We discussed using a metal drive cage previously, but other assemblies can be lifted from metal cases and applied directly to your design if you want to save some work. Motherboard trays are useful, especially if you need the card slots. These parts are readily salvageable from a discarded case, and the benefit of having the correct dimensions is obvious. Even if you don’t need the card slots, a motherboard tray can be a timesaver without detracting from the look of your clear case if you have the motherboard mounted on the case floor. No one will really see it.
Don’t miss out on other assemblies that can be salvaged. Some cases have panels with LEDs and switches neatly arranged. You may want a PC speaker. Look for opportunities to save yourself a little extra labor.
Performance enthusiasts know that the primary source of heat in your case is your CPU. Don’t neglect the other sources though. PSUs generate substantial heat, and are normally vented to the outside. If you get creative with PSU placement, you may wind up with a cooling problem to solve (speaking from personal experience). Other sources to consider are performance graphics cards and motherboard chipsets. Unless you’re watercooling, you’ll want to give some consideration to airflow in your case and how the heat sources dump heat in your case.
It’s easy to pop in a fan, but component placement can impact cooling as well. You may not want to ruin the visuals with huge fans, so working toward side or rear fan placement may be preferable if possible. Consider smaller fans, and clear fans, which are now on the market too.
What makes your case unique is the way that you choose to address each of these issues. I view a successful design as the realized product of solving these various problems, plus whatever constraints you impose yourself (portable case for example).
That about wraps up our design discussion. All these factors will contribute to a successful case design. I know that gives you a lot to think about while you wait for the release of the next article in this series: Construction Techniques. Watch this space closely for the next installment, and if you have questions, bring them over to the forums and we’ll discuss them with you.
As an aid in tracking your decisions and organizing your thought processes, I’ve developed a case planning worksheet you can print.
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