Building a computer for the first time can be a little scary, but it’s actually a lot easier than it looks, and we’ll be here to show you how it’s done. In our six-part video series, we’ll take you from complete novice to system builder, helping you pick out all the parts you need in order to build the system you want. Whether it’s a small box that will rest under your TV or a gaming rig that will play any game you’d want, our guide will take you through the process step-by-step. The notes found below each guide will include a further write-up along with links to any of the products we talked about in that video.
In this video, we’ll keep it simple and talk about choosing a case. While pre-built desktop manufacturers offer several different models, each with its own case, after a while they all tend to look the same and pale in comparison to the variety of shapes, sizes and colors found when you start to look at building your own. The biggest difference you’ll find when you go to choose your own case is the varying size of the model. Users looking to build an HTPC will want to find a much smaller case that can fit within the pre-existing confines of their entertainment center while others looking to get the biggest, baddest gaming machine will probably look for a much larger design that can fit their video cards, multiple hard drives and other components. The three main sizes typically seen in desktop cases are mini-towers, generally 14-18 inches tall, mid-tower cases, generally 22-25 inches in height, and full towers, which can be larger than 30 inches tall. Aside from obvious differences in height, you’ll find that the number of expansion bays these systems offer will also vary depending on how tall they are. A mini-tower case may only a couple of drive bays, while full towers can have eight or more.
Once you know what size case you want, you can be more selective and look for the features you need. Be sure to look at how much space there is inside the case, and how easy it will be to move around and tinker inside, since once you build your desktop, you’ll probably end up endlessly rearranging cables and components. One thing to keep in mind is that, unless you buy a case that has specific areas for cable management (and this is a good idea), chances are you’re going to have cables flying all around your machine, which can make it difficult to pull a bad hard drive or install a new video card. If you live in a warm environment, you may want to look for a case that offers several mounting points for additional fans in order to keep everything running cool. Much like cars, users can customize their case to reflect their personality with paint jobs, new lighting systems, window panels and more.
The case we’ve chosen for this build is the Antec Twelve Hundred. So called because of the massive twelve drive bays that it offers, Antec’s full tower case is designed for enthusiasts and gamers, or those who want a ton of available storage. It offers seven expansions slots in the rear, enough to run just about anything you might need, including dual graphics cards and extra peripherals. Six fans are included, with three in the front, two in the rear and one large 200mm fan on top. Mounting points for two more are included for extra cooling power. Each fan can be individually controlled exterally, and blue LEDs give a surreal glow to both the components and the surrounding room.
One final note: barring really great sales, you often get what you pay for in terms of computer components. While that doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars on what is essentially a metal box for your computer, neither should you jump at the $19.99 case that manages to come with its own power supply. You’ll probably end up frustrated with its shortcomings at best and may end up damaging something at worst.
Stay tuned for the rest of our tutorial series on how to build your own computer from scratch. The next video will cover prepping the where you’ll be working and installing our first internal components into the case. Meanwhile, be sure to take a look in our forums if you have any questions on choosing your own components or how to customize your case to your liking.
Antec Twelve Hundred at Antec.com