You’ve installed the motherboard and power supply, slotted in the processor, and fitted your RAM modules. Now, it’s time to connect all the wires on the board. Accuracy for this step is vital, as any mistakes will mean your PC may not work as it should or may not start at all. Here are the details.
How to Connect Your Cables to the Motherboard
Just like hooking up a home theater system, computers have numerous cables and wires that tend to make a mess. Knowing where each wire or connector goes is essential, as well as ensuring the correct order. Follow the steps listed below to ensure every component works correctly.
1. Where to Connect the Power Button Switch Wires
To get your PC to turn on when you push the power button, you need to connect the power switch to the motherboard. Among the loose cables in your case, you’ll find a two-pin connector, which is usually marked PWR SW, but check the case’s manual if you’re unsure.
The power switch wires need to connect to the power jumpers on the motherboard. Typically, these pins are located on the bottom-right section and are usually unmarked.
2. How To Properly Connect the Reset Switch Wires
If your PC case has a reset switch, the plug is similar to the power button, displaying RESET SW rather than Power SW. This connector lets you restart your PC after a troublesome crash, as it resets the hardware and forces your computer to reboot.
To connect the Reset button wires, you need to find the jumpers on the motherboard. The connector is usually near the power switch. Push the plug over the two pins to secure it in place. It doesn’t matter which way this connector goes.
3. Connecting the Power and HDD LEDs
The HDD connector links to an LED on the front of the case that lights up when the hard disk is in operation. This light is useful because it indicates whether your PC’s working or if it crashed.
Since the wires connect to an LED, they require a specific order to work correctly. The cable usually includes positive and negative markings on the plastic plug. The motherboard HDD jumper will also have a positive and negative port. Check your manual carefully to make sure you get this connection in the right order.
Follow the same procedures as above for the Power LED wires, which will have a similar connector. This plug also needs to be attached in the right direction, so ensure you get the positive and negative connectors aligned.
4. How To Connect USB Wires on the Motherboard
If your case has front-mounted USB ports or a card reader, you’ll need to connect them to spare headers on your motherboard. In all likelihood, the cable in the case is marked as USB.
Your motherboard should have spare connectors marked “USB,” but the manual will tell you exactly where the pins are located if they exist. USB connectors require power, so you need to plug the cable in the right way. Fortunately, the USB ports found on most PC cases have a single plug that only connects to the motherboard in one direction. If your PC doesn’t have a formed plug, you’ll need to check the case’s and motherboard’s manuals carefully to ensure you install the wires correctly.
Assuming you’re using a block connector, plug it into spare USB pins on the motherboard. It’s best to use the closest header to the cable to avoid draping cables everywhere.
5. Installing FireWire Connection to Motherboard
Front-mounted FireWire cables plug into the PC much the same way as USB cables. Again, look for a spare FireWire header on the board (the manual will explain where these are), and then connect the FireWire cable. The plastic connector on the wires may be marked as 1394, as FireWire is also known as i1394.
6. Connecting Audio Wires on the Motherboard
Front-mounted audio ports also require a connection to the motherboard if you want to plug in headphones or even a microphone. Fortunately, most PC cases feature a single-block plug for all front audio connectors, whether that includes jacks for headphones, audio inputs, or even microphones.
Your motherboard’s manual will have full details on where the audio cables connect, which is usually near the back panel. Again, there’s only one way to connect the plug, so slide it gently into place. If your case has a Speaker header for warning beeps, plug it into the motherboard’s appropriate connector.
7. Where to Plug Fan Wires on the Motherboard
It’s common for modern cases to have extra fans pre-fitted into specific areas. These cooling devices help increase airflow in and out of the case, and they keep your PC cool. While you can usually attach fan wires to the power supply connectors, it’s best to connect them to spare fan headers on the motherboard. Most boards automatically control the fan speed and keep your PC running as quietly as possible.
If your fans have three- or four-pin connectors, which is almost always the case, they connect directly to the motherboard. These fans are usually the type that offers automatic speed control. Older PCs had two-pin plugs and ran at a constant speed. Look at the manual to find a spare fan connector and then plug in the fan’s power connector. Three-pin connectors can plug into four-pin ports and vice versa. The cables usually plug in only one way, so it’s easy to get it right.
8. Connecting the CPU Fan Wires
The processor fan is the most crucial connection of all, maintaining a safe temperature for the CPU at all times. Like system fans, the processor’s fan speed is controlled by the motherboard, based on the CPU’s current internal temperature, and it keeps your computer as quiet as possible. Older motherboards/PCs may not offer a “silent-mode” option, but the fan wires still require the correct order, which is why they include form-fitted plugs.
Also, there’s a special connector for the processor fan on the motherboard, often labeled as CPU FAN. Check your manual for its location. The plug is likely to be a four-pin connector, but three-pin processor fans also exist. The connector only goes one way.
9. Connecting the HDD/SSD Data Cables
Similar to the cables you had to plug in earlier, the location to insert them into will be labeled. The slots will labeled as SATA1, SATA2, etc., there are usually several SATA slots per motherboard.
Now, plug your HDD/SSD data cable into the SATA slot.
After plugging in your HDD/SSD cable, you’re ready to install your HDD or SSD.
Once everything is connected correctly, ensure that the cables are secured and lying in a safe place. You don’t want your wires to get caught in any fans or touch hot surfaces. Using the empty drive bays and zip ties, you can secure the internal cables in your newly remodeled PC.
Helpful Tips for Working on Your Computer
As with any technical device, there are a few things to consider when working inside your PC for any reason, so “let’s get it started in here.” Did you catch that pun? Here are four essential steps to follow anytime you work on your PC.
Ensure that the power supply is disconnected – Obviously, this may not apply if you haven’t connected the power cable yet, but it’s worth mentioning just in case.Reduce the risk of status electricity – The natural static in your hands can wreak havoc on internal computer parts. Whether you use an ESD mat or safely band, it’s an important step to take in protecting your investment.Keep your workspace clear of any liquids or debris – You don’t want to spill a bottle of water all over your new computer. Clean the workspace before you begin and attempt to reduce any dust while you’re at it.Clean your hands – When working with cables and other internal components, the oils, and dirt on your hands can cause problems later on. It’s best to wear powder-free nitrile gloves, but clean hands will do.
In closing, taking precautions when working on your PC and understanding how to connect internal wires and cables properly means you’ll have your device up and running in no time. You’ll not only prevent damage but also ensure that LEDs and buttons work correctly and that the audio connections operate as planned.
Tips for Connecting Cables
If this is your first time working on electronics or even opening a computer case, there are some basic tips you should know before connecting components with wires.
Keep your cables organized – Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily vital to the health of your machine, but a clean and organized case is absolutely glorifying. If you take a few minutes before installing your components and plan the layout of everything, it will be much easier to connect everything (and replace outdated components later on). You can use small zip ties or just neatly tuck everything where it belongs.
Keep your work space organized – Just like any project, even this one can be incredibly frustrating. Do yourself a favor and cut down on that frustration by having everything you need where you can find it before ever getting to work. Also, remove any trash, debris, dust, or especially liquids before ever opening a package. This will ensure that your components are safe and work properly after you’ve completed your project.
Wait to plug your power supply into a wall outlet – It may be obvious but we have to have warning labels for a reason. Don’t shock yourself because you neglected to unplug your power supply from the wall before working.
Don’t wear jewelry or loose clothing – If you do wear bracelets and baggy long sleeves while working on your machine, you’ll quickly realize why this isn’t a great idea (say hello to getting snagged on random computer parts and therefore increasing your level of frustration).
Use protective gear – Admittedly, there is a ton of debate about the need for ESD bands and gloves when working on electronics. But, it’s better to err on the side of caution if you don’t regularly work with motherboards, capacitors, and other small electronics. The argument for wearing gloves is that oils, dirt, and other contaminants may cause damage to your computer parts (even corrosion later on). The argument for ESD precautions is simply that you could shock a component damaging it because – static electricity.