Free Drive Bays

One of the primary characteristics of any desktop computer case is the number of bays it contains for drives of various types—hard drives, floppy drives, CD-ROM drives, tape backup drives, zip drives, and so on. For most desktop cases, each bay can be classified into one of four categories:

Hidden bays are recessed into the computer's case so that the devices they hold aren't exposed to the outside. Hidden bays are therefore useful mainly for hard disks. Hidden 5.25-inch bays are rare in today's computers, because the vast majority of 5.25-inch devices work with removable media such as CD-ROMs and tapes. Most cases today have at least one representative of each of the remaining three categories, although there are exceptions to this rule.

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Note

Cases come with panels you can snap into place in front of unused visible bays. You can also use a hard disk in a visible bay and use these panels to block access to the hard drive. If you leave off this panel, you can disrupt air flow patterns in the case, and make it easier to accidentally jar the hard disk.

Part i

In years past, bays were commonly classified by height. Full-height bays could hold the large hard drives of the mid-1980s. In time, half-height bays and devices came into being, and today the vast majority of 5.25-inch devices are half-height. Third-height devices are, as you might imagine, one-third the height of full-height devices. Most 3.5-inch devices are third-height. Some cases are designed in such a way that you can add devices of any height to at least some bays, or consolidate them as necessary. For instance, a bay might take a single full-height drive or two half-height drives.

All other things being equal, you should maximize the number of available drive bays in any case you buy. As a general rule, visible bays are more flexible than are hidden drive bays, and 5.25-inch bays are more desirable than are 3.5-inch bays.

It's possible to mount 3.5-inch components in a 5.25-inch bay by using an adapter like the one shown in Figure 4.5. Some of these adapters (like the one shown in Figure 4.5) are designed for hard disks. Some of these include a fan to help cool a hard disk (one of these appears in a bay near the top of Figure 4.2). Others contain openings to let you insert tapes, floppy disks, or other 3.5-inch media.

Figure 4.5

You can mount drive bay.

a 3.5-inch device inside the inner rails of an adapter, and then mount the adapter in a 5..

.25-inch

In tower cases, the main thing you gain as you move from mini-tower to mid-tower to full tower is drive bays. Because 3.5-inch devices are generally third-height, whereas 5.25-inch devices are usually half-height, adding 5.25-inch bays adds more in the way of size to a case.

As a general rule, I suggest getting a case with at least two free drive bays beyond those you intend to use in the near future. At least one of these bays should be a visible 5.25-inch bay. This gives you the flexibility to add two devices, at least one of which can be a removable device.

One final consideration relating to bays is the method of drive mounting. Disk devices contain mounting holes intended for attaching the drive to a computer case. Many cases, however, use mounting rails. You attach the rails to the device, and you can then slide the device into the computer. An example is shown in Figure 4.6. Sometimes these mounting rails are designed so that you don't need a screwdriver to remove the device from the computer.

Mounting rail screws or snaps into place

Mounting rail screws or snaps into place

Mounting rail

Figure 4.6

Mounting rails let you slide a device in and out of a drive bay with relative ease.

Mounting rail

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