How to Build a Gaming PC

by turbolence1988dec 22nd, 2018

Front Panel and Fan Installation

Now is a good time to address the front panel and fan connectors while you have the space inside the case. Since you’re going to start wrangling cables, you may want to pay mind to where the cables are going and how they’re going to get there that’ll look cleanest. In a lot of instances cases have raised hoops, holes, grommets, guide channels, and other features stamped into their metal that makes organizing cables easier with a few zip ties or velcro loops. At minimum, you don’t want any cables dangling near a fan since those could hit the fan blades while they’re spinning. There’s no single strategy that works for all cases and cable setups, so use your best judgment.

Most cases have six wires that run to the front panel lights and power buttons: POWER SW+, POWER SW-, HDD LED+, HDD LED-, and a pair labeled RESET SW, commonly grouped in under a header named JFP1. These will correspond with similarly-labeled wire leads in the front panel header on the motherboard, which is typically located in its bottom right corner. These are usually labeled right on the motherboard, but if it’s difficult to read or not clear, your motherboard’s instruction manual should have a larger diagram. Match each wire with its header pin, and press the leads onto each pin as appropriate.

Depending on your case and its features, you may have any number of USB 2.0 cables (a 9 pin cable with two rows of leads, 5 on one and 4 on the second), USB 3.0 cables (a 19 pin cable, two rows with 10 and 9 pins), and an HD AUDIO cable (9 pin cable with two rows of leads, 5 on one and 3-plus-1 on the second). These will plug into each of their corresponding headers on the motherboard, which are typically located along the bottom or rightmost edge of the motherboard. Each of these will only fit one way into their slots, so attach them as appropriate. If your case has a USB 3.0 connector but you only have USB 2.0 motherboard headers, you will need to use a 2.0-to-3.0 adapter as these headers are not interchangeable.

Now, connect the fans to your motherboard. Use the fan headers labelled CHASSIS_FAN or CASE_FAN as these will be controlled separately from CPU_FAN or PUMP_FAN headers. You may find your fans have either 3 pin (DC) or 4 pin (PWM) connectors, but the motherboard’s fan headers are the opposite. While it’s recommended to match the type of fan to their corresponding header type for better fan control, fans of either type can still attach to either fan header type and be controlled by the motherboard. Some higher-end motherboards have all 4-pin PWM connectors and can switch them to DC mode in the BIOS. Regardless, attach the fans matching the notches on the cables to the tabs on the headers and push each fan cable into place. Again, take care that the cables won’t interfere with any fan blades.

The stock fans on most cases will provide acceptable airflow for basic systems, but overclocking and high performance rigs call for stronger airflow to keep everything cool. While optimum airflow is beyond the scope of this guide (and indeed will vary depending on whether you use air cooling, All-In-One water loops, or custom liquid cooling), the general consensus is to prioritize more air coming in front and low, while having at least some exhausting back and high. If you’re installing additional fans now, note the airflow direction so you’re installing front intakes and rear exhausts. Most fans will push air towards the flat side holding the motor in an X-shaped bracket.