You may not think much about your cables until they break or stop working. Learning how to care for your cables will prolong their useful life and save you the frustration of frequently replacing them.

When you’re packing for a move or traveling, it’s tempting to just chuck your cables into a bag or box in a tangled mess, thinking you’ll sort them out later. Unfortunately, if you treat your cables this way, they may not function properly when you unpack them. Follow these simple tips for how to care for your cables so that they’ll perform optimally performance when connected.

Coil Them Correctly

One of the worst things you can do to your cables is wrap them quickly in circles around your hand. This bends them too severely and can cause them to kink, or the wires inside may even break.

A better way to coil your cables is to use the method developed by rock ’n’ roll roadies to care for expensive microphone and amplifier cables: the “roadie wrap,” also known as the “over-under” method:

  1. To use this method, start by holding the connecting end of the cable in one hand.
  2. With the thumb of your other hand pointing toward the hand holding the cable, draw that hand along the cable until you have enough cable to create a loop.
  3. Gently push the cable toward the hand holding the connecting end and loop the cable overhand clockwise.
  4. Repeat with another loop, except go “under” this time, looping counterclockwise until you bring the loop up underhand.

If you have trouble, you can find many videos online that demonstrate the “over-under” method such as this one:

Don’t Yank Them

Gently plug in and unplug cables to avoid damaging the pins or the conducting surface on the connecting end. When unplugging a cable, always pull directly on the plug or connecting end—don’t pull on the cable itself.

Don’t Twist or Step on Them

Cables look sturdy, but the copper wires or glass fibers within them can fray or break. Don’t leave cables running along floors where people could step on them or, worse, trip over them. Keep them away from sharp objects or rolling carts.

Furthermore, if you use a lot of cabling, such as in a data center or telecom room, don’t allow a lot of weight to hang from the cables. Use appropriate cable management—such as zip ties, clamps, or wraps—to support them as they run along an aisle or rack of servers.

Store Them Properly

Keep your neatly coiled cables organized, stored away from sunlight, and protected from dust. Tie coils of thicker cables with Velcro and place them flat on a tray for storage or hang them on hooks on the backs of monitors or other devices.

For small USB cables or phone charging cords, use a box with several drawers or compartments to sort cables by type and use.

When you need a cable, you won’t have to sort through a mess that resembles a snake’s nest or a spilled pot of spaghetti, and you’re more likely to find cables that will work and last for their full expected lifespans.

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