Cable management – good cable management – is one of those things that separates the rookies from the pros in PC building. You can have the most expensive, flashy gaming chassis with as many case fans as your CPU has cores, but without neat and tidy cables it’s still going to look a mess. And what’s the point in the latest RGB lighting if there are a bunch of unkempt cables poking out from every corner?
Good cable management is especially important if you’re showing off your gaming rig’s guts with one of those swanky tempered glass side panels. If you’re wanting to show off your PC’s hardware like this, you should at least have it looking spick and span.
This might shock some of our more seasoned readers, but there are some ruffians who out there who couldn’t care less how their PC looks on the inside. To these people I say, first, ‘how do you live with yourself?’ and second, ‘alright, fair enough, these tips probably aren’t for you.’ But for all you respectable people who do care, we’ve compiled a list of tips that should help your PC go from cable hell to cableless heaven.
These tips are pretty straightforward and should help you plan your cable management effectively. Thorough planning is by far the best way to ensure tidy cable management.
Tip 1: Choose the right case
Pick a chassis that makes managing your cables easy. Although there are plenty of great cases to choose from, there are certain features that you’ll want to look for. You should look for cases that have:
- Backplate cutouts and rubber grommets
- Backplate tie-down points
- A cable management bar
- A shroud or basement for your PSU
Gaps and rubber grommets in the backplate will let you pass cables through from the back to the front, and a PSU basement or shroud will let you pass power cables around the back of the motherboard plate. Tie-downs are good for keeping cables snug to the backplate.
Most cases these days are built for good cable management, so you shouldn’t struggle to find one that has most, or all, of these. The bigger, the better, too. If you have a small case, it’s much more important to take your time finding the most efficient routes for your cables, whereas with a bigger case finding these routes should be easier.
There are plenty of cases that are great for cable management, from more expensive and feature-rich options like NZXT’s ‘H510 Elite’ ($149 / £150), to mid-range options like Fractal Design’s ‘Define R5’ ($130 / £125), to budget options like Corsair’s ‘Carbide 275R’ ($80 / £70).
It’s no longer the case that cases with adequate room for routing all your cables cost a fortune, so these days there really is no excuse for poor cable management.
Tip 2: Use a modular PSU
If you don’t already own power supply for your build, buying a modular one will probably be your best bet for tidy cable management. A modular PSU is one that has detachable cables, meaning you can connect only those you’ll need for your build.
This means you won’t have a bunch of loose cables behind your motherboard’s backplate preventing you from sliding on your side panel. It also makes it easier to work on cable management when you don’t have a bunch of completely unnecessary cables lying around.
Semi-modular PSUs are also an option. These have some connections permanently attached, but they’re usually the essential ones that you wouldn’t want to remove or couldn’t do without.
Tip 3: Use velcro cable ties
Along with a modular power supply and a decent chassis, cable ties are the backbone to good cable management. For this reason, you should make sure you have lots of them to hand – you can never have too many, but you can sometimes have too little.
It’s also worth spending a little extra money on velcro ties over standard zip or twist ties. Velcro ties are reusable and easy to use, and they reduce the risk of cutting into any other wires inside your PC. You can buy 100 velcro cable ties from Amazon for $9 (£8), and it’s definitely worth getting some if you haven’t got any already.
Tip 4: Have a plan
The most important thing to understand about good cable management is that you need to have a plan. It’s no good connecting all your components and praying it’ll all work out. You need to be thinking about how you’re going to go about routing your cables before you begin.
First things first, if you’re working on a PC system that’s already been built, it’s probably going to be easier to completely disconnect everything and start fresh with your cable management.
Once you’ve made sure you’re starting fresh, figure out exactly which cables you’re going to need for your build. If you’re using a modular power supply, remove all the other cables that you won’t need. Make sure you keep these, though, since you never know whether you’ll need them in future.
If you’re using a non-modular PSU, you should still figure out which cables you need, and then you can separate these from the rest. You can tie those cables that aren’t needed with a cable tie, keeping them out of your way while you’re fiddling around with all the other cables that you’re actually using.
You should also figure out which backplate cutouts will be best to use for routing cables to different components. Choose cutouts that are close to each component, but don’t have so many going through the same one that they might not all fit.
Tip 5: Rotate your case fans
One small thing that’s often forgotten, but that can turn good cable management into great cable management, is removing and rotating case fans to hide their cables. Rotating a fan in this way can make its connecting cable either further away from, or closer to, the fan header on the motherboard or the closest cable tidy route.
If there’s enough cable to let you rotate the fan and have the cable travel a little further around the edges of the fan’s frame, this can let you wrap the cable around the frame and connect it to the header while keeping things neat and tidy. Otherwise, tucking the cable down the side of the fan’s frame is usually a good idea, and you can fold it up and tie it if needed.
Tip 6: Connect cables in a considered order
When you start connecting things up, start with the non-power supply cables such as case fans, CPU fan, front panel connections, and any component-to-motherboard cables like SATA. Leave the power supply cables until last.
This way, you’ll have an easier time figuring out the best routes around your case for the power supply cables. Component-to-motherboard connections are pretty easy and generally aren’t too difficult to manage, and it’s usually pretty obvious what the best cable routes for these will be. Getting them out of the way with first lets you focus on the PSU cables without any distraction.
Once you start on the PSU cables, make sure you start with the more chunky ones. There’s nothing worse than having one final 24-pin motherboard power connector left, and realising you haven’t left enough room to feed it through the backplate. Starting with the bigger cables ensures this doesn’t happen.
Tip 7: Create clean cable runs
When deciding on the best routes for your cables, there are a few things you need to consider. The first and most important thing is that you want every cable to travel the shortest possible distance from when it feeds through the backplate to when it connects to its component. However, you also want to give it just enough slack that it won’t be too difficult to swap out components in the future. It can be a tough balancing act.
You also want to be routing cables in such a way that they can be grouped together – three cables running a single route is a lot neater than three cables going their own way. There’s a balancing act with this one, too, because you need to make sure each grouping of cables will fit through wherever it is you’re feeding it through on the backplate.
If there aren’t backplate cut-outs for you to feed the cables through, you should try to route them around the contours of the case. This is better than having them stretched across your components. In this situation, it’s worth sacrificing the “keep the cable length short” rule and using as much cable as needed.
Tip 8: Avoid obstructing fans, heatsinks, and coolers
When routing your cables, make sure you don’t obstruct any fans, heatsinks or coolers, as this could significantly impact the lifespan of your cables and coolers if they get caught.
That’s it, that’s the tip.
Tip 9: Don’t forget to organise behind the backplate
Once you’ve got everything plugged in and patiently waiting to be turned on, you should take a moment to organise the cables behind the backplate. No one’s going to see how amazingly neat and tidy this part of your PC is, but it is still important. Having good cable management behind the motherboard plate not only means you’ll actually be able to close the case’s side panel, but it’ll also make life easier in future if you ever need to upgrade and reorganise things.
Try to use the full length of each cable, or as much as possible, without bunching them up. Group them together and route them around the edges of the case in as orderly of a fashion as possible.
Different cases also have different routing options for behind the panel, so ensure you make use of any cable management bars, and follow routes that seem most logical for your case.
Tip 10: Only tie cables once you’re done
Our final tip is to only tie your cables together or to the case once you’ve connected everything up and have the cables roughly where you want them. This way, you can make sure everything is exactly how you want it before you make any cable commitments.
There’s always the possibility that you’ll realise, after connecting everything up, that a particular cable would be better feeding through another slot. If they’ve all been tied together already, good luck. Leaving the ties until the end makes this much less of a hassle.
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