Lian Li MF-20 and MF-30 3.5 inch drive mounting kitsReview date: 17 May 2002.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Your average mini-tower or midi-tower computer case contains a lot of unused space.
Often, this doesn't matter. If all you need is a total of five or six drive bays - most PCs only have three drives - then there's no need for there to be more. The drive bays mustn't overlap the motherboard installation area, and the power supply needs its own spot too, and then there's the front fan mount location; all of this stuff has to have reasonable clearance around it to stop the case from being a maintenance nightmare, and the overall shape's going to be a rectangular prism because that's the only thing that can be fabricated economically, and packing everything together will mess up the ventilation anyway.
So the result is a metal box containing quite large volumes of air.
What all this means, though, is that it's possible to graft a few more 3.5 inch drive bays into a case, if you need them. If your case doesn't have any drive bays in the area directly below the usual top-two-thirds-of-the-front-panel drive mounting areas, then you can probably hang at least two or three more 3.5 inch mounting spots from the bottom of the existing 3.5 inch cage. A couple of bits of metal, a few screws, bingo.
If you don't have suitable bits of metal just kicking around, though, then this task becomes a little trickier.
Enter Lian Li, with their MF-20 and MF-30 Mounting Kits. Which are, according to their packaging, for 3.5" HDD, um, "Expension".
Odd, that. Lian Li didn't look South African to me. Never mind.
Lian Li's main product line is quite expensive, but very nicely made, aluminium PC cases; I've reviewed a bunch of them. But these Mounting Kits aren't made for any of Lian Li's own cases, because all of their own cases already have a 3.5 inch drive cage at the bottom front, which is the area that these mounts dangle into. The kits ought to suit pretty much any other ordinary tower form factor case, though.
By Lian Li standards, these kits are pretty cheap. The MF-20 is $AU19.80 delivered from Aus PC Market; the MF-30 is $AU24.20. That's not exactly a huge bargain, for what you get, but it's not a rip-off either.
Here's the contents of the MF-30 kit, which adds three drive bays. You get the side plates, a little baggie containing screws and four nuts, and a couple of four-pin drive power Y-adapters, in case you're running short of power supply plugs.
The two-bay MF-20 kit is the same, except the plates are one drive shorter, you don't get quite as many screws, and there's only one Y-adapter.
Installing the plates isn't very hard; you just attach them to the outside of the bottom 3.5 inch drive bay, and then install your extra drives.
You don't have to give up your bottom 3.5 inch bay to do this. If you want to install a drive there, you just put its mounting screws through the Lian Li side plate slots, and then through the sides of the drive bay and into the drive, as normal. If there's no drive in the bottom bay, then you use the nuts that come with the mounting kits to retain the plate screws. It's easy.
Here's the MF-30, installed in an entirely unremarkable midi-tower case which has the usual three-plus-three complement of standard drive bays.
To get the MF-30 bays to fit, I had to remove the plastic fan mount cage from the front of this case. A bit of hacksaw and/or file work would have solved the problem, though; there was only a couple of millimetres of interference, and the Lian Li kit didn't actually foul the fan itself.
I could have avoided the problem by mounting the MF-30 plates further back and retained them with only one screw, but that wasn't a very elegant solution.
It's quite likely that installing an MF-20 or MF-30 in your case will put your new drive bays quite close to the computer's little internal PC speaker, which has a magnet on the back of it and thus looks like a data hazard. Don't sweat it, though; it isn't.
This case, like many others, has a magnetically shielded PC speaker, with very little external field. Even if your case has the bare-magnet kind of speaker, though, there's still no need to worry; the coercivity of the magnetic coating on the hard drive platters is a few thousand Oersteds, which means a field of the same number of Gauss is needed to demagnetise the disk. The field strength right at the surface of the ferrite magnets used in cheap speakers like the ones inside PCs (and most of the ones outside PCs, for that matter) is only about a thousand Gauss, and it falls off approximately with the cube of the distance.
A 10,000 Gauss rare earth magnet sitting right on top of a drive has a good chance of doing some damage, but ferrites just don't have the power.
There's one other real, but improbable, problem with the Lian Li mounting kits - if you've got a full-length card in your PC, then it's very likely to stick out straight into the mounting-kit-installation area.
Full-length cards (like the ill-fated Voodoo 5 6000, for instance) are pretty much extinct, though. They won't fit in any of Lian Li's own cases unless you remove the bottom drive bays, but practically nobody cares.
Anybody with some metal strip and basic tools can MacGyver a drive-mount rig that'll do much the same thing as these Lian Li widgets, and cost considerably less.
But the MF-20 and MF-30 aren't that expensive, they come with everything you need, they've got mounting slots in the right places (as opposed to holes wherever your drill wandered to before it started cutting...), and they look quite nice too, thanks to their unnecessary "lightening holes".
A mighty advance in computing technology these things are not, but they do what they claim to, and they're easy to install. Recommended.
Readers from Australia or New Zealand can purchase Lian Li products from Aus PC Market.
(if you're NOT from Australia or New Zealand, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)