no gates do not mess up hardware at all, you just got to get one that fits properly. Im not sure if you know how a gate works but all it does is restrict the stick to certain area, has nothing to do with wiring or touching other parts my friend. BUt if you need a place to get them, lizardlick.com is a great site for arcade pieces.
cuz if you've ever played street fighter except for sfIV in a arcade there is either a octo-gate or a circle gate, so these square gates make it rather difficult to do QCF motions for people who are not used to them. Its just a preference, some people like square others like octo
Replacing your square restrictor plate with a octagonal restrictor plate is the best thing you can do besides upgrading all your fightstick parts with sanwa official parts like I did. Hit me up on aim if you have any questions - Tokyowatcher
About the only character that swapping to an octagonal plate makes a big difference for is Zangief. Every other character is easily adaptable with a square plate (even Zangief can be adjusted with one, to be honest). And really, a square plate is easier to play charge-type characters with than an octagon plate is.
Personal preference, but I've never understood the problems people have with square restrictor plates.
Actually in my opinion, square gates are the WORST for charge based characters. WIth the except of down/back (where theres a corner in a square gate) theres no real "feel" for down or back, you just have to kind of rest the stick in the down position - too easy to not be precise. However with octogonal gate, there is specifically a lock for the down direction as well as back. Square gate to me just seems so totally illogical in agame based on 8 directions.
But again, thats my opinion. THe Octo gate was the single greatest upgrade (even when I did full sanwa upgrade) because it was the most obvious and noticeable. Also, octo works great for curve based moves like QCF/B etc. Yes it does work well with Zangief, but only for the obvious reason that he has a full circle move.
ALso the gate simply clicks in/out. The easiest upgrade you can make to the stick. The only downside (if you care) is opening the stick case and voiding warranty - but well worth it imo.