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Tie me down: The ultimate guide to proper PC cable management

Marco Chiappetta | April 21, 2014
There's no doubt about it: Taking the time to tidy up your cables is something every system builder and upgrader should do.

There's no doubt about it: Taking the time to tidy up your cables is something every system builder and upgrader should do.

Aside from the small additional effort it takes, there are no downsides whatsoever — but benefits abound. Even if you're not into the clean aesthetic, a PC with its cables properly routed and secured will run cooler and quieter, accumulate dust more slowly, and be easier to upgrade in the future.

Here's how to transform that terrifying tangle of cables into a prim, polished PC.

Components matter

There is no secret to proper PC cable management. There are, however, a number of strategies to ensure a good outcome. It starts with wire ties, a keen eye, and a bit of patience, but the right components and component placement also matter greatly.

A little forethought can make a big difference to your case's cable clutter.

Many of today's case manufacturers take cable management very seriously and have designed their products to tame tangles. They scatter strategically placed holes about the motherboard tray, leave adequate space behind the motherboard tray to hide and tuck cables away, and litter the case with tie-down spots.

When building a new system, we'd highly recommend buying such a case. It might cost a little more than a generic chassis, but it's worth the investment and could last though multiple upgrade cycles.

A modular power supply unit (PSU) is also a good idea. It sports detachable cables, so you only have the cables you're actively using taking up room inside your case.

Modular PSUs have their detractors, because technically speaking every connection or break in a wire increases its resistance. In the many years I've been building systems, however, I've never had a problem. Being able to use only the cables you need is great and eliminates the need to stash large, unused bundles of cable inside your case. Modular PSUs are not a necessity — in fact, the system featured at the end of this article doesn't use one — but they will alleviate cable clutter.

Component placement within a system is also important. Of course, your motherboard and power supply are only going to fit in one spot, but drives, graphics cards, and other expansion cards should be positioned in such a way that their cables — or the components themselves, for that matter — don't interfere with one another. You should also try to position them so that component cables begin near one of those holes in the motherboard tray if at all possible. 

When assembling a system I find it's best to save the drives and power supply for last. When all of the other components are in place, it's easier to see where to position the drive (or drives) and where to route cables.


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