One thing that it seems I have many of are cords and connector/patch cables.

I don't want to throw out all of them, but am looking for useful storage tips?

Most are under 6 foot / 2 metres long, they are the usual assortment of TV cable, stereo-cable, serial cable, ethernet, 12-volt power, etc.

Looking for some way to store them efficiently, while I can still see both ends. Coiling is a possibility, but then there's just a stack of circles that I have to dig through.

Ideally, some sort of hanging method, that has them semi-secur, but still accessable/visible.

How do you store all those cables? (and hope this is Electronics-enough!)

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  • TV Cables, Stereo-cables, etc is more in the consumer electronics realm, but I think this question is more then relevant to all of us here. – Kellenjb Dec 30 '10 at 21:51

12 Answers 12

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I found a really neat cheap way to bundle them - use the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls, and loop them inside. This prevents them being in a tangle. Also, those cardboard tubes can be written on with a marker to clearly ID the cables.

Since each side will have a loop, you can probably hang these on pegs, but I simply keep them in a box.

I used to store these in a big plastic ammo box. The problem is they end up all twisted together after the 100th time I dig through them looking for a spare null modem cable.

The solution was to coil the cables and put them in large Ziploc bags, then put them in the box. The freezer bags even have an area for marking, so I can write "USB" on one bag, "RS-232" on one bag, and so forth. And when I'm looking for a null modem, it's easy to pull the RS-232 bag, and see that I still haven't acquired one...

  • I use large Ziplocs too. They work pretty well. – pingswept Dec 30 '10 at 20:08
  • 1
    +1 ziplocks. I have a box full of computer cables that are very easy to sort through since I did this. They don't tangle, they stay clean, and everything is labeled on the bag. I use it to store old wall-warts, and note the voltage/amperage as well. – Mark Harrison Jan 5 '11 at 21:25
  • I am newbie. Wanted to check on usage of small silica gel packets inside the plastic box? Any expert opinion please? – kamleshrao Jan 4 '13 at 8:00

Assuming this is for an electronics lab, where you need easy, random access to test leads, a "Cable Claw" is absolutely the best option:

enter image description here

They're fairly cheap. I think each of these (there are two cable hangers here) were ~$15 each.

Cable Claws on amazon.

Yes, this is my lab. Yes, I don't have enough test leads. I'm currently shopping for more BNC cables. About the only thing I have enough of is scope probes. Yes, the lighting sucks. I was using a cell-phone camera.

For my long cables, I do the electrician's wrap like this. I would post step-by-step instructions here, but it's easier to see than describe.

For my short cord, I do the "figure 8" wrap like this, like many people do for their headphones. Once they are wrapped, I put them in a small Ziploc bag. You can pick up a ton of these for cheap at a hobby store like hobby lobby or Michael's. These are usually in the craft storage or photograph storage section of the store. I think I bought something like 200 for 5 bucks.

All of these are stored in Rubbermade bins, by category. It really depends on how many cables you have, but I found this to be the best storage method. If you have less, I would suggest a duffel bag (it's portable!). Putting the cables and bits and pieces in the ziploc bags keeps them from getting tangled together.

Also, if you have trouble remembering what a cable is (or what it's for), you can always write it on a 4x6 notecard and shove it in the bag with the cable (I usually do part numbers, etc) to help keep everything sorted out.

Edit: Here are the storage boxes I was talking about from Hobby Lobby. They go on sale for 3/6$ occasionally, so you can just watch the circular ads. And here are the bags, also from Hobby Lobby. They come in different sizes, but they also go on sale for 200/3$. So for about 15 bucks, you can store cables and wires to your heart's content.

I keep mine categorized by Power (transformers and line cables)/AV (composite, component, and audio cables)/USB(micro, mini, a/b)/Odds and ends

The high dollar approach

These keep them untangled and straight

  • You could make your own. Bend some sheet metal and cut slits in them. then spray it. – Dean Dec 30 '10 at 17:07
  • @Dean I had a lab manager that tried making his own. He didn't dull down the edges enough so our cables ended up getting shredded over time. Just something to keep in mind. – Kellenjb Dec 31 '10 at 19:08
  • @Kellenjb I hadn't thought about that. D'oh. Happy New Year :) – Dean Jan 1 '11 at 2:51

I put my cables in logical groups, in separate bins. I do the coil method, but put twist ties at the connector ends (i.e. 2 twist ties per cable). You should save twist ties every time you get them with other products.

When I don't have twist ties, I use plastic (saran) wrap. Just cut a thin strip and wrap. Remember to fold over the end when you're done wrapping, so it's easy to locate. And don't go crazy on the wraps or you'll go just more crazy when you try to undo them. :)

I'm lazy :-) Most of my electronics & electromechanical stuff is housed in bins in a large closet in my lab/office (OK, it's a spare bedroom!). I have a couple of large hooks on the wall and hang cables by type: USB, serial, power cords, Ethernet, etc. It's easy to see the cable type and length at a glance. You can get big hooks at Home Depot and other home improvement stores.

The low dollar approach: velcro cable ties.

I've been using those ones from Monoprice for a few months, they're as good as commercial grade velcro ties but cost $1.37 for ten.

  • Also for anyone who hasn't seen this neat trick, you can make devil orns, wind your headphone cable in a figure 8 around your fingers, and wrap the last couple inches around the middle to prevent tangles. – Isaac Dec 30 '10 at 19:38

As an electrical engineer, I have tons of cables everywhere throughout the house. I have begun to use transparent front, over-the-door canvas shoe organizers. These are working well.

A few photos of John Doran's lab show a single piece of sheet metal bent and cut to form a row of hooks, then attached to the wall used to hang cables from their midpoint. (Is there a commercial source for these? The bend at their tips looks slightly different than the Pomona Test Lead Holders that Dave mentioned).

I've seen several workshops with a similar row of hooks, or that approximate this with a row of nails nailed into a horizontal board attached to the wall.

Depending on how much room you have, you may want to hang the most commonly used ones on a hatrack or pegboard on the wall. I store most of mine tied with velcro cable ties, in ziploc bags, in plastic bins. (Like the other posters)

I cut PVC pipe that is 1/2" to 3" width into lengths from 4" to 12". I take each electrical cord and put the two ends together, then fold the remaining loop in half as many times as the PVC pipe in which they are to be placed will allow (once or twice). This way, I see both ends, and the cords which are inside the PVC pipes never become tangled. You can stack the PVC pipes and mark them as to their length, if need be.

If I have a really long cord, I use a wider PVC pipe and thread one end of the cord through the middle and then back through the outside, over and over again until the cord becomes short enough to use easily, unwinding however much cord is needed for any specific job at hand. The cord ends are, in this case, at opposite ends of the PVC pipe.

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