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How To Choose A PC Case: 5 Features To Consider

A PC case with RGB lighting and liquid cooling inside.
Syafiq Adnan / Shutterstock.com

When building a PC, the case is usually an afterthought. People pick a CPU, GPU, a good motherboard, RAM, a PSU, maybe a liquid cooler ̵

1; and, on whatever budget, they’ll take a suitcase. But your PC’s case deserves more attention than that. Here are five important things to keep in mind.

Dimensions housing

A micro ATX case with two RGB fans on the front and a glass panel side.
The Corsair Crystal Series 280X Micro-ATX case.

This one is easy and obvious, but still shouldn’t be overlooked. The first thing to consider is the size of your PC case. There are several sizes for PC enclosures, including full tower, mid-tower, and smaller enclosures for mini-ITX and micro-ATX motherboards.

The vast majority of PC builders use a mid-tower because they are not too big, are widely available, and are built for standard ATX motherboards. A mid-tower also fits smaller motherboards, but that can look a bit clunky depending on the case.

Full towers are much larger and fit the expanded ATX motherboards. Hardcore hobbyists with extensive experience looking for space for custom parts or a lot of components will usually opt for these cases.

Finally, the mini-ITX and micro-ATX enclosures are all about tiny PCs that need to fit in a small space, like a living room entertainment center, and they can be frustratingly difficult to deal with when you get parts that don’t to fit .

If this is your first time building a PC, stick with a mid-tower so you can stay within your budget while still offering a wide variety of choices.

A solid mid-tower case


The inside of a gaming PC with RBG LEDs.
A PC with liquid cooling. Alberto Garcia Guillen / Shutterstock

Not all PC cases are built with the same ability to move air. It all depends on the size of the case, the number of fans and whether there are enough strategically placed vents.

Your suitcase should have at least two fans (in many cases, some standard fans are also included). One fan should be for the inlet to get fresher air into the case and one for the outlet to take the hot stuff out.

Vents are also a consideration for passively bringing in more air or where you can place additional fans. Some come with filters, which is a great help in keeping your PC from getting too hairy with dust.

RELATED: When should you buy an aftermarket CPU cooler?

This is all about keeping the case cool. Most people will do just fine simply looking for the attributes listed above. However, if you’re looking for an overclocking sample or live in a particularly hot location, it’s worth checking out case reviews to see which cases perform best for cooling.

A popular choice

Cable management

Close-up of rubber grommets in a Phanteks case.
The rubber grommets in the Phanteks Enthoo Pro case.

Cables are one of the biggest problems of any PC build. They are annoying, frustrating and they look awful if you don’t plan where you want them to run. Most cases come with some cable management features, and some are better than others.

Ideally, you want features that allow the cables to easily disappear from the front of the case, such as cutouts or grommets, as well as some rear cable entry holes and tension straps. Power supply shroud is also great for keeping things looking tidier, although some PC builders don’t like that.

A suitcase with grommets

The front panel

A front panel of a PC case with six USB ports.
The front panel of the Corsair Obsidian Series 1000D PC case.

PC cases have a lot of variety when it comes to the front panel. Here you usually have a headphone jack, maybe a microphone jack, some USB ports and other types of connectivity. You can find cases that simply have two USB ports like the NZXT H510 or cases with a much higher number of ports like Corsair’s Obsidian Series 1000D.

What you want here really depends on your needs and how many devices you plan on using that require easy access to USB ports. As for the headphone jacks on the front panel, these are largely crap as case makers run the jumper wires the entire length of the case. That means they can pick up all kinds of interference that travels along the motherboard before the sound reaches your ears. You are much better off using a headphone jack on the motherboard or a dedicated audio device such as a sound card or external DAC.

Lots of ports

Drive Bays

Old 3.5-inch hard drives aren’t the best choice for your primary drive (That honor belongs to M.2 NVMe drives.) These old clunkers are still great for data storage, and because they’re so cheap, you can easily add a few. terabytes of storage space on your PC are relatively cheap.

Almost all PC cases come with drive bays to house them, but depending on the number of drives you want to put in your PC, you may need a case with extra bays. Don’t forget a case with sporty mounting points for 2.5-inch SSDs.

Clearance and length

A long Zotac graphics card with three fans and RGB lighting.
The 324mm long Zotac Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Amp Extreme was a challenge to fit into smaller enclosures.

While building PCs is all about “plug-and-play” universal compatibility, there are situations where some components just don’t work in a specific case. This has to do with the free height of more expensive components.

For example, aftermarket air CPU coolers are often huge, chunky things that may not fit in some cases. The same is true for high-end dedicated graphics cards that can be longer than the average graphics card, requiring more space. Before you buy any of these, you want to make sure they fit your chosen case.

Also related are all-in-one liquid cooling systems that come ready-to-install. AIOs usually only need to take up space where you can hang extra fans. If you have that kind of space, you must be set up on an AIO. However, you should check that the size and number of fans are supported by the case.

Don’t make your case an afterthought

A PC case shouldn’t be your first consideration when building a new PC, but it should be more than just an afterthought. A poorly designed enclosure can ruin your PC building experience, make upgrades more difficult, and even lower the overall performance of your installation. These problems are easy to avoid with a little extra attention to detail.

RELATED: Where to Spend When Building a PC (and Where You Shouldn’t)

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