Tech Spring Cleaning Part 4: I’m Sorry, Folks, But It’s Cable Management Time

Welcome to the twenty-ninth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani

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Do you guys feel better now that the sneeze spray has been removed from your laptop display? I do. I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE RAIN IS GONE!

By the time you read this, I will be on a mountain with a billion queermos having a lot of feelings. It’s just as well because this way I can’t hear you scream, or feel the grazing sensation as you throw rotten veggies my way. Are you ready for the rage-inducing activity? You have to fix your cables.

I know, I know, I know, I know. That rat’s nest of cables is everyone’s worst nightmare. Every time I look at the terrible tangle behind my desk, I think to myself, “meh, I’ll just do it later.” But later never comes. IT NEVER COMES! And the magical cable management elves never do it for me. What is cable management, you ask? It’s usually a term tossed around in an IT environment to keep the connectors at the back of computers or servers from looking like a bad case of technology spaghetti. Fortunately for everyone, your personal set up or home office set up probably won’t be as involved as an IT set up, and we can all rejoice about that. But if you’re anything like me, right now it’s a mess even if it’s just a personal or home-office space, and most likely it’s super visible and super ugly. No more putting it off. We’re in this together.

There are nice things about cable management. For instance, since we’re not doing this in a corporate or enterprise IT setting, we can think outside the box a bit. So there aren’t really rules. It’s more like whatever works for your desk/computer/room/space/yurt. And don’t worry, because of the vastness of a project like this, we’re going to split it into days this week. It’s going to make cable management feel manageable, pinky swear.

Today, Right After You Finish Reading This

Clean your desk. Computers are like dust magnets, the backs of computers are the worst of the worst. Get a duster and dry dust the whole kitten caboodle. Do everything you can without a) unplugging anything just yet and b) getting any moisture anywhere near your technology ever. Never spray cleaners on or near your computer.

Sunday Will Be Your Day of Rest/Reading All Our Camp Articles

It’s almost like you’re on the mountain with us.

Monday

Go Behind Your Desk and Label Everything Without Unplugging Anything. I capitalized the first letter of all of those things because it’s super important. I recommend getting some Bel-Art Write-On Label Tape because it’ll stick to any clean surface, it’s super easy to write on (no, really?) and it peels clean without leaving a weird sticky residue. It’s important to clean first, so the tape will stick, but it’s also important to label before we do any other steps. Not only will this prevent frustration later if we can’t figure out what cable we’re holding and then start to play Cinderella with the ports to find the magic fit, it will also let us figure out what we’ve got going on back there. A lot of times you kinda forget what the situation is and why it got this way. Like for instance, your modem is not close to your desk and you want your desktop computer to be connected via wire instead of through wifi. So your router cable is run along the floor and across the room, and you’ve got an ethernet cable that’s a million miles long, etc. Labeling gives you a hot second a reason to go back there and get reacquainted. Anyways, I recommend tearing a piece of tape twice as long as you need, writing your text on one half and folding the tape in half over the cable to make a little flag.

This is what I'm talking about when I say fold tape over to make a flag Shutterstock

This is what I’m talking about when I say fold tape over to make a flag Shutterstock

Tuesday

It’s Game Plan day. Think of this as a puzzle. I’m going to give you some tips and supply suggestions, and I want you to figure out what works best in your space. Here are some things to consider using and what they’re good for.

Velcro

Velcro is good for holding cables together or keeping them wrapped, good for sticking light pieces of equipment (like some wireless routers or remotes) to the sides or bottom of your desk, and good for making cables defy gravity or to keep them from falling back through that hole on your desk (which is made to hide cables, so I super suggest you use it). Different sized velcro for different things – I usually recommend tapedots and ties and doing a mix and match to keep things in place.

Zip Ties

If you’re anything like me, you dislike the way that velcro picks up dust and hair easier than a Swiffer on a TV commercial. You might want to consider zip ties. Zip ties are good for keeping multiple cables together or for shortening something that’s a zillion feet long (just v. loosely coil the cable and zip the coil together. Presto! 6 feet is now 3 feet). It picks up a ton less floor schmutz than velcro, but there is one way velcro has a zip tie beat. The velcro is reusable, whereas if you change your mind or have to change your cable management style down the road, you’ll have to sever a zip tie with scissors, thereby rendering them utterly useless. There are, however, reusable ties and other things that hold cables together (which can sometimes be adorable).

Magnets + Springs

If your desk has metal pieces (mine does) then this might be the neatest and most reusable material to help with your cable management. Tiny magnets will stick to those metal bits of your desk without being harmful to your computer equipment (you know, just don’t take a giant magnet and run it over your tower/laptop/external hard drive). And tiny springs close to the ends of your cables can pull double duty by sticking to those tiny magnets and by helping the ends of your cables not to crack and fray.

Try your best to draw a diagram of how you want your cables to connect, what needs to go where, and what your expectations are for hiding them. Then make a list of supplies

Wednesday

This is your day to go out and gather all the supplies. Cable management supplies are among the v. cheapest things you could do to make your office space, better, fyi.

Thursday

This is execution day. You’ve already got your cables all labeled, you’ve already got all the supplies. Now it’s time to unplug and get started. Make sure everything is saved and your devices are all powered off before you start pulling things out. Here’s the thing – I can’t tell you how to execute your plan because I don’t know what your desk looks like. But I can tell you to consider the practical things you experience on a daily basis. Does your laptop power cable always fall off your desk? Consider using velcro dots or springs and magnets to keep it attached to the side of your desk. Do you constantly have to move your Netgear router out of the way of your feet because you keep accidentally unplugging it? What about using velcro tape to attach it to the back or underside of your desk? Will these three cables always run together? Zip tie them together. The goal of cable management is to hide the cables as best you can. And what you can’t hide, make them look neat.

Once you’re finished, you can leave the labels on or take them off. That’s up to you.

Friday

I’m giving you an extra day to rest, because that was a pain in the ass.

Next week is our last week of Spring Cleaning! Huzzah, everyone! You’ve made it this far!

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Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

Ali has written 272 articles for us.

3 Comments

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    kitten caboodle = my favourite expression from now on. Possibly a chapter title if i ever write a book.

    But as for cable management – i don’t need labels. I know precisely which lead is which – but it doesn’t help when i have plugged in my hair dryer with gadgetry and somehow used its lead to entangle all else in a ball of thr… sorry, leads. I guess the kitten expression had very specific point after all

    And whatever can happen outside the case of a computer – inside is worse. I really like the velcro and sleeve advice, and now am totally thinking how to use it constructively somewhere like my silverstone SG05 loaded with stuff that according to specs does not fit in there and hence internal volume exceeds external measurements.

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