Because the desktop design consumes so much desk space, the tower configuration was developed. At its core, the tower design is nothing more than a desktop design turned on its side, with the power supply and drive bays at the top (see Figure 4.2). In fact it's often possible to simply turn a desktop case on its side to use it as a tower case. Doing so poses a few problems, the most important of these being that it's difficult or impossible to load many CD-ROM drives when they're mounted vertically. (CD-ROM drives that use caddies don't have difficulties with vertical orientation, and some tray-loaded CD-ROM drives include tabs that help retain a CD-ROM when the drive is mounted vertically.)
Tower cases include the same assortment of switches and front-panel LEDs as do desktop cases—a power switch, one or more LEDs indicating the computer's power status and hard disk activity, and on older cases, LEDs indicating the CPU speed and a keylock switch.
Tower cases can be difficult to work in if left in their vertical configuration, because inserting and removing expansion cards requires applying force that tends to topple the tower. It's therefore usually best to set a tower case on its side when working on it.
One advantage of the tower design is its flexibility; it's possible to create larger or smaller tower cases without adjusting the computer's footprint—it's just necessary to make the tower taller or shorter. Figure 4.2 shows a full tower case, meaning that it's larger than most. A mid-tower case is roughly the size of a desktop case, but turned on its side. Mini-tower cases are quite popular among lower-priced computers. These cases are shorter than a mid-tower case and typically have very limited room for expansion. The lines between these sub-varieties of tower case are blurry at best; one person's full tower might be another's mid-tower. Some companies might even use different names or break a range into more or fewer sub-styles. In the end, what's important is the size of the case and the number of drive bays it includes, not the name applied to it. Some tower cases, particularly the larger varieties, are available in variants with differing numbers of 3.5-inch drive bays.
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