Introduction: Color Coded Desktop Cables

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I work on a laptop at a small desk in a darkish kind of area (although I fixed that with my keyboard light!) , in a sometimes distracting environment. So I've got everything from a separate monitor to keyboard lighting, to the keyboard itself and headphones plugged into my laptop most of the time. When I take the laptop out with me I have to unplug everything, and when I bring it back, I've usually got this tangle of wires that annoy me, because several of them look similar or are identical: black wires with USB plugs - and I'm just looking for one thing or another, it's a crap shoot on grabbing the right wire the first time. It's like trying to find matching socks in the dryer.

I finally hit on the idea of color coding my computer cables. That's not a new idea, of course. People color code cables all the time when they're using large numbers of cables for audio or electronics. But I just needed a couple of simple color coded wires and didn't need to go out and get special tape to do that.

It's made my return to my little home office much cleaner and simpler, and now I know exactly which cable to grab when I want light or my keyboard, or even the main plug for my laptop, or when I just want to remove one element from my networked electronics, as opposed to grabbing some other random plug or connector.

Step 1: Identifying Problem Cables

At least three items make a mess of wires for me, but only two, in this case, are the real culprits, since it's pretty easy to distinguish the headset plug from the USB cables.

Step 2: Materials Needed

All you need, in addition to your annoying cables, is:

  • Markers
  • Post it notes
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Step 3: Color and Cut

For however many cables you want to "tag", color the top of your post it note (the front of the sticky part) in some distinguishing bright color. Orange is great, maybe a bright blue. In my case, I only needed two colors, so I used a bright orange marker for one, and left the second post it alone, since the yellow of the note was sufficiently easy to see. You'll need two strips per plug.

Then cut off the top sticky strip. You're going to use that to identify your plugs.

Step 4: Apply Colored Strips to Cable Sets

Wrap your bright sticky note around the USB base, and another the corresponding top of your item - the keyboard, in this case, and the keyboard light.You can also wrap a strip of clear scotch tape around your post it note strip, to secure it better.

Now it's super easy to see which cable end belongs to which item.

Step 5: Color Code Plugs

You can also color code plugs, too, making it easier to see what you're plugging into a power strip. This is especially handy if you've got things like monitors, lamps and other large plug items plugged to a power strip.

Step 6: Plug and Play (or Work)!

Now you're all set for quick set up with cables and know your light will turn on when expected!


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