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Two Tricks to Tame the Cables Behind Your Desk

Pile of multicoored bread clips

If there’s one constant in the life of a ProfHacker, it might be the cables. They’re everywhere around us. But more than anyplace else, cables live behind our computer desk. Looking back there, I’ve got power cords (computer, USB hub, printer, UPS), USB cables (keyboard, printer, USB hub, iPod, etc.), telephone cables (for my modem), and ethernet cables.

In a way, behind-the-desk cables aren’t all that tricky since you don’t interact with them all that often. But every now and again, you’ll be forced to swap out one thing or another, and woe betide the mortal who strays too far into that tangle of unidentifiable wires. You’re almost certain to grab the wrong cable on the first, second, and third tries.

When our family moved this summer to a new home, I won the “gets to reassemble the computer desk” coin flip, and I spent some time trying to figure out how to minimize the cable tangle. I was liberally deploying the PH-recommended velcro cable ties when my wife suggested something even more useful. She grabbed a handful of plastic bread bag clips and a Sharpie. As I connected one peripheral to the computer, she wrote its name on the tag. The result? We can tell exactly what cable we’re holding at any time.

Labeling cables with bread clips

While getting a positive ID on cables can be a annoying, an even peskier problem is the handful of cables that I have on the desk that are attached at only one end. This is the case with a couple of USB cords, to which we connect our cameras, and a power cord that I plug into our external hard drive. Since I, like all the ProfHacker team, am fanatical about backups, I like to disconnect the power to the hard drive when it’s not in use, thereby erasing the chance that it gets destroyed by a freak power surge. Inevitably, however, the cord falls behind the desk, and I have to crawl under it, find the loose end, and pass it up to my very patient wife.

Right after cracking the unidentified cable problem, she figured out a solution for the disappearing cables. Using some of the binder clips that form an important part of Natalie’s back-to-school rituals, she passed the connector end of the cable through one of its arms and then clipped the cable to the base of the computer.

Binder clips holding cables to a computer base

I can’t take any credit for these two tricks, but they’ve proved so helpful in just two weeks (after all, you never get the computer set up right the first time) that I had to share them with you all.

Last year, Mark taught us all how to wrap cords so they remain tangle-free, which works especially well for headphones. What tricks do you use to tame the cables in your life? Let us know in the comments!

Lead photo found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bread_clips.jpg / CC BY-SA 3.0

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