Q. All the cables around my computer are an eyesore, and I would love to find a way to make it more organized. Please help! — Jan
A. Despite the popularity of wireless, the majority of computer users are dealing with this same problem because much of what connects to the computer has a cable.
Those who want reliability over convenience tend to stick with wired solutions, but as wireless technology becomes more reliable, some gains will occur from converting. For instance, if you get a wireless keyboard and mouse, you can eliminate the wire from that device to your computer. But it still requires that a wire be connected to the computer from the transmitter/receiver.
The real question (even if you have one of the new iMacs that do a great job of cable management) is, how can I organize the cables that are required for my printer, scanner, USB hub, iPod, monitor(s), power protection and more?
Converting some of those peripherals from wired to wireless is an option, but it comes with some downside. Wireless peripherals tend to be more expensive, often are more complicated to set up and keep running, and commonly have batteries that need to be replaced regularly.
If all of those concerns are not a problem for you, decide which devices you are willing to convert to wireless. Wireless printers are my least favorite because when they work they’re great, but when they don’t they are a nightmare!
If you are not sure about a particular peripheral, don’t buy a wireless substitute because the salesman at the store says they were great. Ask around and surf the Internet so you know what a large number of people are saying about it.
No matter what you decide, you will still have to deal with some cables, so finding good cable-management products is very helpful. There are a plethora of cable organizers on the market, but here are some things to keep in mind.
Any system that is difficult to remove will become a pain in your neck down the road. For instance, you can use standard cable zip ties (examples are at www.nelcoproducts.com) that will quickly allow you to tie all the cables together. But if you ever have to make an adjustment like replacing the keyboard, you will have to cut them all off and start over again.
My favorite basic solutions use Velcro ties, “spiral wrap” or “split loom tubing” — a corrugated flex tube that is split on one side.
Velcro ties are inexpensive and reusable, but they leave the decision on how to organize the cables up to you. Where you put them and how many you use is generally determined by the various paths that your cables need to take. This solution will clean up the cables, but it won’t hide them.
Most office supply and electronics stores sell them in packages for $5 to $10, and they come in different colors if you want to identify cable groups by their color.
If your cables are exposed (desks that are not pushed up against a wall, for instance) or they tend to all run in the same path, the spiral wrap or split loom tubing solutions are nice because they completely cover the cables. You can see examples at www.cableorganizer.com.
You can usually buy a roll of these types of cable organizers and cut it to the required length. It takes more time to install these types of organizers, but it will look cleaner when you’re done. They also are a little more work than Velcro ties if you have to make a change down the road, but not bad.
If you want more elegant options for managing your cables, do a search in Google for “enclosed cable organizers.”