The PC Zone

Can you run a PC with the case off?

Can you run a PC with the case off?

This is a question I get asked regularly by people who want to switch their systems on to see if everything works properly before buttoning up the case. Search the web and you are told that the case is a vital component of a PC and running the system with the case off or with the access panels open with disrupt the airflow system inside, which, in turn affects the cooling.

Is this a myth or is it true? Will you damage your system running it with the case (or access panels) off to test it?

The simple answer is no. Switching a system on for a few minutes to test it prior to buttoning it up is perfectly safe - no damage will happen. If you get to watch PCs being built and tested and you see them running with the cases off for extended period of time without harm (remember, these are PCs that will go out to customers). Running it for a few minutes is perfectly safe - in fact, this is safer than shutting the case up before having a visual on the inside because you might have unplugged or disconnected an important fan that you would only spot with the system running and the case off!

What about running the PC for an extended period of time with the case off?

It depends. Primarily, it depends on the quality of your parts and how effective your current cooling system is. There is no doubt that the case is important and that it helps to regulate airflow over essential components but if your system is cooled sufficiently there should be no problems all. It might be worthwhile keeping an eye on the system temperature (there's software that you can use for that) and if you invest in a multimeter with a thermocouple you can test the temperature at various spots within the case.

However, there is no real reason to run a PC long term with the case off. In the end you're just filling it with dust and dirt that you are going to have to clear out eventually! Same is true if you have a PCI slot cover missing off the back of the system. It is an unregulated window into your system that brings dirt and dust and other potentially damaging debris (paperclips, for example) into your system. Keep them covered up!

If you really want to see into your system all the time, consider getting a case with a window in it or cutting up your current case and adding plexiglas (perspex) windows.

Read more in chapter 7 of the book!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
Last updated: Jul 24th 2004
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