Computer case designs are foolish

I had to open up my computer case again today. It is a task that I loathe because I am forced to clean it out pretty much every time I open it. While I dislike this particular case, I basically dislike the design of just about every computer case I have ever seen. They generally don’t handle air flow well and, worst of all, they actually contribute to the premature failure of components.

We live in an apartment that has radiator heating. Therefore, we have no forced air system and hence no air filter that pulls the dust out of the air. However, because of foolish case designs, my computers basically do that for me. Dust gets sucked into every nook and cranny and every tiny hole. While I understand that pulling air in the front of the case and forcing it out the back is necessary to cool the processor and power supply, there is absolutely no reason that the case should be designed such that air gets sucked in through the floppy drive and DVD drives. I think I have 1 functioning floppy drive between the three desktop machines that I have in my apartment and this pitiful statistic is due entirely to dust and poor case design.

Here’s a novel concept: the case doesn’t need to consist of just one cavity inside. I suggest that there should be four separate compartments, one for each of the following: power supply, optical drives and front i/o panel, hard drives, and motherboard. The compartments should be sealed off from one another so that air can’t flow between the compartments. There would be a good flow of air through all compartments except for the compartment housing the optical drives – it would have no airflow since optical/floppy drives don’t need to be actively cooled. To minimize dust in the system, there should be air filters in front of the intake fans for each compartment.

You might be thinking that my proposed design is overkill. Maybe it is, but most cases are underkill, if that’s a word. They do a bad job of cooling components, they use noisy fans, and they unnecessarily suck dust into components, shortening their lives and costing you money.

To be fair, there are some cases that incorporate some of these design elements. The Antec P182 does have air filters on the front intake fans and it has a separate compartment for the power supply. I’m willing to be flexible on whether the hard drives get their own compartment, so I’m not going to deduct points from the P182 because it puts hard drive bays in both the motherboard compartment and the power supply compartment. However, I will deduct points because it puts the optical drives in the same compartment as the motherboard. Since the case fan at the back of that compartment is pulling a vacuum on that space, dust is still going to get sucked in through the optical drives.

I’m looking forward to the day when the big PC makers like Dell and HP actually produce well-designed cases. However, I’m not holding my breath that this day will ever come. Generally, the case is one of the lowest priorities for consumers. In fact, it is almost never mentioned at all in promotional literature. On the off chance that one of these PC makers changes course, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the following description:

  • Awesome processor
  • Tons of really fast RAM
  • The Mother Lode of fast hard disk space
  • Powerful yet quiet power supply
  • Awesome yet quiet graphics card
  • Some optical drives
  • Lots of USB, IEEE 1394, and eSATA ports
  • Case that actually makes sense and won’t destroy all your components by way of bad design

3 Responses to “Computer case designs are foolish”

  1. 1 Colin
    January 31, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I opened up one of my other desktop machines and I discovered that the fan on the graphics card had died due to excessive dust intake. The card appears to still work (I’m typing this from said machine right now) but this event exacerbated my ire over current computer case designs.

  2. May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    What a joy to find such clear thinking. Thanks for ponsitg!

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