Okay, I’ll admit it: whenever I build a PC, the cable management ends up resembling Medusa’s hair first thing in the morning:
What’s worse is that I sometimes leave it that way for months (sorry!). However having good, organized cable management brings a number of benefits: from better case airflow to calming our OCD tendencies!
Unfortunately the GPU is often hardest to route cables for – partly because modern GPUs need two or three power cables, and partly due to their position in the case. So I wanted to write this guide and discuss tips and best practices for graphic card cable routing.
- Benefits: Good cable routing leads to a better looking build, but it can also improve your internal case airflow.
- Approach: You should decide whether to run the GPU PCIe cables above, below or to the side of your graphics card.
- Case Layout: Whether your case has a PSU shroud or nearby cable routing holes makes a big difference to your cable routing approach.
- Other tips: Using cable ties, EVGA PowerLink or CableMod’s Bridged PCIe cables can also really help.
GPU Cable Routing Best Practises
When building a PC, you should firstly check that your PC boots up okay – even if your cable management is haywire! That way, if the PC has boot problems, you don’t need to undo hours of cable management. But after it boots okay, you should then circle back and properly manage your cables.
This has a number of benefits – from tidying up the overall look of your build, to potentially improving internal air flow. Unfortunately because the graphics card is often in the middle of the case (unless you use riser cables), it can be hard to properly route the PCIe power cables.
This is especially true if your GPU requires two or three PCIe cables, as many modern cards now do. After all, having 2 or 3 chunky PCIe cables running halfway through your case never looks good. Luckily many modern cases have a number of cable routing features to help you out, including cable routing holes (or rubber grommets), along with a bottom PSU shroud:
In addition, many cases have a ‘hidden’ area behind the motherboard tray where you can put all the cables.
All this means that the general approach for routing the PCIe power cables for your graphics card should be:
- Look at all the nearby cable routing holes/grommets (including any in the PSU shroud).
- Decide whether to run your cables above or below the GPU.
- Aim to have as small amount of PCIe cable as possible on display, because they are quite bulky cables.
- Move the rest of the cable behind the motherboard case (assuming your case has an area for this).
Before diving into these points in more detail, I wanted to give one final tip:
Tip: Don’t be afraid to bend the PCIe cables a fair amount. They aren’t glass or brittle metal, meaning they won’t simply snap the moment you apply a bending force to them. Of course, you shouldn’t constantly bend and distort them – but bending them to 90° and leaving them at that angle should be fine.
Above Or Below The GPU?
One of the first decisions you should make is how you want the PCIe PSU cables to look. Naturally your case layout (and the location of any cable routing holes) will dictate your decision a certain amount, but many people say that having your PCIe cables running downwards (below your GPU) looks best:
Having said that, there’s a solid argument for running the cables upwards instead (i.e. from above your GPU). Firstly, this can help to reduce or eliminate GPU sag if the PCIe cable is quite taut. Secondly, this cable configuration can look best on some cases – especially if there is a cable routing hole nearby – because you can then quickly hide the cable away.
Of course, some people disagree with the “above vs below” camps – and instead route their cable from the side:
I’m not personally a huge fan of sideways-routed cables in a big case, because you often need to have a lot of the cable on display. However in a smaller case (or one with a cable-routing grommet very close by), it can lead to a really neat finish.
Naturally though, there’s not really a right and wrong answer here – a lot comes down to personal preference, but also the case that you have.
Go Via The PSU Shroud Or Case Cable-Routing Holes?
Many modern PC cases (and especially full or mid-tower ATX cases) come with a PSU shroud, which is a piece of plastic or metal that hides the PSU away completely. It then has holes in it that allows you to easily route the PCIe power cables to your graphics card:
This is a pretty neat feature that recent cases have, and it’s definitely something I miss with my own Antec micro-ATX case (it’s such a small case that it’s hard to properly route cables, especially because the PSU is on full display).
If you have a PSU shroud, you will often want to use this for routing the PCIe cables to your graphics card – meaning that you will go for the ‘below GPU’ configuration. The only exception here is if your GPU is in the top PCIe slot, because there might be quite a big distance between the PSU shroud and your GPU. This will result in quite a lot of messy PCIe cables on display.
In this case, you have two main options:
- Make use of EVGA PowerLink or CableMod’s Bridged PCIe cables, which I explore later on.
- Check to see if your case has grommets or cable-routing holes near your GPU:
If so, you will probably be better off routing the PCIe cables through these holes – and going with the ‘above’ or ‘side’ cable config instead. This will usually lead to much less PCIe cable being shown than if you direct the cable to the PSU shroud.
Whichever method you use, though, there are a few other ‘quick wins’ you can use to tidy up your PCIe GPU cables.
Use Cable Ties (Or EVGA PowerLink)
After you’ve finished routing your cables, it’ll probably still look a bit messy – especially because your PSU likely has 6-7 different cables coming out of it. Cable zip ties are very useful here, because you can group different cables together – and the result often looks like just 1 or 2 cables coming from each direction.
In one of my old builds, my cable management was… pretty rubbish. And after using cable ties, it become… slightly less rubbish!
Okay I do kind of suck with cable management, but using cable ties did help because I was able to group various cables from the PSU, and hide them behind the motherboard tray. Then various cables from the side were cable tied and looked neater as a result. Finally, I didn’t have any real room to run the CPU power cable to the motherboard CPU pin – but by cable tying it to the edge of the case, it basically looked hidden when the side of the case went back on.
In addition to cable ties (which are essential to good GPU cable management), you might want to explore EVGA PowerLink – which are tailored pieces of plastic that sheath away various cables. JayzTwoCent’s video below covers this nicely:
Some people argue that there are nicer-looking options for the GPU PCIe cables than hiding them behind a bit of plastic, but I quite like the neat effect that PowerLink results in.
Consider CableMod’s 8+8 Bridged PCIe Cables
An alternative to hiding away the graphics card’s power cables is to boldly display them! CableMod makes Bridged PCIe cable combs so that instead of having two or three separate PCIe cables (which will always look messy), it looks like you just have a single, awesome looking PCIe cable:
CableMod’s pack is actually a set of clips (or combs, as they call them) which come in black, transparent or white colors. They include 8+8 Bridged clips if your GPU needs two PCIe pins, or 8+8+8 Bridged clips if your GPU is power-hungy and requires three PCIe pins. The pack also includes 6+8/8+6 clips for GPUs that require a mix of 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe connections.
Note: These are often available to buy for less than $20/€15, although it’s worth re-iterating that the ‘Combs’ pack is just that (a set of clips/combs) to neatly organize your existing PCIe cables. CableMod do also sell separate PCIe cables if you would prefer a brand new, colored PCIe cable to run to your graphics card.