Love My New Computer Case

By an accident of both finances and previously hitting the technology sweet spot at just the right time, I have not built a computer in several years.  In anticipation of doing some upgrades on my home PC, I started by buying a new case.  Wow!  This is absolutely the best case I have ever had.  I am not sure this is so much the particular case I picked but the evolution of case design in the past few years.  Either way, its awesome.

Just the small step of turning hard drives 90 degrees so their wiring does not conflict with the graphic cards (and they are much easier to slide in and out without removing the expansion cards) makes a huge difference.   This is great, since I am constantly swapping drives in and out (for example I am trying to teach myself Linux/Ubuntu so I have added a dedicated drive and dual boot to the system for that purpose).  In addition, this case, as does many new cases, has a wiring management system the puts all the wiring in a back compartment accessible by a separate panel.  Look how neat everything is:

There is also a hole in the floor of the case, covered by the back door, that allows access to the back of the CPU.  This allows changing the CPU fan without taking out the motherboard, which I took advantage of after I somehow damaged the old CPU fan cleaning it in the case swap.  As you can see it has tons of space, including plenty of room for one of the mile-long graphics cards they are selling nowadays.  Other nice features are a hard drive hot dock and big huge quiet fans with a three-position fan speed control.  The only downside is that there are no front cutouts for 3-1/2 inch drives, but I don't have any so that was not a problem.

This case is expensive - $160 after rebate, but it's the first case I can say that this may be the last case I buy.  It's a Corsair Obsidian Series 650D and I highly recommend it.

  • MTB81

    Do you use this as a HTPC at all?

  • http://dullgeek.blogspot.com dullgeek

    My favorite case ever fit a BTX motherboard. That was a really smart design that kept everything cool inside with minimal fans. That form factor didn't take off as a result of a lot of factors, but I really loved that case. It's too bad because that was a pretty dramatic improvement over previous factors.

    That machine is still running, actually. Cool and silent.

  • Bram

    I thought I was the last guy assembling his own PC's.

  • ScottE

    An easier way to learn new operating systems is to run them in a virtual machine. Download Virtualbox, it's free. You can then try out various distros without repartitioning, etc.

  • TXJim

    That is one nice rig! I like that the power supply is located on the bottom rather than the top. Plenty of room which means it should be easy to ventilate and route cables.

    I read the specs on Newegg and saw this:

    ...The Obsidian Series 650D mounts dual 200mm fans and one 120mm fan, which provide outstanding cooling for even the hottest components. It also features an integrated fan controller that lets you quickly adjust cooling performance and noise levels.

    That addresses my primary concern with any new case. I build all my own rigs with attention to minimal noise. Graphics cards are the biggest obstacle to quiet machines. This means I usually sacrifice a bit of video performance in order to remain quiet. And you have to be careful which Blueray drive you use because those things can sound like a leaf blower. I have been using Antec cases for years and have been extremely pleased. They line the inside of the case with rubber which greatly reduces the sound resonating from running compnenets. I'll take a look at this Corsair the next time I build one.

  • admin

    To the first question, I do not use this as an htpc. I have a much smaller box with a fanless gpu. Some of the best recommendations for HTPC builds are at the XBMC site: http://forum.xbmc.org/forumdisplay.php?fid=112

  • TXJim

    Dittos on VirtualBox. It is awesome and free. Thanks Oracle!

    I have it running on both Win7 and Ubuntu 12.4. It saves the hassle of rebooting OS's just to test something quickly. I use it for dev/test so I can maintain a clean, predictable environment configuration.

    For anyone who is interested, this is a good starting point on using VirtualBox plus other tech - linux, databases, android & web development. Its from a database class MIT's Phil Greenspun had in Janurary. I highly recommend walking through their problems and solutions.

    http://philip.greenspun.com/teaching/three-day-rdbms/

    Go to the Day One link to download a preconfigured VirtualBox environment. It is big though (2.5GB if I recall) so be prepared. All the instructions are there. After you finish installing VB and unpacking the huge tar ball, you will have a complete Ubuntu 10 virtual environment, complete with Apache, MySQL, PHP, Android dev and phpMyAdmin. What is really nice is all the commands used in the lessons are in the .bash history so you don't have to type anything unless you really want to! Just arrow up and locate the command you need.

    Oracle also has several preconfigured builds you can download. Go with a preconfigued build (I like the MIT version best) because it will save you several hours of hassle. You can update any patches once you are up and running.

  • Evil Red Scandi

    I agree with the virtualization. I use VMWare products because I deal with them all the time as part of my job, but there are plenty of other great solutions for home use (like VirtualBox).

    That being said, I'm upping my storage requirements a bit and am considering this case:
    http://www.supermicro.com/products/chassis/4U/847/SC847E16-R1K28LP.cfm
    Yes, you need a proper SAS (or SATA/SAS) controller to work with this.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    I haven't bought one lately :^D as I'm still using the 350w PS I bought in August of 2000 -- A power supply from PC Power And Cooling.

    I think a couple of the outlets are churning out sub-optimal power, and I can't run more than a DVD burner and two hard drives off it along with the motherboard, etc. -- but it's otherwise the oldest piece of computer equipment I have that is actively in operation, and has been pretty much 24/7 since I bought it.

    It's not driving a system that is even close to state of the art -- but it seems to me the fact that it's now been functioning regularly nonstop for the last 11.75 years is a testament to the quality that PCP&C at least had in the past.

    >>> I thought I was the last guy assembling his own PC’s.
    Silly Bram. There are people noting how to turn old netbooks into tablets.

    The spirit of "tinker" is alive and well and not likely to die in the American Bosom for many a decade.

    I'm waiting for Home CAD/CAM Milling machines (still a bit too pricey), along with Home 3d Printers, to take off. The explosion in small entrepreneurship should be... impressive. It will also doom efforts to control guns once it does. They'll have to try and control ammo instead.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    >>> That is one nice rig! I like that the power supply is located on the bottom rather than the top. Plenty of room which means it should be easy to ventilate and route cables

    I believe the historical reason for placing it at the top ties to the usage of the PS fan as a case exhaust fan§, given that heat rises... As long as there are other fans in the case which carry away excess heat -- and these days there are usually more than just one -- there's really no reason offhand why the PS needs to be at the top.

    ======

    §Other than consistency to designs dating back to the original IBM PC, with its PS on the right side, which becomes "top" when tipped on its side... And recall that the original IBM PC had its power switch on that side, meaning you would not want to or expect to place THAT side on the ground, either...

  • Daublin

    I had the same impression when I built a box a few years ago. The cases have gotten a whole lot better. I would add to your list that there are fewer screws nowadays; instead, hard drives can often be put in and out by depressing a plastic doodad and sliding the drive in or out.

    Regarding 3.5 drives, you posted too quickly. It's not an accident that you don't have any. Nobody does. Anything you can do on a 3.5, you can do better with a thumb drive.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    Regarding 3.5 drives, you posted too quickly. It’s not an accident that you don’t have any. Nobody does. Anything you can do on a 3.5, you can do better with a thumb drive.

    Generally correct, but since a thumb drive can't be "protected" from getting infected with malware, a 3.5" "boot disk", which can be write protected, does allow you the ability to boot the machine to DOS, which can be useful in removing/recovering from certain types of infection.

    Yes, you can nominally do this with a CD as well, but 3.5"ers do have the advantage of being able to be tweaked in a way that you can't do with a CD.

    OTOH, a lot of software doesn't fit on a 3.5" drive any more, either. So you have to sort of guess if there's any reason for it.

    BTW -- once you've gotten your system set up as you want, I recommend you image the drive, then back up the images to DVDs (or, alternately, to an older, "too small" HD which you can disconnect fully from the system to protect it from malware) -- there are a number of different softwares to do this with -- one obvious one which used to be good is Norton Ghost (haven't used it in about 7-8 years). The other I can recommend is Acronis True Image.

    Also -- when you are setting up your system, DON'T take the Windows "default" of One Giant Partition To Rule Them All. I recommend breaking it up into at least three parts, The OS and any stuff that really, really really wants to be on the OS partition (drivers, small programs, and certain ill-behaved softwares), another one which you can place your programs onto for the most part, and the third for keeping most, if not all, of your data. Among other things, this means you can slam the OS/Programs image onto it without backing up your entire HD first to be certain you don't miss anything important in your data (you still will, but it's less likely to be critical stuff you lose)

    It does take a certain discipline to Put Stuff Where It Belongs, but that's not as hard as you might think, you just have to make a habit of it.

    This means the worst case scenario -- hard drive failure, malware infection, etc. -- you can restore the entire system to it state at the moment you imaged it. I usually image the main partition with the OS and the programs once every 3-6 months. It's amazing how much tweaking and stuff you do over time that is a major pain in the tuckus to recover from in the event of a malware infection. Drivers you've forgotten where they came from (or exactly which one they were), small softwares you've added, that kind of thing. Also, do each partition separately, there's always some little BS problem that pops up with any Big Ball o' Goo, and do the MBR with the "C" partition.

    In general, Big Balls O' Goo are bad programming constructs, and there is a VERYspecial place in Hell for programmers/coders/software designers who implement them.

    Think "The Registry" and you should have the kind of horrific shudder that ALL BBoG should instill in one.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    Another benefit to the three-piece partition system is that when you decide to blow for an SSD it's that much easier to port the part that really matters onto it -- the OS -- and not have to either re-install the whole shebang and you don't have to get one 6x larger than you need it to be.

    You can already get 60-120gb SSDs for under US$100, and, from what I understand, they have a really, really good effect on Windows 7.

  • Supermike

    If you're building computers, spring for an Ssd. Makes computing fun again.

  • John David Galt

    I had the impression that Windows XP (and later versions) defeats and prevents the existence of dual-boot systems. If there's still a way to do it, I'd like to hear about it.

  • TxJim

    JD Galt - It is possible. XP (or anything else) can't stop you from controlling which OS can be booted. Any sort of "boot loader" program will take over the machine's boot sector and let you determine which OS you want to boot. Most versions of Linux will handle this gracefully. If you already have Windows (any version) running and you install Linux, the setup routine will ask you if you would like to install a boot loader. The setup program is smart enough to examine your existing system to locate Windows and add it to the list of boot up choices. The next time to start your PC, a menu will appear asking you which OS you would like to run.

    Windows is a bad neighbor when it comes to respecting other OS on your machine. It assumes Windows is the only thing you have and will ever want. So if you have a dual-boot (or more) pc and you reinstall Windows, it will overwrite the boot sector and make Windows the default boot OS. This can be fixed by booting back into Linux (from CD, DVD, USB) and reinstalling Linux's boot loader.

  • TxJim

    IGB - agree with your thoughts on partitioning in Windows. An handy way to get around many of the hassles of space management is to use the Win equivelents of Unix symbloic links. Not as clean as unix but it works.

    BTW, I'm untangling outsourced/offshored BBOG all day today. Sigh...

  • Zach

    "Also — when you are setting up your system, DON’T take the Windows “default” of One Giant Partition To Rule Them All. I recommend breaking it up into at least three parts, The OS and any stuff that really, really really wants to be on the OS partition (drivers, small programs, and certain ill-behaved softwares), another one which you can place your programs onto for the most part, and the third for keeping most, if not all, of your data. Among other things, this means you can slam the OS/Programs image onto it without backing up your entire HD first to be certain you don’t miss anything important in your data (you still will, but it’s less likely to be critical stuff you lose) "

    I tried that theory about 5 years ago with XP (I don't know if 7 handles this better) on both my computer and my mom's. I only had 2 partitions though, Windows and Everything Else. You absolutely need to be disciplined about where you install stuff. Mom was not, and ran the Windows partition out of space eventually. It required a rebuild, but fortunately she was ready to try 7 anyway at that point. The other problem is that, at least back in the day with XP and most games, while you could tell them to install to a different drive and they would mostly do that, they would have a handful of DLLs or something to install on the Windows partition. That meant that if I didn't keep my Windows partition image up to date, then a reimage would break most of my programs anyway.

    The only thing worthwhile about that setup was data protection, in my opinion. It boggles my mind that Windows still does not have a backup utility like Time Machine on the Mac. I've had a Mac laptop for 5 years now, and while I wouldn't buy another one because of price and the price of accessories, Time Machine is worth its weight in gold. You can set up a Linux box to trick the Macs on your network into thinking that they're Time Capsules, and then backups are totally transparent, delta-based, and quite reliable.

  • Zach

    "I had the impression that Windows XP (and later versions) defeats and prevents the existence of dual-boot systems. If there’s still a way to do it, I’d like to hear about it."

    Microsoft is strongarming OEM's to make their UEFI's (the successor to BIOS) lock out any changes (maybe just unsigned changes) to boot sectors. They do this in the name of security, but it will have a side effect of preventing any other operating system from being installed. Allegedly there will be a hardware switch or jumper that you can toggle to turn this off.

  • jh

    nice box

    btw, my experience with ubuntu has been awesome

    and thanks for all that you do

    regards

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    >>> "Microsoft is strongarming OEM’s to make their UEFI’s (the successor to BIOS) lock out any changes (maybe just unsigned changes) to boot sectors. They do this in the name of security, but it will have a side effect of preventing any other operating system from being installed. Allegedly there will be a hardware switch or jumper that you can toggle to turn this off."

    They might succeed in this except that I give Windows about 2-3 years of remaining dominance and then Android and Linux will rapidly take over -- Much of computing will have moved to phones and tablets by then, and Android's dominance will make it *A* platform of choice for first development. Once that happens, Microsoft is baked bread.

  • Evil Red Scandi

    "They might succeed in this except that I give Windows about 2-3 years of remaining dominance and then Android and Linux will rapidly take over"

    For a lot of home applications, yes. Business apps and systems will take a much longer time to migrate, even with virtualization and remote desktop technologies.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    ERS: I suspect not -- all it will take, really, is for the "then latest" versions of programs to be developed for use on the Android platform to be released simultaneously, or close, to Windows. Once that happens there's no reason, except for the admittedly non-trivial reason of inertia, to NOT move away from Windows. I believe the reliability issue alone will encourage movement away.

    Windows -- for those times when you really really absolutely positively HAVE to be up 22/5/327.

  • Broccoli

    I agree that an SSD is the best PC upgrade one can make. 10 second boots, fast program loads for a select few programs, etc.

    I have a computer upgrade in my near future. My overclocked i7 720 is feeling aged in certain games. I also want a tasteful case with lots of efficient heat removal. Too many enthusiast cases glow and look like a 14 year olds doodle of what Batman's computer would look like. (My current aftermarket CPU fan even glows.....)

  • Jim

    Nice! Those Gigabyte Ultra Durable boards are great. Appears you have all six memory slots filled. Thanks for the case recommendation, also.