PC Case Terms: The Beginners Guide
Tech terms can be a lot for the everyday person to digest. It can seem like someone is speaking an entirely different language. If you're new to the world of computer cases and custom building, looking to purchase a computer case soon, or even just brushing up on your knowledge, then you've come to the right place!
A computer case is a physical component that serves as a way to contain all of the actual parts inside a computer like a motherboard, hard drive, and other items. Now PC cases can get complicated, but stay with us and we will talk you through some of the must-know terms.
- Tool-Free Design: This term started in the marketing department and became part of the PC builder's vernacular. A tool-free design is exactly what it sounds like; parts of the PC case that do not require screws or a screwdriver to install. Drive bays are typically referred to as tool free.
- ATX, Micro ATC, Mini-ITX: When it's all said and done, these acronyms are really just sizes. ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended. ATX motherboards can measure up to 12.9'x9.6' in size. Micro ATX motherboards measure up to 9.6"x9.6" but are typically much smaller. The Mini-ITX motherboards are typically 6.7"x6.7".
- Front I/O: A general term for external ports (such as USB and audio) that are part of a PC case, typically in the front.
- Thumbscrews: These chunky little screws can be turned without the need for tools, and are used in many PC cases and hold together different parts of the case.
- Airflow: Computers generate heat, and proper case airflow and ventilation are needed to keep the parts from overheating and failing. Gaming PC cases are typically designed with high airflow in mind.
These next few terms are related to the physical size of the case itself. These terms may vary from site to site however, these are the most common.
- Small Form Factor: Average 9" tall
- Mini Tower: Average 14' tall
- Mid Tower: Average 18' tall
- Full Tower: average 24" tall
You'll need to decide how much available room you have and if you'll want to make upgrades in the future. Obviously the larger the case, the more versatility you have. An ATX motherboard will typically require a Mid Tower or larger, while a Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX will fit in a Small Form Factor or Mini Tower case.
Computer cases come with all manner of features for expandability to suit a variety of needs. Here are a few basic terms you'll find in most computer cases:
- Internal drive bays: These will be either 2.5" or 3.5" in size to support hard drives and solid state drives, which will store most of your computer's information.
- External drive bays: These will be either 5.25" or 3.5" and are used mostly for DVD and other optical drives. As more computers move to online streaming, however, these are beginning to disappear and may not be found at all on some of the latest computer cases.
- PCI Slots: These line up with slots on the motherboard and allow you to mount expansion cards such as graphics cards, sounds cards, and networking cards.
You might not be a PC case expert yet, but hopefully, these terms helped you grasp the basics. These are still tons of terms out there so be sure to do your research if you are planning on buying a computer case of your very own! Also be sure to stay up-to-date with our blog and latest product updates by following us on our social media pages!
- Elaina R