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Cooling Basics

Author: Bob Dyl
Manufacturer: General
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Case and Power Supply

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective's website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.


Choosing a case to house your computer is the first in a long line of critical decisions you’ll be making. Sit down and write out a list of all the peripherals you’ll be placing into your computer, now make a second list of the devices you’d like to add say, within a year.


From your list you should be able to determine what size case and power supply will be best suited for your needs. For most people a mid-tower as pictured here should do the trick. It is the Lian-Li PC-10 Aluminum case, which just happens to be the case I have (if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you).


Why aluminum?? For a number of reasons including light weight, durability and most important, is that an aluminum case acts as a huge heatsink helping to reduce the heat build up within the case. The difference in internal case temperature between comparable steel cases is as much as 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or 2.8 to 5 degrees Celsius. The case shown has four external 5.25 inch bays, three external 3.5 inch bays and three internal 3.5 inch bays allowing ample room for expansion. Is a case like this expensive?? Yes, anywhere from a $125.00 USD to as much as $ 600.00 USD. The Lian-Li PC-10 cost me $159.00 USD. Was it worth it?? It was for me!!!


Don’t get me wrong, there are many very good steel cases available in the marketplace the Antec and GlobalWin cases come to mind and are very reasonably priced between $75.00 and $125.00 USD and there are others that can cost in excess of $200 USD. It all comes down to getting the best case you can afford; it is not the item to economize on.


Case Airflow is a critical ingredient in a well cooled system the drawing depicts the inside of the Lian-Li case showing off one of its many features the floor mounted hard drive bracket right in front of the two intake fans. While most cases have at least one intake fan to bring cool air into the case this one has two to supply intake air and at the same time cool the high RPM hard drives.


You’ll notice the back panel is equipped with an exhaust fan in the area where the CPU would be located so you can see the natural path of air flow. The opening in the top of the rear panel would be where your power supply would be located with vents on the inside passing air through the power supply and exhausted by the power supply fan (located in the power supply).


I know, it looks nice and natural, but remember we don’t have anything in the case to block or disrupt the airflow. Try to picture in your mind, a fully loaded case with the IDE ribbon cables and the power supply lines in place, hold onto that image as we’ll come back to it many times.


 


The case on the left is fully loaded, if you go back to our drawing you can see how the airflow has been disrupted by the wiring harness and the Flat Ribbon cable. The case on the right has the wiring harness wire tied and loomed; the Flat Ribbon cables have been rounded and loomed as well, restoring in a large part, our airflow. The differences noted here can mean a reduction in overall temperatures of from 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or 1.7 to 5.6 degrees Celsius. Later on we’ll explore Machine Rounded Cables that accomplish the same goal.


What’s important to remember in buying a case is that it should have a minimum of one 80mm intake fan mounted in the front bottom of the case and at least one 80mm exhaust fan mounted in the back in the area of the CPU or for larger cases above the power supply. If at all possible, try to purchase a case that has a removable motherboard tray it will make it much easier to assemble your computer. Finally, purchase a case that has the largest capacity power supply you can, preferably 300 watts or better. Most of the high end cases, like the Lian-Li and Coolermaster aluminum cases do not include a power supply as standard equipment, but are supplied at an additional cost.


My Pet Peeve with just about every case made is that they put in areas if not fans themselves usually in the right places, and then they ruin the effect the fans can have by having so much metal in front so that the fan can not intake its capacity of air and in the back the same thing happens and the fan cannot exhaust what it’s capable of. A mod that should be performed on any case that fits this description is to cut out the excess metal (before installing anything and then a thorough clean up to remove all metal shavings). This alone, can drastically improve your case cooling.

Power Supply replacements are often required when people attempt to use poor quality or underpowered units to drive a power hungry high performance computer. Day in and day out we see compatibility issues in the forums that are quickly solved by a good power supply. There are many very good power supplies to choose from, the Antec, the PC Power & Cooling and Sparkle are three that come to mind.


Our choice is the Enermax brand of high quality, high performance units that supply ample wattage to handle just about any Dream Machine you might build.






Please note that the picture of the Enermax Power Supply shows that it is equipped with not one, but two fans. The rear exhaust fan is an 80mm and the intake fan is a 92mm fan. In addition to its power, it is very quiet and aids in cooling. The 92mm fan sits above the CPU area and draws off heat into the power supply that is then exhausted by the 80mm fan. In large full-tower cases it might be reversed so that the 92mm fan is taking in hot air that rises above the power supply and the 80mm fan exhausts it in the same manner.


I believe you can understand why it’s our power supply of choice. The Enermax Power Supplies are available in 350 watt, 431 watt and 550 watt units.


Note: depending on the size of your case and the location of the power supply you may require an ATX power supply extension in order to reach the motherboard connector as seen (Enermax Power supplies have a long power cable and therefore wouldn’t require the use of the 9” 20 Pin ATX Power Supply extensions pictured).

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