So, you’ve bought the best graphics card and the best CPU for gaming, but your PC still looks like it’d get ridiculed on Reddit. What gives, you ask? The likelihood is you’ve not spent enough time neatening up the interior, when if you manage cables just right, your rig would stand proudly on top of your desk rather than being a shoehorn underneath it.
When the majority of cases out there are designed to show off the innards of your gaming PC with a shiny tempered glass window, what’s the point of having RGB lighting if you’re not going to do a little caretaking? Really, you’ve no reason not to, unless you’re one of those rogues that takes no pride in a well-kept PC. It’s relatively quick, it’s easier than you think, and there are absolutely no downsides.
Of course, you could just cheat and pack everything behind the motherboard, but there are far more elegant solutions out there. Follow these five stages to manage cables and your gaming PC could look like it’s been done by a professional in no time.
If you’re just getting to grips with how to build a gaming PC, then good. Working out your wiring is always going to be easier starting from scratch rather than carefully navigating around the components already in your rig – although that’s not to say prebuilt systems are beyond saving.
1. Modular and semi-modular power supplies
With a little elbow grease, almost any PC can scrub up and look good, but if you want something to help you manage cables, then a modular power supply comes in rather handy. Instead of letting cables that you’re never going to use spew all over your case or squish behind your motherboard, a modular power supply does away with these unwanted wires by making them detachable.
Not only does being able to simply plug in what you’re using make things significantly tidier, it streamlines how you manage cables, given that you no longer have anything unnecessary getting in your way.
If the expense of modular power supplies means this isn’t an option for you, then perhaps turn your attention to semi-modular options out there. As its name suggests, only some cables are detachable with these models, but the ones permanently installed are likely ones you’ll be using anyway. Don’t worry if this sounds daunting, we can walk you through how to install a power supply, too.
2. Choose the right case
Most cases nowadays come with features ready to help you manage cables, but not all are built equally. If you’re in the market for a new case, whether it’s an upgrade or a fresh build, you should always look out for:
- Size, as smaller cases tend to be more fiddly
- Spaces to feed your cables through the backplate
- A shroud for your power supply
- A cable routing bar
Bigger cases aren’t for everyone with the amount of space they take up, but they are usually packed with plenty more features made to manage cables easier, such as a power supply shroud to cover the shame of any extra cables you don’t need and a cable routing bar to keep things orderly. And, facing facts, it’s much easier to move around when you’re threading cables through the back.
That’s not to say that you can’t find similar features in a smaller chassis, but if you can’t fit a full tower or even a mid tower setup into your room, then you’ll need to take extra care when planning out the route of your cables, using the cutouts and rubber grommets to the best of your ability.
Cases with good cable management no longer cost a fortune, so there’s really no excuse to manage cables poorly anymore.
3. Arm yourself with cable ties – preferably velcro
Sometimes cable management can be likened to wading through a jungle, especially if you’re running a non-modular power supply. Instead of cutting the cables, which we absolutely do /not/ recommend, you can use cable ties to keep wires at bay and secure them in place once you’re done.
We recommend using velcro cable ties over plastic zip or twist ties because they’re less fiddly, they reduce the risk of cutting into other wires, and they’re completely reusable. And the best thing is they don’t cost too much, as you can get 100 velcro cable ties on Amazon for $10.99 / £6.99.
4. Plan things out
If your gaming PC has already been built, your job will be made that much easier if you unplug everything to start fresh. Once you’ve got a blank canvas, you /could/ just grab all your components and wing it, but you’ll more than likely run into issues if you don’t go in with a plan of how you want to route your cables.
As a modular power supply user, you can begin by plugging in the cables your system needs and leaving the rest in its packaging. Don’t lose these, as you might need them for a future upgrade. If you’re running a non-modular power supply, however, then you’re best isolating the unnecessary cables with your velcro cable ties, keeping them out of the way.
If your case doesn’t have cutouts, use the contours around it
Fan wires are often quite short, so it might seem like it makes sense to point them directly towards the motherboard, but this can sometimes introduce extra slack that just doesn’t look all that appealing. Conversely, placing it too far away could mean it doesn’t reach. Your best bet is to rotate each fan until the cable sits neatly around the frame with enough room to still plug into a fan header.
Remember, rotating is fine, but flipping could turn an intake fan to an exhaust fan and vice versa, which will affect your temperatures. A typical setup would have all your bottom and front fans intaking air and your back and top fans pushing it out. You can tell which way around a fan is because the air will hit the curved part of the blades first.
5. Route your cables in order
Since the cables on your fans, CPU cooler, and case’s front panel are dainty compared to your braided power supply cables and don’t stretch particularly far, you should connect them to the motherboard before starting the bigger project. There’s nothing worse than routing all your cables to find that one won’t reach because another is in the way.
Once you’ve plugged in any SATA cables you need and fed them through to the back of the hard drive cage, you can then turn your attention to the big box at the bottom. We recommend tackling the biggest cables first, such as your 24-pin motherboard power connector, as these can be difficult to wiggle through when the other cables are in place.
All power supply cables should be routed using the contours along the sides of the case or, preferably, through the back using the cutouts. This means you don’t obstruct fans, heatsinks, or coolers, improving the airflow and even the longevity of your gaming PC.
Make use of case-specific features like cable bars
Once all cables have been connected, do one last check to make sure everything is in order. You shouldn’t be able to see much in the way of cables from the front, with the necessary ones disappearing behind the nearest cutout. Behind the motherboard should be just as neat, if you’ve used most of the length of each cable.
When you’re absolutely certain that your work is done and don’t feel like a particular cable would be better feeding through another slot, you can tie your cables up, pop the side panels back on, and marvel at all your hard work.
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