Types of power supply connectors

Written by daniel foster
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Types of power supply connectors
Power supplies contain all sorts of connectors. (power supply image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com)

One of the most daunting tasks of installing a power supply is determining what connector goes where. Power supplies these days can have up to a dozen cables with different connectors, and if you have not kept up-to-date with changes in technology, you probably won't recognise some of them. Learn which are the most common connectors used in power supplies.

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Main Power Cable

The main power cable plugs into the motherboard and is narrow in size. It comes in 20-pin and 24-pin varieties, depending on the form factor the power supply was designed for. Older power supplies are more likely to have a 20-pin connector, while new ones use the 24-pin connector exclusively. Some units can also switch between the 20-pin and 24-pin format.

Types of power supply connectors
The main power cable has the largest connector. (power supply cable image by Christopher Meder from Fotolia.com)

4-Pin Molex Power Cable

The 4-pin molex power cable is the most common. Power supplies often contain as many as four of these. They are used to power all sorts of components, including IDE hard drives and optical drives. Certain aftermarket water cooling systems, fans and add-on lights also use the molex connector.

Types of power supply connectors
Older IDE hard drives use the 4-pin power cable. (hard disk image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

SATA Cable

Modern SATA drives use the SATA power cable, which contains 15 pins and is typically black in colour. Most power supplies have two or three of these connectors, but some have as few as one. Users in need of more SATA power cables can use an adaptor to convert molex plugs to the 15-pin SATA.

Types of power supply connectors
The SATA power connector has a narrow head and is usually black in colour. (SATA power connector. Close up. Isolated on a white background. image by Andrey Khritin from Fotolia.com)

PCI-Express Power Cable

The PCI-Express cable comes in either a 4-pin ATX or 8-pin EPS variety. There is also a 4+4 pin type that can work as either one. The PCI-E power cable delivers large amounts of electricity to high-power video cards. Many low-end and mid-range power supplies do not have a PCI-E power cable. This can cause problems when installing a high-end video card. To solve this, these cards often come with a 4-pin to PCI-E power converter.

Modern graphics cards receive power through the PCI-Express power cable.
Modern graphics cards receive power through the PCI-Express power cable. (Technology - Graphics Card image by Rob Hill from Fotolia.com)

4-Pin Floppy Connector

Although used less and less these days, the 4-pin floppy connector is a smaller version of the molex cable commonly used to power floppy disk drives and older video cards. Adaptors also exist to convert the 4-pin cable to a 3-pin variety used by fans.

Types of power supply connectors
Floppy drives use a small 4-pin cable. (laptop floppy drive with diskette image by TEA from Fotolia.com)

6-Pin Auxiliary Cable

New power supplies do not have a 6-pin auxiliary cable, but it can still be found in certain dual-CPU AMD computers. This cable plugs into the motherboard to provide extra power.

Types of power supply connectors
Certain dual processor machines use the 6-pin auxiliary cable. (two processors image by Wayne Abraham from Fotolia.com)

ATX12V Connector

The ATX12V connector is square and uses its four pins to power the CPU. Like the defunct 6-pin cable, it plugs into the motherboard. Some power supplies also have an 8-pin EPS12V connector that provides more power than the ATX12V plug. Certain models might retrofit this connector by combining two 4-pin ATX12V plugs.

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