Cable Management Guide: Solutions For Messy Desktop Cables

Lets face it, cables are really annoying to deal with, especially when you have countless cables coming from all the electronics that sit on your desk. For some, the task of managing the cables might seem helpless. Others might be just overwhelmed by the number of cables hanging around your desk.

But cable management is something that you should always consider because nobody likes messy cables hanging around. Plus, it’s actually really rewarding when you see your desk without ugly cables hanging around in the back of your desk. Your desktop setup will look way nicer once you finish your desktop cable management.

A messy desktop setup is like a messy car, you don’t want to be showing your friends a messy desktop. Instead, take the time and do some cable management so that you can show off your desktop setup with more proud.

With this simple guide, you could make your desktop look like a cordless setup. All it takes is a little effort and time.

Plan & Visualize Ahead Before Anything

Cable management starts with planning and visualizing where the cables will go. Where does your PC desktop sit and how long is the distance? Where is the power outlet? Determining simple things like these will help with your management plan. One thing you should always consider too is how long a cable is because different cables and devices have different cable lengths. You don’t want to set up something and find out later that the cables don’t completely reach where it needs to go.

Visualize where your electronics will sit on your desk before setting up the cable management tools. You might have a phone charging dock, headset stand, speakers, and other peripherals with cords. Visually layout the cords and see what kind of cable management tool you will need in order to hide all the messy cables.

Cordless Workspace front view
The Cordless Workspace by Lifehacker (Front View)
Cordless Workspace back view
The Cordless Workspace by Lifehacker (Back View)

PC Desktop Placement and Distance

Most PC builders will have their PC desktop sitting next to them on top of their desk. I personally recommend doing this because it helps with three important things:

  1. Greatly reduces the dust build up inside your case.
  2. Makes cable management easier and gives a cleaner look.
  3. It just looks and feels good when you have a gaming desktop sitting next to you. 😉
TechSource gaming computer desk setup
TechSource’s Gaming Desk Setup

The reason why this can greatly reduce dust build up is because your PC is far off the ground where the dust settles the most. There’s more detail about this on my PC airflow optimization guide. Also hiding cables behind and down is easier than hiding cables going up. When you have your PC desktop below your desk, you can see the cables going up to the desk area where your peripherals and other devices are. But when you have the PC on your desk, the cables are more hidden behind the case and in the back of the desk.

Along with desktop placement, you have to also consider the distance because having the PC desktop too far can mean that the cables won’t be able to reach it. And this goes in hand with device cable length because some are longer than others, especially speaker cables. Most speaker cables start from the right side speaker so if you have the PC desktop on the left it might not be long enough to reach the far left side without the cable showing.

Different Desk Types

Different types of desk have different difficulties when cable managing. It really comes down to what kind of desk you have. Wooden desks tend to be a lot easier to cable manage because you could hide most of the cables behind the back panels underneath the desk. On the other hand, simple modern desks don’t really have back panels and tend to be more open underneath the desk. Without the back panel, it’s harder to completely hide the cables.

Those of you who have a modern desk without the back panel should get a simple cable holder like the IKEA Signum, or the J Channel Cable Raceway. Or you could just hide all the cables into a cable sleeve like the OmniMount OECMS. They’re simple and can work with any desk. Just don’t forget to measure your desk for the correct length.

Surge Protectors

Belkin 6-Outlet Commercial Surge ProtectorSurge protectors come in all different shapes, sizes, and designs. Try to get one that fits best with what you need in your own situation. Sometimes your desk can get in the way of the power outlet so you won’t be able to plug in any kind of surge protector. If the
back of your desk gets in the way of your power outlet then you would want to try a surge protector that has a flat rotating plug. They really great for tight spaces where furniture get in the way of the power outlets.
For cable management purposes, you can either hide the surge protector behind or underneath the desk by using a double sided tape. If you don’t want to be doing that then you could get yourself a power cable management box to hide the surge protector. These are really simple and a great way to hide those ugly surge protectors and power cables. However, the cost is pretty high for these plastic boxes.

I personally would recommend a DIY box that you can make from home. They won’t cost you a dime and pretty simple to make. I made mine out of a graphics card box. You could make it out of a shoe box if you want. Only warning I should give you is that these boxes are not plastic so make it at your own risk. Fire hazard warning given.

Organize Your Cables

When your doing cable management, try to group cables together as much as possible. By doing this you can make many loose cables look like one big cable. Best way to group cables is by using Velcro ties. Yes, you could use zip ties or what not, but they won’t look as nice as Velcro ties (something about them just matches so well with cables). Plus, Velcro ties are inexpensive, you could get a pack of them for less than 10 bucks.

group cables togetherYou will want to tie all the cables coming out the back of your PC all together as much as possible. Don’t tie it too tightly, and try to give the cables some extra bending space. You don’t want to tie it like your choking the air out of the cables. Just tight enough so that they stay together. The goal should be to tie them all in one group so that it’s easier to manage and hide.

For more organized cabling, you could Velcro tie different computer cables together and label them using a writable tape. This way you could just simply untie specific cables that you want to change out. Labeling will make it easier for you to know which cables are what in the future when you forget.

Here are list of items you may need

Great Cable Management Tools You Should Get
Most important thing you need for any cable management.
Cable Clips Organizer
Cable Clips Organizer
Easy way to organize device cords
J Channel Cable Raceway
J Channel Cable Raceway
Great way to hide and direct cables
IKEA Signum
IKEA Signum
Works great if you want cables and surge protectors off the ground
OmniMount OECMS Neoprene cable sleeve
OmniMount OECMS Neoprene
Great way to group all cables together for a cleaner look
3M Scotch indoor mounting square
3M Scotch Mounting Tape
Good method for mounting things without drilling or nailing
Cable Management Systems
Cable Mgmt Systems Package Deal
Good deal. It offers a lot more than other brands.

Just Be Creative

Cable management is all about being creative and using simple ideas to make cabling easy as possible. There are many unique cable management ideas you could probably come up with. And for those who are kind of lazy like me, don’t forget the simple idea of “Out of sight, out of mind” when your cable managing. It doesn’t have to be pretty as long as the cables are out of view then it will look good in the end. 😉

Let me know what you guys think, and if you have pretty unique cable management ideas feel free to share in the comments below.

Also if you want to share your before and after of your desktop setup then feel free to share that as well in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Cable Management Guide: Solutions For Messy Desktop Cables

  1. I wouldn’t have guessed that the type of table I have could be the problem why it’s harder to manage cables. My interior design teacher wasn’t telling a lie when she said the type of furniture you have in the room makes all the difference. It’s good that there are so many solutions to help, though. I’ve heard that clamps are good for organizing cables.

    1. Yes, I probably would agree with your interior design teacher. Different types of furniture will give off different vibes, and they will make the room feel and look different. But the biggest factor in a better looking room is probably the cleanliness since messy rooms will never look appealing. I think clamps are good for organizing cables but you have to be careful of the tightness of the clamp that your using; plastic clamps would probably be best. But personally I’m a rubber-band like of guy so I use rubber-bands to tie my cables. 🙂

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