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Tips for Organizing Your "Box of Wires"

Whether you're a technophile or technophobe, you undoubtedly have a box, drawer or bag full of cables, plugs and cords. Taking a few minutes to untangle them, discard those you won't need and properly store the ones you want to keep is worth the effort. And it's really not difficult.

To get started, follow these simple tips:

Sort:
Once you untangle the mess, separate the cables by type. Examples are power cables and transformers (those power cords with large boxes that plug into the wall), audio cables, video cables, coax, speaker wire, telephone wire, Ethernet cables, etc. If you're unsure of a particular cable, use this chart to identify it.

Purge:
Most electronics come bundled with the interconnect cables you'll need to connect or use them, so you probably won't need to keep too many extras on hand. For audio/video components this might be an "RCA-style" cable with white/red or yellow/white/red colored plugs on each end. For video components (like DVD players, DVRs, etc.) it may be component video cables with red/blue/green connectors. You probably have no need to keep but one of each type since most new video products use only HDMI connections. Analog cables in general are becoming obsolete. As for the other miscellaneous wires, you'll probably want to keep a few different lengths of cable-TV coax, Ethernet (CAT5) and telephone cable in case you re-arrange your room or move your equipment further from the wall jack.

Important exceptions: you'll definitely want to hold on to high-end cables (e.g. Monster(TM)-brand cables), proprietary cables (like those that connect a specific device to a standard A/V connection), TosLink digital optical audio cables, HDMI cables, USB and IEEE1394 PC cables, power cables/power adapters that you need specifically for a product that you still intend to use.

Recycle:
There isn't too much specific information on which cables and power adapters can be recycled, though most recycling centers will accept all of them. Recycling them is a much better alternative to sending them to a landfill. Find a local or online recycler.

Organize and Protect:
Now organize the cables you intend to keep. When winding delicate, easily-damaged cables like TosLink (an optical audio interconnect) and HDMI, make sure to avoid putting stress on the cable. Don't wind them tight, bend or kink them as this can cause the cable to fail. Like winding a garden hose, don't try to force it in a direction it just doesn't want to wind. Use a zip or twist tie (these cheap zip ties are great and even include a tab for labeling) to secure them, and then use clear, zipper freezer bags to keep similar cables together.

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