When will front-panel pins become standardized? | Ask an expert

This problem seems easily fixed with a cheap accessory at the very least.

Q: Who do I have to buy lunch for so that somebody standardizes front-panel pins?

A: Heh, this one’s a perennial annoyance, isn’t it? The front-panel pin layout on a motherboard varies a lot. Most DIY builders have become resigned to squinting at a motherboard, then the pins, then at the manual, then back at the motherboard, and repeating ad nauseum until everything’s plugged in. But it shouldn’t have to be this way.

(If you’re reading this but not as familiar with PC building, front-panel pins are what you plug front-panel connectors into. The combination of the two links the USB ports, audio jacks, and power button at the front of a case to the motherboard and makes them active. Not plugging in the connectors properly—or not plugging them in, period—probably ranks among the top five reasons for why a DIY PC fails to boot on the first try.)

We as DIY builders work around the problem, picking up additional tools like magnifying glasses, flashlights, and plastic tweezers to better see and handle those itty-bitty pins. Or we buy higher-end motherboards that include a plastic bracket that you can populate with the connectors in the correct layout, then plug them into the motherboard all at once with no fuss.

Either way, you’re shelling out cash that you could otherwise spend elsewhere on the build. (Well, except for the flashlight—that one’s an essential part of a PC building toolkit.)

No relief is on the horizon, either. Convincing all motherboard manufacturers to standardize seems a remote possibility. We at PCWorld would settle for mobo makers charging an extra few bucks to include those plastic brackets with all motherboards, even the budget ones. Or someone else selling a universal variant of a bracket. They’re incredibly simple to use and likely would be very popular.

For now, we’re stuck with muddling through while uttering quiet oaths during installation. Or employing a desperate use of electrical tape to lash those pins together. Heaven forbid you ever need to pull one out individually, though.

Welcome to Ask an Expert, where we tackle your questions about PC building. Have your own burning concern? Shoot us an email at thefullnerd@pcworld.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?