Section 1.3. Opening Your PC s Case

1.3. Opening Your PC's Case

In most cases, opening your PC's case boils down to sliding off a side panel. But before starting, make sure you have a fresh backup of your most important files. Chances are, nothing catastrophic will happen. But since you should back up your files every day anyway, now's a good time to make sure last night's backup worked (see Section 15.1).

Before opening the case, turn off your computer and unplug its power cord from the wall. Then examine your computer to see where its case opens. Some newer , expensive computers pop open at the press of two large pushbuttons, as seen in Figure 1-3, top. (Cases on expensive computers sometimes have built-in padlock holders to keep out potential thieves .)

Figure 1-2. Top: Thanks to the standard design of a PC case, this hard drive slides easily into a shelf called a bay, where a mounting bracket holds it in place.
Bottom: Some bays hold items in place with screws. Note how the screw holes in the bay precisely align with the screw holes in the CD drive, making it easy for a few screws to hold the drive in place.

Many computers use two thumbscrews screws with large round heads that you can twist off with one handto hold the side panel onto the case. Twist off the thumbscrews and slide off the panel with an easy push (Figure 1-3, middle and bottom). Older models sometimes use two or three regular screws instead of the easier-to-remove thumbscrews. Once you remove the screws or thumbscrews, slide the side panel toward the back of the computer and outward. After you move the panel a few inches, you should be able to easily pull it off. Set the panel to the side, and you're in.

Figure 1-3. Top: You can open some cases by pressing two large buttons that sit on opposing sides of the case. Press the buttons and lift upwards; the case begins to hinge open.
Middle: Screws hold most other cases together. To open the case, remove the screws or thumbscrews (inset) that hold the side panel in place.
Bottom: After removing the screws, slide off the panel, pulling it toward the back of the computer.

Tip: It's easy to lose screws when removing a PC's case and its internal parts. To prevent mix-ups, place screws from different parts of your PC into different hollows of an empty egg carton.
Opening up a Laptop

Unlike PCs, laptops don't use standard- size , easily replaceable parts. Instead, laptops use tiny, specially fitted parts that aren't interchangeable between models or manufacturers. Simply put, laptops aren't easy to upgrade or repair.

Instead of opening the laptop's entire case, you open only small plastic flaps to gain access to specific areas, like memory, batteries, and hard drives (each of these items are covered in their respective sections in this chapter).

Unlike PCs, most laptops come with a manual that describes exactly which screws and flaps to remove to reach any upgradeable parts. If you've lost your manual, visit the Customer Support area of the laptop manufacturer's Web site and download a copy. Most manufacturers store their online manuals in PDF form; you can easily read these files as long as you have Adobe's free Reader program (available at

1.3.1. Troubleshooting Overheating Problems

Most PC cases are trouble-free, since they rarely break. The only troubleshooting you might have to perform is making sure the case keeps your PC's parts enclosed and cool: whirling fans inside the case constantly cycle air through strategically placed vents to prevent parts from overheating.

If your PC's case ever feels very warm or even hot to the touch, it's definitely overheating, and it needs immediate attention. Follow these guidelines to test for proper cooling and learn how to fix potential cooling problems.

  • Check the air flow . Find your case's vents and make sure they're not pushed up against the side of a desk or wall. The case's side vents need at least an inch or two of clearance. Leave at least six inches of breathing room between the back of your PC and anything else.

  • Clean the vents regularly . Feel free to leave your PC turned on while you remove dust and pet hair with a vacuum cleaner's brush nozzle. (Most of the dust clogs the computer's back fan vent.) If you notice a dust beard growing from your computer's vents, pick up a can of "Dust Off" or similar compressed air from your local computer or office supply store. Take the computer outdoors, remove its case (Section 1.4), and spray off any dust clogging the vents and parts.

  • Leave the sides of the case attached . If you just installed a new part (a DVD drive, for instance), run the computer with the case open or with a side-panel removed while you confirm that everything works okay. But don't leave it that way for regular use, even if you want to look fashionably geeky . Case vents are designed to move the air flow over the PC's hottest parts. Leaving the case open or off disrupts the air flow and can make your PC run hotter than it should.

  • Listen for the main fan . Behind a vent on the back of your PC lives a large fan that constantly pushes air through your PC. If that fan stops spinning, your PC will overheat. You can usually see or hear the fan spin, but if you're not sure the blades are moving, try this test: stick a thin strip of paper (not wire) through the vents to feel the fans brush against it. If the fan isn't moving, you'll need to replace your PC's power supply (Section 1.9) since that's where the fan lives.

Note: Built to last, PC cases don't wear out. But if you find yourself contemplating a shiny new case with glowing blue lights, set aside a day or two to move your old PC's guts to its new housing. For more information about choosing cases and bolting down parts, check out Building the Perfect PC (O'Reilly).

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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