How to manage cables: six ways to keep your gaming PC neat and tidy
Taking the time to manage cables in your gaming PC setup is more important than you’d think. Not only does it make everything neat and tidy, saving you from the Reddit ridicule should your rig ever make it into the depths of the forums, it also instils a sense of pride.
Cable management inside your rig may feel like a chore, but it could help make it look like the best gaming PC it can be. For starters, cleaning up your wires could prevent tasks like upgrading to the best gaming CPU from feeling like an action movie bomb disposal scene. Better still, if you want to boost fps in your favourite games, freeing up case space can help keep things cool when overclocking your CPU and GPU.
Of course, you could just cheat by packing everything behind the best gaming motherboard and jamming the side panel back on, but there are far more elegant solutions out there. Follow these six steps and your setup 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 you’re in the ideal position to think about managing cables. After all, it’s always easier to start from scratch than it is to perform the delicate operation of untangling a bird’s nest of wires that are already sitting in your system. That’s not to say pre-built systems are beyond saving, but they’re a little more work given we’d always recommend stripping it down first.
1. Modular and semi-modular power supplies
With a little elbow grease, almost any PC can scrub up to 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.
Choosing what you can plug in streamlines the process of building the PC, not only making things significantly tidier, but getting rid of the headache that comes with a pile of cables getting in your way as you piece things together. Here are a few fully modular power supply suggestions to get you started:
If the expense of modular power supplies means this isn’t an option for you, then perhaps turn your attention to the semi-modular options that are 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. Naturally, if you’re looking to maximise space within a mini-ITX case, you’ll also want to consider opting for an SFX (small form factor) PSU so that you’ve got plenty of room to work with.
If you’re stuck with a non-modular power supply, you can still get a pretty decent hold of cable management – it’ll just require a bit more effort. Don’t worry if all of 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 cable routing features, 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 mini-ITX models can be a little trickier, and you’ll want to use all available cutouts and rubber grommets to the best of your ability. Here are some of the best PC cases for cable management:
Cases with good cable routing 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 dealing with cables can be likened to wading through a jungle, especially if you’re running a non-modular power supply. Instead of cutting off the wires you don’t need – which we absolutely do not recommend – you can use cable ties to keep them 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 around $12 USD / £9 GBP.
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.
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 the best CPU cooler, your fans, 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.
Once all cables have been connected, do one last check to make sure everything is in order, to avoid the panic of pressing that on button with no response. Make sure you’ve definitely switched on the power supply at the rear. 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.
Once your PC successfully boots and everything’s working, and you 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.
6. Outside your pc
Having a tidy looking PC is all good, but the back of the best gaming desk should be just as neat. After all, they say “a tidy desk is a tidy mind”. There are some pretty basic ways to hide cables, such as routing the power cable and display wires behind the stand of the best gaming monitor or investing in an under desk cable routing system to keep cables off the floor.
If cables are really getting on your nerves, you could consider picking up the best wireless gaming mouse and a cordless verion of the best gaming keyboard. Those of you that are stuck with wires, however, might want to consider pairing the best gaming mouse with a bungee to avoid cable drag and neatly direct them where you want them to go.
Those of you with a busier setup that includes the best gaming microphone don’t have the luxury of going wireless – unless you opt for Antlion’s wireless Modmic, of course. In this instance, you might want to consider drilling holes in your desk so your wires disappear beneath the tabletop, but you’ll want to make sure your peripherals are definitely in their correct position before doing this.
Just like inside your PC, we’d recommend the velcro zip ties again for tidying up any excess cable, while still being able to easily detach if swapping out any of your peripherals.
What’s the best PC case for cable management?
Most of the best PC cases will be designed with cable management in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy task. Depending on your choice of PSU, you’ll need to carefully assess where to route connections and wires, and if you’re using a non-modular power supply, you’ll need to tuck any redundant connections away in crevices.
Do graphics cards need power cables?
Most modern-day graphics cards require a power supply connection, Nvidia’s RTX 4000 series GPUs could require a new 600W PCIe standard. However, there are still options for low-spec gamers and mini build enthusiasts, as the likes of the GTX 1050 Ti and AMD Radeon RX 460 can use your motherboard’s PCI for power, and they still pack a modest punch.