By Jason Imms | Extremetech.com
Good cable management requires planning, a discipline that can be hard to find amidst the excitement that comes with newly acquired hardware. It is always tempting to start tightening screws and plugging in cables as soon as you can, but taking the time to map out where cables need to start and finish, and how you are going to keep them out of your main air flow channel is utterly worthwhile.
Begin by mounting the motherboard, PSU, optical drives, and hard disks in the case. Next, start plugging power cables into their target devices and roughly grouping them. This will give you an idea of how many bundles of cables you’ll end up with, and whether or not they will have enough slack to be run behind the motherboard tray. You may need to purchase some molex cable extensions to keep cables from the main compartment of the case.
Next, you need to choose and purchase your favorite cable management tools. There are a range of products that you can use to bundle cables together and attach them to the case.
Split loom is a plastic cable conduit that is split down one side. Bundles of cables are fed into the loom via the split, which is then closed around the cables to keep them together. It looks tidy when well applied, though it can be difficult to keep tidy when cable bundles need to be curved or bent around obstacles.
Spiral wrap is a great option. Consisting of a corkscrew-like piece of plastic, it can be untwisted and fed around a cable bundle. It is very flexible and thus easier than split loom to apply neatly and is more able to be curved and bent.
Cable braiding is commonly found on modern PSUs, primarily bundling the motherboard cables. The braiding itself can be purchased for general cable management. It looks fantastic, but is very difficult to apply and finish.
A generous supply of zip ties should live in every PC builder’s toolkit. When paired with adhesive-backed hook plates they make cable management a breeze.
Velcro cable ties are easy to undo and reapply, should you need to make regular adjustments to your cable management solution, but are relatively untidy to look at.
If you know your way around a soldering iron and want to shorten/lengthen cables yourself, shrinkwrap is a safe and tidy material for covering exposed wires and strengthening joins. Applying strong heat to shrinkwrap causes it to constrict around the wire within, keeping it in place.
Data cables can be easily tucked in above or behind drives or into spare drive bays. Use cable ties to secure them to the edges of the case or bays if they are in the direct path of a fan. Though it shouldn’t be much of a problem these days, replace all ribbon IDE cables with rounded versions.
Now that your cables are bundled and tucked neatly away, you can connect them to your devices, secure in the knowledge that the air flow in your case is unaffected by their presence.
Advanced configuration: Positive or Negative pressure?
Counter-intuitively, matching the CFM of your intake fans to your exhaust fans is not the best method for air cooling. Generally, it is better to choose between negative or positive pressure.
In a positive pressure configuration, the CFM from intake fans exceeds the CFM of the exhaust fans.
Air is expelled from any gaps or holes in the case, meaning that every opening contributes to cooling.
Less dust will get into the case.
Better support for graphics cards with passive cooling systems.
Graphics cards with Direct Heat Exhaust (DHE) systems will partially counteract the effect.
Average cooling performance for enthusiast setups.
For negative, the CFM from the exhaust fans exceeds the CFM of the intake fans, creating a partial vacuum inside the case.
Good cooling performance for enthusiast setups.
Amplifies natural convection.
Linear and direct air flow.
Compatible with DHE graphics cards.
Augments the performance of downward-facing CPU heatsink fans.
Dust is more likely to gather in the system as air is drawn in through all openings.
Passively cooled video cards do not gain much benefit.
Choose a pressure profile by comparing your hardware configuration to the details above. You can buy cases that allow you to modify fan speeds, but this usually only applies to the front intake fans. Third party fan controllers are the easiest method for making these kind of changes, but can cost a significant amount of money, and often look rather gaudy. Let your wallet and aesthetic taste be your guide.
With cool, efficient, unfettered air now flowing through your PC you can rest, assured in the knowledge that your precious PC components are performing at their best, and will last a long time doing so.