A guide to connecting wires
by Lucas Frawley
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Many of the most interesting and useful computer modifications require at least a small amount of DIY wiring. In order to complete such mods successfully, connecting wires properly is vital. Loose wires cannot only be cumbersome but also quite dangerous in many situations. Wires that carry an electrical charge can short circuit if they touch metal. They have the potential of damaging many if not all the components in a computer case and can cause serious bodily harm. By following this tutorial you can help ensure you complete your mod both safely and effectively.
Wires can be connected in any number of ways. This guide covers three popular methods of connection: connection by twist on connector, connection by strip terminal, and connection by soldering.
Twist Connects / Twist on Connectors / Wire-Nuts
These types of connectors are most commonly used in homes to connect electrical wires used within. They have plastic shells and a metal center with threads like a nut. To use them strip a small section of the end of each wire with a wire stripper, utility knife or Exacto knife. Connect each set of wires (positive to positive and negative to negative) by twisting the stripped ends together and twist the connector on the bare ends of the wires clockwise until secured.
This method of connecting wires, like most others, has its pros and cons.
Easy to use
Easy to remove
Risk of connector falling off if not used properly
Risk of grounding the connected wires if the connector used is too large for the wires
If the connectors are used properly there is a very low risk when using Twist Connects, however all potential problems should be considered when choosing a wire connection method.
Wire Strip Terminals
Wire strip terminals are strips of plastic with small screws that clamp down wires that are inserted into the terminal. Strip terminals come in a strip that can be cut so that only the connections that are needed can be used.
Strip terminals can be easily cut with a utility or Exacto knife.
To use strip terminals insert one wire into the side of a connector and then clamp down the wire by tightening the screw clockwise until tight. The other end of the wire to be connected can then be inserted into the other end of the connector and tightened down in the same fashion as the previous one.
Easy to use
Permanent (less prone to accidental removal compared to Twist Connects)
Easy to remove
Connection can become grounded if a metal object touches a screw on the connector
Slightly more difficult to use compared to Twist Connects
Strip terminals are easy to use and they are considered a permanent solution, as it is quite difficult for a wire to accidentally fall out if the screws are tightened correctly. They are also cheap and do not take up a large amount of room. However, some users donít like strip terminals as the screws used for the connectors are exposed and it is possible for a wire or piece of metal to touch them. Furthermore, it is possible for a wire to come through the opposite side of the terminal it is inserted into if care is not taken to ensure this does not happen.
The preferred method for connecting wires is to solder them together and use heat shrink tubing to protect the connection. Soldering is considered the most difficult of connection methods but is quite simple with a little practice. Soldering can be messy if not done correctly so be sure to practice on a surface that you are not worried about damaging. Many people prefer to solder on a piece of scrap wood.
To begin, strip a portion off the end of each wire and cut a piece of heat shrink tubing to fit. Heat shrink tubing is made of thin, pliable rubber that is heated and shrunk to fit once it is in place. Be sure to put heat shrink tubing on the appropriate wire before connecting it to another.
Once this is completed, twist the two appropriate wires together and place the connection flat on the surface you are soldering on. Once the solder gun is heated, place the end of the solder wire against the tip of the soldering gun and allow it to melt over the connection.
Solder, combined with heat shrink tubing, is the most reliable and permanent of the connections presented in this article.
Low chance of grounding the wire (if heat shrink is used)
More expensive initially due to cost of iron/gun
Harder then other methods (requires practice to master)
Harder to remove / change connection
Once the purchase of the soldering iron is made, the remainder of the materials required is relatively inexpensive and easy to come by. Furthermore, if done correctly, this method ensures that no metallic objects can come into contact with the bare connection. However, if this connection needs to be changed, the wires must usually be cut in order to disconnect them.
Uses and Ideas
This tutorial has explained different connection types and this portion is intended to show the different uses for those connections.
Tailing a Fan
In many instances, it is cheaper to buy fans that do not have molex connectors attached to them. A molex connector can be cut off another device, such as a fan that has quit working, in order to connect to a new and working fan. This can be easily accomplished by using any of the methods shown above. Fan Tails can also purchased directly.
Changing a Power, HDD activity, or other system LED
If you know how to solder it is relatively easy to replace LEDs in your system. Using the correct LED in regards to the power requirements for a respective motherboard, an LED can be connected to a motherboard header in order to be used as a status or HDD activity LED. As shown in the picture below, an LED has been connected to a motherboard connector so that it can be used as a status LED modification.
The completed LED/wire assembly can then be used as the power LED on a new case modification like the one shown here as opposed to those boring orange and green stock lights.
Building a Fan Controller / Bay Bus
With the proper materials and a working knowledge of how to connect wires it is relatively straightforward to create a Bay Bus, Fan Bus or Fan Controller. For more information see our guide to
building a bay bus.
Using automotive accessories in your PC
The majority of case mod supplies are actually intended for the automotive market. They are easily adaptable to PC usage because automotive accessories operate on the same 12V DC power that is present in a PC. With a little wiring knowledge and the proper connectors it is easy to use an automotive accessory in a PC.
The above article is provided on a reference basis. The author or associated company is not responsible for any damage or injury as a result of following or improperly following these instructions.
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