Question Clean up and retrofit my 2012 full-tower case with USB-C or get a new mid-tower case?

Cyber_Akuma

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Said 2012 case is a Cooler Master HAF X.

So a while ago my old z77 build from late 2012 died on me, and it would have cost as much if not more than modern boards to get a replacement of the same board.... so I decided to basically build a new system with just the most core components new and try to re-use anything else not critical (Case, gpu, drives, etc).

This took...... a LOT longer than expected because I was not aware of the parts shortage, even getting stuff like RAM or a PSU took forever.

Anyway, so I removed all the components from my old case and was using an electric air-duster to blow as much dust as I could out for about 15-30 minutes.... but even with all this there is still a fine layer of dust everywhere and all the filters are caked with it. I also noticed that the PSU filter, which was the worst off, is designed in a way where you have to remove the PSU to get at it. And being from 2012, this case is lacking in modern ports, it no surprise has no USB-C and it has a useless Firewire port that even in 2012 was not connected to anything.

My original plans were to clean up and re-use this case, and see if I can somehow connect a USB-C front-panel to it. (And I mean a PROPER one that connects into the motherboard's USB-C header, not one of those that just take a USB3 port and SATA power and try to jank up some USB-C connector with it). There is also the issue that the fans were almost all included and are running at 8-9 years now, so they will likely start to fail and need to be replaced soon.

But now I am wondering if I should bite the bullet and just get a new case too.

Issue is, since I still like to use optical drives (Let's not start arguments about this please, no an external will not work out) and have several other drives in it, as well as will have to have more during a transition phase as I slowly try to replace the old hardware with newer variants as I can afford it (such as replacing the 2.5 SATA SSDs with M.2 NVMEs) I need a case that has all the bays/ports I need.

Basically I am looking for a case that is: At least mid-tower, at least 1 external 5.25 bay, at least 5 internal 3.5 bays, at least 2 2.5 bays, 2x usb 2.0, 2x usb 3.0, and usb-c. There are several cases like this, and the one I have settled on the most is the Fractal Define 7.

At first I thought a mid-tower would not work out, but I am surprised how large GPUs and how many internal drives as well as external 5.25 bays some of them can have (The Fractal Define R5 for example has two 5.25 bays, EIGHT 3.5 bays, and two 2.5 bays), so I think I might be able to make a mid-tower work if I can't find a decent full-tower.

There is a 7XL as well which is a full tower, and I would have preferred to get that over the mid-tower 7, but I am not sure that will work out. My main two issues with the 7 that my HAF X does not have are that there is no side-fan, the USB ports are on the top instead of on the side (Which will restrict me to the mid-tower, since my old HAF X just BARELY fit under my desk with some minimal clearance for some axillary top exhaust fans, I would not be able to use the USB ports if they are facing up), and it's design basically is pretty "dull"..... which is a very minor complaint mind you. Sure it would be cool if I could use all the RGB options of my new board, but I am perfectly fine with no lighting whatsoever as well. It's the side-fan and position of the USB that are the main problems.

So I wanted to ask people's options what they think I should do. Should I try to clean up (if I can) the years of caked-in dust of my old 2012 case and retrofit a USB-C port in the front of it, dealing with the near-unremovable-unless-I-remove-the-PSU-filter and old fans, or should I spend additional money getting a case that I would have to get in mid-tower format, but has no side-fan and "looks dull"? (Not to mention significantly less features like no hot-swap bays and such that my HAF X has).

Or is there another case, mid or full tower, that suits me better/has less compromises over my old one that one can recommend?
 

Karadjgne

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Why a full tower? It's an absurd waste of space that's actually harder to get decent airflow than a mid, creates wiring challenges for most psus especially concerning the EPS cable. I had a FD define R5 and found that to be way too large. Easy to work on, sure, but with just a single gpu and a couple of SSDs,...

It's like Amazon when they ship a pack of gum in a box that's a foot square

So why not mid or even as small as mITX? That opens up options all around, the shorter cases allow better airflow, can use top mounted USB or audio etc. MITX could even be stuck On the desk, behind the monitor unless you just prefer a knee warmer.

You have options, and the opportunity to take advantage of them now with the new build. Can even ebay the HAF X, it's still a desired case and brings a decent price.

Figure out what your actual needs are as far as drives space, gpu size, motherboard, adequate cooling potential etc then apply what wants are important, like front access usb-c etc.

Nobody needs a full tower anymore unless you have E-ATX, 3x gpus, and enough hard drives to make a NAS jealous.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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I have zero intention of going mATX, the R5 is by no means "too large" for me (it's what I put my old components in just now). I already have an ATX motherboard to use in either the HAF X or any replacement case I get in place of the HAF X, and as I mentioned, I need a minimum amount of drive bays. Especially since I already have all those components I want to re-integrate into my new build.

My current setup uses two 2.5 SSDs, four 3.5 HDDs, and an optical drive for example (though in the long run I want to replace those SSDs with two M.2 NVMEs, but that will take a while), and I plan to upgrade that with an additional 5th 3.5 HDD. And no, I have zero intention of scaling those back or omitting the optical drive. So no, an mATX is without a doubt not the right fit for me. Considering I was using that HAF X in addition to having my old PC there with still room for another 1-2 mid-towers, I am by no means hurting for space to scale my build back just to go mATX.
 

Karadjgne

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Well with current needs, that's a limited option on cases. You can do as you have done and fit everything into an R5 or R7 and have plenty of room for additions, but many case designs are getting away from optical bays altogether, opting for 3rd fans, full frontal TG etc.

And that's the issue. Drive space is easy, most ATX mids or bigger have ample room for 5+ internal 3.5 bays, it's the Optical that's missing.

Which leaves the FD Define R6 usb-c, the R7, beQuiet Darkbase 900 Rev.2 because I'm doubting that you'd be looking at an Enthoo Elite at $900+
 

Cyber_Akuma

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Well yes, I was asking if it would be better to keep my HAF X with it's older fans and try to retro-fit a USB-C header on it's front, or to get a new case like a R7 which has the built in usb-C and all the bays I need, but not as many fans or as good an appearance. .... also just learned that the front fan of my HAF X is kinda non-standard (230mm) so if that ever dies it's going to be "fun" replacing it. (If I do decide to keep the HAF X, I would like to eventually replace the fans with RGB ones, if I go with the R7 then I am not going to bother with any sort of lighting.
 

Karadjgne

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For a 230mm rgb, BitFenix Spectre Pro. Amazon has it. It's 3pin.
Although you could go with CM MF200R for all 4 fans which are pwm.

Oh, as to cleaning that beast, use a vacuum cleaner and a paint brush unless you feel like dragging it into the shower with you. Dust + moisture = mud, so unless you swamp it, keep it dry.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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Yeah, saw that one.... though a lot of RGB fans seem to be out-of-stock/inflated atm, but I am not going to be replacing them anytime soon.

Never done any RGB stuff before so I will have to look into it, apparently my motherboard has two different types of RGB connections? Something about how one is an older one and the other is a more advanced newer method? Like I said, never looked into RGB before.
 

carocuore

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The HAF X has way better airflow than new cases, let's just hope this trend of making cases look like fridges end soon so we can go back to having decent cases.
About the fans there are some on newegg you can buy.
 
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Krotow

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Nothing wrong with full tower cases if someone have enough space were to put them. Fellow sysadmin had RS6000 server for a decade for his pet projects and where to hid occasional booze :) From what I know about HAF X, it is pretty decent case even for today. Especially if one use AIO mounted at top. Would be even better if front drive mount boxes would be detachable, but it is good as is.
 
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Karadjgne

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There's 3 kinds of lighting on a fan. All of them are LED.
  1. Dedicated. This is a basic color, not changeable since it uses single filament.
  2. RGB. Uses 3 filaments, Red/Green/Blue at constant 12v, amperage is split between the 3 filaments by variable diodes on the ground side. The higher the amperage through each filament determines brightness and saturation of color. So if 1A, that's 0.33A per filament. Put 0.5A through Red and 0.5A through Blue, Human eyes see that as Purple. Because the diodes are end run, ground side, it affects All leds in line, so a single header cannot seperate individual leds, the entire fan is one color.
  3. ARGB. Addressable RGB. 5v system, uses the same 3 filament leds. Each led/series of leds has its own diodes controlled by a specific address. Software can tell 1 chip to be blue, another chip to be red, so 1 led is blue and the next inline is red. This is the only lighting that does Rainbow affects, multiple colors in the same strip.
One is not older than the others, they are all leds, the differences are in how adaptable and usable they are. When RGB first splashed on the market, everybody had different ideas about connectors, so older equipment can have specific headers, but most current RGB has settled on a 5050 4pin standard.

ARGB tends to use 3pin in a 4pin layout. If you think of RGB like a 3pin analog fan and ARGB like a 4pin PWM fan, you are pretty much in the ballpark. Can't mix ARGB with RGB, differing voltages and requirements. Only a few really expensive hubs like the Corsair Commander Pro have that ability to seperate them in the same chain.
 
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BogdanH

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My conclusion (from what you write) is, you're happy with HAF X: you like the case visually, it has enough space (for drives, etc), you are happy with airflow... the only thing that you're missing seems to be USB-C on front panel.
From what I could see, front connection panel on HAF X looks like "normal" 5.25 bay. If that's true, try to replace it with something like this:

-and you're done.

Yes, most recent cases tend to have USB/Audio ports on top side. Still, on many cases, which have 5.25 bays in front (some behind front door) you can use above solution too.
As for side fan, only my personal opinion, ok?... it's an outdated solution. I have "dull" Fractal R6-C case, two front fans, one in back and normal air cooler on CPU (Ryzen 9 5900X). And the whole thing is cool, silent & fast.
 
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Krotow

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My conclusion (from what you write) is, you're happy with HAF X: you like the case visually, it has enough space (for drives, etc), you are happy with airflow... the only thing that you're missing seems to be USB-C on front panel.
From what I could see, front connection panel on HAF X looks like "normal" 5.25 bay. If that's true, try to replace it with something like this:

-and you're done.

Yes, most recent cases tend to have USB/Audio ports on top side. Still, on many cases, which have 5.25 bays in front (some behind front door) you can use above solution too.
As for side fan, only my personal opinion, ok?... it's an outdated solution. I have "dull" Fractal R6-C case, two front fans, one in back and normal air cooler on CPU (Ryzen 9 5900X). And the whole thing is cool, silent & fast.
It is not required at all. HAF X case already have a pair of USB 3.0 and a pair USB 2.0 sockets in front panel. See the specifications:
I/O PANEL
2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x IEEE 1394a, 1x e-SATA, 1x Audio (supports HD audio), 1x Mic
 
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TravisPNW

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Said 2012 case is a Cooler Master HAF X.

Or is there another case, mid or full tower, that suits me better/has less compromises over my old one that one can recommend?
I went with the Fractal Design Meshify 2.


Previous build was an NZXT S340 Elite and I vowed never to make that mistake again. With the new build I wanted 360mm top support as well as room for a 3090 with room to spare. This case met all my needs and then some... USB C support at the front and rear... etc... etc...

I built the system on Dec 20th and a few days after the build I saw some year end YT reviews by Gamer Nexus and this case was rated in the "best of 2020" and won for "best mechanical design."

Seems like I made a good choice. $179.99 didn't break the bank and I love it. Roomy with great airflow all around.
 
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TravisPNW

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Yep. The Meshify 2 is a sweet case. Has everything a modern pc requires/needs.

Except no 5.25" optical bays at all.
Do they even make cases with room for optical drives anymore? I honestly have no idea. I use an optical BD drive but it's USB. Anyway, didn't read OP's entire post so if he's looking for a case that supports optical drives that's my bad.

Otherwise you can't go wrong with the Meshify 2.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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Nothing wrong with full tower cases if someone have enough space were to put them. Fellow sysadmin had RS6000 server for a decade for his pet projects and where to hid occasional booze :) From what I know about HAF X, it is pretty decent case even for today. Especially if one use AIO mounted at top. Would be even better if front drive mount boxes would be detachable, but it is good as is.
Just sticking with air cooling for now. I don't think an AIO would do well, since while there is barely enough clearance from the top to serve as optional exhaust, I would not trust that level of clearance for full-on CPU cooling, plus it would be blowing the air close to me from where I have it sitting.

And two of the front bays are hot-swappable, that's one of the features of the case.

There's 3 kinds of lighting on a fan. All of them are LED.
Yeah, the case came with fans that just glow red, my motherboard seems to have support for both 3 and 4 pin RGB.

My conclusion (from what you write) is, you're happy with HAF X: you like the case visually, it has enough space (for drives, etc), you are happy with airflow... the only thing that you're missing seems to be USB-C on front panel.
From what I could see, front connection panel on HAF X looks like "normal" 5.25 bay. If that's true, try to replace it with something like this
Will have to take a closer look, but I am pretty certain that it's not just a 5.25 bay and all the holes for the ports are attached to the case and not removable, just the circuit board that has the front-panel ports are.

It would make this a lot easier if it indeed was removable and I could just replace it with something like what you pictured.
 

BogdanH

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It would make this a lot easier if it indeed was removable and I could just replace it...
-yes, that exactly was my thought.

If you google for "USB-C front connector" images, you will find a lot them.. and maybe you see something that could be the solution (after you "adapt/customize" a little).
I don't know how your front panel is made (how it is fixed inside case, how much space is still left behind the bezel, etc.), so nobody can really give "perfect" solution -only ideas.
Maybe you could cut out the center part of front panel and put nicely some 3.5" console with all connectors needed. Or there's still enough space left in existing console, so you could just add single USB-C connector (like this ).
Examine your case... maybe you decide to put USB-C connector somewhere on side of front panel... or anywhere where's enough space inside, is easy accessible and is visually acceptable.
 
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Karadjgne

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I have that exact piece. Actually came with my case, but since space is limited down to mm clearances and my board doesn't have an Atype connector for the usb-c, I took it out and blanked it off.

A dremel and a drillbit and you'd have a perfect hole for that wherever you'd care to put it. Some plasti-weld to make it permanent. Or simply swap it out for an existing usb2/3 port.

That would open up several case options or upgrade the Haf X, either or.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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So, seems that replacing the 5.25 bay is not an option.

Yes yes, I know these pictures are VERY dirty. Like I said, I was trying to clean all the caked in dust out if it, and apparently despite using an air blower on it for 15-30 minutes, this part did not get cleaned at all.

Anyway, since I got word that the top can be removed, and then saw instructions on Cooler Master's own website on how to do that, I decided to take the top off and see what I was dealing with.

Good thing I was careful as there was a fragile wire just screwed into the side of the case no doubt acting like a ground. Anyway, after unsrewing that, it seems like I can't just swap out the USB/AUX/port bay with a different one. I can take off the circuitboard, yeah, but it also contains the power/reset buttons, the power/activity leds.... and the holes for all these ports appear to be a solid part of the case itself and not a removable bay:

View: https://imgur.com/a/oU0C3cW


I guess the only upside to this is that it appears I can at easily easily remove the cable for the Firewire port. I always hated how the header for that was the exact same as USB 2.0 headers and was always worried I would one day accidently plug that in by mistake when working on my system and short something out.

Guess I need to look into how I can just get a separate USB-C port on the front now.
 

Karadjgne

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Heh, that 'fragile' wire isn't a ground. You can't ground plastic. It's just there so when/if you pull that lid off and it jerks there's something there to stop you yanking on the solder joints where the cables attach.

See in the center pic where the front says Sata? Right there is an open spot large enough to plasti-weld that usb-c port. Drill 2 holes side by side then dremel between them for a nice even, round ended hole big enough for the port. The cable gets routed with the others. It's definitely do-able and if done with patience and care could very well come out looking factory.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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Heh, that 'fragile' wire isn't a ground. You can't ground plastic. It's just there so when/if you pull that lid off and it jerks there's something there to stop you yanking on the solder joints where the cables attach.
It's soldered to the point on the circuit board where all the other connections are.
 
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BogdanH

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Now that I see pictures.. I would try to mount USB-C connector next to LED's (above e-SATA port).
Replacing USB-C connector with e-SATA or Firewire is hard to achieve because there seems to be not enough space to mount USB-C connector (by using existing holes in front bezel).
All in all, I would do it. Just check how long is USB-C cable! Your case seems to be quite tall and front panel is far from motherboard -and you probably can't make straight connection (because of burner, HDD's...).
 

Cyber_Akuma

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So, in sticking with my HAF X case, I was advised to use wet wipes to try to clean out the dust/dirt that blowing air just won't get out. Of course I took all the components and as much of the electronics out of my case first. (The only parts left were the front-panel ports, power/reset switches, and a small PCB that other than molex and SATA connectors just had some capacitors on it for the hot-swap SATA bays.

I had some Wet Ones brand wipes, so I decided to just use those. After a few hours of cleaning however I noticed that my fingers were getting sticky. I tried different parts of the case and noticed that parts of it which had been recently cleaned were sticky after cleaning, and other parts that had more time to dry were not.

I never thought about if the wet wipes could have chemicals in them that would have been a bad idea to use on my case, or if they could leave residue that could cause problems. (The ones I got have a blue label and claim "Vitamin E and Aloe" and "Cleans and Nourishes Skin" but otherwise don't mention much). Is this something I might need to worry about, or am I just being paranoid? Should I also go over everything with a damn paper towel to wipe off residue or would THAT be a bad idea and/or could lead to rust or other problems?
 

BogdanH

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One should never use "skin care" products for cleaning (PC) devices. No matter what kind of cleaner it is, if it's for skin, it contain all kind of ingredients.

I always clean PC case (and peripheral devices, incl. screen) either with water+few drops dish cleaner, or with glass cleaner, or with foam spray (meant for carpet/fabric/plastic) -and never had troubles.

What you can do now?.. well, I would wait a while and see if "sticky" stuff evaporates. And when it does, if would clean with some "normal" cleaner.
 
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