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Despite decades of technological advancement the average home computer is still plagued by one obvious yet complex issue – cable clutter. Many home PCs are still plagued with more grasping tentacles than a low budget horror film. They reduce space and create an eye sore.
There are ways to reduce clutter, of course, but some are expensive. Replacing all of your wired components with those that used wireless standards (WiFi, Bluetooth, etc) is an easy but expensive answer. What can you do if you want to spend less?
Get Friendly With Zip Ties & Clamps
Zip ties are the staple of every inexpensive cable management solution. They’re awesome, and you should immediately buy a bundle of 50 or 100.
A zip tie is the least expensive way of accomplishing the most basic task associated with cleaning computer cable clutter – grouping cables together. With zip ties you can bundle cables and treat them as one for the purposes of routing them behind a desk, through a wall or under a bookshelf.
There is a downside to zip ties, and that is their permanence. Once you tie cables together you can often only unbundle the cable by cutting the zip tie. An extremely sharp object like a needle can sometimes be used to release the latch, but it’s a hassle.
If re-use is necessary you can instead opt for a cable clamp. It’s the same idea, but instead in the form of a (usually roughly circular) clamp with a latch mechanism that can be tightened or released.
These are more expensive than zip ties but can still generally be found at your local hardware store for less than a dollar a piece (for basic clamps that tighten via a screw) or for a little more than a dollar (for better clamps with an easy adjustment mechanism).
Be careful of clamps with sharp metal edges as they might damage your cables over time.
Consider Cable Sleeves
Zip ties and clamps are great but they are sometimes still messy. Cables that are frequently touched or used will have a tendency to move about in the tie or clamp and eventually you’ll end up with a loose cable.
Those solutions are also unsightly, so they don’t work well if you have an environment where a bundle of cables have to run across an open space.
A cable sleeve is the solution. It’s a fabric tube that can accommodate multiple cables and keep them tightly bound together while also disguising them from eyesight. Though usually black, sleeves can be purchased in colors to better match your décor.
Sleeves are also inexpensive. Prices hover around a quarter per foot for basic solutions and a few bucks per foot for ones that are of higher quality or easier to use. You can find sleeves online, at hardware stores and at specialty electronics stores.
Cleaning up your computer clutter might not always be possible if you restrict yourself to thinking horizontally. Your desk or other furniture may restrict a run of cable that goes across the floor and you may find that you have limited space for placing small peripheral devices that are often responsible for clutter, like external drives and routers.
You will find that a lot of computer products already come with some form of wall mount option available. It may simply be in the form of one or two latches that can fit a screw head, but that’s all you need. This may allow you to hide a network switch or router behind a large monitor or a piece of furniture. You can even fasten the device to the backside of your desk or the inside of a cabinet.
Don’t forget to check out your local hardware store’s wall faster section for possible solutions. You’ll likely find all kinds of hooks and loops that can screw or nail in to a wall. These can then be used as hangers for zip ties and cable clips.
Hide Non-Essential Cables
Part of dealing with cable clutter is getting rid of cables that you don’t need. This seems like an obvious point, but it often isn’t. Many computer users have something cluttering their desk, cables and all, even though it’s only used once or twice a month.
It’s important to think about what you don’t need because reducing the cables you have to organize will make your efforts more effective and avoid frustration. Common examples of devices that are used infrequently include digital camera chargers, secondary external drives and gaming peripherals. Rather than bundling in with your zip ties and cable sleeves you should get them and their cables off your desk altogether.
Part of the reason why such devices end up on a desk despite their infrequent use is a lack of space elsewhere. Thinking vertically is one again a good solution. Ikea sells a $60 wall shelf with two small drawers that are prefect for storing unnecessary power cords and devices. Overstock.com is currently selling a two-drawer slim shelf for the same price. And many retailers have similar products in-store at the same price or less.
These suggestions are inexpensive. You could easily implement all of them for less than $100, but in many cases you’ll only need to spend a few bucks on some zip ties, cable clamps or sleeves to dramatically improve your clutter situation.
What solutions have you implemented in your own home or office to conceal computer wires? Let us know in the comments.