How to Manually Disable the Power and Drive LEDs on Your Desktop PC

Desktop computers make a certain amount of noise and light during operation. Unless you’ve custom-built a monster gaming machine with awesome obnoxious lighting effects, these are probably limited to a power indicator and a drive light. You can turn your computer off, of course, but if you’d prefer to let it run without the lights (like if you’re using your PC in a dorm room or studio apartment), it’s easy to turn those lights off for good.

First, the Easy Ugly Way: Cover the Lights

Before getting into the actual instructions, we’d be remiss not to mention the quick, easy method of avoiding these lights: just cover them up. A bit of electrical tape will do the job in a snap, though it’s definitely a little janky looking. You could also use specific stickers meant to dim LEDs, which we’ve compared here. But if you want a solution that looks a bit nicer, then read on.

Step One: Find Your PC or Motherboard Manual, if Possible

What we’re going to be doing is disconnecting the LED connection wires from the system panel connector, also known as the front panel header. These things are tiny and often unlabeled on the motherboard, so it’s best to have some kind of a guide.

If you’ve built the computer yourself, you probably remember inserting these wires during the initial build process. Just find the original manual, or do an online search for your motherboard model to get a PDF version. It will include a diagram of the system panel, including which specific cables are for the power and drive LEDs.

If you purchased your PC already assembled, this might be a bit tougher—the manual may not make any reference to the motherboard at all. If that’s the case, you can determine the part number of the motherboard and search for a manual separate from the computer itself, or simply do a bit of searching for the system panel diagram for that specific board.

Step Two: Open Your PC

Remove all power and data cables from your computer. Remove the screws for the side access panel—these might be thumb screws on a normal full-sized desktop, or it might be much more involved for a compact model. Move your computer somewhere that has plenty of light and easy access to the motherboard.

If you don’t know how to open your computer case, again, consult its manual. You want to access the side that will let you see the top of the motherboard and its connections.

Step Three: Unplug the Power and Drive LEDs

Here’s the important part. Refer to your manual or guide for a layout of the system panel connector. This part is usually on the bottom or right edge of your motherboard, on the opposite corner of the processor area.

You want to remove the positive (+) and negative (+) cables for both the power indicator LED and the drive indicator LED. Usually these are labelled “PLED” and “IDE_LED” or “HD LED” on the diagram, and if you’re lucky, in tiny lettering on the cables and the motherboard, too. Some motherboards support multiple power LEDs for different sleep or hibernation states.

Unplug only the positive and negative cables for the power and hard drive LEDs. Do not touch the other cables: the other pins on the system panel are for the physical on/off switch, the reset switch, and sometimes extras like the front headphone jack and motherboard alert speaker.

Step Four: Test the Results

Now without completely re-assembling  your computer, carefully plug it in and turn it on. You should see the processor fans and case fans start to spin up, but the LEDs on the front of the case won’t light up. Test the power and reset switches to make sure they’re still operating—they should work fine without the LEDs activating.

If your computer doesn’t turn on, or the reset switch isn’t working, go back to step three, re-insert all the cables, and try again, making sure to carefully follow your manual or guide. If all else fails, you can try a process of elimination to see which cables going from the front of the case to the system panel are for which function.

Michael Crider has been covering technology on the web since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order. He wrote a novel called Good Intentions: A Supervillain Story, and it's available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter if you want.