accessories usually don’t have issues with fitting inside the case, its aftermarket items you generally have to worry about.

Keep in mind, a smaller case doesn’t have as much room as a larger form factor tower. A small case can be real nice, but there needs to be proper planning to avoid headache. Establishing proper airflow in a small case may be a good idea depending on the components that were selected in the build. This mostly refers to higher-end and enthusiast grade components that can generate a lot of heat, such as a high-end CPU and/or GPU. By doing a little bit of research, it shouldn’t be very difficult to select a great tower for a computer build.  Stay tuned, as I discuss how to pick out a graphics card in a computer build.

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