There’s more to building a gaming PC than getting the shiniest new components available and stuffing them haphazardly into a case. PC cable management is also essential. A neat and organized look will never go out of style, and PC wire management is one of the cheaper ways to spruce up your computer.
Internal components like fans, RGB lights, water cooling pipes, and RAM will all look better once you hide those pesky wires and cables from sight. Keeping wires away from your fans will also increase airflow and keep temperatures under control. It’s a win-win situation, either way. So, let’s get started.
Getting the Right Hardware
Cable management is entirely possible without replacing any major components. However, a few features are worth looking out for if you’re building a new rig with clean cable management in mind.
Modular Power Supplies
Good cable management starts with your power supply. There’s a specific PSU feature that you should look out for if you’re in the market for a new power supply (or are willing to upgrade): modularity.
A modular power supply will let you plug and unplug cables as you need them. For example, if you only have M.2 drives in your rig, you can leave the SATA power cables in the box and cut down on cable clutter.
Many modern PC cases feature cable routing features such as cutouts and grommets. These are handy and will help you run your cables more cleanly. You’ll also want a case with decent room behind the motherboard tray, as it’s the best place to hide any cable slack.
Some cases also come with a power supply shroud. These shrouds can help hide the excess cable bundled up near your PSU. These are especially useful if you don’t have a modular PSU. Unfortunately, there aren’t many aftermarket options if you want to add a shroud to a case that doesn’t have one. But that’s nothing that a little bit of DIY can’t fix.
Cable management bars behind the motherboard tray are also a handy cable management feature. They’re not as common as PSU shrouds, but you can spot them in cases like the Lian Li O11 Dynamic. This bar can come in handy when routing cables and storing cable slack, giving a cleaner look and stopping and cable bulge from bending your side panel.
This guide can still help even if you don’t currently own a modular PSU or a chassis with cable routing features, though. Both are ideal but by no means essential. Below is a list of cable management tips that can help tame that mess of cables into something you can be proud to display to your fellow enthusiasts.
Proper Cable Management: The Step-by-Step Guide
Now it’s time to go through all the critical techniques to turn that rat’s nest of cables into a clean-looking build. There are some items you can buy to give yourself an advantage, but you shouldn’t need much more than a bag of cable ties or velcro strips if you stick to the essentials.
Remember, you decide how much time and effort you want to spend on cable management. So before you get started, look through the guide first and decide just how far you want to go down the cable management rabbit hole. Nothing’s set in stone here, so you can always pick up where you left off in the future.
Step 1: The Planning Phase
The first step is to look at all your components and identify which cables you need and which ones you don’t. If you’re assembling a new rig with a modular PSU, then you can leave out any wires you don’t need.
If it’s already built, double-check and ensure that you (or the builder) didn’t plug in any unneeded cables. We’ve seen unused SATA cables plugged into modular power supplies before, so that’s worth checking. If you spot any, feel free to unplug them from the PSU itself.
Even if you’re not using a modular power supply, you should still separate any unused cables. These can be bundled and stowed away neatly in your case later.
Now is an excellent time to consider cable splitters or fan hubs. These can cut down on clutter by powering multiple components with a single power cable from your PSU. A SATA power splitter cable, for example, is an inexpensive way to power multiple drives with a single PSU cable.
Similarly, a fan controller like the Arctic Case Fan Hub can split a single cable between several case fans. Some cases have preinstalled hubs, but they’re also easy to buy and install yourself if your case doesn’t have one from the factory.
Check out our roundup review of the best fan controllers if you’re curious about other options.
Step 2: Route Your Cables
If your PC case has cable management options that you’ve overlooked, now is the time to use them. To check if you’ve missed any cable routing features in your chassis, unscrew the side panel that’s behind the motherboard tray. If you are facing your PC’s rear IO, then the panel will be on your left.
Once you have this side of your PC exposed, you’ll see what you have in terms of cable routing or channels. Some cases are better than others in terms of cutouts and space, so you may or may not be able to store much excess cable. Either way, take advantage of what your PC case has to offer.
A good cable management tip is to start with the 24-pin motherboard 8-pin CPU cables. These can be the most annoying to deal with, so plug them into the motherboard first before finding the best way to route them cleanly to your power supply.
Next comes your SATA drives. First, route SATA power cables to your storage drives. Your front panel connectors come next, running a similar route past the drive cages. The SATA data cables come next. The small plastic SATA connectors on your drives are delicate, so keep your SATA cables under as little tension as possible to avoid damage.
Note that some long GPUs (like an RTX 3080) may obstruct your motherboard’s SATA ports when installed. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those, it’s probably better to do most of your initial cable routing without the GPU installed. Install your GPU and cable manage the PCIe power cables after you’ve sorted everything else.
If this all sounds a bit intimidating, you can always do a dry run first before fully committing. A dry run will also help you ensure that you don’t accidentally braid or tangle your cables.
Step 3: (Optional) Cable Extensions and Accessories
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, there are a few products that can help with good cable management. They’re not essential, but they can make the difference between a decent job and an excellent one.
Sleeved cable extensions can help by extending or replacing your existing power cables, depending on your PSU. The individual strands of these sleeved cable extensions are kept parallel and managed neatly with plastic cable combs.
Another bonus of cable extensions is that they come in all kinds of colors and patterns. You should be able to find extensions that match the theme of your other components, lifting the aesthetics of your system while you’re improving the cable management.
Your motherboard’s 24-pin connector is often a problem point for cable management. The 24-pin cable is often incredibly thick, making it hard to cable manage. The common solution is to replace the stock 24-pin cable or use an extension.
However, there’s an even simpler (and cheaper) solution: a 90-degree 24-pin adapter. These inexpensive and easy-to-install headers altogether remove cable tension from your 24 pin header.
The two (or more) PCIe power connectors on your graphics card can also benefit from an adapter. Short PCIe power cables can pull down on your already hefty GPU and add unnecessary strain to your motherboard’s PCIe socket.
To mitigate this, you can use 90- or 180-degree adapters in place of your PCIe power cables. These adapters are a GPU cable management lifesaver and look quite smart, too.
Step 4: Tidy Up
Once you’ve routed your cables and used whatever extensions or adapters you need, it’s time for the finishing touches. You’ll need a bag of cable ties or a handful of velcro straps here. If you’re lucky, your case will already have some velcro loops from the factory. Still, they’re very affordable, so you won’t be too out of pocket even if you have to buy your own.
Start by tying any dangling wires to the inside of your PC case. This will clean up the look and take care of any excess cable length. Next, you’ll want to bundle any cables that run parallel to each other with cable ties or velcro straps. Color-coding these bundles might come in handy, although it’s not essential.
If you’ve installed sleeved cable extensions, make sure that they aren’t twisted or bunched. Install cable combs if you haven’t already.
You can conceal bundles of excess cable underneath the PSU shroud. If your case doesn’t have a shroud, then the next best place to store those bundled cables will be behind your motherboard tray. There’s usually enough room for some slack there, especially at the bottom of the case.
If neither is an option, you’ll have to get creative. You can just wrap your cables up nicely and have them in the bottom of your case or empty drive cages. Not ideal, but still better than leaving them hanging in your case.
Or you can run them around the front of your case, using cable ties to keep them in place. It’ll take some effort and planning, but the results can be impressive:
PC cable management might seem intimidating, but it isn’t as bad as it might appear. Sure, super-clean setups get all the praise, but the important thing is to make sure you don’t have messy cables impeding airflow and collecting dust in your gaming PC. Even if your case doesn’t have the best cable routing or even a PSU shroud, you can still benefit from the accessories and techniques outlined in the guide above.
So take a bit of time out of your day to do some cable management, and you’ll find that the insides of your PC chassis can go from a shameful mess to a boast-worthy masterpiece. And once you’ve got your rig sorted out, why not work on your desk cable management too?