No one wants a tangle of cords inside their PC case. Proper cable management may seem superfluous, and after spending hours building a PC, it feels like the last thing you want to do. In the long run, however, proper cable management can go a long way to a better overall experience.
Why Cable Management Matters
Proper cable management won’t necessarily help keep your PC cooler, since most mid-sized cases have a good amount of extra space. Only in the most extreme cases, where cables are somehow blocking fans or vents, would it make a difference.
But cable management is about more than just temperatures.
First of all, a PC build is never completely finished. There will always be a new GPU or CPU that you want, an extra storage drive to add, a better cooler, more RAM, and RGB lighting strips to make it really pop.
Once you’ve built your PC, you might be cracking open your case more often than you realize, and pushing your way through a tangle of cords will make these times harder and far less enjoyable.
On top of that, you can’t hide your laziness anymore. It used to be that, after building a PC, you could just close the case and forget about what it looked like inside. These days, most PC cases come with at least one transparent side. They help you show off your components and accent your build with some well-chosen accessories.
If you don’t properly manage your cables, however, all you’ll end up with is an eyesore that you have to look at every day.
Now that we’ve presented you with reasons to keep those cables clean and tidy, here are some tips to help you do just that.
Buy a Cable Management-Friendly Case
Before you buy your case, take a peek at what kind of cable management help it offers. Does it have, for example, cable routing channels around the back of the case? What about points where you can tie down the cables—or any other feature, such as NZXT’s massive cable management bar, that helps make things easier?
Cable management is, of course, not the primary issue that you want to consider when buying a PC case, but it should be in the mix to create an optimal build.
Get a Semi-Modular or Fully Modular PSU
Part of proper cable management is not only organizing the cables you do have, but also reducing the number of cables in your case. That’s why it’s a good idea to pick up a semi-modular or modular power supply unit (PSU). The difference between these two is that the semi-modular PSU has a few essential cables that aren’t removable, while every cable in a fully modular PSU can be removed.
Either one will work, as the cables in a semi-modular PSU almost always have to be there anyway. A non-modular PSU, however, means having to stuff a ton of unused cables somewhere in an already crowded case.
Part of the deal with modular PSUs, however, is that you can’t forget to add the cables you need before putting the PSU in your case. Once it’s mounted with screws, adding a slew of cables becomes a real pain. It’s better to do it in plain view outside of the case rather than in some hidden, dark corner of your new case.
Pay Attention to the Route of Each and Every Cable
As you go about building your PC, pay close attention to where every cable goes. The ideal is to have each cable show as little as possible on the front of the motherboard. In fact, it’s sometimes a good idea to sketch out where every cable is going to travel along the back and front of the motherboard.
The CPU fan’s power, for example, should exit from the top left of the motherboard and down the back of the case, while SATA cables will need to sneak in on the side.
Proper planning for where every cable is going to run, and how each will tie up in the back, is a key consideration.
Also, when the time comes to connect cables, deal with the smaller ones first before guiding the larger ones into place. Smaller cables that can be grouped together can also hide together inside some mesh sleeving, which will make them look like one large cable instead of multiple wires snaking around the back of the case.
You Can’t Hide Everything
There are a few key cables that you will never be able to truly hide. These include the power cable to your graphics card and the 24-pin motherboard connector. In most cases, these big, chunky cables are going to be visible no matter what, but that doesn’t mean that they have to look terrible. For the 24-pin cable, it’s mostly going to be a question of feeding it toward the back of the case as directly as possible to get it out of the way.
For the graphics card, you can run the cable straight down the front of the case and then back along the bottom toward the rear of the case. Another alternative is to feed the cable as directly as possible toward the rear of the case. Looking at the picture above, you can see the builder opted for the latter approach and then used a Funko Pop doll so that the cable wouldn’t just be hanging there. Get creative, and you’ll find good options for making this look as nice as possible.
Cable Ties Are Your Friend
Finally, don’t be afraid to use as many zip ties as you need when tying up your cables in the back. Cable ties make for a nicely organized set of cables. You can overdo it, of course, but in general, tying cables together and securing them in tie-down locations provides a much cleaner look.
Some PSUs come with ties included in the box, but you can pick up standard ones at your local hardware store. Smaller ties are preferable, as you don’t want bulky plastic getting in the way. The only thing with cable ties is that, when the time comes to cut them away to remove a cable or to add something new, you should be very careful not to slice up one of those wires (That’s where putting multiple small cables in a sleeve can really help.).
If cable ties worry you, then consider some strategically placed Velcro straps instead—some cases come with these as well.
Organizing and managing your PC’s internal cables is painstaking, and sometimes even annoying, work. Still, with a little patience, you’ll have an enjoyable build to work on and improve year in and year out—without having to get your hands tangled in a mess of cords every time you crack open the case.