How to Maintain Your Computer's Cables

With the popularity of external Universal Serial Bus (USB), eSATA, Thunderbolt, and FireWire peripherals these days, the forest of cables sprouting from the back of your PC can look like Medusa on a bad hair day. Normally, this isn’t a problem — until you decide to move your PC or you want to repair or upgrade an internal component. Talk about the Gordian knot!

Here’s a list of tips for keeping your cables under control:

  • Use ties to combine and route cables. Try the reusable Velcro cable tie strips that you can find at your local office supply store. With these ties, you can easily combine cables that are heading in the same direction into a more manageable group. You can also fasten these cable ties to the underside of your desk or behind furniture to keep network and power cables hidden and out of danger.

  • Label your cables! Sure, you can determine the source and destination of some cables at a glance (for example, network cables are pretty easy to spot), but what about your USB printer and scanner, which both use the same type of cable?

  • If you must move your PC or unplug cables regularly, avoid the ritual of tracking each cable to its source by doing what techs and computer shops do: Use a label machine to identify the tip of each cable with the peripheral name.

  • Tighten those connectors. If you didn’t use the knobs on either side of the video cable connector to tighten things down, small shifts in position over time could make cables work loose.

  • Check your cables for damage periodically. If you have pets, don’t be surprised to find a chewed cable one morning — and pray that it isn’t a power cable. Of course, cables can also be damaged by bending or stretching them, so check each cable at least once a year; it's easy to combine this ritual with your PC’s yearly cleaning.

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