How to Choose a PC Case for Your Build

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PC Case

If you’re upgrading or building your own PC, you’re likely thinking about and selecting the best PC case for you. It must guarantee that there is sufficient room to install PC parts, including the motherboard, cooling system, ventilation, power, cable management, and many other things.

You might be wondering which of the various options on the shelves you will want to select. Don’t worry, we’ve got a thorough guide to help you select the best PC case for your needs below.

What Decides The Size Of The PC Case?

The case’s size will be determined by the components that are fitted inside. The motherboard will be the most significant component. Considerable space inside the case is also affected by the Power Supply Unit (PSU), Driver Bays, discrete graphics cards, and cooling system. They occupy the most amount of space in your computer. Below we will take a closer look at these factors.

Motherboard Form Factor

The motherboard form factor is standard size adopted by different manufacturers. Since it is the largest component in your computer, the design of the PC case will depend on its size. Additionally, as soon as you choose your motherboard, you have probably already decided on the necessary components, including the CPU, GPU, PSU, RAM, storage disk, and other auxiliary parts.

Common motherboard sizes include the following four types:

  • EATX: This is a larger version of the motherboard, 304.8 × 330mm (12″ × 13″). EATX is commonly used for high-end PC or servers.
  • ATX: It is one of the most commonly used motherboards today. Its dimensions are 304.8 x 243.8mm (12″ × 9.6″).
  • microATX: Although microATX is smaller than ATX, it has the most fundamental functionality. Also, it measures 243.8 x 243.8 mm (9.6″ by 9.6″).
  • Mini-ITX: It is designed based on ATX standard but smaller than microATX. Mini-ITX is used for PCs that perform common tasks, with low heat generation. Therefore, the space of your case for this motherboard can also be reduced due to minimal ventilation and cooling requirements. The dimensions of Mini-ATX are 170 x 170mm (6.7″ × 6.7″), with up to 1 PCIe slot.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

The PSU is used to power the motherboard and in some circumstances, to supply power to powerful graphics cards. Their sizes are standardized so that they can fit in a variety of PC case brands.

  • ATX: This is the most popular PSU, it has standard dimensions of 150mm (W) x 86mm (H) x 140mm (D). Its variations with variable depth are usually used for PS/2 or PS/3. For example, ATX PS/2 has dimensions of 150mm (W) x 86mm (H) x 190mm (D), or has a smaller depth of PS/3: 150mm (W) x 86mm (H) x 100mm (D) .
  • EPS: Entry-Level Power Supply Specification (EPS) is a PSU for high power consumption PCs or servers. With the exception of the greater depth, up to 230mm, it is roughly the same dimensions as the ATX.
  • SFX: This is a small-sized PSU (Small Form Factor) and is commonly used with microATX motherboards in compact computer cases.
  • TFX: This PSU is also known as Thin Form Factor due to their width much smaller than standard ATX. They are often used with Mini-ATX motherboards.
  • FlexATX: Like the TFX, it is commonly used to power Mini-ATX but all of their sizes are smaller.
PSU StandardWidth(mm)Height(mm)Depth(mm)
ATX15086140
EPS15086230
SFX12563.5100
TFX8565175
FlexATX81.540.5150

PSU and driver bays are often mounted close to each other, so they also contribute to the size of the computer case. However, today this no longer makes sense because of the popularity of 2.5 inch SSDs or M.2 SSDs. Desktop PCs’ 5.25-inch optical drives are also progressively becoming obsolete. As a result, there is substantially less room for storage devices in the current PC chassis.

Drive Bays

Most PCs use two storage devices, one for the operating system, which is often installed on a 2.5-inch SSD (or M.2 SSD), and the other for data storage. Therefore, drive bays always have enough 3.5-inch trays for HDDs, 2.5-inch for HDDs or SSDs. You don’t have to worry about space for M.2 SSDs because they are placed on the motherboard and are as little as a stick of gum.

You should choose a PC case with bays drivers enough for your current needs and reserve at least a 3.5 and 2.5 inch or more trays for future upgrades.

Graphics Cards

High-performance PCs for graphics-related tasks such as photo editing, 3D creation, movies, or gaming will require discrete graphics cards to be installed. Typically, PC case manufacturers specify the maximum clearance for graphics cards in their specifications. Clearance in this context specifically relates to the longest graphics cards that may be used. The more powerful the graphics cards, the larger their cooling system and therefore the longer its length. If you don’t care if your graphics cards’ lengths are within the range that your PC case can support, you can run into difficulty.

Cooling System

The type of cooling system you select, such as an air cooling system or a liquid cooling system, is another crucial aspect of PC case size.

The air cooling system is the most basic. It consists of a heatsink positioned on top of the CPU that dissipates heat through the use of a cooling fan, keeping the CPU temperature at a safe level. The height of the heatsink may be higher than what is acceptable inside your case. Therefore, you must carefully consider your options such that the CPU cooling system will fit in the PC chassis.

RELATED: Motherboard Components

You might use a liquid cooling system if your computer is utilized for gaming or processing intensive tasks. Liquid cooling comes in two types, all-in-one (AIO) systems and custom systems.

When choosing a liquid cooling system, you should consider the following factors:

  • Does your case support installing radiators? And then, what is the largest size it can accommodate?
  • If you choose a custom system, you also need to be aware of whether the PC case supports reservoir installation in addition to the radiator.

Related: Different Types Of Liquid Cooling

PC Case Form Factor

Okay, so we’ve looked at a variety of factors that affect a PC case’s size above. Honestly, there is no standard form factor for PC cases. Instead, you can choose from a wide range of case sizes on the market to match your preferences for motherboard form factors.

Here are some of the popular PC case form factors commercially available. Also, keep in mind that they are only popular names. Several manufacturers will utilize different names.

Do not worry too much about these names. The key question you need to ask is which motherboards this case supports, ATX, microATX or Mini-ITX, etc. Can liquid cooling be installed? What is the largest PSU that can be placed? And other factors that we have mentioned above.

Full-Tower

This is the largest case size for high-end PCs and servers. It supports the largest motherboard size, EATX, and of course smaller form factors like ATX, microATX also fit. They enable the installation of massive graphics cards, multiple GPUs, and liquid cooling systems with radiators up to 480 mm (4×120 mm) or 420 mm (3×140 mm).

Overall, this is a PC case for enthusiasts. Their personal computers may support large power supplies, powerful graphics cards, expandable storage options, cooling solutions, and customizations to suit individual tastes.

Mid-Tower

This case supports ATX motherboards and smaller form factors such as microATX or Mini-ITX. Several mid-towers permit the installation of liquid cooling systems with radiators up to 360 mm despite the fact that the space is more restricted than in a full-tower. And so this type of case is also favored by many gamers or graphic designers.

Mini-Tower

This is a small PC case and usually supports a microATX motherboard. They are a great balance between size and extensibility. Mini-Tower can reserve more space for liquid cooling system. However, due to the limited size, you are unable to select powerful graphics cards for this type of PC case.

As shown in the table below, you will have a better understanding of the different PC case form factors. The sizes of motherboards, heatsinks, and the clearances of CPU, GPU, and PSU coolers they support vary considerably.

Full-Tower

Corsair 7000D Airflow

Corsair 7000D Airflow - PC Case
  • Motherboard support: EATX
  • Radiator support: 480mm
  • Max. GPU Length: 450mm
  • Max. Cooler Height: 190mm
  • Max. PSU Length: 225mm
  • Drive Bays: (x6)3.5in + (x4)2.5in

Mid-Tower

ASUS TUF Gaming GT301

ASUS TUF Gaming GT301 - PC Case
  • Motherboard support: ATX
  • Radiator support: 360mm
  • Max. GPU Length: 320mm
  • Max. Cooler Height: 160mm
  • Max. PSU Length: 160mm
  • Drive Bays: (x4)3.5in + (x2)2.5in

Mini-Tower

Thermaltake Tower 100

Thermaltake Tower 100 - PC Case
  • Motherboard support: Mini-ITX
  • Radiator support: 120mm
  • Max. GPU Length: 330mm
  • Max. Cooler Height: 190mm
  • Max. PSU Length: 180mm
  • Drive Bays: (x2)3.5in + (x2)2.5in

Small Form Factor (SFF)

This is a cute little PC case and can be designed by manufacturers with unique shapes, like a cube or a tiny tower. They can be placed horizontally or vertically. The common feature of this type is that they support Mini-ITX motherboards with only one expansion card. This type of PC case is often used for computers that do not have high requirements for configuration and only perform simple tasks such as text editing, email or web browsing. Furthermore, they can be used as Home Theater PC (HTPC) for home entertainment activities like movies or music.

Fans and Air Ventilation

Hot air from the cooling systems of the CPU and GPU will remain inside the case if there is no ventilation system. Your computer will last longer and perform better if it has a casing with good airflow.

The principle of airflow is to arrange fans to draw fresh air from the outside in from the front (and/or bottom) and other fans to push the hot air in the case out through the back (and/or top).

Air Ventilation
Air flow with liquid cooling

Most manufacturers include some pre-installation fans in their products, usually 120 mm or 140 mm. They frequently don’t come in sufficient quantities, necessitating the purchase of extras to guarantee the airflow concept. And it is obvious that you want the additional fan to be the same size as the mount available in your case.

The more exhaust fans there are and the bigger the fan’s diameter, the better. If additional fans are needed, you should pick reputed brands to guarantee good ventilation and minimal noise.

Some manufacturers also include additional magnetic dust filters at the air intake positions, limiting dust from entering the case. These filters are easily removable for cleaning.

Cable Management

Cables mainly come from the PSU that supplies power to the motherboard, CPU, storage devices, and to the discrete graphics card. There are also cables that connect the front panel to their headers on the motherboard such as Power Switch, Disk Drive indicator, Power Indicator, Audio, USB header.

A computer case that allows for efficient cable management won’t obstruct internal airflow. As a result, it will make your computer look much better and actually keep it cooler.

We advise selecting a PC case with a separate compartment (often on the right side) for the wiring from the power supply to the motherboard. Then the majority of the wires will be concealed, leaving a clear space for air flow and cleaning.

Side compartment for cabling
Side compartment for cable management

Finally, a modular PSU is a good choice if you want to get rid of unnecessary cables in your PC.

RELATED: Modular PSU

Noise

You don’t want your PC to be operating too loudly if you use it for streaming, webinars, gaming, or music. Noise from your computer comes from reasons such as improper dampers, flimsy chassis, low-quality cooling fans, and other factors.

You should carefully study the reviews of the quality of the cooling system or additional air fans before making your decision, especially in terms of noise. The quiet fans on the market will undoubtedly cost more, but they are an investment that is worthwhile for you.

Additionally, you get to select cases from well-known manufacturers like Cooler Master, be quiet!, Thermaltake, NZXT, etc. Because of their sturdy chassis designs, they operate quietly.

Other Features

Many people are interested in the topic of customization to create the individuality of their case. Therefore, there are numerous appealing case styles available on the market from PC case manufacturers.

Your PC will make a great impression if it has a casing with a side panel made of tempered glass and RGB lighting. To manage the RGB lighting in your own way, the RGB Controller that comes with the software should be your choice. They can be Cooler Master RGB LED or like Corsair iCUE controller or many other brands out there.

Some individuals are also concerned about the case’s appearance in order to express their personality, such as a white PC cases or a wall-mounted case.

One more thing to keep in mind is that if you use a lot of external devices, you should get a case with plenty of USB ports on the front panel. Ideally, providing both USB-A and USB-C ports. You also need to be aware of the front-panel audio jacks as a useful feature. Sometimes, individuals overlook these characteristics. And only when brought back to use, their absence will bring us significant annoyances.

Budget For Your PC Case

Obviously, nothing we said above makes sense if we do not consider the budget for your PC case. Even if your budget is tight, try not to worry too much. When you are clear on the price that you must pay for basic features, you always have great alternatives. Here is an example.

With a limited budget, Thermaltake Versa H17 (Mini-Tower case) might be a good choice for you. It supports the microATX motherboard. In particular, it can accommodate liquid cooling systems with front radiators as large as 280 mm. With this option, you can build an entry-level PC to run most games at 1080p.

There are many elevated options that are within your price range once you know what your budget will afford, what features they have, and whether they are suitable for you.

Additionally, you will have more possibilities when selecting a fantastic PC configuration once money is not an issue for you. However, we also have some advice for you. Avoid wasting too much money on features you don’t really need. Technology is constantly developing swiftly. They might become outdated very quickly. Only core values go with us in the long run.

Summary

You see, it’s simply a PC case, therefore there are a lot of things to consider before choosing to get it.

Reiterating some key points: Before purchasing a PC case, make a list of the major parts you intend to install as listed below.

  • Motherboard form factor.
  • Graphics card and its length.
  • Cooling system: Will liquid or air cooling be used? What about their size?
  • PSU size.
  • How many 3.5 inch HDD, 2.5 inch SSD are required?

Following that, it will be simple to choose a product based on your budget. Hopefully you’ll make the right decision.

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