What do you need to know when purchasing a PC case?

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Buying a PC case is, in many ways, just as important as buying the components to put in it. A cheap case risks shorting components, sharp edges that can nick errant fingers, and inadequate cooling that won’t help your other hardware perform at its best. You also need to buy the right size and shape of case for your motherboard, power supply, and graphics card, and ensure it has enough storage drive bays for whatever configuration of SSDs and hard drives you’re looking to put in it.

There are plenty of budget cases out there that will certainly do the job if you just need a metal box to put your PC in, but there’s a huge difference between a well-crafted minimalist case and a case that won’t do your system justice. Where the former might cost a bit more in the short term, the latter will lead to a lackluster PC building experience, and might even pose a danger to your components if it isn’t well-grounded, causing more costs in the long term.

If you’re looking to build a new system, or are trying to choose between a few similarly-specced pre-builds, here’s everything you need to know when purchasing a PC case.

NZXT H510 Flow Tempered Glass ATX Mid-Tower Computer Case - White

Why You Should Buy A Good Case

Buying the best PC case for your PC won’t give you better performance, but it will ensure that you have a system that is cool and quiet, and looks good, all while facilitating whatever other component choices you make.

You don’t need to buy the highest of the high-end (unless you want to), but a quality case will be leaps and bounds ahead of the cheapest cases out there. Bargain basement designs will use extremely thin metal that can warp, bend, and often isn’t sanded or lapped, leaving sharp edges that pose a very real threat to the integrity of the skin on your fingers and hands. Worse still, they risk shearing through fan and power cables, at best leading to a broken-but-reparable PC, or at worst, killing an expensive component.

Higher quality cases will also be built with ease-of-use in mind, giving you ready access to the motherboard tray or CPU backing plate. They also feature cable routing channels and hooks for better cable management, and are built to facilitate airflow, leaving plenty of space for cool air to enter, and hot air to be exhausted, often with dust filters to prevent internal dust build up on components and make cleaning simpler.

Higher-quality cases will use higher quality materials, like brushed aluminum side panels, tempered glass windows instead of plastic, and mesh panels for greater airflow. They will also often have a more sturdy frame, leading to less flexing of the chassis and giving you better protection for your components if you travel with the system.

The most expensive cases tend to be the biggest and are built with a specific kind of system in mind, whether that’s a huge eATX or dual-PC design, or something with a plethora of water cooling mounts and custom fan configurations. These are more nice-to-haves rather than a necessity, so when it comes to picking the right case for your PC, it’s important to look at the specs and features of a case, and check out individual reviews to see how they hold up under real-world testing.

Montech X1 Tempered Glass ATX Mid-Tower Computer Case - Black

What To Look For When Picking A Case

Although you may just want a case that looks cool, there are some important elements that everyone must consider when picking a PC case that will determine the kind of case that’s best suited for their build.

Style and Size

There are a few different case styles that are partly related to the physical size of the chassis, and partly to accommodate particular types of motherboards. The smallest are Mini-ITX which tend to only fit Mini-ITX motherboards. They’re usually the most compact overall and are great for smaller system builds where you want to be able to easily transport the system, or don’t have a lot of space for them.

Mini-ITX systems may support water cooling in a limited fashion, but not always, and their restrictive physical dimensions mean it’s important to check whether your graphics card and system cooling can fit before buying. Due to their niche use, quality Mini-ITX cases can be more expensive than some of their more generic, larger counterparts.

Micro ATX, or mATX, is the next largest size. Sometimes referred to as Mid-Tower cases, they usually support mATX and Mini-ITX motherboards and are usually much larger than those catering exclusively to Mini-ITX. They have space for more cooling fans or larger water cooling radiators and can often fit larger air coolers and longer graphics cards, as well as offering more storage bays.

ATX cases, sometimes referred to as Full Tower cases, support most sizes of motherboards and almost always offer plenty of space for large graphics cards and air coolers, multiple water cooling radiators, and a large number of SSDs and hard drives. Older or specialized cases may have optical drive mounts, and you’ll have extra space for cable management or custom water cooling loops, too.

The physical size of ATX cases can vary dramatically, so check the dimensions if you’re unsure about whether it would fit on or under your desk. Larger cases tend to be easier to work with owing to their larger internal spaces for your hands and tools to fit, too.

The largest cases are still considered Full Towers, but they can fit eATX motherboards. These cases give you extra room for massive storage arrays, the largest of, or even multiple, graphics cards, and even more space for cooling fans and water cooling radiators. If you want a massive custom water cooling loop with distribution plates and large reservoirs, eATX cases give you all the space you need to do it.

In every instance, ensure that not only is the case rated to fit your components, but that you have the physical space for it. The biggest cases can get very big and take up a lot of space on or under a desk.

MICRO CENTER EXCLUSIVE: Lian Li O11 Dynamic EVO Tempered Glass ATX Mid-Tower Computer Case - Gray - Micro Center Exclusive Model

Can It Fit Everything Inside?

The physical size of a case is usually a good indicator of how big it is inside, but not always. There are huge cases that are more exterior styling than they are cavernous shells for big components, and there are tiny cases that maximize the space for every component so you can build a compact powerhouse with some of the fastest hardware available.

Fortunately, most cases outside of extreme budget models will provide you with the dimensions and specifications need to know whether your components can fit inside them. Here are some of the specific hardware size limitations your case may have:

•     Graphics card length and width: Smaller cases may not have a long or deep enough main bay to fit particularly big graphics cards. This is particularly problematic in Mini-ITX cases, although some use riser cables to move the GPU to different areas to make sure even big cards can fit. Usually, case manufacturers will list GPU supported lengths in inches or millimeters. As for thickness, you may need to see what the clearance is like at the bottom of the motherboard tray to see whether the case can take a single-slot, dual-slot, or triple-slot GPU and its cooler.

•     Power supply style support: Most power supplies are ATX certified, conforming to a specific set of physical dimensions, and most cases support those dimensions. However, the smallest cases will not, and instead demand the newer style of SFX power supply. In some ultra-niche cases you may be forced to use a Flex ATX or even TFX power supply, too.

•     Storage bays: If you have an ultra-modern PC that only uses M.2 and NVMe drives for storage, you don’t need to worry too much about the case’s storage options, but for everyone else, storage bays are a must. Mounting points for 2.5-inch drives work just as well for SATA hard drives as they do SSDs, but many smaller cases now don’t offer much for 3.5-inch drives. If you have lots of larger hard drives you want to fit in your case, ensure it has the mounting points for them.

•     Cooler height and mounting points: Whether you want to fit a large air cooler or multiple water cooling radiators, ensure that there is enough space for them. Smaller cases can’t take huge tower coolers, and only the biggest cases will have space for multiple big radiators.

Cooling and Noise Levels

Whether you are using air or water cooling to keep your components cool, good system cooling means fans. The ones that come fitted in some cases are great, but others aren’t, or don’t come with enough. You want at least one intake and one exhaust fan, but big builds may need more, and if the in-built fans are cheap and loud, you may want to buy better quality ones.

Make sure that you budget aftermarket cooling into your build if you want a PC that runs both cool and quiet.

Need a new case? Win one!

We've got a brand-new Fractal Torrent to give away!

After putting together our Case Guide, we felt in the giving mood - so we're giving away a Fractal Torrent case!

Starting today and running through April 25th, we want to see what you’d do with a Fractal Torrent case. Using our PC Builder, make the machine of your dreams, but be sure to build it in a Fractal Torrent. Then, post it in the comments below and you’re on your way to making that dream a reality!

Winners will be contacted the week after the contest ends.


How to enter (see terms and conditions for full contest rules):

·        Join the Micro Center community

·        Build your dream PC using the PC Builder on the Micro Center website – Be sure to include a Fractal Torrent case, PSU, CPU, and motherboard! (See instructions below)

·        Post the link from the “Share” widget in the comments with a short description of why you picked your parts.


How to create your build in the Custom PC Builder

Step 1. Head over to the PC Builder

 Step 2. Fill out the builder

Step 3. Copy the link from the share box on the right-hand side

Step 4. Paste the link in this thread and tells us about your build!

We can't wait to see your Fractal builds!

Good luck!

See attached contest terms and conditions.

Contest submission window:  4/15/2022-11:59 PM EST 4/25/2022

One 1st place winner will receive a Fractal Torrent case



  • Marinela

    I like this case because it already has the 5 included fans so it saves me the hassle of losing screws or turning the case sideways or up and what not. It has really good airflow and it looks aesthetically pleasing, nice little RGB and secretly just standing there making almost no noise. I chose intel and DDR5 for gaming and rendering, primarily gaming, but this thing it's a beast and can handle both with no problems.


  • Missjei
    Missjei ✭✭
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Comment
    edited April 2022

    i cant post my link it says "You have to be around for a little while longer before you can post links.". Can this be fixed? @SeanM

  • Hunter_Rose

    I picked something that would be a little future proof. I am one that keeps my PCs for quite some time so when I do a full upgrade, I tend to spend quite a bit since I know I will be using it for quite some time. I decided to go with an Intel based system because the new 12 series seems to have reclaimed the crown, but I would stick with AMD if their next gen CPUs take back the lead. I went with a 3080. It is a good, sweet spot in performance, and I will need something with a little extra power to drive the Samsung Ultrawide monitor that I chose for work and for gaming. Currently I use a 32" Samsung Odyssey monitor, but I would like something that can have three "full sized" windows open at the same time. Being a teacher means that I have multiple windows open constantly to lesson plan and grade papers. The GMMK Pro was chosen simply because I want the ability to swap out switches and make the keyboard "mine". I picked the fully assembled version just so I can have a working keyboard while I research switches and keycaps. The mouse is one of the lightest on the market and I prefer a light mouse. The PSU was chosen because Seasonic has a reputation for being the best in the field. I currently use the same PSU that I chose, and I love it. The only upgrade I would make is to go with the 1000 watt version to add a little more future proofing to the PC. Finally, the case was chosen because I love the design of this case. I have been wanting to upgrade my current rig with a Fractal Torrent to give it more airflow and from USB-C. I went with the RGB version because I love the fan glow that comes through the front fins, but the standard version also looks great.


  • flipper
    flipper ✭✭
    First Anniversary Photogenic First Comment
    edited April 2022

    Went for a frugal AMD gaming build. Would have used 5800X3D if it were available at this time. Would have used black case if it were the same price as the white case.

    Had some more expensive 3600C14 RAM in the build before I decided not to invest in expensive DDR4 anymore. Next build will probably be DDR5.


  • Jangland
    First Comment
    edited April 2022

    Really digging that case. My current primary case is old enough to have seen 4 processors and 3 video card changes. Maybe it is about time to build something out new and use a new case. :-)

    It won't let me post the link, but here is the code for the URL: c8ddf96a-a2f7-4ddc-9707-d0f447dfe733

  • Missjei


    i picked these parts because together they make an ultimate gaming machine that will last for years! All parts are from reliable brands and have an RGB theme going on. The Fractal case is a nice touch of style with good airflow and a nice side panel to admire the parts. This beast will sure have everyone turning heads.

  • 1st time using the builder...love having Microcenter as my "go-to" resource for anything tech related. This is my dream rig. Playing and streaming for years to come. I've built 7 PC for myself and family, mostly frugal and very inexpensively, and the tool make it so much easier now than ever. My 77 yo dad could pick his on box at this point and I wouldn't have to explain every single item to him. I bet the folks at MC will be a lot happier to not have folks like me wandering around undecided on what works...but still happy to help find just the right piece of the puzzle.

    It won't let me post the link, but here is the code for the URL: a5e035d4-96ca-41a7-8746-237498107a9a

  • twangansta

    I've been rocking my i5-3570K build since 2012, so I picked these parts to hopefully last me another 10 years. With the Fractal Torrent's included case fans, I wouldn't need to worry about cooling much, and the CPU/GPU/PSU I picked would surely maintain optimal performance and not degrade to heat stress.


  • zholmes1517

    I have been using a macbook air as the base of all my gaming needs for around two years now. I'm really hoping to begin building a full PC at some point in the near future and fully explore PC gaming. If I were to design a PC, regardless of budget, I would hope to use it for gaming, some streaming, and video editing. I chose the i7 and 32gb of ram precisely for streaming and video editing. I think the 3070 ti would be more than enough for my gaming needs, and would also compliment the i7 really well. I really love all-black builds with minimal rgb, so all the components are intended to reflect that. The fractal design torrent is perfect for cooling and the black version is an incredibly beautiful case. I didn't want to upgrade to ddr5 memory, mostly because the price is still so expensive. Honestly, I would love to step into the PC world with any system. But, if I were to build a perfect one, then I would not change a thing about this list.


  • esarhaddon

    Sorry, I'm old school and still NEED a slot for a CD/DVD drive. I can't see any Practical means of loading the OS on a virgin system without having some means of either using a disk or making up a system drive on another machine if you want to tell me that it is on the WEB. And yes I do have an outboard DVD drive, but that is what a case is for. Not having to plug and unplug things every time you want to use them for something.

  • Brauer

    I threw this together as a gaming-oriented build, I went with a 5800x because the website didn't let me select the 5800x3D, but that's what I'd actually put into it if money was no object. I don't really do any production, so going AMD feels like a good way to get top tier performance and avoid any p/e core teething issues with intel. It also won't let me post links but here's the code: 50f747d7-b723-40ef-931a-b642db4c84b9

  • BowlPlatt

    Modest build that (should) last at least 5-7 years, barring an unforeseen advancement in graphics tech. Would build this for a friend.

    I'm not allowed to post links due to my account age apparently, so I'm assuming this code can be pasted at the end of any URL for the PC Builder: 5efbe950-5e96-40d6-b784-bc95c8dd4902

  • spawn447
    First Comment
    edited April 2022

    just what im looking for :) , it will be a beast .... just need the do not disturb sign

    and like the above user , i just found this place . so linky no worky , here is the end of the URL 4807fa51-1ab6-4301-b70b-12be20808e16

  • Scary_Guy
    Scary_Guy ✭✭✭
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes

    Back in the 90's my grandfather was a maintenance custodian at my high school. They'd throw out systems and he'd bring them to me. One of them was a beast of a rackmount that I still use to this day. It has no name or case badge anywhere on it and I painted it black leaving some of the original beige accents.

    I hate side windows because of possible RFI, though I know it's less of a thing these days with better components on the motherboard (ESD straps are no longer a thing because of that) and probably better window plastics that are fit to purpose. Still don't trust it though and for me it isn't a fashion show.

  • magarity
    magarity ✭✭✭✭
    First Anniversary 5 Up Votes First Comment First Answer

    My high schooler has asked about getting a desktop. Currently has a refurbished Lenovo laptop (from Microcenter) for school but would like something more powerful. A Fractal case is way more than the budget but if we can win one then that would be awesome! This is what I would put together, although I already have several of the parts to hand-me-down.

  • RickTheRock

    I've always loved the clean look of a white case, plus getting a 3090 would be a dream to play with friends. Not a build I could ever afford but one I would love! Just getting into PC gaming and my friend just built a completely white build, won't lie, makes me a little jealous.

  • Oldbiobrat

    I'm thinking of an HTPC, so I went with an i3 and a wifi equipped mobo. I might throw a video card in later for light gaming. It's not letting me post the link so here's the code: 042c2ce9-79f1-465f-bfc9-5f9e6f1afc95

  • realzlock

    im currently gaming with an i5-6500, a 1060 3gb, and a gigabyte motherboard with 32GB of crucial ram and i've got that all in an old fractal arc mini r2 and i am so in love with this case that i know for a fact that whenever i upgrade into the more modern era, i'd love to stick with fractal cases. my temps are always good even when i push my previous-generation hardware to play current-generation games on medium/high graphics settings and i think i owe a fair bit of that to the case's solid design.

    i designed this PC to take advantage of the beauty of the white fractal torrent case and build upon that while also being relatively cost-effective - let's be honest, i wouldn't be so driven to enter this contest if money wasn't a factor lol. that's part of the decision making of the i5-12600k vs the i7-12700k, i save $100 right there. going with 2x16gb ram in white matches the vibe im going for while leaving another two slots for ram expansion in the future, balancing cost and futureproofing. i think the choice of the 3070 is a similar balance of cost and futureproofing, the card will last me as long as i need it to and will play everything that comes out over the next couple years and maybe at that point i build new or just upgrade CPU to an i9 and the GPU to whatever the current model is then.

    thanks microcenter for being a great place for me to get into this hobby and helping me along as i've added ram and fans to my current build and helping me make sure everything works together. your columbus store staff is fantastic!

    https://www.microcenter com/site/content/custom-pc-builder.aspx?load=a867cd1b-973e-4a85-8b46-5e394dd560fb

    im having the common issue in this thread where ive not been around the community long enough to post links, so i broke it by deleting the dot in dot com

  • zackcentury

    Custom PC Builder: 15038e69-8100-4dd7-ba87-fa29541a645a

    I've been going back and forth on an Intel or AMD build to replace my aging Haswell system. Since GPU prices are dropping and MC has the best price on the 5600x, I spec'd an all AMD build that probably has an upgrade path to the 3D cache CPUs. Asrock mobo for the post code readout. Asrock gpu to match!

    Other parts are current best bang for buck IMO but I generally opt for 80+ Gold rather than Bronze PSUs which I've picked here. Max power draw looks like it should be near the PSU's most efficient point.

    Should be good for 1080p and maybe lighter 1440p gaming. My workstation build would be a bit different.

  • gqrbqge
    gqrbqge ✭✭✭
    First Anniversary 5 Up Votes Combo Breaker 5 Likes


    I'm a big AMD fan so I went with the Ryzen 7 5800x. The case that was an option was the Fractal Torrent Which is white so I wen ith all while components to make it look a lot nicer! I went with a 3080 ti which is my dream card.

  • Hector_Almonte
    edited April 2022
    Ryzen cpu price is going down as well as gpu in general and i want to take the opportunity also summer is coming and i was thinking about adding water cooling and some big fans to my case.  I spend most of my time in illustrator and photoshop because I'm a graphic designer and I play a lot of games at 144hz, that's the reason I want to build a super computer, to play without worry because my Gpu is burning this season.
  • JavaCafz

    This is Everything in my current build besides of course the Fractal Design Torrent! I picked these parts as I already have these components and it would just make my pc I would run way cooler in the Fractal Design Torrent Compared to my old PC that still has an Optical Drive cage and No Front Airflow this would solve a lot of issue with my build running at 82C While playing Minecraft Lol. I already have my dream build besides a new case since I ran out of budget but this would be an awesome addition to my pc

    I cant seem to be able to post my link so here's a screen shot of the build

  • Smooted

    This would be my dream pc, I would be able to play any game with ease due to the 6800 XT's power and i could rip through Solidworks simulations like nothing because of the cores from the 12600K and the 32GB of memory. The 2 monitors would increase my productivity while working and would be fast enough to keep up with my gaming.

    Custom PC Builder: 3d5c419a-5d01-4cc6-a311-9232c3dfcd92

  • nellis51

    I created a system that would be used as a workstation and as an after-hours gaming system, so I opted for an Intel - Core i9-12900K, paired with an ASUS - Z690 ROG Maximus DDR5 Intel LGA 1700 mobo, ASUS - NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti ROG Strix video card, and 32GB of G.Skill - Trident Z5 RGB DDR5. My only future upgrade would be to up the RAM to 64GB. Thank you so much for the opportunity and good luck to all!

    I cannot post links at this time so here's a screenshot of the build:


    I've been saving up (and waiting for GPU prices to normalize a little more) for a build very similar to this. It includes a AMD 5900X, Asus Prime x570 motherboard, 32GB of RAM, 2tb NVME, 850PSU, Asus ROG Strix 3080, NZXT Z63 AIO, all enclosed in a Fractal Torrent case.

    (Can't post links yet to heres a stupidly long screenshot on mobile!)

    Went a little over the top here but was fun as a concept! Love the case. Very sleek. Wanted to see how much I could fit in it and I think this build shows it can hold quite a bit of hardware! 
  • nanoflower

    I do like the Torrent case. If I were actually buying/building a new system today this is probably the case I would use as it allows for a great deal of flexibility and it is one of the few cases that still has plenty of room for storage. Something that too many have forgone in their designs.

    My build (can't call it a dream build due to the lack of choices in GPU) is:

  • Cosmic_The_Builder
    edited April 2022

    This is my dream build, but my current build is mostly fine. The only issues with my current build are the water cooling for the CPU and the case itself. The 5800X isn't making air cooling easy.

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