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Computer cables and external devices are a continuous source of frustration for everybody who likes a clean working environment. The more devices you add to your home office, the more disastrous the situation under the table becomes: cords falling behind the desk, ugly cables running along the sides and under of the desk, making it almost impossible to clean and remove the dust.

This is not my office, but I've seen similar "setups:"

Typical office computer cable mess

I'm looking for good tips/products which help me in keeping the all cables somehow under control and organized.

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Sounds like a poll or another one of those "must have" kind of questions –  random Jul 19 '09 at 8:54
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I actually prefer it when my end-users keep it like the picture above. It's easier to fish cables out of a mess when doing repairs than it is to have to waste a bunch of time freeing the cables from a "cable management solution". –  Brian Knoblauch Jul 20 '09 at 18:52
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closed as not constructive by Sathya Aug 3 '11 at 11:24

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14 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I saw the Monster Cable-it system the other day and thought it looked intriguing. Warning: video at that link plays automatically.

The difference from other cable management systems is the zipper device that makes it look easy to install.

Monster Cable-it installation

The product is available in three colors (black, white, gray), three diameters (S, M, L) and two lengths (8 and 16 feet). The diameters are rated for S: 3-5 cables, M: 5-8 cables, and L: 8-12 cables.

While most spiral wrap that I have seen is truly spiral, this is more of a zig-zag wrap-around arrangement with a straight slot down its length.

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Yep that is basically spiral wrap supplied with a tool to make it easier to wrap around cables - although it's not exactly difficult to wrap round in the first place! –  Sliff Jul 19 '09 at 9:15
    
That looks pretty handy. Would I be correct to assume that Monster will charge you a small fortune for it as well like they are well known to do for all the rest of their products? –  TheTXI Jul 19 '09 at 16:14
    
@TheTXI: I first saw this at Fry's where the prices range from $12.99 to $29.99. –  Dennis Williamson Jul 19 '09 at 16:59
    
@Sliff: I don't think this is spiral wrap - it you watch the video on the site, it appears to have a seam straight down one side. That makes it a lot easier (than spiral) to add or remove cables. Pretty cool. –  Argalatyr Aug 24 '10 at 12:34
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Oh sure, anything's easy when you have 3 left arms. –  hyperslug Aug 25 '10 at 3:20
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Lifehacker has a ton of ways to organise cables - my personal favorites:

  1. Using under-the-desk basket thing from Ikea: Go!
  2. Using a rain gutter as cable and power pack management. This is my favourite Go!
  3. This guy used several techniques, maybe you can make use of them? Go!
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Another organizing tool (one that I've used myself) is hook-and-loop strips (more familiar as Velcro). They are available from a number of sources. I've bought Case Logic brand at $1 a piece in a six pack (although Provantage has them for a little over half that at $3.26). I bought an eight-pack of no-name ones at a dollar store* the other day for, you guessed it, a dollar.

I like these better than zip ties, since they're easier to remove and won't cut into insulation (if you overtighten zip ties). The advantage of zip ties is that they're much less expensive (and I think easy-to-remove versions are available). I use zip ties for longer term installations and where expense is an issue.

Hook and Loop Cable Ties

* Are there Euro stores in Europe?

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Here they are called 99 cents shops. 1 euro is too much. ;-) –  splattne Jul 19 '09 at 17:32
    
We have those, too, in the US. When I was growing up, we had dime (10 cent) stores (aka five-and-dimes), but they weren't limited to those values in the way that dollar stores are. –  Dennis Williamson Jul 19 '09 at 17:36
    
In Italy 10 years ago, the Lira was our currency (1 Euro = 1937 Lire). So there were 1900 Lire shops. At that time Italy almost everybidy in Italy was a millionaire. :-) –  splattne Jul 19 '09 at 19:42
    
The last time I was in Europe was pre-Euro. –  Dennis Williamson Jul 24 '09 at 1:16
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Maybe I'll get downmoded, but my advice is to throw away. Maybe some gadgets do not belong there.

If you can't throw away, maybe try running shorter cables (generic power cables, CAT5 ethernet, audio are the easiest to tacle IMHO). 5 extra feet of printer cable is pointless waste and by definition can't be organized. The picture above shows many such cables.

[whatever is left should be organizable with most of the wrapping and zipping system above]

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Good advice, +1! –  splattne Jul 20 '09 at 11:31
    
Don't go overboard though. Having about two feet of slack so you can yank your desktop forward and set it on its side to open it up without having to disconnect every single cable first is a major frustration saver. Even 1 foot of slack makes pulling forward enough to see what you're doing when plugging in new cables easy. –  Dan Neely Aug 24 '10 at 13:18
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A long time ago I read an article on reducing cable mess behind your desk.

The poor man's solution was to use an old CD spindle, cut gaps in the sides of the lid and 'flow' the cables through it. (I can't locate the article)

Similar pics:

enter image description here

enter image description here

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Except the cables came in one end, were all rolled up inside, and then exited on the other side.

I haven't tried this myself.

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Creative idea! :-) –  splattne Jul 30 '09 at 20:00
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Checkout suggestions from The Closet Entrepreneur on reducing the mess under your desk and Reduce cable clutter from Lifehacker.

Common suggestions include:

  • Going wireless. Although this won't always decrease the clutter behind your desk, it definitely can help
  • Getting an iMac. No joke.
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+1 I fell in love with my macbook because of that. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Aug 19 '09 at 13:34
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I literally laughed out loud at the image in the question. I feel your pain.

It can definitely be frustrating.

I think the absolute #1 method of cable management is your steadfast friend the zip tie. Judicial use of these (especially if you can color code them) is incredibly effective at getting you stuff under control. If you can begin to route and tie related cables together, you will begin to build bigger and bigger trunks that will only branch out where they need to for you pieces of equipment. This is also very useful if your power sources are all centrally located (allowing you the possibility of building a single big trunk in the middle that can branch off to your power sources when they need to).

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Use a docking station, at least you centralize the place where all cables go to.

Connecting peripherals should be done with USB extension cables or hubs.

Tie cables together with tie ribs, but I like the cable wrapper mentioned in another answer better.

Have one large PVC pipe (or whatever large hollow pipe you can find) and let all the wires go through it. It reduces the visual clutter and you can always paint it to make it look better. Plus an advantage of the pipe vs tie ribs is that cables are easily disconnectable and removed.

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+1 for the PVC. Fusion is a spray paint by Krylon that is made especially for plastic. It's available in a number of colors or can be used as a primer for regular spray paint (which would usually flake off eventually if used by itself). If you can find the right tool for the job, you could cut a slot down the full length of the pipe that would make cable installation and removal easier under some circumstances (such as cables with large connectors). –  Dennis Williamson Jul 24 '09 at 1:12
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Short of adding in your own trunking, one cheap way of keeping cables tidy is to use Spiral Wrap:

http://www.cabletiesandmore.ca/SpiralWrap.php

I came across this many years ago when working for the family business, which manufactures generating sets. They use it for tidying the multitude of wires on the gensets/inside the control gear they make, but it's just as well suited for tidying up computer cables.

You're best off purchasing such stuff from an electrical wholesaler, as I remember a few years ago seeing one of those companies that only sells stuff via infomercials, selling short runs of Spiralwrap for "home wiring" uses at exorbitant prices.

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Twist ties which generally keep cables bound together that come with hardware etc are actually pretty good. I keep all of them - then when I need to keep some cables tidy, I get a few out.

Twist ties are the lengths of plastic with a metal spine which can be bent easily.

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Ewww ! –  Dennis Williamson Jul 24 '09 at 0:59
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It might be weird, but I figured for myself, that alle the converters and multipliers and not the wires itself are causing the mess. So I bought one of the Kassett Boxes from Ikea, shoved it all (including the router and stuff like that) in there (why ordering the mess if I just have to hide it ;) and put it on an onubstrusive spot under my desk. Afterwards Velcro Tape for the wires was sufficent to get it cleanly ordered and still be flexible.

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At home, I use "Cup Hooks" on the underside of the desk. These are hooks designed to hold small tea/coffee cups, and are similar to the kind of hook you'd see holding a lamp, or potted plant from the ceiling, but they have a small flap of metal covering the open part of the hook (think of the hook that holds the shoulder strap on a bag). This keeps the cables in, but I can remove a single cable without messing with all the rest. I ran a series of them on the bottom side of the desk, about every 8-10 inches, this way if a cable is too long, I can loop it around two or more hooks and get a length that is within 4-8 inches of perfect.

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