8 ways to cut back on computer cables

When deciding to buy or upgrade a computer or peripheral, be sure to consider the number of additional cables the device will add to your workspace. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you reduce computer-related cable clutter:

  1. Laptops will usually only require a single power cable. Also, they can be easily stored out of sight when not in use.
  2. Opt for bluetooth and wifi enabled peripherals over those that require cords. This is a great way to get rid of cables for your keyboard, mouse, and printer.
  3. If you use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, an iMac will also only require a single power cable. This is a good alternative to a laptop if you need a larger display. An iMac also affords the benefit of an integrated webcam that won’t require any additional cables.
  4. Many newer peripherals are able to receive power over either USB, Firewire, or Ethernet. Not only does this help you reduce the number of cables, but it also can spare you from having to deal with those large and heavy wall-wart transformers that are usually required.

  1. Opt for multi-function devices over an assortment of specialized peripherals. Buying an all-in-one scanner and printer can cut the number of required cables in half. If you’re still living in 1988, you can take comfort that these machines usually have fax capabilities.
  2. Don’t leave infrequently-used peripherals connected when not in use. My Canopus ADVC110 video converter is great, but I only use it every few months. It’s easy enough to just connect it when I need to use it.
  3. If your work requires the use of multiple computer platforms, consider using virtualization software (like Vmware Fusion or Parallels Workstation) to reduce the number of computers on your desk. Less computers means less cables.
  4. If virtualization won’t cut it, use a KVM switch to share a single display, keyboard, and mouse between multiple systems. Molded cables are available to bundle USB and video connections between the CPU and switch. That reduces two cables to one.

24 Comments for “8 ways to cut back on computer cables”

  1. posted by Jonathan Skaines on

    I recently spent an afternoon decluttering all my computer cables and I can’t believe I worked for years with the mess of spaghetti beneath my feet! Ikea makes a great cord organizer called “Signum” that mounts nicely under a desk to contain your cable mess. Here are a some before and after photos of my installation. I really like the clean look this has given my work area.

  2. posted by Ian on

    You can also use Synergy to act as a KVM for you if you’ve got cross-platform computers operating on different monitors. It’s an easy way to keep the clutter down and eliminate the cost of a KVM.

  3. posted by william on

    I highly recommend devices that can be attached directly to the network. Instead of using a USB hard drive for extra storage, pick up one that has an ethernet connector. I’ve got two of them and the printer is attached to the network as well. They sit together with the DSL modem and the wireless router in the “office corner” in our guest room. Printing, extra storage, and internet access is all wireless from our laptops.

  4. posted by A Tentative Personal Finance Blog on

    You can always do that corkboard mod that screws cork underneath your desk.

  5. posted by hp on

    A few comments to your article:
    If you go for a Notebook, buy a Docking station. “Just a powercable” isn’t nearly enough: Network, speakers, etc….
    I tried for years to bundle my cables, with no success, because, at the time, I had them tucked together I needed to reroute a cable and so on.. So I found a nice idea on a blog somewhere: Take an old shoebox or a massive cardbox from Ikea, cut holes in it and put your cables through it… you have a lid and some nice place to put your feet on… 😉

  6. posted by allochthon on

    Be a bit wary of using bluetooth and wifi enabled devices. Think about the security implications, and decide if the risk is acceptable to you.

    bluetooth attacks:

    Wireless keyboard issues:

  7. posted by Jack on

    I suppose no Comments section is complete without the requisite “security implications” warning from the paranoid crowd. Bluetooth attacks!?!? Are you for freakin’ real? Thieves can use doors and windows to enter your dwelling and steal your belongings, too, but do you live in a building without doors and windows to avoid the “security implications” inherent in those risky devices? If somebody is within 33 feet of my bluetooth keyboard trying to hack into something, I’ll ask them to please leave the room.

  8. posted by Joe on

    While some may call worrying about wireless security threats “paranoid”, that is mostly because they are just unaware of how easy it is to steal data over a wireless connection.

    33 feet to steal bluetooth data? Try up to a mile as of 2005: http://boingboing.net/2005/03/.....lueto.html

    WiFi from a standard home access point can be received up to 125 miles away: http://www.wired.com/culture/l.....4/08/64440

    It’s not exactly paranoid to think about the security of your electronic data, especially when most people are not aware that the signals are accessible from WAY farther than the spec listed on the box, with equipment that anyone can build or buy.

    There has been anti WiFi paint (works with bluetooth too) developed specifically to combat these issues.

    Wireless is convenient, and can be secured well enough to keep out all but the most determined attackers. Just be aware of the risks that came with the benefit of doing away with a cord.

  9. posted by Nate on

    @ Joe and allochthon

    no one is that interested in stealing ur porn over wifi or bluetooth.

  10. posted by bob on

    Ok…regarding the Bluetooth security.
    I did some testing last weekend regading the ability to BlueSnarf or Bluejack a phones data. Seems the security holes allowing this only existed on 16 phones in late ’04. Those bluetooth stacks on those phones has been repaired.

    You cannot detect a Bluetooth device unless it’s in Discoverable mode. The only time this mode should be on is when you’re pairing the device. Problem solved.

    And yes, wifi will go up to a mile…if all the conditions are right.

    But guess what…I can pick the locks on your house door in about 10 seconds with a $50 lockpick set. It’s that easy (and I’m terrible at picking locks).

    So does that mean our doors are too insecure?

    No. Locks/security are for “keeping honest people honest”. It means don’t just give things away-make it unappealing for a thief.

    Multiple layers of security are a start (using WPA, non-intuitive passwords on your machines, no password-less shares, etc).

    Most of all, if you don’t *appear* to have something worth stealing, thieves won’t come after you.

    The BT and WIFI security stuff is just fear-mongering, at the moment. But we do need to start paying attention to it.

  11. posted by bob on

    Edit: You cannot BlueSnarf/BlueJack a BT device unless it’s in discoverable mode.

  12. posted by MikeP on

    Nate, no, but plenty of people are interested in your banking information. Who cares if your information is transmitted to the bank with nearly-uncrackable encryption when they can just steal your login information over the air?

    bob: sure you can. bluesniff, btscanner, and redfang are all tools that allows one to do this.

    The difference between BT/WiFi security and the security of door locks is that most people are well aware of the dangers of lockpicks – it’s all over popular media. Everybody’s well aware that a door is a potential entry point, locked or no. Not everybody is aware that the same can be said for any sort of wireless device – at least, not judging by the seven or eight unsecured wireless access points I can see sitting right here at my desk without even trying.

    Most individuals are not going to be targets of these sorts of attacks, but to dismiss them entirely as FUD is irresponsible. I would suspect that most people here have day jobs and are potentially going to be exposed to this sort of thing, and if they believe they’re perfectly safe at their company with promiscuous wireless devices, one need look no further than TJX to see what the dangers are.

    That being said, it’s still a decent suggestion for individuals to declutter with wireless devices.

  13. posted by helix on

    For a “low tech” solution…

    Don’t forget cable-ties! You can bundle your cables together and then cable-tie the bundles to screws or small hangers under your desk.

    Going wireless doesn’t buy you too much as far as getting rid of cables because for each wireless device you have to have a (probably unique) battery charger or some type of cradle and its associated “wall-wart” plus you have to deal with the reduced reliability of wireless and battery issues (more complexity).

  14. posted by Sunnan on

    Please note that wireless solutions generally consume more power than wired ones.

  15. posted by GerritC on

    I second Sunnan. And don’t underestimate the hassle of battery powered, wireless keyboards and mouses. Sure you could get rechargeable batteries-but even those can really interrupt your “flow”, taking the hassle to put them in the recharger, mounting your old cabled devices and so on. I went back to a cablebased keyboard with integrate usb-hub.

    And for secutiy reasons: The flats in my building are so tiny, equipped with walls that have cardboard-like qualities, I’m not trusting the air enough to take care of my bank accounts.

  16. posted by nitpicker on

    There are some OK tips here, but: Laptops do the exact opposite of eliminating cable clutter. First of all, when you’re not on the go and using _just_ the laptop, it probably sits in the middle of your desk, so all of the cables that run to it (data cables for phone, camera, mp3 player are just the beginning) are lieing on your desk instead of being neatly tucked away out of sight with cable tunnels and cable ties. And after some time, there will be a veritable collection of cables, as you’ll need peripherals for things that you can build right into larger computers. (E.g. your laptop has a DVD burner, but next year you’ll want an HD-DVD drive as well. And a thousand gig hard disk. Nope, neither can work wirelessly. Want a high quality sound card or a TVB-T tuner? For you, these are external devices as well. Memory card reader? External. Additional USB ports to plug all that stuff in? External hub.)

    Secondly, buying an iMac to eliminate the web cam cable would be like upgrading to the presidential suite for the complementary mint on your pillow.

    Thirdly, cheap all-in-one printer/scanners print badly and scan badly. And if you’re trying to eliminate clutter but find yourself in need of a printer, you’ve more likely than not lost already. Printouts are the mother of all clutter.

    Lastly, in the field of consumer products, power over ethernet is a myth.

    re: Gerrit: I have a wireless mouse. I need to change the rechargeable batteries one or two times a year. This takes less than a minute. And it never catches me by surprise, because when the battery charge becomes very low, I get an unobtrusive notification well ahead of time. In my book, that’s no hassle at all, it’s even more convenient than those models that come with a base station where you put it when not in use, for wireless recharging. The secret? I have a _second_ set of batteries that are charged and near my desk.

    But, yes, Bluetooth is not secure (then again, neither is your door lock) and it comsumes a little more power; good points.

  17. posted by meztup on

    Just route one USB cable from “the middle of the desk” where the laptop is to the USB hub and connect extra devices to the hub. This way most if not all the connections can be placed such that they are not visible.

    When purchasing an all-in-one printer (because you may need one – even if “printouts are the mother of all clutter”), first find separate products that you like and would be willing to purchase. Then use the combined dollar amount to shop for the all-in-one. You are certain to find one that easily exceeds the capabilities of the individual products.

  18. posted by Cliff on

    Another low-tech solution: plastic grocery bags. After you’ve plugged everything in properly, then just bundle all the dangling cables together into a plastic grocery bag and tie the two handles together and dangle the bag-ful of cables from one of the plugs up on the computer. This reduces visual and tactile clutter, but also tends to reduce dust. Since it’s disposable and cheap (free!) you don’t really mind ripping it up if you have to rearrange or replug.

  19. posted by Professor Stuff'n'stuff on

    “All in one” components aren’t for me. Generally, they’re cramming crappier gear into the same box, instead of nice gear in seperate boxes. Also, if something goes wrong, then it’s not just your printer that goes, but your fax, scanner and copier at the same time.

    I’ve just learned to pare-down everything in my office, and get rid of most things entirely. Since I don’t scan, print or use my webcam super often, they’re all tucked away. Easy to pull them out when I need.

    I tried forcing myself to deny ever printing, bought a GPS unit instead of printing out mapquest/googlemaps, and I found that I have less and less real reasons to even own one at all anymore.

    Since I’m a graphic designer, wireless mice still don’t cut it. I’ve been using the same Intellimouse since 1998. Wireless qwerty’s are great, but mine’s also the USB hub now, making things even more practical.

    Now if I can only get rid of the computer, the office, all my bills, my job, and my office. Then ALL the clutter in my life is gone!

  20. posted by Nevermind on

    I wanted to comment in this thread, but the crossfire is a little ridiculous. Bluetooth, wireless security, energy consumption – the whole works. I’m waiting out on someone to make the jump to carbon footprints.

    Anyway, I was going to go on a rant about how you don’t need an iMac just to have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, but that would just start an OS war and this thread is as packed as it gets.

  21. posted by I know ima troll on

    “Less computers means less cables.”


    FEWER computers means FEWER cables. Less is for qty of a single thing, like milk in a glass. Fewer is for qty of many things, like marbles in a jar.

    Okay, enough of the trolling.

    You are right on, though. Other than Cable TV (so far), everything in your house can go wireless for data.

    I’m looking forward to Tesla’s wireless power. What happened to him anyway? 😉

    I’d be careful with cables in a plastic bag. Some older hardware can generate quite a bit of heat through the power cables.

  22. posted by ro696ck on


  23. posted by Reducing Cord Clutter | Bohemian Revolution on

    […] Reduce the number of cords by buying the right equipment. […]

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