Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap HDDs

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Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap HDDs

Postposted on Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:28 pm

I am preparing to build a new system. My current case, a HAF 932, has lots of room. But once you install a DVD, camera card reader, 1 or 2-bay H 5.5" temp monitor and one or two bay 5.5" liquid coolant reservoirs, you have no room for hot-swappable hard drives via the front loading external bays.

I cannot understand why there are so FEW cases, either mid-tower or full-tower, that keep the lower hard drive bays sealed behind the left-side door of the case. I would like a case with some sort of standardized external access to the lower drive bays via the the left side of the case, so that no bays are "internal only".

The Thermaltake Level 10 series attempts to solve this, and the Level 10 GT is actually affordable.

However, the GT has specialized hard drive trays rather than standardized drive tray form factor. And I would prefer a more standardized "box shape" for my case anyway.

Options that would be acceptable to me:

1. A "double door" left side. Large door over the motherboard area and narrow door covering the drive bays at the bottom.
2. A short door on the left side only covering the motherboard. Bottom bays are external, but mount from the left side of the case, not the front.

Either design would support a big fan between the drive bays and the front of the PC.

Does anybody know of any full-sized tower cases that are made like this? The usual searches have not revealed any promising leads thus far.

Thanks in advance!
BIF
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Sun Nov 04, 2012 5:22 pm

The easiest method would be to get a cheap case like this:

Image
+ AND ADD THIS +
Image

With that case you can add two of those and the total would be $219 some $70 cheaper than that case you linked earlier. Your total hot swap limit would be 8 drives, which is more than most MB's support. Or you can do just one and still have more than enough room for your disc drives and stuff.
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:16 pm

Hello and thanks for responding.

The case in your picture...what is that? Does it have all external bays all the way up and down the front face?

I already have a "3-in-2" bay for my existing system (somewhat similar to the 4-in-3 enclosure in your picture). As it's intended, it is mounted in the front-loading external bays. This reduces available external bays and since I don't need to use the internal bays, that whole bottom-front bay area goes unused.
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:14 am

Here's one with external going the entire length. This still would be cheaper.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811815011
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:04 am

Yep, thought about that, but I like the side mount concept in principle because the designer could put a big fan between the front of the case and the side-mounted hard drives. Spinning hard drives do get hot, so blowing room temp air over them would be beneficial.

Although I don't have unlimited funds, I would be willing to pay somewhat more for such a case.
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:57 am

BIF, How many hot swap bays do you need? Also is this in the safety of your home or do they have to be secure?

If you need Hot Swap Capability, you could always get Hot swapable HDD/ssd docks that hook up via USB3 or esata. Some even hold 2 drives at once. Just figured i would mention it. I a sure you know what i am talking about.
I have one that hooks up via esata....very happy with it:)
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:12 pm

Hi Vargis:

Yes, I actually have the white Vantec version that works via USB 3.0 and eSATA. It accommodates up to two concurrent 2.5" and 3.5" drives and doesn't require the use of trays, which I like.

But it does not accommodate SSDs, and neither does my existing (6 year old) SATA swappable bay.

I could really use a bay that mounts 4 or 5 drives at the same time, including SSDs, 2.5" laptop spinners, and 3.5" desktop spinners. If trays are involved, I need a way to inexpensively purchase additional trays (I'm not sure if trays are available for the Thermaltake Level 10 GT that I mentioned in a prior post). Right now my old bay has about 10 trays for the various systems that I need to run from time to time, including backup drives necessary for protecting those systems.

Some of the benefits to this:

1. Each "system" that I maintain, from single-drive Linux systems to multi-drive DAW systems, can be organized with clearly labeled hard drives. Most of my non-production systems only need to accomodate a single drive plus a backup drive; but there are a couple that require 3 or 4 drives (especially where SSDs are or will soon be added).

2. "Cold" backups are easier with swappable drives. I can swap source and target drives as necessary without opening the case.

3. "Warm" backups are also easier. My production system uses 3 drives, with one of them being a nighttime backup repository. My windows 8 system will have a system drive, two or more SSDs, and a backup drive; that's 4 at minimum.

4. I can set up experimental sandbox machines; all using the same Q6600 system. I have one configuration now that I use strictly for running antivirus on friends' infected hard drives. While doing something like that, my personal production drives are all sitting safely on a shelf. It's very convenient to reconfigure my drives when I don't have to open the side of the case.

Eventually I would like to move my CM HAF 932 case into a server/folder role in my back room, possibly running a dual Xeon rig at some point. This machine won't need removable drives at that point because it will be relegated to a fairly static purpose. But the new system I want to build will still need to have this flexibility to be reconfigured on a moment's notice.

As mentioned in my prior post, a side-loader would allow the front fan to produce positive air pressure across the hard drives. If that's just not doable, then I suppose a case with 12 front-loading external bays would be "okay". I could then buy a newer SATA 4-in-3 or 3-in-2 bay and stock up on trays (or better yet, get a "trayless" bay). I was just really hoping to find the case that I've been envisioning... :(
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:45 am

After doing some research and thinking outside the box (literally!), I think I have come up with a very workable plan. This plan will require that I spend some money, but I am building a new system after all, so I was planning to crack a few eggs. At least this plan won't require that I replace my HAF 932, which is good because I still like it a lot.

-----------------------------------------------
First, a couple of tentatative planning thoughts; this may or may not come true:

--> I plan to water cool the new rig for quiet operation during folding or animation.
--->> Would like to water cool CPU and dual GPU with separate loops....
--->> and/or I could use an open or closed system for CPU (i7 6-core, Socket 2011)....
--->> and/or I could air cool or water cool the GPU (possibly a GTX 680 or 690).
--->> If I build my own WC loops, I think I would like to use hard drive bay reservoirs because I like them.

Now, here's the current layout of the 5.25" bays on my current Q6600 rig, numbered 1 (top) to 6 (bottom, just above the big front fan). Letters denote the internal drive bays currently in use:

0 - USB 2.0, Firewire, and eSATA ports
(zero because it's part of the case, I don't think this is modifiable)

1 - Camera Card Reader and USB 2.0 port
2 - HP DVD Burner with Lightscribe (SATA device)
3 --- NZXT Fan Controller (takes up 2 bays)
4 --/
5 --\
6 --- Current 3-in-2 HDD Bay (takes up 2 bays; not SATA III, not SSD)

A -- Unused internal bay
B -- M4 SSD (Static sample data only; no OS)
C -- Vertex 3 SSD (No data currently on this drive)
D -- Unused internal bay
E -- Unused internal bay

----------------------------------------------
Proposed New Layout:

New External Units:

i. NZXT Sentry LXE External(Yay!) Fan Controller
ii. Lite-On External Blueray DVD burner (USB 3.0)
iii.External camera reader/USB 3.0 ports

The external bays might look like this (arrangement is subject to change; I might want the hard drives ABOVE the high water mark :D):

0 - No change
1 - Water reservoir
2 - Water reservoir
3 - SSD Hot Swap Bay 6-in-1 2.5" SATA III (not trayless; requires only 1 bay)
4 - HDD Hot Swap Bay 4-in-3 3.5" SATA III (trayless; requires 3 bays)
5 ---/
6 -/

The best part: With this plan, there is NO need to use the hard-to-access internal drive bays except to store spare parts or any remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls...

-------------------------------------
Other alternatives:

I also have the Vantec NexStar External Dual HDD bay, which I mentioned in an above post. The NexStar is USB 3.0 and eSATA compatible, which would allow me to get away with a 3-in-2 3.5" bay instead of the 4-in-3 noted above, freeing up another external bay. This would leave flexibility to install a card reader and/or DVD drive into Bays 1 and/or 2 and still have room for up to 2 water reservoirs.

Have I overthought this? Absolutely! But it was worth it and I had a damned good time doing it, too!
BIF
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:43 am

Good luck yo ya BIF,
I have the HAF922 and its big enough consider a full tower...the haf 932 is a giant tower:) I am sure you will get it configured just like "YOU" want it.
Enjoy your project and yelling at it will not accomplish anything:) But a dremel or saw might...even a hammer. :)
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Re: Looking for a full-tower case with side-mount hot-swap H

Postposted on Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:33 am

LOL, thank you for your support and your good humor!

This was a big checklist item for me. I'm continuing to build my parts list and everything's fairly firm now with the exception of the water cooling part of the rig.

I am thinking of doing the build 100% on air for the initial break in period, then after about a month I'll put on my plumber's thinking-cap... First WC assembly, you see. Would like to do this in stages.
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