Building a PC is one thing, but employing proper cable management is another. Having messy cables inside and outside the case won’t necessarily harm anything, but if you neaten thing up, you’ll only see benefits. Not only does cable management make your system look a lot nicer, but it generally makes things run better, too. By employing proper cable management, you’ll accumulate dust more slowly and make it easier for you to upgrade specific components in the future.
Follow along below, and we’ll show you some proper techniques to employ when managing your cables.
Inside the case
First, you need material for bundling all of your wires. If you have zip ties at home, those will do fine. Generally, it’s not recommended since you have to cut off the ends after tightening, and could risk slashing a wire. But, if you’re on a shoestring budget or don’t want to spend too much on managing cables, standard zip ties will do just fine — just be extra cautious. However, your best bet is to spend some money on some cable management material. There’s plenty of options out there, from velcro ties, adhesive tie downs and more. If you have the money to spend, getting some reusable cable ties are always nice, especially in the event that you decide to change something or upgrade a component later on.
The first step to good cable management is planning — planning how it will all route before you even build your PC. You want your cables to be bundled not only in the neatest way possible, but also in a way that they don’t get in the way of fans or other components.
Most case manufacturers now build computer cases with cable management in mind. That said, in many modern cases you’ll find holes throughout the case where cables are to be routed through (but do keep in mind that not all cables are meant to be routed through those holes). You’ll also find specific tie down areas and plenty of more space behind the motherboard tray so that cables can be neatly tucked away. If you can, you’ll most definitely want to make sure you’re purchasing a case like this — it’ll make life a whole lot easier, as all you’ll have to really worry about is tying down the cables in the designated spots.
The key thing is component placement here. Your motherboard and power supply are only going to fit in spot, but hard drives, video cards and other components you can kind of “move around.” It’s suggested that you start with adding in one component at a time (as opposed to all of them and then worrying about cable management after). It adds quite a bit more time to your build, but lets you see where everything fits and the best possible way to route cables.
Now, there’s not one “true” way to do your cable management. It varies from every build, since no case is the same nor is no component the same. Cable holes will be different from case-to-case, and so do spots for other components, such as your hard drives. That said, your best bet is to take your time and think about the most efficient way to route your cables (again, by adding in one component at a time).
So, when your managing cables, don’t tie anything down straight away. You’ll want to route them all in the way you want them to go (ideally behind the motherboard tray) and get everything plugged in first. If you like how it looks and are happy with the route you took (i.e. nothing is overly stretched and so on), you can then tie them down. By not tying them down straight way, you make it much easier to reroute something you don’t like or aren’t happy with.
It goes without saying, but when routing your cables, make sure they aren’t blocking any case fans. You don’t want to block the airflow for the PC.
Now, in most modern builds, the large majority of your cabling should end up behind the motherboard tray. If you don’t have a case with this option, your next best bet is to run them up on an edge of the case. Again, there isn’t any “true” way to do this — do what you feel is best in your situation as long as you aren’t blocking case fans or stretching out wires.
And, if you want to see other people’s PC cable management to get some ideas, there’s a great cable management community over on Reddit. It’s also a great place to ask questions or get feedback from. Alternatively, if you have questions, you can visit our own community in the PCMech Forums.
Outside the case
Outside the case is a lot easier to do than inside the case. Your best bet here is to unplug everything, get it all untangled and then route them the way you want. Of course, you’re going to be wanting to use some sort of adhesive tie down, cable mounts or other cable utilities to get them to stay in the position you want them to be in. But, like we said, just getting an idea of how you want to route your cables is the first step.
It’s also worth noting that some people recommend you bundle your power cables and A/V cables separately. It helps minimize the electromagnetic interference that power cables give off. This can negate your the performance of your audio and video, but it’s highly likely you may not even notice a difference.
There are some people that say cable management can improve the life of your system, but what your goal here is to clean up the mess. With all the different components, there are a lot of wires, and when not bundled correctly, the system just looks like a mess. Bundling cables up is mostly for aesthetics, which is definitely something to keep in mind if you purchased a nice case with a glass window to show off your PC. However, it also makes it easier to move parts around and add or remove components in the event that you want to upgrade something.
Some actual practical benefits that cable management brings is better airflow (though the difference might not be that noticeable). You’ll also find that you cables get caked with less dust, which is always nice.
How about you? What are your cable management techniques? Or maybe you have a build with great cable management that you want to show. Either way, be sure to let us know in the comments section below or over in the PCMech Forums!