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  Forum Index - Guides - Cable Tidying Guide
Author Initial Thread
ryanarmstrong
Presents

Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Posts: 120
Post Subject: Cable Tidying Guide
Posted on: May 26, 2008

Cable tidying is something everyone has to deal with at some point. Itís not exclusive to case modding either because it affects the whole scale of work and play Ė from your job, to your home, to your PC. As humans we feel the need to go against the laws of nature and entropy and try to order everything as much as possible by keeping where we live as neat & tidy as we can - unless, perhaps, you're a teenager or student (or a guy? -Ed). As we experience the continual evolution into a more and more technology-focused lifestyle, cable management is an increasing issue in our lives, whether it's inside the PC case or around the back of the living room TV.

This whole topic undoubtedly will make many of you think, "Surely this is something everyone knows already?" but you would be surprised - after all, itís never something as frequently discussed as the next piece of hardware due out or ďhow you rig up an old laptop LCDĒ. Cable tidying is an understated yet crucial weapon in the PC modder's armoury Ė making insides and outsides aesthetically pleasing, providing good airflow and cooler components.

In this article I hope to provide a general overview of the different cable management solutions for your computer case and external computer cables, how easy each solution is to use and reuse, how the final solution looks to the ever-scrutinising case modder and the relative prices of each. Obviously, availability in your own areas is totally dependent on local or national stockists and as you can imagine, some products and prices available in some areas arenít in others.

Whilst everyone has their own favourites and opinions, we try to look at things in a comparative manner. Nor do we claim to have used every cable management solution on the planet! Feel free to tell us about your own innovative solutions in our forums.



Split Loom
When it first hit the modding scene back in 2001, Split Loom became the most desired cable management solution for every modder. But whilst it is at the top end of expense compared to other products, itís still a highly desirable solution.

Good Way ^^^

Bad Way ^^^^

What is it?
Split Loom basically consists of a flexible corrugated tube of coloured plastic with a slit down one side you can slot your cables into.

How easy is it to use/reuse?
Even though starting is a bit of a pain, Iíve found that bending the loom backwards to open up the slit allows you to get a rhythm going and easily zip down, pushing in the cable as you go. Once youíve ďbroken the sealĒ on a new length of loom it becomes easier and easier to reuse but it you cannot overfill it otherwise the cables spill out. This becomes a problem if later you need to add another wire, or have a couple of large cables you want to lump together, so itís important make sure your loom is big enough to accommodate all the wires you intend to put in it.

How does it look?
It completely covers all your unsightly, non-colour-co-ordinated cables into a nice, tidy, single coloured solution. The loom can look bulky, especially in a smaller case and overfilling it makes it look unsightly, however, if done right it can definitely become a very aesthetically pleasing solution.

Cost?
Compared to other solutions itís at the expensive end of the scale, in the UK at least. In the US it can be had for cheaper but compared to how far a 100 pack of zip ties goes, itís the equivalent to lining the inside of your case with gold plating. Look to pay around £3 per metre.

What should I use it for?
Lugging small amounts of cables together. If youíre going for a colour theme, itís definitely worth splashing out.


Spiral wrap
Another popular solution - and one that's easy to obtain in the UK Ė is Spiral wrap. Online shops with a case modding section will undoubtedly have spiral wrap in there somewhere, usually in a range of colours and sizes to suit every need. Even your local Maplin Electronics stocks a range of transparent stuff. Sometimes itís referred to as EZWrap, cable wrap or similar.


What is it?
A length of coloured or colourless plastic that has been cut in a corkscrew, spiral style meaning you can untwist it and wrap it around your cables keeping them together.

How easy is it to use/reuse?
Pretty easy. Again, once you get a rhythm going it goes on exceptionally easy - but it still does take some time and if you want to add another cable you have to unwrap it all, then start again (or try and push it up between the other wires which generally doesnít work). Itís extremely frustrating to undo and redo all your good work just to add one more wire. It does, however, 'expand' to accommodate a bigger circumference of wires then its starting size, an attribute which makes it more versatile for future use, but if you go too big it tends to permanently stretch the plastic.

How does it look?
It can look good if you donít stuff too many cables in. You can get it in a whole range of colours and sizes to colour co-ordinate if need be. Itís not the ultimate solution in aesthetics, but it does hide the cables and keep them neat at the same time Ė job done.

Cost?
Generally pretty cheap, a metre can cost anywhere from around 80p a meter for the cheapest, smallest stuff to more specialist stuff (like UV reactive) which is a couple of pounds / dollars a metre (translate that into roughly 1:1, £:$).

What should I use it for?
Smaller solutions in clear view, but can easily be used again for larger needs with not too much extra cost. Something carefully planned: because of the nature of application you should consider exactly what you need in it before using it, to save you unwrapping it all and doing it again.



Cable Braiding
This is a more recently popular solution, and something PSU manufacturers have been using for a few years to keep their cables tidy and the PSU unit better looking. In the last year or so there have been ďbraiding kitsĒ introduced so people can do their own PSU, or whatever else. Availability is about the same as spiral wrap Ė wherever there are shops with modding sections there will usually be cable braiding, and you can get it in the whole rainbow of colours. Unlike the other cable management solutions this is a single use, permanent fixture so make sure you want it done before shelling out for it.



What is it?
Itís an expandable, flexible, cylindrical braiding where your cables are poked in from one end and out the other. The internal diameter can range greatly depending on whether the braiding is pushed together and compressed making a large inside diameter or pulled and extended making a small inside diameter. The ends require tying off with cable ties, heatshrink or melted together otherwise the braiding can come undone.

How easy is it to use/reuse?
A complete pain, to be honest! Compared to virtually every other cable management solution it takes no time at all to get it on, but then you need to seal the ends and make sure itís the right length because once you cut there isnít any undoing it. Not only that, but it can require some trial and error to get right because sometimes the ends will either fray and come out from their heatsink/cable tie seals which means you have to do the whole thing again.

How does it look?
In short, when done right it looks damn good; arguably the best looking cable management solution. People donít go to the trouble of using it for nothing, right? Being available in a huge range of colours and weave patterns allows manufacturers to match the style of the product with the braid they want.

Cost?
Cable braiding doesnít cost that much per meter, in the same range as spiral wrap but specialist colours or weave patterns can cost more. You have to also take into account the fact you need some manner of sealing the ends like heatshrinking and zip ties which is an extra cost.

What should I use it for?
Single use applications you plan on never changing Ė like PSU or fan wires, or if you plan to round your own SCSI or IDE cables. It can successfully be used for large applications that need to be aesthetically pleasing as the cables just requires pushing through from one end to the other, unlike spiral wrap which requires effort and time to wrap around every-single-rotation.

Heatshrink
Never really considered as a serious cable management solution on its own but it is often used to seal exposed wire ends and cable braiding ends to prevent fraying.


What is it?
A rubber material that when strongly heated shrinks around the wire and seals over it making an electrically resistant seal.

How easy is it to use?
Pretty easy, but its single use means itís not as versatile as other solutions. Heatshrink is graded depending on its start diameter and its final (shrunk) diameter so you can work out exactly how small you want it to go and how big you need it to start with. Everyone has their own way of shrinking it - personally I prefer using a simple lighter, but better is to use a hotter blue flame like a gas hob or blow torch, turning it quickly to get an even shrink and reduce the chance of it melting. A hair dryer can also be used: it takes longer to shrink, but there is no risk of melting.

How does it look?
Pretty bad in most cases, and itís rarely/never used in large scale as itís hard to get an even shrink. You can get some variety of colours like red and blue but nearly all the time only black is available.

Cost?
One of the cheaper solutions, heatshrink generally doesnít cost much at all, generally a little cheaper than spiral wrap and can be bought in a wide range of sizes. Buying from large electrical suppliers in bulk can definitely be cheaper, and itís always useful for electrical projects.

What should I use it for?
Sealing ends and making them electrically insulated. Itís not used for a complete cable management solution because it just doesnít look the part and it is single use only.

Zip ties
Zip ties or cable ties, whatever you call them, they seem to have been around as long as anyone can remember and are used everywhere. These simple, single use (mostly) pieces of plastic come in a huge variety of sizes and colours to suit all needs and can be picked up in a huge variety of non-computational places. Whilst they donít mask the mass of cables at all they do effectively and cheaply keep together small or large quantities of cable.



What is it?
Whilst Iím sure everyone has used a zip tie before, just for continuity's sake they are a short strip of plastic with notches moulded into one side. At one end is a one way gate which locks into those notches when the length of plastic is passed through it. The idea is obviously to wrap the length of plastic around the cables before passing it through the gate because once itís in, it isnít ever coming out!

Tie mounts are a method of attaching zip ties (and hence your cables) to a surface. They bits of plastic with a sticky bit on the bottom to attach it to a surface, then on the top loops to pass through your zip tie.

How easy is it to use?
Extremely simple, is the short answer. As described above, you pass it around the cable and then into the hole at one end, job done. Whilst you cannot reuse them, they cost so very little and often come in packs of 100 or more so if you make a mistake cutting it off and redoing it with a new one doesnít cost too much time or money at all.

Coupled with tie mounts they can be used to hold large or small quantities of cables to virtually any surface at any angle making them extremely versatile and useful when hiding cables.

How does it look?
Not the most fantastic thing in the world unfortunately. The ties donít cover the sight of ugly cables in a single, uniform covering like split loom or cable braiding does, but when used with tie mounts can be used to mount cables in places out of normal view.

Cost?
Cheap as chips, depending on where you buy it from. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper and they can be had in many, many places like stationery shops, general purpose shops and electrical shops. You can get packs of various sizes to suit all your cable management needs so they tend to be a good investment for a future quick fix. The more unusual colours tend to cost slightly more, but considering the size of a tie compared to the length of cable, whether you would see it and whether it would make any aesthetic difference is arguably negligible.

What should I use it for?
Cheap fixes and large solutions where the need for aesthetic value is negligible, for example like keeping together large quantities of Ethernet or power cables, or solutions that require a discreet application.

Velcro Hooks
Probably something not many people ever consider but they are available. It can't be denied that Velcro is a fantastically versatile invention and using it to keep cables together is another innovative use. Unlike zip ties, Velcro is infinitely reusable so if you change your mind it takes 2 seconds to whip it off and redo it, and I suppose itís less wasteful than zip ties so better for the environment.


What is it?
Different manufacturers make different products, but generally itís a length of Velcro with the hooks on one side and loops on the other, so wrapping it around a cable on itself creates a loop that holds.

How easy is it to use?
As easy as cable ties, you just literally wrap it around and youíre done - and since they are reusable it doesnít matter if you make a mistake or find the need to add another cable later.

How does it look?
If anything, a little worse than cable ties unfortunately because they are less discreet. The nature of their use means that they donít cover the cable, just keep it tidy and whilst they are colourful, they donít necessarily look at all that good. Our advice? Get black velcro for black cables and keep it subdued.

Cost?
Because they are multi-use they are generally more expensive than cable tie . You can get anti-static ties at around $4 but usually a pack of 5-10 will cost around a few pound/dollars.

What should I use it for?
General reusable applications where aesthetic value isnít important. Due to the variety of sizes, velcro can be bought in it can be used for a many cable solutions but due to the cost per unit itís better to use them when you intend to change it often. If you want a semi-permanent to permanent solution, use zip ties.

Conclusions
There's a whole industry with many, many products devoted to solving your cable tidying woes. What we've given you here is an overview of the main methods, and we think they work best if you mix them up and use what you think is best in each case. Again, we can only iterate that what looks good and how much you pay for stuff is totally down to you!

Thanks For Reading Sincerely Ryan Armstrong

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Slider388
Warranty Voider

Joined: Jan 14, 2007
Posts: 931
Post Subject: subject
Posted on: May 27, 2008


Great Guide Ryanarmstrong, Thanks!

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faceless105
Selfmade Modder

Joined: Jun 30, 2006
Posts: 4540
Post Subject: subject
Posted on: May 27, 2008


thats a graet guide. The cable braiding does look the best, theres no question, it's also ultra easy to work with once it's on. lol it does take a little extra effort, but it's well worth it. Also the heatshink and cable ties on the end are a must. the braiding will come undone, and heatshrink will keep them together. The ties keep the heatshrink in place since thats not a lifetime solution. but still, definately worth it.

the split loom in my experience looks to bulky and it doesn't like to bend as well with the wires. if you use that i'd reccomend keeping it to the motherboard cable only.


If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?
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