Life's too short to give a crap about your PC's cable management

PC Gamer team cable management skills
(Image credit: Future)

I've been playing with a lot of new (or new to me) small form factor chassis recently, and if there's one thing that really helps when building into an ickle PC case it's good cable management. Thankfully the best mini-ITX PC cases have cable routing as part of the design, sadly some do not.

And that really doesn't help me. Because I am really, really bad at cable management. 

I will half-heartedly defend myself by saying that I spend too much time building, tweaking, and rebuilding different machines that nothing is ever really 'finished'. I'm always pulling parts out and jamming new ones into my myriad different systems, so cable tying errant wires only to have to loose them again seems kinda pointless.

But mostly it's because I'm lazy and slamming the door shut on the mess of cabling, away from prying eyes is my preferred building method. 

Which is why I really like compartmentalised PC cases. You can house the super shiny components, like your graphics card, motherboard, etc. beneath a tempered glass panel on one side, while hiding the PSU and its Cthulu-like tentacles away in a cordoned-off part of your chassis.

Without good cable routing, however, I've created a monster in this G.Skill Z5i. It's hideous, and no amount of tinting on that swinging side panel can really hide my shame.

But, y'know what? I feel no shame, because I really don't care and neither should you.

Origin PC cable management

I mean, where's the fun in this? (Image credit: Origin PC)

I do know some people are utterly fastidious when it comes to cable management—a quick journey through the ubiquitous PC build images on reddit show that to be true. Those people will tell you that it aids good airflow, but honestly not to the extent that you or your expensive hardware would really notice.

It's purely an aesthetic choice in reality, and there are far better ways to spend your time than cable tying a handful of wires. Especially if, in a few months' time, you're going to have to cut those ties anyways to install something else anyways.

But how do you folk feel about it? Do you take care and pride in tying those suckers down, do you let your PC's wires roam freely about your case? Or did you just leave it all to your system builder and never go near the insides of your PC for fear of upsetting the zen-like state it was shipped in?

Share your pride or your shame with me. Let this be a healing place.

(Image credit: Future)

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Actually, my cable management is looking somewhat—oh, you meant on the other side of my motherboard. I too take the "shove it under the bed" approach to the back side of my case, even though I now pridefully subscribe to clean cables in the front of my tower and on my desktop. 

I did build this one myself, so I assumed that it would be a rat's nest back there, sealed away on the day of and not touched again since. To my surprise, it looks like I did actually make an attempt to use the cable routing channels and straps that my NZXT H710 came pre-installed with. It's nowhere near meticulous, but it is better than I expected of myself.

Katie Wickens, Hardware Writer: I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. Cable management is one of my pet peeves, and the satisfaction from getting it right is unfathomable. I sit here sometimes seething over my partner's terrible cable management despite the cable tidies I got him for Christmas. He even stores things inside his PC, which… I mean, it's a little weird right? Like banknotes and stuff.

Still, here I am, desk riddled with wires, and the fan cables in my machine writhing madly. At least I'm self-aware. I just need to take five minutes away from Cities: Skylines to actually fix them up. I won't hold my breath.

Jorge Jimenez, Hardware Writer: I take an entire afternoon off at least twice a year to focus strictly on cable management. I order a bunch of cable sleeves and zip-ties and organize my cables into little bouquets of efficiency.

Back in the fall, we moved into a new house, and then I went on paternity leave. I now my cable management philosophy is: "Don't look at it, and it can't hurt you, Jorge." 

I have two different desks with PCs for work and play, and the cable situation for both is a knotted mess of pure sadness and chaos. I'm sure one day I'll take five hours when I'm not chasing a baby around or fixing leaky faucets to address this tangled horrorshow. But honestly, who looks under a desk anyway?

Alan Dexter, Senior Hardware Editor: People get overexcited about cable management. They want to glance through their PC's side window to see order. Not me. As long as nothing in my machine is getting too hot, I don't worry about it. The fact that my machine is under the desk may be part of this, of course, if it were on the table I might be a bit fastidious. But it isn't, so I don't think about it. As it is, there are fan cables dangling everywhere, and while they do bounce off fan blades now and again, it generally just works fine, quietly whirring to itself.

I'm impressed by the cabling routing round the back, to be honest. I somehow did that. But this may be down to the case back not clipping on if left to their own devices. 

Tim Clark, Brand Director: Tim's too busy to write this entry. In fact he's too busy to do any form of cable tidying either so he's simply out-sourced it to this guy. He does, however, want us to please note the desperate single cable tie working far too hard under there.

Imogen Mellor, Features Producer: I'm a streamer okay. When I only had a monitor and a PC, my cable situation was pretty neat. But as time as gone on I've just collected an ungodly amount of shit. A mic, audio interface, Switch, PS5, capture card, Stream Deck, cameras—you get it. It's a lot. 

And so although the top oh my desk is a little messy, the underside of the Secret Lab desk is a monstrosity. It had a neat little cubby to hide my shame. I've tried neatening it up before, I promise. It's just so many cables with so many uses I've never found a good system.

Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: The underside of my desk represents probably the best cable management I've done in my life. Because it's a standing desk, and it's in my living room, I didn't want my usual nightmare tangle to be on full display anytime I raised it up. So I took the time to actually twist tie and then sleeve most of the cables into tidy bundles. That was therapeutic, though it turns out making sure all your cables have the right amount of slack for a standing desk is a real pain in the ass.

My case cable management looks pretty clean too (though the tube running to my Arctic Liquid Freezer really is immense). Just, uh, don't mind the dust.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.

With contributions from