How To Cable Manage A PC And Make It Look Amazing

Is the inside of your PC an eyesore? Why purchase such attractive components, only to cover them up with a bundle of wires? Sure it’s not like you wouldn’t love to fix the problem, but perhaps you don’t know how. Luckily, you’re in the right place! We are going to show you how to cable manage your PC so well, you’ll forget that rat nest ever existed.

But, what is PC cable management? According to TechTerms.com:

“Cable management is the organization of cables connected to electrical devices. This includes power cables, network cables, audio/video cables, and many others. Managing cables is a key aspect of a clean and safe home or work environment.”

Read the full definition of cable management by TechTerms.

And what are the benefits of performing this time-consuming task?

The Benefits Of Good PC Cable Management

Before you rip the sides off your computer and start pulling out cables, find out why it’s a good idea first. There are three main reasons to properly cable manage your pc. First, your performance might see a slight boost from the improved airflow and a reduction in case temps. Second, a cable managed computer looks impressive, which also improves your mood (everyone’s mood actually). Third, is the ability to easily upgrade your components, without spending an hour untangling wires.

The Impact On Your PCs Performance

It’s up for debate, whether or not good cable management improves the performance of your PC, but most experts believe that it doesn’t. However, leaving cables thrown about your case can hinder airflow and raise ambient temps. Plus it gives dust an extra place to settle, and we know that dust alone will cause heat issues over-time. Lastly, cables could get in the way of your heatsink, particularly the cooling fans, and cause them to fail.

Here’s a short video on the direct impact cable management has (or doesn’t have) on your PCs temps.

Does Cable Management Affect PC Performance?
According to Linus Sebastian of NCIX Tech Tips, it doesn’t matter too much.

So, does cable management matter? We say yes it does, even if it doesn’t improve your performance a bunch—it benefits you.

Your PC Will Look Amazing

The most significant benefit, when you learn how to cable manage a PC, is that it looks friggin’ sweet! Most modern cases come with a window to view the pricey components you installed. Think of how amazing it would look if you didn’t have a wired mess blocking the view. If you purchased any RGB LED accessories, then cable management is a must, as all the pretty lighting in the world won’t make the mess in your case look any nicer.

As a bonus, we’ll show you some excellent examples along the way.

Make Future Upgrades Pain-Free

Ever run into an issue and think, “I’d really love to go back in time and kick my own ass for this!” We’ve all had thoughts like this, and the good news is by taking care of the cables in your setup now, you’ll avoid a headache later. So, if you aren’t going for looks, at least provide the space you’ll need for future upgrades.

The Best Tools For The Job

The tools you’ll need can vary depending on one factor—zip ties or velcro straps. One thing we don’t recommend is the use of tape to ‘wrap’ your wires together. The adhesive on tape can bind, making it difficult to get off of your cables once it’s on.

Here are all of the tools you’ll need in no particular order:

  • Zip Ties
  • Velcro Straps
  • Adhesive Clamps
  • Wire Cutters
  • Anti-Static Wrist Strap
  • Philips #2 Screw Driver

That’s not a very long list, and all together costs less than $20.00 too. Keep in mind that wire cutters are only needed if you opt for zip ties instead of velcro straps. If you don’t have wire cutters, don’t use a razor blade, as you risk slicing into your cables—try a fingernail clipper instead.

Next is the anti-static wrist strap, which serves to ground any electric discharge, which could be fatal to your components. Also, we felt the need to mention a screwdriver to remove any pre-installed components before you begin.

Lastly, there are the adhesive cable clamps that come in handy if your case doesn’t have built-in cable management features, such as tie down points. If you know someone with a 3D printer, these are relatively easy to make if you’re looking for a cheaper option.

adhesive tie downs are a great substitute
See on Reddit by user u/desperate-caucasian

Don’t forget to give yourself enough space to work in comfort—preferably in an area with good lighting.

Pro Tip: On a budget? Opt for rubber bands, hair ties, or twist ties.

Get A Case With Built-In Cable Management

A case with routing holes and wire hiders makes the task of snaking and fishing cables around your case less annoying. If you’re able to choose your case from the get-go, look for one that caters to your cables. Another consideration is the form factor or size of your case. While size doesn’t matter too much, when it comes to the best way to manage your pc cables, it helps to have the extra space.

If your case is a small form factor (Mini ITX), don’t worry, they make shorter cables that look just as good.

Get Ready To ‘Tie-Up’ Your PC

There are multiple strategies when it comes to the best way to cable manage your PC. If you are reading this, you might not have a clue how even to get started. With great respect for the novice in mind, we are going to tell you what we think is the most sound strategy.

First, remove the side and front panels on your case. If you’re building a brand new PC, you’re going to have a much easier time running your cables because of space. Modern cases have routing holes and tie down locations placed in optimal positions to reduce clutter. These areas put most of the cables and wires out of sight—behind the motherboard tray.

Don’t panic if your PC is already assembled. Remove anything bulky that gets in the way, such as a Graphics Card, Large Heatsink or Radiator. These are all things you can easily reattach when finished.

Next, install your modular PSU (Power Supply Unit). This type of PSU will enable you only to use the cables you need, as non-modular will require you to stow away lots of unused cables since they can’t be detached.

If you have an older PC, you probably don’t have a modular PSU or don’t have a PC case with routes and tie downs—or both. If you fall under this category, then cable managing just got very basic. In your situation, there are only two things you need to worry about:

  1. Zip tie or strap your cables up and out of the way of any moving parts or main components.
  2. Group cables to maximize airflow from one end of the PC chassis to the other.

What about a third option? It may be time to upgrade to a new computer.

Prep Your Components Ahead Of Time

Getting the rest of your PC system ready is half of the work. It’s a good idea to consider installing the rest of the storage drives, cooling fans, and other small accessories before threading the power cables. The fans come with small cables attached to them that will need to be managed anyway, so it’s a good idea to do it now. The storage drives (SSD and HDD) have cables that run to the motherboard from their drive bays and will also need to be tidied up.

Next, pull out the modular power cables that came with your PSU and separate into groups according to type. Doing this will ensure that you don’t have to waste time searching for the right connector later on.

The following connector types are used to cable manage a computer:

  • 24-Pin ATX (Motherboard)
  • 2 or 4-Pin Molex (CD/DVD Drives, and Controllers)
  • 4 or 8-Pin CPU (Processor)
  • SATA (SSD and HDD)
  • Front Panel Connectors
  • 3 or 4-Pin PWM (Case and Heatsink Fans)
  • 6+2 or 8-Pin GPU (Video Card)

When it comes to other components, it’s a good idea, to leave them pre-assembled outside of the case. That means your GPU, RAM, CPU, and Heatsink are connected to the motherboard so when the time comes; you can place them in your PC all at once. This way you only need to screw the motherboard to the chassis and plug in the cables.

You’ll find that learning how to cable manage your PC is almost that easy.

Start Routing The Power Cables

First, decide which order you’ll connect the cables. Most people work from smallest to largest, meaning you’ll begin with the small fan, front panel and driver cables. By starting with the smallest first, they will end up beneath the larger cables—secured and held in place better.

Second, plan the path and direction you’ll be running the cables. This path should begin at the PSU, run across the back of the motherboard tray via the route holes and end at the component. While you’re working out where to secure each cable, it’s critical that you don’t tie any of them down too early. You never know if you’ll need to make last minute adjustments and removing zip ties is tedious.

Show every cable some love, no matter how big or small it seems. Once you’re done with one, move on to another. If you work impatiently and try to get it over with as fast as possible, it’ll show. As my father (and many others) like to say, “Do it right the first time!”

Pro Tip: Consider placing color labels on each cable, so they’re easier to identify on the go.

If your case doesn’t allow for cable management behind the motherboard tray, spread them around the outside of the case. Remember, you want to stay away from fans and hot components, such as your heatsink.

One question that we get asked from time to time is, “can high temperatures damage a cable?” Assuming this is about the heat given off by a nearby component, the answer is no. If it gets hot enough in your PC to torch copper wire, then you’ve got more significant problems to worry about.P

Secure Everything In Place

Now that you’ve got all of the cables in place do one final check to make sure they have enough length to reach their destinations. Next, we are going to secure them to each other, but first, make sure your side panel fits over the bunch you’ve created. If the back panel on your case doesn’t fit because of the bulk, then you need to spread the cables out a little more, before bundling them together.

When you’re sure that you’ve got enough room to close your case once you finish, start combining your cables into groups. Because we’ll be hiding excess cable in the bottom of the case, it’s best to begin securing at the top and working toward the bottom. This way, a longer cable can be folded over, tied to itself and stored out of the way. (We don’t recommend you shorten cables by trying to cut and reattach them!)

Use as many cutouts and tie down locations as possible, to reduce the surface area behind the motherboard tray, and make future cable management a breeze.

Pro Tip: Take care and limit tight bends and twists to avoid damage to the copper wiring inside the cable sleeve.

How Does It Look?

As you look at the meat of your system, how visible are the cables? You should only see the locations that connectors are either entering or exiting the routing holes. If you’re unhappy with the way it looks, maybe brush up some more on your PC cable managing skills and start over. There are also various accessories that can improve the look of your cords for a few extra bucks.

PC cable management accessories include:

  • Cable Combs
  • Cable Extensions
  • Colored Cable Sleeves
  • PSU Shroud

What Are Cable Combs?

Cable combs are small pieces of rubber or metal that do just what they say. They give each cable a “combed” look by separating the individual wires and holding them in place. These provide a clean appearance to the cables and are nearly pain-free to attach.

cable combs give a clean look to your pc
See on Reddit by user u/Orangeclockwerk

As you can see, these add a truly custom and uniform look to the strands of each cable.

When To Use Cable Extensions

Cable Extensions are longer versions of the ones that came with your power supply. These come in handy when you’re original cables are too short to comfortably reach their destination without straining the copper wires on the inside. Adding extensions will improve the appearance of your case, by providing better pathways for the cables to travel due to the increase in length.

As a bonus, cable extensions also come in various colors and add a more custom look to your gaming setup.

Colored Cables or Sleeves: Which Is Right For You?

Cable sleeves require a lot of extra work to use in your PC correctly. That’s because they usually involve you physically feeding the wire thru the hollow sleeve. Some gamers and enthusiasts use paracord instead of buying actual cable sleeves. Instead, they remove the cord and place the sleeve over their PC cables for a unique look.

If you’re not ready to perform this method of wire decorating, look for some power cables that come out of the box ready to go in the color of your choosing.

Where Can I Find A PSU Shroud?

If your case doesn’t come with a shroud, your other options are to pay someone to make one for you or make one yourself. A couple of good places to look if you’re in the market to have one custom made is Savant and V1 Tech.

Pro Tip: Some manufacturers sell PSU shrouds separately. Check their websites and see if they have any that fits your computer case.

If you’d rather skip the big price tag (USD 100-200) the cheapest option is to make one out of various materials. That can range in difficulty, anywhere from making one with a spray-painted shoe box or bending acrylic with a heat gun. You can do a lot with a little ingenuity.

I found a neat video that shows a unique way to make a PSU shroud right at home. Check it out!

MAKE YOUR OWN PSU SHROUD!
YouTube video created by caitlinV3

Of course, the most popular way to get a PSU shroud is to spend a few extra dollars when buying your PC case. It’s up to you, well, unless you’ve got poor judgment. Then ask a friend or family member for help.

6 Examples Of The Best Ways To Cable Manage Your PC

The following examples show the good, the bad and the ugly of cable management. These should give you a rough idea of how you want your PC to look when you’re done.

All pics came from Reddit, and provide links to the original author’s post.

clean looking pc components and cables
See on Reddit by user u/Nanabas

The Good: This case shows excellent use of space, giving the inside a clean appearance you can almost feel. You can also see the radiator attached to the front of the case instead of the top or back, as to not hide the components behind the hoses.

how not to cable manage a mini ITX PC
See on Reddit by user u/Asian_Ho

The Bad: To this users credit, it’s tough to maintain the space in a mini-ITX case. One way you could create more room is by opting for shorter cables. Also, upgrading the storage drives to an M.2 SSD will open things up even more. He certainly did the best he could with what he had, and that’s all you can sometimes do.

a poorly wired pc

See on Reddit by user u/andrewnwaldrip

The Ugly: This user needs some good advice ASAP. Here is an example of how lousy cable management not only looks so ugly it hurts but can potentially harm your components. You can see in the top left how there is little regard for the wires by the case and heatsink fans—an accident waiting to happen.

how to cable manage the back of a pc neatly
See on Reddit by user u/Adrien7777

The Good: This shows the best way to cable manage the back your PC. Though it takes a ton of work to get it to look like this great, you can see how it could be worth it. I for one can tell you the back panel on my PC does not look that nice. But it’s something to strive for right?

the back of a pc not so neatly

See on Reddit by user u/Hove201

The Bad:  This really should be called the ‘average’ as this is what most attempts at cable managing the back of a PC looks like. If you end up with something similar to this and you’re happy with it that’s fine—you can’t see it anyway. If you’ve got severe OCD on the other hand, this will destroy your soul, and you need to fix it. Right now.

a nice pc with custom cables and liquid cooling

See on Reddit by user u/ub3rb3ck

The Perfect: The definition of computer p0rn. When great cable management is coupled with an excellent custom liquid cooling solution, it looks incredible. You can see how the wires don’t have any tight bends or twists and match the rest of the color scheme. How long do you think this took? We are going to guess very.

Don’t Forget To Manage The Cables Outside Of Your PC Too!

The inside of your PC might look fly, but if the outside is a war zone, it can go from being a 10 to a 7 real quick. Fixing it’s outer beauty starts by positioning your desk to the closest power outlet. Cable management on the outside of your PC is much simpler, mainly because you have more room to move things around.

Once you’ve positioned your computer close to the nearest wall outlet, you’re going to begin the task of running wires down the back of your desk and out of sight. Bundle the cords and cables in the same fashion as before using zip ties, straps or rubber bands. Start close to your PC case and secure all the way down to your outlet or power strip. Resecure excess cable and tuck it away in an obscure location behind your desk.

Many accessories for cable management around your desk make them nearly invisible. These include:

  • Boxes To Hide Your Power Strip
  • Cable Sleeves
  • Cable Shorteners
  • Desktop Cord Wrappers
  • Unused Cable Holders (Binder Clips Work Great)
  • Under-Desk Cable Storage and Routing Kits

Check it out: I discovered a great idea using a rain gutter for under the desk cable storage, given to us by Adam Pash at lifehacker.com

The end goal is to get all the cords and wires under the table and off the floor.

Cleaning up the wired clutter around your desk
See on Reddit by user u/123Robo

How you organize them after that depends on what accessories you plan to use. There are many options at your disposal to hide ugly wires all around your desk, but what method you choose is solely up to you.

How Did You Do?

Like all things, excellent cable management comes with practice and a little creativity. If you want to share any extra tips from your cable mod project, feel free to contact us! We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!