What are the Cables Needed for PC Build?

Building a PC is kind of similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. You need to first find the right compatible components. Then you need to know where all the components need to go and finally you need to figure how they would connect and interface with each other.

Majority of the PC components interface with each other via cables which begs the question, what are the cables needed for PC build? 

Essentially, there are two types of cables 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, well, deliver power.

In the following text, I will talk in detail about the PC cables you may come across 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 2 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 24 Pin ATX power socket on the motherboard.

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

24 pin atx power connector
Source: Gigabyte
how to test motherboard without cpu 2
24 ATX motherboard power cable and 8 pin ATX 12V CPU cable

When connecting the motherboard’s ATX power cable, you must pay special attention to its orientation making sure that the different notches line up. Often PC builders align this cable incorrectly.

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. CPU receives its power from the ATX-12V 8 or 4 pin power connect found on the motherboard.

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

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

Note that in many cases, like you can see above, power supply units provide both and 8 and 4  pin connectors. While all newer CPUs require an 8 pin cable, a spare 4 pin cable is provided for very old CPUs.

3. Main C13 Power Supply Cable

US Power Cord
Source: Wikimedia.org

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

Often times when a PC is not turning on at all, the issue lies with a damaged main power cable.

4. SATA DATA Cables

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

SATA interface is basically used to connect storage drives and optical drive (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 SATA Power connection.

wsata-data-cable
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 cables separately yourself.

5. SATA Power Cables

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

Sata Power Cables
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
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 that the graphics card go into (the x16 slot) provides about 75W of power. However, high end graphics cards can require as much as much as 500W or more.

In order to cater to the high power demand of high end GPUs, PCIe power cables are used. These too originate and come from the power supply unit.

PCie Power Cables
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 the power supply capacity they have.

So you have:

  • 6 pin – 75W
  • 8 pin – 150W
  • 12 pin – 600W
PCIe x16
(75W)
6 Pin Cable
(75W)
8 Pin Cable
(150W)
12 Pin Cable
(600W)
Max Power
Consumed
75W00075W
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 card 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 have to make sure that your power supply is strong enough to supply the rated power and that it has enough PCIe connectors for the PCIe cables requires by the GPU.

7. Video Output Cables

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

There are many different types of video output interfaces and each of these interfaces have their 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 wide range of monitors.

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

If you have a fairly old monitor, chances are that it will 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
A typical HDMI cable

Video output cables are typically provided with the monitor. If a monitor has multiple input interface i.e HDMI, VGA, DP, it will not necessarily provide cables for all 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
Front Panel Header

In order to connect these terminals to the PC case, the front panel jumper cables are used. These are provided with the PC case.

front panel connectors cables unplugged watermarked
Front panel jumper cables

When connecting these cables, it is important to refer to the manual so that you can understand the correct orientation of the power terminals. You do not want the negative end to connect to the positive terminal and vice versa.

front panel led cable orietnation terminal
Take note of cable orientation

10. Front USB Cables

Similar to 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, then it will also have the Front USB cables for connecting to headers on the motherboard.

What are USB Headers
USB 2.0 Headers
usb 2.0 cable
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 all 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 to.

Front Audio Header motherboard
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 exactly related to PC building, but it is something that you see on many PCs that are 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 these days, but if your home-PC does not have a 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 as well as critical for any PC builder to understand.

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

The bottom line here is that if you are ever confused with regards to cables needed for PC build, always refer to the motherboard’s manual.

Photo of author

Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101 and an expert in the computer peripheral industry with over two decades of experience. He has worked as a consultant for major companies and has a deep understanding of the inner workings of computer peripherals. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and has served as a product manager and technical consultant. He is passionate about testing and evaluating the latest products to provide readers with reliable information.

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