How to Build a PC - Installing the GPU

By Jeff Checchi, on January 6, 2014

Graphics Card Installation

If you have been paying attention to the previous "How to Build a PC" articles, then you know that there is only one thing left to do in our build; install the graphics card. Installing the GPU last is a good idea since it usually takes up a lot of room inside your case and can get in the way of installing other components or routing cables. With most typical single GPU systems, the process is pretty straight forward; just line up the GPU with the top most PCI-E slot on the motherboard, and firmly push it into place until the PCI-E slot’s locking mechanism “clicks” into place to secure it.


Most mid to high end discrete graphics cards will require one or two standalone PCI-E power connectors coming directly from your PSU in addition to the power that is delivered through the PCI-E slot. There are two different types of PCI-E power connectors, 6-pin and 8-pin. Many PSUs (including all PSUs from Corsair) will use 6/8 pin hybrid connectors which can be used as either 6 or 8 pin connectors (shown below).

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If you forget to plug in all the necessary PCI-E power connectors you will likely get a warning beep or some blinking lights coming from the GPU once you power up. Also don't forget to secure the GPU into the PCI-E slot using the PCI-E expansion slot screws that are likley already securing a PCI-E slot cover in place.

With multiple GPUs things are a little more complex since you will need to determine which PCI-E slots to use. Most motherboards which have more than 2x PCI-E slots will have specific recommendations on which slots you should install your cards into. This is because some slots may be rated for different speeds depending on the combination of slots you are using. The motherboard in the system I'm using below has 3x PCI-E slots that are all capable of x16 speeds, so in this case we can use any combination of PCI-E slots. Just remember that they need to be close enough together for the SLI or Crossfire bridge to reach them both.


I have used the top and middle slots in this system. Don't forget to connect the SLI or Crossfire bridge if you are running multiple GPUs.



Cable Routing

Everything should be installed and plugged in at this point, but before you put your side panels back on it’s a good idea to test boot the system to make sure it powers on correctly. If you run into issues, then forget the cable routing for now, and start troubleshooting, you do not want to zip tie a bunch of cables and then have to re-do it if something needs to be replaced for testing. If everything comes up and is detected on the first try then you can proceed to shut everything back down to route your cables.

If you were somewhat conscious of your cable routing during the build, then you should not have a whole lot cable routing to deal with. Routing cables behind the motherboard tray is the cleanest way to route your cables, but it can take some strategy since you will likely not have a whole lot of room back there to work with, and you would probably like to be able to fit your side panels back on. Grab some zip ties (Corsair Cases and PSUs both come with zip ties), and get to work!

Above you can see the back side of a 350D case that I built for a photo shoot. It takes a little time to get everything just right and you may need to re-rout a few cables a few different ways before you figure you the best way to do it, but I think its worth it!

Below you can see the front side of the case after all the cables have been routed and hidden behind the motherbaord tray. Nice and clean looking, and no cables blocking the path of airflow to any of the components.


Hopefully this series of articles has instilled some confidence and dispelled some of the uncertianty around planning and assembling your build. In the near future I will be assembling all these articles into a comprehensive guide that you can download and use for your build.