How to Open a Desktop Computer Case

A step-by-step, picture walkthrough of how to safely open your PC's case

What to Know

  • First, turn off computer and unplug power cable. Remove all external cables and attachments.
  • Next, remove outermost screws from case. Don't remove screws that secure power supply to case.
  • Finally, remove the case side panel.

This article explains how to open a desktop computer case, which houses all parts of a computer. Every computer is a little different, but these instructions will point you in the right direction no matter what case you may have.

of 05

Turn the Computer Off

Picture of a man turning off a computer
© Edward Shaw/E+/Getty Images

Before opening the case, you must turn the computer off.

Shut down your operating system as you normally do. On the back of your computer, locate the power switch and turn it off.

Some computers don't have a power switch on the back. If you don't find one, skip to the next step.

If the computer isn't turning off from inside the OS, you can pull the plug from the wall (see step 2 below), but that isn't the safest method. Here's what to do if Windows 11 won't shut down.

of 05

Unplug the Power Cable

Picture of someone unplugging the power cable from a computer
Unplug the Power Cable. © Tim Fisher

Unplug the power cable that's currently plugged in to the power supply on the back of your computer.

This is an important step! It may seem overly cautious to remove the power cable in addition to powering off the computer normally, but some parts of a computer remain powered on even when the computer seems to be off. Plus, if you end up needing to move the computer to a different location while working on it, like if you plan to clean the PC outside, it'll need to be detached from the power source anyway.

of 05

Remove All External Cables and Attachments

Picture of someone removing the network cable from a computer
Remove All External Cables and Attachments. © Tim Fisher

Remove all cables and other devices attached to your computer. This will make it much easier to work and to move it around as needed.

Most of what's plugged in can be gently pulled out as you'd expect, like HDMI cables, speakers, and USB devices, but other things have a different release mechanism.

An Ethernet cable (pictured above) has a small, plastic clip that must be pressed inward as you pull, else it could break off in the process. Older video cables like VGA and DVI have their own screws, though they might not be screwed in, anyway, depending on how it was attached in the first place.

of 05

Remove the Side Panel Retaining Screws

Picture of someone unscrewing the side panel of a computer case
Remove the Side Panel Retaining Screws. © Tim Fisher

Remove the outermost screws from the case—the ones that are holding the side panels to the rest of the case. You'll likely need a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove these screws, but some cases have screws you can turn by hand.

Set them aside, or unscrew them as far as you can if this case doesn't have fully removable screws. Take note where you put them; you'll need them when you're done to reassemble the case.

Take care not to remove the screws that are securing the power supply to the case. These screws are more inset than the case retaining screws and may cause the power supply to fall into the computer, possibly causing damage.

of 05

Remove the Case Side Panel

Picture of someone removing the side panel of a computer case
Remove the Case Side Panel. © Tim Fisher

The case side panel can now be removed.

Sometimes the panel can simply be lifted off, while other times it may be attached to the case in a slide-lock manner. No matter the mechanism, you should be able to easily jar it loose.

See What Does the Inside of Your PC Look Like? for an overview of all the internal components you can work with now that you've removed the computer case.

Was this page helpful?