In May, I wrote an article entitled, How To Select The Right Case , and after publication of that article, one common question kept arriving in my mailbox : "how do you add front-mounted ports to older PC cases that are still very functional, but do not offer the conveniences of front-mounted ports ?"
With the advent of all of the new portable USB and Firewire technology, situations may arise where you’ll want to plug in a digital camera or an MP3 player to pull or push data, and then want the convenience of disconnecting that plug-in device to take it with you. And what a pain it can be to have to reach around to the back of your PC to find the correct port ! Further, many PCs are located in close-fitting desk spaces, and these environments often lack sufficient lighting to enable you to see what you are doing, and where you are plugging things in, which makes the process a real chore.
The latest case technology addresses this problem by offering mounting ports in the front of the case. In many cases, these ports are covered by slick, quick opening doors that expose them only when you need to access them. Cases such as the Antec 1080 Performance Plus, Lian-Li PC69, Cooler Master ATX-210, and many others already offer this technology.
If you have already purchased a good, sturdy case that you are happy with, but want to enjoy convenient access to its ports, your options have been limited. Our own Patrick Schmid took a look at some of these early add-ins in his article entitled, Crème De La Crème : Special Edition 815 Boards and Useful Add-Ons . This technology has continued to evolve since publication of Patrick’s article. Currently, there are a variety of options that can be added to help move ports from the back of your computer to the front of the case.
The majority of these devices use the principle of a 5.25" bay mounted solution that uses extension cables that run from the inside of your case out to the back, and plug into the corresponding ports on the back of your system. Although some may argue that this isn’t the most elegant solution, it does get the job done. In some cases, it is possible to customize the cable configuration to plug everything in within the case, but this is only if your motherboard or add-in cards offer such internal connections.
If an option for mounting USB ports into the front of your PC case is what you seek, a front-mounted, four-port USB hub might be a good solution. If you happen to have additional USB ports on your motherboard that you are not using, then a device such as Antec’s Easy USB might be the ticket for you. (However, if the connector on your motherboard isn’t compatible with the Easy USB cable, you might have to spend a little time re-wiring the cable to suit your application.) We did not happen to have an Antec Easy USB for testing, so we had to seek solutions elsewhere.