First a bit of background:
I have most other kinds of physical and virtual "stuff' organized, but over the years I have accumulated scores, if not hundreds, of cables & adapters from a variety of computers, printers, external HDs, GPS devices, monitors, speakers, PDAs, cell phones, DVD players, routers, scanners, ...
When I've traveled, moved homes over the years, or just relocated things between rooms, these would get bundled together or with their devices, though over time they eventually became separated from the devices. They are now trapped in a big container like slumbering snakes.
When I can't find the right adapter for a device, I often find something similar. For electronic connectors, such as USB cables, this isn't too bad, though not everything is a USB-USB cable. There are phone cables, USB/mini-USB cables, ethernet cables, and much more. For power adapters, the situation is more problematic: one doesn't want to match the wrong amps to the device - too low and there's not enough current.
, too much and one gets smoke. (Update 1: I realize from the answers that I was wrong about current and I missed the issue of polarity.)
Now, the question: If I had done this right a long time ago, I'd have labeled every cable to match its device. How else can one sort a snake pit of cables and adapters?
For now, my best guess is to practically start over with a full inventory, as follows:
- Inventory electronic devices
- Find matching cables & adapters, label these and store in labeled zip-lock bags
- For generic cables (e.g. USB/USB) - bundle these into a labeled bag.
- For device-specific cables and adapters, label the cable and place in a labeled bag.
- Donate/recycle unwanted devices (with cables)
- Dispose of non-working devices (and cables) and unmatched cables with municipal computer waste facility. (NB: Many also take batteries, so no need to dispose of those in the standard landfill waste stream.)
For some types of cables (e.g. computer/printer, USB/USB, etc.), there need not be a matching device. For power adapters, there usually is. However, some types of adapters can be used with multiple devices and I am not sure how to organize these into generic bundles, like USB cables, or if even doing that is a bad idea. Unlike USB cables, it doesn't seem clear that there's a generic name, like "1 amp cable, with medium-sized connection", so cataloging seems rather difficult, other than to ID the device.
Are there other methods for organizing that are better?
Note 1: By the way, I found that searching Google for [how to organize cables] tends to lead to results about organizing those in use, to avoid cluttering a desk or floor area - I don't have that problem. I'm interested in organizing those not currently in use, so that I don't have to waste a lot of time when I do want to use a particular device. When I think of sorting or organizing, I also think of cataloging, but I can't seem to create anything better than the "obvious" cataloging method.
Note 2: Assuming that I do a full inventory, any improvements to the above plan are very welcome. I've not done this before, and would prefer not to do it again.
Update 2: My revised plan, based on the answers given, is as follows:
- Inventory electronic devices
- Inventory and sort cables and adapters into separate groups
- Label all adapters with device (if possible), polarity (test with a multimeter if necessary), voltage, current
- For each device, find matching cables & adapters, label these and store in labeled zip-lock bags. More precisely:
- Label any non-obvious cables (USB, ethernet, etc. are rather obvious)
- For device-specific cables and adapters, label and place in a labeled bag.
- For generic cables - bundle these into a labeled bag.
- Donate/recycle/sell unwanted devices (with cables)
- Dispose of non-working devices (and cables, adapters) and orphaned cables/adapters with municipal computer waste facility. (NB: Many also take batteries, so no need to dispose of those in the standard landfill waste stream.)
- Periodically cull unused devices or cables (i.e. set a tickler) - best to get these in the hands of others that could use them, or at least out of the way.
Update 3: A little plug (no pun intended) for others wanting to find electronics recycling centers: I found that earth911.com was very helpful. I overlooked mentioning it earlier, as I didn't need such info, but anyone else happening on this Q&A may not know where to recycle their stuff. Unfortunately, it looks like it's a US-only site.
Update 4: I've learned today that most cellphones (excepting iPhones, it seems) now use a standard micro-USB charger. So, that may imply that most old phone chargers can now be discarded/recycled, assuming the old phone is long gone. That's useful, and that environmental impact is a major reason for the standardization.