Rack unit

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Rack with sample component sizes including an A/V half-rack unit
A typical section of rack rail, showing rack unit distribution.

A rack unit, U or RU is a unit of measure that describes the height of equipment designed to mount in a 19-inch rack or a 23-inch rack. The 19-inch (482.6 mm) or 23-inch (584.2 mm) dimension refers to the width of the equipment mounting frame in the rack including the frame; the width of the equipment that can be mounted inside the rack is less. One rack unit is 1.75 inches (4.445 cm) high.

The size of a piece of rack-mounted equipment is frequently described as a number in "U". For example, one rack unit is often referred to as "1U", 2 rack units as "2U" and so on.

A typical full size rack is 42U, which means it holds just over 6 feet of equipment, and a typical "half-height" rack would be 18-22U, or around 3 feet high.

The term "half-rack" has two separate meanings in computing and audio/video (A/V) applications:

  • In A/V, "half-rack" typically describes equipment that fits in a certain number of rack units, but occupy only half the width of a 19-inch rack (9.5 in or 241 mm). These are commonly used when a piece of equipment does not require full rack width, but may require more than 1U of height. For example, a "4U half-rack" DVCAM deck would occupy 4U (7 in) height × 9.5 in width, and in theory, two 4U half-rack decks could be mounted side by side and occupy the 4U space.
  • In computing and information technology, however, "half-rack" typically describes a unit that is 1U high and half the depth of a 4-post rack (such as a network switch, router, KVM switch, or server), such that two units can be mounted in 1U of space (one mounted at the front of the rack and one at the rear). When used to describe the rack enclosure itself, the term "half-rack" typically means a rack enclosure that is half the height (22U tall).

A front panel or filler panel in a rack is not an exact multiple of 1.75 inches (44.45 mm). To allow space between adjacent rack-mounted components, a panel is 132 inch (0.031 inch or 0.79 mm) less in height than the full number of rack units would imply. Thus, a 1U front panel would be 1.719 inches (43.66 mm) high. If n is number of rack units, the formula for panel height is h = (1.750n − 0.031) inch = (44.45n − 0.79) mm.

The rack unit size is based on a standard rack specification as defined in EIA-310. The rack unit is also specified as the unit of height in the Eurocard standard, which also defines a similar unit, horizontal pitch (HP), used to measure the width of rack mounted equipment.

Note that the mounting hole distance (as shown to the right) is different for 19-inch racks and 23-inch racks: The 19-inch racks uses odd spacings (as shown to the right) while the 23-inch racks uses evenly spaced mounting holes.

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