A rack unit, U or RU as a unit of measure describes the height of electronic equipment designed to mount in a 19-inch rack or a 23-inch rack. The 19 inches (482.60 mm) or 23 inches (584.20 mm) dimension reflects 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 (44.45 mm) high.
While the Rack Unit describes the height (or number of Units) for both 19" and 23" wide Racks it is 19" wide Racks that are most commonly used for Computer Equipment as such Equipment is usually 17.25" (438mm) wide (and placing it into a 23" wide Racks would waste space). See 23" Racks for more information.
The 23" Racks are from the Western Electric 23-inch standard, with holes on 1-inch (25.4 mm) centers; it is still used in legacy ILEC/CLEC facilities.
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 (1.8 m) of equipment, and a typical "half-height" rack would be 18-22U, or around 3 feet (0.91 m) high.
- 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 inches (241.30 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 1⁄32 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 Eurocard specifies a standard rack unit as the unit of height; it 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) differs for 19-inch racks and 23-inch racks: The 19-inch racks uses uneven spacings (as shown to the right) while the 23-inch racks uses evenly spaced mounting holes.
What is important to note is that although it is called a 19" inch rack unit, the actual mounting dimensions of a 19" inch rack unit are 18.312" inches (465 mm) wide, center to center.