What are the Cables Needed for PC Build?

Building a PC is similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. You’ll first need to find the right compatible components. Then you need to know where all the details need to go, and finally, you need to figure out how they would connect and interface.

Most PC components interface via cables, which begs the question, what cables are needed for PC build?

Essentially, two types of cables are needed for a PC build: data cables and power cables. Data cables carry the information to and from the connected components to the motherboard/CPU, and power cables deliver power.

In the following text, I’ll discuss the PC cables you may encounter when building a PC.

List of Cables Needed for PC Build

The following is a list of all the common PC cables.

  Cable Component it Comes With
1 Motherboard ATX Power Cable Power Supply Unit
2 CPU ATX-12V Power Cable Power Supply Unit
3 Main C13 Power Cable Power Supply Unit
4 SATA Data Cables Motherboard (Often two provided)
5 SATA Power Cables Power Supply Unit
6 PCIe Power Cables Power Supply Unit
7 Video Output Cables Monitor
8 Monitor Power Cable Monitor
9 Front Panel Jumper Cables PC Case
10 Front USB Cables PC Case
11 Front Audio Cables PC Case
12 RJ45 Network Cable Modem

Let us discuss each of these in detail:

1. Motherboard ATX Power Cable

PC building begins with installing your motherboard into the chassis. Motherboard requires a special power cable of its own, the 24 Pin ATX Power cable.

This power cable comes from the Power Supply Unit and attaches to the motherboard’s 24 Pin ATX power socket.

The exact location of this power socket can be found in the motherboard’s manual, but in most cases, it is located on the top-right side of the motherboard.

24 pin atx power connector
Image Source: Gigabyte
how to test motherboard without cpu 2
Image: 24 ATX motherboard power cables and an eight-pin ATX 12V CPU cable

When you connect the motherboard’s ATX power cable, you should pay special attention to its orientation, ensuring the different notches line up. Often PC builders need to align this cable correctly.

2. CPU ATX-12V Power Cable

The next major component is the CPU which plugs into the motherboard’s CPU socket.

CPU also requires power. The CPU receives its p from the motherboard’s ATX-12V 8 or 4-pin power connection.

How to Test Motherboard Without CPU 3
Image: 8 Pin CPU Connector and 24 Pin Motherboard connector

As such, all power supply units also come with an 8/4 pin CPU power cable. This cable powers the CPU and plugs into the CPU ATX-12V power connector on the motherboard.

As shown above, power supply units often provide eight and 4-pin connectors. While all newer CPUs require an eight-pin cable, a spare four-pin cable is supplied for ancient CPUs.

3. Main C13 Power Supply Cable

US Power Cord
Image Source: Wikimedia.org

The main cable, aka C13 power cord, connects the PC’s Power Supply unit to the electric wall socket.

When a PC is not turning on, the issue is often with a damaged main power cable.

4. SATA DATA Cables

SATA is one of the two interfaces, the other one being PCIe, used to connect core components to your PC.

The SATA interface connects storage and optical drives (CD/DVD) to your motherboard. These include the SATA hard disk drives as well as the SATA SSDs.

All SATA drives require a SATA DATA connection and a SATA Power connection.

Image: SATA DATA cables connect to motherboard SATA slots

The SATA Data cables have identical ends. They connect to the SATA slots on the motherboard on one end and to the SATA port on the hard drives on the other end.

A couple of these cables are provided with the motherboard, but if you want to add more than two drives to your PC, you may have to procure additional wires separately.

5. SATA Power Cables

The SATA Power cables have 15-pin connectors, and all SATA drives, including the large 3.5″ Hard disk drives and the slim 2.5″ SATA SSD drives, require a separate SATA power connector.

Sata Power Cables
Image: 15 Pin SATA Power Cable

15 Pin SATA Power cables come from the power supply unit. They are included with the PSU. If you do not have sufficient 15-pin connectors, you can daisy-chain them – whereby one connector can be split into multiple power connectors.

SATA SSD Connectors power data
Image: 2.5″ SATA SSD – SATA Drives require SATA DATA and SATA Power Cable

6. PCIe Power Cables

The primary purpose of PCIe cables is to provide power to the very demanding dedicated graphics card. 

The PCIe slot the graphics card enters (the x16 slot) provides about 75W of power. However, high-end graphics cards can require as much as 500W or more.

PCIe power cables cater to high-end GPUs’ high power demand. These, too, originate and come from the power supply unit.

PCie Power Cables
Image: This image shows 2 x 6+2 pin PCIe cables.

There are many types of PCIe power cables differentiated by their pin count. The higher the number of pins, the higher their power supply capacity.

So you have:

  • six pin – 75W
  • eight pin – 150W
  • 12 pin – 600W
PCIe x16
6 Pin Cable
8 Pin Cable
12 Pin Cable
Max Power
75W1 x 75W00150W
75W01 x 150W0225W
75W2 x 75W00225W
75W1 x 75W1 x 150W0300W
75W02 x 150W0375W
75W1 x 752 x 150W0450W
75W03 x 150W0525W
75W001 x 600W675W

Many graphics cards can require a combination of different PCIe cables. For instance, a graphics card with a power requirement of 375W would require 2 x 8 Pin connectors.

You must ensure that your power supply is strong enough to supply the rated power and has enough PCIe connectors for the PCIe cables required by the GPU.

7. Video Output Cables

As the name suggests, video output cables are data cables that take video signals from your PC to your display device, i.e., monitor.

There are many different types of video output interfaces, each with a separate video output cable.

These include VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt. A typical PC can feature multiple video interfaces to make it compatible with a wide range of monitors.

Do Motherboards have Integrated Graphics
Image: The back video ports on  Asrock AMD A320M-HDV R4.0

If you have a reasonably old monitor, it will likely feature the VGA or DVI-D interface.

Newer monitors almost all feature the HDMI interface and thus have the HDMI cables included.

what does an HDMI cable look like
Image: A typical HDMI cable

Video output cables are typically provided with the monitor. If a monitor has multiple input interfaces, i.e., HDMI, VGA, DP, it will only provide cables for some of the offered interfaces.

8. Monitor Power Cable

This is similar to the C13 power cable that connects the PC power supply unit to the wall socket (see #3).

Monitors also require a separate power source from the wall. This cable is also included with the monitor itself.

9. Front Panel Jumper Cables

Front panel jumpers cables connect to the front panel headers on the motherboard,

The front panel header is a set of power terminals that provide control for the following to your PC case:

  • Power on
  • Restart
  • Power LED
  • Hard Disk LED
  • Beep Code Speaker
power switch motherboard front panel header
Image: Front Panel Header

The front panel jumper cables connect these terminals to the PC case. These are provided with the PC case.

front panel connectors cables unplugged watermarked
Image: Front panel jumper cables

When you connect these cables, it is essential to check the manual to understand the correct orientation of the power terminals. You do not want the opposing end to connect to the positive terminal and vice versa.

front panel led cable orietnation terminal
Image: Take note of cable orientation

10. Front USB Cables

Like the Front Panel headers above, the Front USB cables connect to the Front USB headers on the motherboard.

If your PC case has USB ports in the front, it will also have the Front USB cables for connecting to headers on the motherboard.

What are USB Headers
Image: USB 2.0 Headers
usb 2.0 cable
Image: USB 2.0 Header Cable

Different USB header versions have different cables coming from the PC case. In other words, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 have different headers and cables.

11. Front Audio Cables

Many PC cases have Audio Ports on the front as well. These can be used for connecting your mic or headphones.

Front Audio Header motherboard
Image: Front Audio Header

The cables for these audio ports on your PC case connect to the Front Audio header on the motherboard.

12. RJ45 Network / Ethernet Cable

Ethernet cable isn’t strictly related to PC building, but you see it on many PCs connected to a Local Area Network/modem.

Ethernet cables connect to the RJ45 port on your motherboard. The application of these cables is often seen in offices, but if your home PC does not have WiFi and you want to connect to the internet, you will have to use one of these cables to connect your PC to the modem.

Final Words

The cables mentioned above are the most common and critical for any PC builder to understand.

There are other less critical cables such as the COMA or Serial Port Cable (which is more or less obsolete), thunderbolt header cable, etc.

Just to let you know, if you need clarification regarding cables for a PC build, please refer to the motherboard’s manual.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What cables do I need for a PC build?

The cables you need for a PC build depend on the components you have. The most common cables include power cables, SATA cables, front panel cables, and PCIe cables.

2. What is the purpose of SATA cables in a PC build?

SATA cables are used to connect storage devices like hard drives and solid-state drives to the motherboard. They transfer data between the storage device and the motherboard, allowing the system to read and write data.

3. What are front panel cables in a PC build?

Front panel cables are a set of wires that connect the front panel of the case to the motherboard. They include power switch, reset switch, power LED, and HDD LED cables. These cables allow you to control the power and reset functions of the system and show the status of the power and hard drive activity.

4. What is the difference between 8-pin and 4-pin CPU power cables?

8-pin CPU power cables provide more power to the CPU and are designed for high-end processors that require more power. 4-pin CPU power cables are for low-end or budget processors that require less power. Some motherboards may have both 8-pin and 4-pin CPU power connectors, and using both can provide more stable power delivery to the CPU.

5. What is the purpose of PCIe cables in a PC build?

PCIe cables are used to power graphics cards and other PCIe devices that require additional power beyond what the motherboard can provide. They connect to the power supply and plug into the graphics card or other PCIe device, providing the necessary power for them to function properly.

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