John Gillooly looks at the best way to keep your cabling neat and tidy when building a new PC
When building a new system you’ll find that most modern cases come with space behind the motherboard to hide cabling. This allows you to keep the innards of your case neat, improving airflow and making it easier to work inside your system. This guide explains what all the cables are and where they should go, allowing you to take the guesswork out of routing them.
In the images we have used a modular power supply. These are really handy, especially if you don’t have a huge number of hard drives in your system. You only need to install the power cables that you need – in this case if we were using a PSU without modular cables we would end up with a tangle at the bottom of the case (there simply isn’t enough space to neatly hide them behind the motherboard).
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1 This is where the supplementary power goes into the motherboard. It is often the single most annoying thing to cable, largely because a lot of power supplies barely have the length needed to get to the top of a large case. It can be a bit tricky to slip through, as the gap traditionally is much smaller than the ones to the side of the motherboard.
2 This 24 pin ATX cable supplies the bulk of the power to the board. The cable will often consist of two plugs that need to be aligned before plugging them in. It will nearly always plug into this area on the motherboard.
3 Hard drives now quite commonly mount across the case. This allows for good airflow from a front intake as well as facilitating the use of tool-less mounts. It also means cabling can go in the back of the case, out of the way of airflow.
4 If your case has blue USB 3 ports on the front these connect to a special slot on the motherboard. The standard motherboard header connector is coloured blue, which should make it easy to indentify, and it will be quite obvious where on the motherboard it will slot into (it wont always be at the base of the board with the USB 2 headers)
5 Depending on your graphics card configuration you’ll likely need to supply it with power. These come in six and eight pin versions, and cards will often have a mix of the two. Also note that larger cards cover up the SATA ports on the motherboard, so you’ll want to connect your hard drives before mounting your video card.
Ever since PCs were first released the most annoying cabling job has been attaching the front LEDs and switches. These will consist of several one and two pin connectors that go on specific pins. There is no standard way of laying these out, so consult your motherboard manual and read the layout diagram on the motherboard. Some needle-nosed pliers can help a lot here.
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7 This is where the supplementary power goes. It will take a bit of fiddling around to slip the plug through the gap. Just be wary here if you are using a third party heatsink, as the mounting bracket behind the motherboard can protrude and you’ll need to route the cable around it. This should be the only cable (besides fans) that is behind the tray.
8 This is the spot you’ll want to route the main power through. This cable is the thickest one you’ll need to deal with, so take care that it isn’t going to protrude and interfere with your ability to put the side on the case.
9 This is going to be the busiest spot in the case. Not only do you need to run all the power supply cabling back through this, but you’ll also need to run in your front panel USB, light and switch connections. With so many cables coming through the rubber grommets can get dislodged – make sure they are sitting properly before finishing up with the build (bare metal edges and power cables aren’t a great combo)
10 It may take a little thinking but if you are only running a couple of hard drives you can probably get away with a single SATA power connector (this is handy with a modular supply as it keeps the number of cables low). Most motherboards will ship with SATA cables that have an angled connection on one end – these are best used here at the rear of the drives rather than on the motherboard connections.
11 The front panel of a case can have a surprising number of things that need to plug into it. In this case we have USB 2 and USB 3 ports, a SATA dock and eSATA (these plug into the SATA ports on the motherboard) as well as the usual array of plugs. This bundle can get a bit unwieldy, and it is worth only untying the things you need when preparing the case.