Which PSU Cables Do I Need [Beginner’s Guide 2021]

Written By Steven Arends

Your PSU just arrived at your place and you are super excited to get started with the installation process. The only problem is you are totally overwhelmed by the different cables that are provided with the PSU.

You are probably wondering:

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Which PSU Cables Do I Need?

Generally, you will be provided with two main cables. One of them is with 4 pins while the other is 8 pins. You only need to use one of these according to your requirement. The 8 pin cable also has the capability to split into two segments for backward compatibility.

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal to be confused. As a tech enthusiast, I can tell you that lots of people have asked me that question which is why I decided to write this article to help you out. 

So, without further waiting, read this entire article without skipping any part otherwise you might miss an important detail.

If you don’t know about what your current power supply then checkout our separate post on What Power Supply Do I Have.

Do I Need To Use All PSU Cables?

No, there is absolutely no reason for you to be using all your PSU cables. You are actually meant to be using only the cables that you need at a time with modular PSUs. The non-modular PSUs don’t give you any choice so you are stuck with using all cables.

If you are a beginner, here’s a tip: don’t build your first PC in a case. Instead, you could try building the PC on a non-conductive surface so you will have the ability to test all the parts.

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If you do your first build with a case, then it’s going to be a pain to do some troubleshooting after everything is installed in the case.

As for the connections themselves, the motherboard on your PC should have a header that is basically a connector with pins sticking up from the board. This header should also include the connections for the power switch on your case.

What you need to do is read the motherboard manual and figure out which are the two pins that you will need to jump in order to power it up.

Also, check out our separate post on Guide of Power Supply Units.

How Do I Know Which Power Supply Cables I Need?

The cables that are usually needed by most systems include the main 24 pin cable, 1 CPU cable, 1 or 2 PCIe cables, 1 SATA cable, and maybe one Molex. Keep in mind that the specific requirements will still vary from one build to another.

One great thing about all computer power supply connectors is that they have a foolproof design. What this means is that they only have the ability to be connected in a single direction. This means that there is virtually no way to mess up here.

The 20 + 4 pin ATX power connector is also sometimes known as the main power connector and this connects to an ATX motherboard power connector.

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There’s another ATX 12V power connector which is 4 + 4 pin that has to connect to an ATX 12V power connector to the motherboard. However, for the majority of the computers out there, you will only need to connect a single 4 pin connector.

I mentioned that you will also need a SATA power cable or a serial ATA cable and this connects to the power connectors that you will find on SATA hard drives and SATA optical drives. A tip I can give to beginners is to make sure that these cables are fully inserted.

That’s because these SATA connectors have the tendency to get loose and detach on their own since they don’t have a clip.

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Then there’s the 6 pin PCI Express connector which connects to the power connectors present on the PCI Express graphics card. The number of PCIe cables you will need will depend entirely on how many GPUs you have. If you have just 1 GPU then you will need just 1 PCIe cable.

Some low-power GPUs might not even need a PCIe connector so you need to check whether your system needs it.

The last connector I talked about was the Molex connector which you might also know as a peripheral connector and this normally connects to IDE hard drives and IDE optical drives but these are going extinct in today’s age.

However, this connector is still kept alive because using adapters like Molex to SATA or Molex to 3 pin fan adapter, which enables this to connect to SATA hard drives and computer case fans.

There is another connector you will find on most modern power supply units and that is the 4 pin floppy drive connector. 

This connects to floppy disk drives which, as you probably already know, is basically extinct by now but, yeah, you still get this connector if you have an old floppy disk lying around.

Is 500W PSU Enough?

Whether a 500 Watt PSU will work for you or not will depend on your build. For most PC builds with a capable processor and GPU, a 500W PSU will deliver just the right amount of power. However, with modern NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs, you will start to see it struggle.

The power supplies that come with higher capacities like 850W PSUs and 1000W PSUs are only needed for builds that demand double the amount of power of normal builds.

PC enthusiasts and gamers will definitely need power supplies with these capacities because they’ll probably be running a multi-CPU or a multi-GPU system and 500W is just not enough for that many resources.

500-watt-psu

The drawback of getting a PSU with higher wattage is mainly the fact that it’s really pricey but on the bright side, you will get the potential of building a supercomputer as long as you have the right hardware.

Moreover, the higher wattage PSUs are also 80 Plus Platinum certified whereas with 500W PSUs you only get 80 Plus White certification.

You’re probably staring at the screen making that confused face, wondering what’s the point of a platinum certification. Well, the point of an 80 plus certification is to simply determine the efficiency of the PSU when it comes to converting power from AC to DC. 

The highest certification is 80 Plus Platinum which gives the best efficiency whereas the lowest certification is 80 Plus Bronze.

If you don’t want to go crazy with your build, then the 500W power supply will do the job without a hitch.

On the other hand, if you do want to do some gaming or maybe power a workstation then you definitely have to go for a 1000W PSU. For some light gaming, an 850W PSU will also work just fine.

If you are not satisfied with any PSU calculator’s result, then you can check out our recommended Corsair PSUs review which will make it easy for you to decide which PSU to get.

FAQ

Does it matter what power cord I use for PSU?

Answer: If you are wondering about the 110 VAC power cord, then no, it dosen’t matter which power cord you use since it’s pretty much universal. However, the cables that connect from the PSU to the motherboard, devices, GPU etc, are not interchangeable from one brand to another.

Are all ATX PSU cables the same?

Answer: Technically, no, all ATX PSU cables are not the same since there’s no guarantee that the internal wiring is the same as there’s no standardized wire layout. However, you will find that most of the time, modular PSU of the same brand will use the exact same layout.

What is the difference between Type 4 and Type 3 PSU cables?

Answer: There is only one difference between the Type 4 and Type 3 PSU cables and that is the pinout of the 24-pin ATX cable. All other cables like the SATA and PCIe are exactly the same.

Final Thoughts

It is definitely important to learn which cables are required for your particular build and I hope you found what you were looking for.

Just keep in mind that with modular PSUs you only need to use the cables that you have use for. 

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