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ETpro's avatar

How can I organize the rat's nest of wires behind my computer table?

Asked by ETpro (34428points) October 13th, 2012

We just moved, and as I am settling into the new, larger quarters I want to avoid a repeat of the mess I had behind my computer and printer/fax at the old location. On the desk, I have got a two-line phone and its power supply, a computer with its line cord and CAT-5 cable. Then there is a cable modem with its coax and CAT-5 connection and its power supply. There’s also a 5-line router and its power supply wire. There’s a 500 gig external back-up hard drive with its USB cable and power supply. Finally there is a USB cable, power cord and telephone line to the fax/printer/scanner. And all that cacophony of wiring is before I hook up my old tower machine to the network and plug my tablet PC into it.

If I let all that wiring tangle up as suits itself, I end up with a dust trap it’s virtually impossible to clean. There has got to be a better way. But what is it? What wire-ways or tricks for organizing wires can you pass on to me? I’m all ears—well, with the exception of the part that’s all tangled up in these darned wires.

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17 Answers

DigitalBlue's avatar

I just made my husband help me to tackle our own bundle of dusty insanity a few weeks ago. We used a lot of zip ties and a bit of electrical tape, and now it’s much more manageable. I can’t really offer more specific advice (I’m sure someone else will come along and do so), but it is a million times better back there.

ragingloli's avatar

With these little things, or these or maybe a combination of the 2.

jerv's avatar

Personally, I use grip tape. It’s easy to find, and has many uses. One of the uses I put it to is organizing cables; I just wrap them together in one big bundle. Unlike, say, electrical tape or cable ties, the grip tape is easily removable, and leaves no residue either.

dabbler's avatar

Cable ties seem too permanent for my taste but they are effective. If you’re sure you have everything where it will stay for some time then aok.
Make sure you don’t cinch a cable tie too tight, the edges are capable of cutting into cable jackets.

I like the two-sided loop&hook strips (velcro) that has the hooks on one side and loops on the other. That is removable and nearly as secure as a cable tie.[ hardware store ] @jerv‘s grip tape will accomplish much the same thing.

I also like lengths of this stuff from Ikea. It’s more attractive than a clutch of cables and can often be used without the cable ties so you can add or remove a cable from the group.

I’ll also suggest to get some of that stuff off the desktop. Under my main desk I have a couple shelf areas a few inches below the top and with a bit of clearance away from the wall. A power strip that is plugged into the same surge-protector as my computers and monitors is on the shelf. Each of my under-desktop shelf areas are close to one of the cutouts on the desktop where cables can be passed from top to below.
Your cable modem and router/hub could go on such a shelf and maybe the external hard drive as well. The wall-wart for your phone set can go down there too. All your power cords and adapters can plug into power strips below the desktop.

tom_g's avatar

I haven’t tried it, but this seems like a great solution.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve never seen a good solution to the rat’s nest—not to say that there isn’t one, but every computer installation that I’ve seen other than self-contained portable laptops has one. Even the docking stations for the laptops at work (where everyone was issued a laptop) were surrounded by chaotic jumbles of wires and cables, not all of which could be tucked into the little power panels in the cubicle walls.

Did you ever watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and wonder where all the wires were?

dabbler's avatar

@tom_g That looks like it would accomplish a lot of what my under-desktop shelves do.
I see they recommend putting your power strips in that basket too. Not quite big enough for a cable modem or router/hub but would get a lot of de-cluttering done.

ragingloli's avatar

“Did you ever watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and wonder where all the wires were?”
Explosive EPS conduits behind the walls.

dabbler's avatar

@ragingloli I don’t recall seeing “wires” on any of the star treks either.

However, they do have “Jeffrey’s tubes” equipped with power conduits, power couplings, optronic relays and optical data conduits all over the place. They’re just not copper/metal ‘wires’ that we use today for those things. And there are equipment panels built into the walls with monitors and control panels included. They’re connected to stuff, it’s just out of sight.

If you had that kind of investment in infrastructure at home today you wouldn’t see any wires either! ;-)

wildpotato's avatar

I stuff two power strips into a nice-looking vase and connect everything to them. I used to have something similar to @dabbler‘s under-shelving, but found it took away too much leg space from my little desk.

Judi's avatar

My husband is the zip tie king. He always has the wires neat and organized.

Jeruba's avatar

@dabbler, ragingloli was commenting on my question.

dabbler's avatar

@Jeruba Ah, indeed. In any case, ain’t no regular wires in Star Trek, deluxe !

ETpro's avatar

@DigitalBlue This “husband” apparatus you speak of; where can I get one, and how much do they cost?

@ragingloli Thanks, but I am looking for something both more elegant and less permanent. I’m forever having to add in and take out peripherals and even entire computer systems on the LAN.

@jerv I’ve never tried that. There may be areas where it will help. Thanks.

@dabbler Velcro ties sound like a good idea where wire ties will work. Under desk shelves would work wonders. That’s a must have. Thanks.

@tom_g Now you’re cooking. That truly looks elegant and not too difficult to set up.

@Jeruba Take a look at @tom_g‘s link. Not quite Star Trek but Ikea can get me close to going boldly… Your employer might not appreciate all the expense request though, so don’t circulate the URL at work.

@dabbler Scroll down. They have their printer on an under-the-desk shelf and its power supply and wiring are secure on the back of the platform, hidden by the printer.

ragingloli & dabbler Star Trek was all optical for data transmission. I just wonder how safe for humans the EMF from the Jefferies tubes would be.

@wildpotato Wires growing out of a vase? That’s creative. Can you post a photo of the end result?

@Judi One more vote for getting a “husband”. I’m just not sure where you find them. Ikea doesn’t seem to sell them.

augustlan's avatar

Man, I wish I could use one of those under desk baskets or install a shelf under there. I have this behemoth of a desk, antique wood with a back on it almost all the way down. Unless I drill holes in that thing, I’ve got no way to keep the cords neat and accessible. Add to that the fact that I only have one electrical outlet anywhere near close enough to use, so multiple surge protectors and extension cords are a must. All of my wires are in a big mess on the floor under the desk. :(

Here’s my one tip: Go wireless wherever you can. My keyboard and mouse have been wireless for ages, and that does help a little bit.

dabbler's avatar

“EMF from the Jefferies tubes” Hmm, besides the optical data comm (which would emit no EMF) the power was in ‘plasma conduits’ and ‘plasma relays’. Wouldn’t the EMF output of plasma flow depend on whether it was an alternating ‘current’ of plasma or a steady stream? Also since the plasma was probably electrically balanced with equal numbers of positive and negative ions maybe there is no net EMF ?
Any serious trekkies know if the plasma is steady and/or if it’s electrically balanced?

ETpro's avatar

@augustlan I feel your pain. It looks as if this question touched a lot of sensitive nerves.

@dabbler After reading this about plasma conduits, I have no earthly idea how much radiation of what wavelength a plasma conduit emits. It would appear that depends primarily on the needs of the script for each individual episode of Star Trek.

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