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What You Said: How You Manage Cable Clutter

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite cable management tips. You responded and now we’re back with a roundup of your great tips and tricks. Read on to see how your fellow readers tame their cable clutter.

The comment thread on the original Ask the Reader post is packed with great cable management tips. While the most frequent tips dealt with binding and concealing cables, the second most frequent comment dealt with having the right cable/cable length to begin with. Mike Hathaway writes:

1 word Velcro… Lots of velcro

I also set everything up measure the distance cables need to go and order the closest sized cables from monoprice.com It ads a few days for setups some times but the results are much less cable clutter to deal with.

If you’ve been telling yourself that it’s not worth the hassle/expense to get the right length cable, you really should check out Monoprice. The prices are so good you’ll think their inventory fell off the back of a truck. (No, really—$3 color coded HDMI cables? You have to see it to believe it.)

Trevor also favors custom-length cables:

I always start by mounting a power strip in an unobtrusive but easy to place. After that I use a lot of zip ties. Getting cables that are as close to the exact length as possible, or making your own help out a lot as well. Then I always try to bundle as many cables as possible into a single “line” with my zip ties. You will almost always still end up with a couple of small bundles of folded cables that you have to find some place out of the way to hide.

Hisa sings the praise of terminating your own network cables for a just-right length:

We have OCD. We use velcro and ceiling racks in our server room. It actually looks like we have NO cable in our server room. We terminate our own cable so we don’t have to depend on fixed lengths. We bundle the longer cables in 20s and navigate it through a system of ceiling racks to ensure no one steps on the cable, accidentally trips over it or pulls it out, etc. All racks are set to partially rotate (custom built system) so we can easily access the back to connect, move, or tone our cables. Then we can rotate the back of our servers to the wall so we don’t even see that maze of cable. Love it!

But at home I gave up. ^^ No matter what I do, a kid, dog, or cat will eventually undo it, so I just shove cables behind the nearest thing to keep it out of sight.

Having worked in our fair share of server rooms, we’re envious of that level of organization and cable customization.

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One thing the comments section wasn’t short on was zip-tie-to-Velcro converts. Several readers noted that they had used zip/cable ties and then switched to Velcro ties. TechnicalServicesGuy writes:

I used to use Zip Ties. the I worked for a data Center and some how always ended up with Extra Velcro pieces, at the end of my career there I had over 300 ft of pieces between 1 inch all the way to 6 feet. Velcro has served me well between the HTPC, TV, and Home Theater Setup in my living room.

I also use a rather heavy duty plastic cable management piece. It was 8 feet but I have since cut it into smaller sections and still have another 3 pieces of the entirety. In the end I still use more Velcro than anything, and I make sure to leave enough slack in the cables, and the Velcro loose enough that if something is tugged on, all my cables to not fall out.

I have also thought of running PVC pipe throughout the attic if I need to make long runs of cables to another part of the house, not sure it will keep pests and rodents from chewing the pipe, anyone have any ideas about that?

Regarding the rodents in the attic chewing at the cables bit: if you’re really worried about it and cannot control the presence of the rodents in another fashion you might consider plugging the ends of the pipes with copper wool (rodents hate chewing on it) and/or putting a few drops of synthetic predator urine (available at a home and garden store) around the pipe every few months. You won’t smell it in the house or anything but the rats will think you’ve got a fox den in your attic. You might want to check out this thread at Slashdot—on top of having a lot of solid anti-rodent tips it has quite a few entertaining comments.

Ozzy is also a a zip-tie-to-Velcro convert:

I used to be a cable tie man (zip ties in the US?) and then my wife got fed up with the cut-offs she kept finding on the floor so for a joke she got me a long strip (about 4m) of 1cm wide Velcro.

I just cut it the required lengths and then bundle cables neatly together and Velcro them off (I’ve actually glued some Velcro hook sections to the back of my desk and hey presto everything is out of the way, neat and tidy and easy to re-use. Cables that need to go up on the desk (e.g. mouse, joystick, camera connector) are then held in place and don’t fall down and get tangled with other cables that involve hours of yanking and swearing
Economical and environmentally friendly too boot!

For more great tips, including tales of cable organizing gnomes, hit up the original comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/13/12

Comments (11)

  1. Anonymous

    Seems, organization and preparation are the keys to cable management.

  2. Jason

    Also, don’t know if anyone has seen these or not, but if you have cables running over carpet, they are a Godsend. Much better than those rubber things that never really seem to lay flat.

    It’s basically fabric with velcro on both sites, so it anchors well to the carpet. I was introduced to them when I was visiting a different division within our company. I’m surprised our safety manager hasn’t ordered a dozen of them yet.

    http://www.electriduct.com/Safcord-Cord-Cover.html

  3. Cobaltqube

    I’m a big fan of rip-tie it’s a cut to fit Velcro strip in many widths and colors and has been a lifesaver for an OCD geek such as myself.. Everything from network room cables to power bricks etc. Zip ties are great too for long runs and other permanent items but Velcro is slowly taking over in my house and my work. Hope this helps.. I have found some great ideas in this thread and others.. Thanks HTG!

  4. Grex

    There is a question above whether pests and rodents will gnaw PVC pipe? As a former plumber and retired plumbing inspector of longtime experience with PVC pipe I can state that if the pipe bears ASTM approvals for plumbing then it has pest & rodent resistance. In forty years of experience with PVC pipe I never heard of a leak caused by gnawing.

  5. justsomeguy

    Our MDFs in my school district used to look like the picture above… We started using the panel, switch, panel, switch, panel, switch model in our racks about two years ago and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s soooooo much cleaner! I have nothing but one-foot cables in my racks now and I can’t help but smile every time I enter a MDF. I’ve remodeled 10 out of our 13 schools so far this way and plan on finishing the rest next summer.

  6. ProstheticHead

    Binding combs.

  7. TechnicalServiceGuy

    @Grex – Good to know! I had a friend down here in Florida, USA. Who had issues with rodents and the palmetto bugs chewing some of his Cat5 cables. I was worried about as well seeing as wireless is not as good as wired IMO. I figured with the piping it would last for a bit longer that way as well. I will look for ASTM approved PVC pipe, thanks! For added messure/precaution I will use the synthetic predator urine if my wife will be ok with it.

  8. TechnicalServiceGuy

    @ ProstheticHead – Binding Combs work for smaller set ups such as a single computer but start to add more devicecs like a printer, scanner, fax, router, modem, switch, that will get filled up quickly. Sure a bigger diameter would be benificial, but possibly not so sturdy.

  9. john

    my neighbour solved the problem by junking his computer and all peripherals.
    so no cables, no ties, no velcro…and no rats…they went next door to my place so they could grab a feed on my cables.
    and now i lead the life of a geek, surrounded by clutter…my computer gear and all its cables, all the stuff my neighbour junked, plagued by endless updates, upgrades, virus, adware, malware, spam and glitches…and a whole stack of rats!!
    my weight is increasing, i have diabetes and am severely sleep deprived.
    meanwhile he is getting fit riding his bike along the beautiful Hawkesbury river.
    so i am thinking of decomputering and buying a mountain bike!
    john from ebenezer nsw australia

  10. TechnicalServiceGuy

    Sounds like John will be getting an ipod and ipad pretty soon, maybe even thinking of joining a cult as well, GOOD FOR YOU JOHN! GOOD. FOR. YOU.

  11. Pepper Networks

    All connectors and cables must be flush and secured. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics, it’s electromagnetism as well. Keep the cables aligned properly, any turn radius large, and the data will have a smooth ride.

    When wiring a building, make sure to plan for change. If you pull every cable taut, then you could face pulling new cables if something needs changed. Stash a little extra cable in walls, ceilings, and under the floor. Don’t be afraid of adding a couple feet of length to a cable route to keep data away from power.

    On zip ties, I don’t use them for the simple reason that they are so narrow that they can crush the internal twist and break the magnetic shield that protects high speed data from corruption.

    My favorite home cable management for power wires is to take a twist tie and use a staple gun to stick it to the back or underside of the desk or entertainment center. It makes a super simple quick-change cord management system for less than a penny…

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