Best Ways to Cable Manage Your Electronics

Introduction

Cable management, for both your computer and home entertainment center, can help with keeping things clean, as well as help solve problems with things getting disconnected. On top of that, it can be easier to troubleshoot and move equipment in the future with properly managed connections.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Scissors or Wire Cutters
  • Power Delivery Devices
Supplies You'll Need:
  • Zip ties, velcro ties, or other bundling items
  • Two-Sided Tape or Temporary Adhesive
  • Screws and screw anchors (depending on where and what you may wish to attach)
Before You Begin:
  • An inventory of the items you want to route and manage
  • Ensure you have enough time to complete the work
Cable Management

Expectations

Each cable management job is unique and different. Each person wants something different out of the work, as well. Some simply want a nice, neat look, while others look to build-in easy upgradability in the future as you expand a home theater or get extra computer peripherals. Still others want better heat dissipation or or other functional requirements that certain cable management techniques can provide.

Because of this, you may or may not wish to use every recommendation given. Rather, take this information as hints and tips to work into your own cable management solution, and not as "hard and fast" rules.

Time Requirements

No cable management routine goes quickly; rather, it takes time, planning, and a lot of work to accomplish. Much of that work tends to be tedious and 'fiddly', working with cable ties, velcro ties, or routing cables 'just right'.

Make sure you set aside time for the actual re-wiring, as well as have everything planned out ahead, and have all your tools and supplies ready and available. Having to slow down and stop because of a missing piece is incredibly frustrating, and can end up in dissuading you from accomplishing your goals, and leave you with a half functioning system.

1 Maximum Cable Lengths

There are many things to consider when getting cables for your computer or home entertainment setup.

Maximum Length

The majority of different cable types used for connecting home theater and computer equipment have different recommended lengths. What's bundled with your system is more than adequate in most cases; but when it comes to cable management, you tend to want to add a little slack, and may end up purchasing additional, longer cables to accomplish your goals.

It's best to know, beforehand, what length of cables you can use for each type of cable, and have a successful setup.

Video Cables

HDMI
HDMI CableUsed for computers and home entertainment, carries both audio and high-definition video. Generally 32 feet to 49 feet is about the maximum length for a single HDMI cable of extremely good quality. Most will be in the 30 foot or under range, because of how much data is sent over such small wires inside the cable.
DisplayPort
DisplayPort CablesUsed for computers primarily, carries an extremely high amount of video and has extended abilities to transmit ethernet data and audio. Generally six feet long in most cases, and drops off in quality quickly beyond that. Generally, don't expect a DisplayPort cable longer than about 10 feet long.
Coax
Coax CablesUsed to deliver your cable TV to your home, cable Internet to your cable modem for your computer, from the wall to your cable box or modem, and from your antenna to your television. A decent quality cable can easily be over 1000 feet long, but for the length 'behind your television or computer' use, it's recommended to keep it to about 50 feet or less, mostly for safety reasons, but also because a mess or huge loop of cable can cause severe signal problems. Extremely long cables are a common cause of problems for slow Internet speeds.
DVI
DVI CableUsed on computers, only for video, comes in a myriad of slightly different specifications. For today's high-definition displays, the maximum length is around 15 feet.
VGA
VGA CableOlder standard, used by computers and some presentation equipment. Generally, cable should be kept shorter than 10 feet long, without special considerations.

Audio Cables

HDMI and DisplayPort both transmit audio as well as video; you may not need special audio cables because of this.
Optical or TOSLINK
TOSLINK CableUsed in some home theater equipment, and limited use on computers. Most cables are kept to 15 feet, with a technical maximum of 32 feet long.
1/4-inch, 3.5mm, 1/8th-inch, TRS, or Mini-Plug
Minijack CableSimple mono or stereo cable that tends to be used for home computer speakers, headphones, and portable audio devices. The signal is analog, not digital, so instead of simply 'not working' at distance, the quality and volume drops off the longer the cable is. Usually kept to about 15-20 feet for extremely high-quality cables, about three to five feet in most cases.
RCA Cables
RCA CablesCommon on home theater equipment, an analog standard that transmits a single 'channel' — such as left or right audio — per cable. Very often found on a subwoofer. Extremely high-end cables can reach hundreds of feet, but for most home users around 20-30 feet is the maximum for quality cables.
Speaker Wire
Speaker WireUsed to run from your home theater to the side and rear speakers. Cables can vary greatly in quality and wire size, and all must be taken into account to provide a decent-quality sound. Generally speaking, a low-cost run of speaker wire can go for about about 10 feet. Higher-quality and higher-cost can go to 50-75 feet. Extremely high-quality and high-cost speaker wire can be run in-wall through your house at nearly any distance.

Data Cables

Data cables are used to send digital information from one device to another.

Ethernet
Ethernet cableEthernet cables can be quite long. In most cases, the most simple cable can run for 300 to 325 feet without any problems. Higher quality cables designed for long runs can easily run for 1000 feet or more.
USB
USB CableUSB is designed for shorter distances, and generally should not be longer than about 15 feet, and tends to only work for charging devices slowly. A higher-quality cable will be shorter, usually 10 feet or less.

2 Keeping Your Cables Organized

We can now begin bundling together and making the cables behind your system neat and tidy.

You can use one, or multiple different methods to give the look, and accessibility you want to the wiring of your home theater or computer system.

Cable bundling

Cable bundling will most likely be the first step in cleaning up the cables from your home theater or computer installation.

Cable Ties
Cable TieSometimes called zip ties, these are plastic, with a groove on one side, and a simple locking mechanism on the other. After securing the cables, cut off the remaining end of the cable tie. Given their incredibly low price, they are disposable. When you need to add another cable, you cut the old one off, and just use a new one.
Velcro Straps
Velcro StrapMuch like cable ties, a simple Velcro strap has hooks on one side, felt on the other. The benefit is they can be easily unbundled or added to, without cutting the strip and having to use another.
Raceways
RacewaySometimes called cable tunnels, these are for where cables are exposed, such as between your television and receiver, or going to your speakers. They place a cover over your cables to hide them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Many have little notches to lock your cables into.
Adhesive Pads
AdhesivesSmall, sticky pads to attach your bundles to. Some come built into various straps or ties, some are reusable. Some examples are adhesive putties or double-sided tape.
These can be used to attach cable bundles, power adapters, or other equipment to the back of a desk or entertainment hutch.

Service Loops and Slack

Service Loops
Leave slack at your bundle points, these are called "service loops". Do not tighten down any strap too much, you want some give and movement in case something shifts, and you don't want to accidentally cut, bend, crimp, or otherwise damage your cables.

Label Everything

Cable Labels
During your bundling process, it's often a good idea to use small labels near the ends of each cable, just in case you need to disconnect something in the future. You can use a label printer to make these, but a small strip of masking tape works just as well.

For example, on your Blu-ray player's HDMI cable, a little loop of tape saying "Blu-ray" where it connects to your Blu-ray player, and where it connects to the receiver, can help you immensely should you replace the player, or the receiver, somewhere down the line. Likewise for power cables.

3 Deciding Which Type of Power Protection to Use

While you simply need to power every device in your home theater or computer setup, thinking about how to protect your investment from power surges is also something to consider. Also, collecting all the power delivery to one place makes it so there's fewer cables running away from your desk or entertainment center.

This is an area where a little planning goes a very long way:

  • How many devices will you be connecting?
    • If you have six total devices, a small four-plug power strip will not suffice.
  • Will you want to expand and add more devices later?
    • Most people will end up adding to and expanding with more devices in the future. You'll want to have extra outlets available to accommodate your future needs.
  • Do you want an easy way to turn on and off your whole setup?
    • Some power delivery devices will have front facing power switches, or readouts for how power delivery is happening.
  • What shape of plugs do you have?
    • While most devices have moved away from the large, boxy AC to DC adapters that stick out of the wall or hang off the socket, they can still pose a problem. Depending on the type of power delivery accessory you choose, these types of plugs might interfere with neighboring outlets. Some power delivery device manufacturers have taken this into account, and rotated the plugs to make it less of an issue.

All power delivery devices wear out over time. Some may wear out more slowly, but expect to have to replace this part of your system every couple of years to avoid problems.

Different types of Power Protection

There are 3 different types of power distribution and protection devices.

It can be extremely dangerous to connect one power delivery device to another, or 'daisy-chain' them. Always plug these devices directly into a wall outlet, and not into another power delivery device.

Outlet Duplicators / Power Strip
Power Strip
  • Very low cost.
  • Minimal, if any, protection. Most power surges are just passed through to your equipment which can damage or ultimately destroy them. Some models have a small fuse in them which is destroyed when a particularly strong surge occurs.
Surge Protectors
Surge Protector
  • Average cost.
  • Provides decent protection to your devices. Some of these types tend to offer some extra protection as well for cable lines or networking lines. Many come with simple warranties that protect against power surge damage should your devices incur any while connected to one of these.
UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply
UPS
  • Higher cost.
  • Performs some basic power conditioning.
  • Provides battery power when your power goes out — most useful for a computer, so it can stay running for a few minutes to close and save your documents, and shut down properly in case of a power outage.
Power Conditioners
Power Conditioner
  • Very high cost.
  • Provides not only decent protection, but also 'conditions' the power, so there's little if any noise or power fluctuations introduced to your equipment. While subjective and very dependent on what is coming to your equipment in the first place, some people feel it can help with picture and sound quality.
  • These tend to be aesthetically pleasing, and integrate well with modern home theater and surround sound setups.

4 Mount Equipment to Further Organize Things

Many computer peripherals, power delivery devices, and smaller home entertainment devices that you don't swap out much can be mounted to a wall, or to the back of a desk or entertainment center. This brings them up off the floor, and helps lessen trip hazards and keep things clean.

Good examples of items you may wish to mount are:

  • Power Strips
  • Routers
  • Modems
  • Network Switches
  • Cable Hooks

Mounting with Screws

Before considering this, make sure the device you want to mount has places to hang the device on screws.
Router with mounting holes highlighted.

Wall Mounting

Mounting to a wall usually involves drilling into the drywall, then using wall anchors to ensure they don't rip apart your wall. Then, you place a screw into the anchor, with some sticking out to hang the device on.

Mounting to Desk or Entertainment Center

When mounting to a desk, you'll want to use washers to distribute the weight along the desk, or even reinforce it on the back, to prevent heavy equipment from ripping through your desk.

Make sure your Service Loops are long enough to accommodate moving your entertainment center or desk to get to the back, if you do decide to mount something to the wall, desk, or entertainment center.

Mounting with Adhesives

If you cannot screw a device to the wall, desk, or entertainment center, two-sided tape or reusable adhesives may help, provided the device is light enough to be held up that way.
Adhesives

As with all adhesives, check the type, notes on the product, and test on a small out-of-sight area before using on any surface.

We're here to help!

Connect to a Tech Pro

Call or chat with a Tech Pro 24/7.

Cable management, for both your computer and home entertainment center, can help with keeping things clean, as well as help solve problems with things getting disconnected. On top of that, it can be easier to troubleshoot and move equipment in the future with properly managed connections.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Scissors or Wire Cutters
  • Power Delivery Devices
Supplies You'll Need:
  • Zip ties, velcro ties, or other bundling items
  • Two-Sided Tape or Temporary Adhesive
  • Screws and screw anchors (depending on where and what you may wish to attach)
Before You Begin:
  • An inventory of the items you want to route and manage
  • Ensure you have enough time to complete the work
Cable Management

Expectations

Each cable management job is unique and different. Each person wants something different out of the work, as well. Some simply want a nice, neat look, while others look to build-in easy upgradability in the future as you expand a home theater or get extra computer peripherals. Still others want better heat dissipation or or other functional requirements that certain cable management techniques can provide.

Because of this, you may or may not wish to use every recommendation given. Rather, take this information as hints and tips to work into your own cable management solution, and not as "hard and fast" rules.

Time Requirements

No cable management routine goes quickly; rather, it takes time, planning, and a lot of work to accomplish. Much of that work tends to be tedious and 'fiddly', working with cable ties, velcro ties, or routing cables 'just right'.

Make sure you set aside time for the actual re-wiring, as well as have everything planned out ahead, and have all your tools and supplies ready and available. Having to slow down and stop because of a missing piece is incredibly frustrating, and can end up in dissuading you from accomplishing your goals, and leave you with a half functioning system.

There are many things to consider when getting cables for your computer or home entertainment setup.

Maximum Length

The majority of different cable types used for connecting home theater and computer equipment have different recommended lengths. What's bundled with your system is more than adequate in most cases; but when it comes to cable management, you tend to want to add a little slack, and may end up purchasing additional, longer cables to accomplish your goals.

It's best to know, beforehand, what length of cables you can use for each type of cable, and have a successful setup.

Video Cables

HDMI
HDMI CableUsed for computers and home entertainment, carries both audio and high-definition video. Generally 32 feet to 49 feet is about the maximum length for a single HDMI cable of extremely good quality. Most will be in the 30 foot or under range, because of how much data is sent over such small wires inside the cable.
DisplayPort
DisplayPort CablesUsed for computers primarily, carries an extremely high amount of video and has extended abilities to transmit ethernet data and audio. Generally six feet long in most cases, and drops off in quality quickly beyond that. Generally, don't expect a DisplayPort cable longer than about 10 feet long.
Coax
Coax CablesUsed to deliver your cable TV to your home, cable Internet to your cable modem for your computer, from the wall to your cable box or modem, and from your antenna to your television. A decent quality cable can easily be over 1000 feet long, but for the length 'behind your television or computer' use, it's recommended to keep it to about 50 feet or less, mostly for safety reasons, but also because a mess or huge loop of cable can cause severe signal problems. Extremely long cables are a common cause of problems for slow Internet speeds.
DVI
DVI CableUsed on computers, only for video, comes in a myriad of slightly different specifications. For today's high-definition displays, the maximum length is around 15 feet.
VGA
VGA CableOlder standard, used by computers and some presentation equipment. Generally, cable should be kept shorter than 10 feet long, without special considerations.

Audio Cables

HDMI and DisplayPort both transmit audio as well as video; you may not need special audio cables because of this.
Optical or TOSLINK
TOSLINK CableUsed in some home theater equipment, and limited use on computers. Most cables are kept to 15 feet, with a technical maximum of 32 feet long.
1/4-inch, 3.5mm, 1/8th-inch, TRS, or Mini-Plug
Minijack CableSimple mono or stereo cable that tends to be used for home computer speakers, headphones, and portable audio devices. The signal is analog, not digital, so instead of simply 'not working' at distance, the quality and volume drops off the longer the cable is. Usually kept to about 15-20 feet for extremely high-quality cables, about three to five feet in most cases.
RCA Cables
RCA CablesCommon on home theater equipment, an analog standard that transmits a single 'channel' — such as left or right audio — per cable. Very often found on a subwoofer. Extremely high-end cables can reach hundreds of feet, but for most home users around 20-30 feet is the maximum for quality cables.
Speaker Wire
Speaker WireUsed to run from your home theater to the side and rear speakers. Cables can vary greatly in quality and wire size, and all must be taken into account to provide a decent-quality sound. Generally speaking, a low-cost run of speaker wire can go for about about 10 feet. Higher-quality and higher-cost can go to 50-75 feet. Extremely high-quality and high-cost speaker wire can be run in-wall through your house at nearly any distance.

Data Cables

Data cables are used to send digital information from one device to another.

Ethernet
Ethernet cableEthernet cables can be quite long. In most cases, the most simple cable can run for 300 to 325 feet without any problems. Higher quality cables designed for long runs can easily run for 1000 feet or more.
USB
USB CableUSB is designed for shorter distances, and generally should not be longer than about 15 feet, and tends to only work for charging devices slowly. A higher-quality cable will be shorter, usually 10 feet or less.

We can now begin bundling together and making the cables behind your system neat and tidy.

You can use one, or multiple different methods to give the look, and accessibility you want to the wiring of your home theater or computer system.

Cable bundling

Cable bundling will most likely be the first step in cleaning up the cables from your home theater or computer installation.

Cable Ties
Cable TieSometimes called zip ties, these are plastic, with a groove on one side, and a simple locking mechanism on the other. After securing the cables, cut off the remaining end of the cable tie. Given their incredibly low price, they are disposable. When you need to add another cable, you cut the old one off, and just use a new one.
Velcro Straps
Velcro StrapMuch like cable ties, a simple Velcro strap has hooks on one side, felt on the other. The benefit is they can be easily unbundled or added to, without cutting the strip and having to use another.
Raceways
RacewaySometimes called cable tunnels, these are for where cables are exposed, such as between your television and receiver, or going to your speakers. They place a cover over your cables to hide them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Many have little notches to lock your cables into.
Adhesive Pads
AdhesivesSmall, sticky pads to attach your bundles to. Some come built into various straps or ties, some are reusable. Some examples are adhesive putties or double-sided tape.
These can be used to attach cable bundles, power adapters, or other equipment to the back of a desk or entertainment hutch.

Service Loops and Slack

Service Loops
Leave slack at your bundle points, these are called "service loops". Do not tighten down any strap too much, you want some give and movement in case something shifts, and you don't want to accidentally cut, bend, crimp, or otherwise damage your cables.

Label Everything

Cable Labels
During your bundling process, it's often a good idea to use small labels near the ends of each cable, just in case you need to disconnect something in the future. You can use a label printer to make these, but a small strip of masking tape works just as well.

For example, on your Blu-ray player's HDMI cable, a little loop of tape saying "Blu-ray" where it connects to your Blu-ray player, and where it connects to the receiver, can help you immensely should you replace the player, or the receiver, somewhere down the line. Likewise for power cables.

While you simply need to power every device in your home theater or computer setup, thinking about how to protect your investment from power surges is also something to consider. Also, collecting all the power delivery to one place makes it so there's fewer cables running away from your desk or entertainment center.

This is an area where a little planning goes a very long way:

  • How many devices will you be connecting?
    • If you have six total devices, a small four-plug power strip will not suffice.
  • Will you want to expand and add more devices later?
    • Most people will end up adding to and expanding with more devices in the future. You'll want to have extra outlets available to accommodate your future needs.
  • Do you want an easy way to turn on and off your whole setup?
    • Some power delivery devices will have front facing power switches, or readouts for how power delivery is happening.
  • What shape of plugs do you have?
    • While most devices have moved away from the large, boxy AC to DC adapters that stick out of the wall or hang off the socket, they can still pose a problem. Depending on the type of power delivery accessory you choose, these types of plugs might interfere with neighboring outlets. Some power delivery device manufacturers have taken this into account, and rotated the plugs to make it less of an issue.

All power delivery devices wear out over time. Some may wear out more slowly, but expect to have to replace this part of your system every couple of years to avoid problems.

Different types of Power Protection

There are 3 different types of power distribution and protection devices.

It can be extremely dangerous to connect one power delivery device to another, or 'daisy-chain' them. Always plug these devices directly into a wall outlet, and not into another power delivery device.

Outlet Duplicators / Power Strip
Power Strip
  • Very low cost.
  • Minimal, if any, protection. Most power surges are just passed through to your equipment which can damage or ultimately destroy them. Some models have a small fuse in them which is destroyed when a particularly strong surge occurs.
Surge Protectors
Surge Protector
  • Average cost.
  • Provides decent protection to your devices. Some of these types tend to offer some extra protection as well for cable lines or networking lines. Many come with simple warranties that protect against power surge damage should your devices incur any while connected to one of these.
UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply
UPS
  • Higher cost.
  • Performs some basic power conditioning.
  • Provides battery power when your power goes out — most useful for a computer, so it can stay running for a few minutes to close and save your documents, and shut down properly in case of a power outage.
Power Conditioners
Power Conditioner
  • Very high cost.
  • Provides not only decent protection, but also 'conditions' the power, so there's little if any noise or power fluctuations introduced to your equipment. While subjective and very dependent on what is coming to your equipment in the first place, some people feel it can help with picture and sound quality.
  • These tend to be aesthetically pleasing, and integrate well with modern home theater and surround sound setups.

Many computer peripherals, power delivery devices, and smaller home entertainment devices that you don't swap out much can be mounted to a wall, or to the back of a desk or entertainment center. This brings them up off the floor, and helps lessen trip hazards and keep things clean.

Good examples of items you may wish to mount are:

  • Power Strips
  • Routers
  • Modems
  • Network Switches
  • Cable Hooks

Mounting with Screws

Before considering this, make sure the device you want to mount has places to hang the device on screws.
Router with mounting holes highlighted.

Wall Mounting

Mounting to a wall usually involves drilling into the drywall, then using wall anchors to ensure they don't rip apart your wall. Then, you place a screw into the anchor, with some sticking out to hang the device on.

Mounting to Desk or Entertainment Center

When mounting to a desk, you'll want to use washers to distribute the weight along the desk, or even reinforce it on the back, to prevent heavy equipment from ripping through your desk.

Make sure your Service Loops are long enough to accommodate moving your entertainment center or desk to get to the back, if you do decide to mount something to the wall, desk, or entertainment center.

Mounting with Adhesives

If you cannot screw a device to the wall, desk, or entertainment center, two-sided tape or reusable adhesives may help, provided the device is light enough to be held up that way.
Adhesives

As with all adhesives, check the type, notes on the product, and test on a small out-of-sight area before using on any surface.

We use cookies on our website to enhance your experience, analyze site usage and support our marketing efforts. To learn more, visit our Privacy Policy. By clicking “Accept”, you agree to our use of cookies and similar technologies.
Accept