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Everything You Need To Know About GPU Cables

Aspiring PC builders often overlook an important component: GPU cables. These are power cables that connect your graphics card to the power supply.

But they’re more than just power cables. GPU cables can help with your power supply’s power management. How much power your GPU actually needs is going to be determined by your GPU cable.

Low-end and mid range graphics cards end up using a PCI Express x16 slot for their power souce, but you’ll find that graphics cards on the high-end spectrum will use either 6-pin or 8-pin PCI Express power connectors.

Confusing? Don’t worry, we’ll go over the different GPU power connectors and tell you how you can tell them apart.

What Are The Different Connectors?

PCI Express x16 Connector

Most modern motherboards come with a PCI Express x16 slot, or PCIe. This gives you a maximum of 75 watts of power. If your motherboard has multiple PCIe x16 slots, you’ll be able to connect more GPUs using two separate cables at the risk fo increasing power requirement.

Some good examples of GPUs that don’t need more than 75 watts of power are:

  • GeForce GTX 1030
  • GTX 1050 2GB Variant
  • Radeon RX 550
  • Radeon RX 460

6-Pin Connector

PCI Express x16 - 6 Pin Connector

6-pin connectors provide your GPU with an added 75 watts of energy. If your graphics card uses a PCIe x16 slot, it will draw power from the power supply unit or PSU directly. This gets you up to 150 watts of energy for your graphics card.

High-end graphics cards often find 150 watts to be sufficient, but not for all of them. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 needs more than 320 watts and 750 watts of system power. For most mid range graphics cards, 150 watts is more than enough and will often feature a 6-pin power connector.

8-Pin Connector

Like the 6-pin connector, an 8-pin connector delivers an additional 150 watts of power to your graphics card. A graphics card that needs more than 150 watts of power will usually come with either one 8-pin connector or two 6-pin connectors.

However, there will always be some exceptions because of power hungry graphics cards. The GeForce RTX 3060 from Nvidia comes with both a 6-pin and 8-pin connector because it requires about 170 watts of power. There are also instances where one GPU will come with two 8-pin connectors, which give you a total of 375 watts of power.

Then you have the rarest instances where a GPU will come with three 8-pin connectors. These are considered top-of-the-line graphics cards for expert builders who want to overclock. A good example of a video card like this is the GeForce RTX 2080Ti Lightning Z.

12-Pin Connectors

Speaking of power hungry graphics cards, the release of the Nvidia RTX 3000 series introduced users to the 12-pin power connectors. This was a move that Nvidia found to be necessary as these graphics cards needed more power. Rather than relying on a combination of 6-pin and 8-pin connectors.

12-pin connectors are the same size as an 8-pin connector, but the former draws in more power. However, external power supply units or PSUs can’t really accommodate 12-pin connectors as of yet so Nvidia released an adapter that would connect two 6-pin connectors into its card’s 12-pin slot.

What Are Adapters or Converters for Connectors?

Sometimes, your graphics card’s connectors might not be compatible with your PSU’s slots, or vice versa. But thankfully, a company called Molex designed something to help deal with compatibility issues back in the 1950s. This is why converters or adapters for connectors are referred to as Molex Adapters or Molex Converters.

And we’re going to list down the different types of adapters.

6-Pin to 8-Pin PCI Power Adapter

Did you just buy a high-end GPU? It’s more likely to use an 8-pin connector. And if you have an old power supply, chances are it’s not going to be able to house a 6-pin connector.

4-Pin Molex to 6-Pin PCIe Adapter

This cable is used for computers that run a graphics card with a 6-pin power connector and a PSU without one. This means that your power supply unit is old and outdated, so it’s time for an upgrade. If you’re keen on using your old PSU, then this is the adapter you’ll need to use.

2x 8-Pin to 12-Pin PCIe Adapter

12-pin power connectors are relatively new, so it’s no surprise that the majority of new PSUs can’t accommodate them. If you bought a 3000-series GPU, Nvidia will include a dual 8-pin to 12-pin power adapter.

SATA to 8-Pin PCIe Power Adapter

This power adapter will convert SATA connectors to 8-pins, so you’re going to have two SATA connectors connected for one 8-pin connector.

SATA to 6-Pin PCIe Adapter Cable

Similar to the power adapter above, except it converts your SATA connector to a 6-pin connector instead. But this isn’t advisable as the SATA connector may not be able to handle that much power surging through it.

What If You Accidentally Used a CPU’s Connector to A GPU?

Even if you’re the clumsiest person alive, this wouldn’t be possible. GPU power connectors have different holes and shapes compared to a CPU, as seen below:


Source: linustechtips.com

You wouldn’t be able to insert the CPU’s connector to the GPU, or vice versa unless you force the cables in.

The Wrap Up

Most graphics cards would probably use 6-pins to 8-pins, unless you’re buying the new 3000-series from Nvidia. Easy installation is the name of the game for these GPU cables, and all you have to do is align the connector to the slot and you’re done.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.