A computer or PC performs many amazing functions and blows our minds in many ways. For instance, a single press down on a power button can switch a PC ON/OFF. On the other hand, actions such as long-pressing can reboot it. So how is the PC able to know how to perform these many functions on a single button? Well, it’s due to the wiring circuits inside the PC that direct the computer on what to do when an action is made. These wiring circuits are located around your PC chassis, called the front panel.
Front panel connectors are a series of connector pins found on a computer’s motherboard. They are also known by other names like front panel header and F_Panel. They enable you to integrate your PC case/chassis into the computer.
The front panel connectors are very useful for several reasons. To get the most out of them, it helps to know what they can do and how to use them. This article will go over the basics such as where they are to the advanced such as using them to jump your computer.
What Do Front Panel Connectors Look Like?
The front panel connectors look like a row or two of small square metal pins sticking out of the motherboard. They are usually covered or surrounded by a plastic guard. Sometimes this is made out of metal instead.
Often the pins are conveniently color-coded based on their function. They appear with distinct colors on different portions of the motherboard.
Standard colors include red, green, white, and blue though there may be others depending on the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, the pins aren’t always color-coded. Not only does this make them harder to locate, but also harder to identify which pin does what.
Does Every Motherboard Come With Front Panel Connectors?
It shouldn’t surprise that every motherboard has a front panel header. Every motherboard needs one since they enable essential functions on a PC case.
However, they can be tricky to find with a glance. There is no standardization for the front panel header position or pin layout.
How To Find Your Front Panel Connectors?
Now that you generally know what to look for let’s locate the front panel header on a motherboard. The two best ways to go about this are to use your motherboard’s manual or to look across the motherboard.
As long as you didn’t toss out the manual on accident (we’ve all been there), you can find out where your front panel connectors are by following the steps below:
- Open the manual to the table of contents and find the section that describes how to get started. Alternatively, there may be a section that details every piece of the motherboard.
- Somewhere in this section, there should be a diagram of the motherboard. Look over the diagram until you find the front panel header. It may be listed as one of several names depending on the manufacturer. Common names include F_Panel, JFP1, JFP2, FPanel, Front Panel Header, and Front Panel Connectors.
- If there is no diagram, the manual may be broken down into parts. In this case, search through the manual for the above names.
If you don’t have a manual or don’t want to use it, you can search over the motherboard itself. A magnifying glass and a flashlight are beneficial for this method.
When looking for the connectors, you can typically direct your attention to the edges of the motherboard. While not every motherboard has the connectors on edge, many do.
Thankfully, most if not all motherboards label their components. The problem is the various labels. Look for the first few names listed in 2.1 above. The labels should be printed on the motherboard close to the connectors.
How To Use Your Front Panel Connectors?
Once you’ve located the front panel connectors, you’re ready to use them. You need to know which plugs from your case go to which connector pins. With this, you have similar options as the above section.
Your motherboard’s manual should have a section that labels each pin and its use. In addition to the manual, there should be a basic layout map on the motherboard near the pins. Use whichever resource is most helpful.
The pins on the front panel header fulfill these functions:
- Power toggle (allows you to turn the power on and off from the case)
- Reset button (for reboots)
- LED Power
- Hard disk LED power
- Beep code speaker power
Front panel connectors cover other functions, but not every motherboard has them.
The PC case you have will come with the plugs that connect to the front panel header. Unless you have a case that does not have a particular set of plugs, you do not need to buy them separately.
If you do not want to do this, make sure you pick a case with the connections you want.
Pay attention to how you use the connectors. Most of these sets of pins don’t have a proper orientation for any plugs. However, there are a few that have specific polarity. If your connectors are plugged in backward, you may not be able to use certain functions.
You can tell which way to plug in based on + and – symbols. The pins and the plugs should both be labeled. Sometimes the positive pin is labeled with a triangle. You can also tell based on the color of the cord. White or black cords typically denote the negative cord.
The power toggle and reset button pins do not have a specific orientation for you to worry about. Be sure to check each set of pins, so you know which ones to pay extra attention to.
How To Use Your Front Panel Connectors to Jump Your PC?
The above are the primary ways to use your front panel header. You may not know that you can jumpstart your PC using these connectors. This is a great thing to know what to do if you don’t have a power button on your case. It is also a fun fact to know.
To do this, you need a small metal screwdriver or some other metal piece. Just make sure there is an insulated part for you to hold! Once you know which two pins are for the power button, you’re good to go.
Touch both pins with something metal. As long as the PC has a power source, this will turn it on.