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The 5-Step Guide to Perfect Desk Cable Management

Written by Thao Tran
Last updated Feb 25, 2021

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pc gaming setup with beautiful cable management

Desk cable management is like cleaning your room. It’s a hassle in the moment but feels damn near therapeutic once you’re done. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as vacuuming and putting stuff away. You’ll need a plan of attack and at least a few hours set aside to properly hide all your wires.

We’ve condensed everything you need to know about desk cable management into a simple 5-step guide. Follow it to completion and you’ll feel a joy you never knew you needed.

Step 1: Start from Scratch

If you’re starting with a brand new setup, perfect. If not, this is your chance to start over with a clean slate. Disconnect your peripherals from your PC and everything from your surge protector, then proceed.

Pre desk cable management

Step 2: Position Your Power

A key piece to your desk cable management puzzle is the position of your power strip. Our natural tendency is to just hook it up to the closest power outlet and start plugging things in. But when you position your surge protector strategically, you set yourself up for a much easier cable management experience.

Assess your situation and decide which of these three positions will work for you:

A) Underside of Desk

This is usually the most ideal spot. By mounting your surge protector underneath your desk, all of your power cables can route away from view behind one of the best pieces of cover at your disposal, your desktop.

Mounted power strip for under desk cable management

All you need is some strong double-sided tape to make this happen, but don’t mount anything just yet. You’ll want everything laid out before you make any permanent decisions.

What about glass desks?

Cable management for glass desks is tricky for obvious reasons. While you might not have the luxury of mounting your surge protector directly underneath your desktop, you can likely still find a spot to hide it.

glass desk cable management

Source: u/rob_but

In the example above, the user mounted his surge protector behind the back support bar of his desk and used cable clips to manage all his wires away from view. If you look closely, you’ll find the long cable of his surge protector trailing off-screen towards the bottom left.

B) Hidden on the floor

If your desk setup already provides a lot of cover, mounting your surge protector won’t be necessary. Sometimes, the best place for your surge protector is on the floor somewhere out of sight.

Good places to hide your surge protector:

  • between a desk cabinet and the wall
  • behind other furniture and objects on the side

And if all else fails…

C) In a Box

In the rare case that you have the most naked desk setup ever, you can hide your surge protector in a neat cable management box.

Step 3: Add Cable Management Features

You might be lucky enough to already have built-in cable management features on your desk. For example, my trusty IKEA Bekant came with its own cable net. But even if your desk is literally a plank of wood, it’s easy to add cable management features yourself.

Cable Management Compartment

A cable management compartment like a tray or raceway attaches to the underside of your desk and helps you both guide and hide cables.

Popular cable management compartments are the IKEA Signum and the J Channel from Amazon. Grab one and slap it under your desk and bam, your desk now has cable management features.

Holes & Grommets

Does drilling holes into your desk sound crazy to you? Crazy or not, many people do it in the name of cable management. The most common hole I see is for keyboard and mouse cables.

Small holes like this can easily be hidden so there’s no need to dress it up. But if you need a larger hole in a more prominent position, you can fit it with a grommet to make it look nicer.

Adding cable management features to your desk takes time but is well worth it.

Step 4: Mount Your Monitors (Optional)

Mounting your monitor(s) not only helps with cable management, it also clears up space on your desk for an extra clean look—and that’s the real goal right? There are two ways to go about this.

Wall Mounts

Wall mounting your monitors requires drilling holes which might be a detractor to some but it is the cleaner option. When combined with routing your wires through the wall, you end up with “floating” monitors without a single stand or cable in sight.

wall mounted monitor cables

If cutting holes into your wall isn’t an option, covering your wires with a cable raceway looks pretty good too.

Cable raceway example

Can you spot the raceway? Source: Worm_on_steroids’ Setup

Monitor Arms

Monitor arms don’t look as clean as wall mounts but they’re much easier to set up. Most of them also have built-in channels for you to route your cables out of sight.

We like the Freedom Arm from Ergotech for single monitors and have a full article on dual monitor mounts for double monitor setups. Get your monitors sorted out and you’ll be happy you did.

Step 5: Route Your Cables

The part we’ve all been waiting for: we finally get to play with cables!

Reconnect everything

Start reconnecting all your peripherals to your computer, hiding and guiding your wires through your cable management features whenever you can. Do the same with the cables going to your surge protector.

Because of your thoughtfully hidden surge protector and cable management features, everything should look pretty good already once it’s reconnected. All that’s left to do is to tidy up.

Tie up loose ends

Despite your best efforts, there will be cords that just couldn’t tuck away neatly into your cable management compartment. Some cables will hang loosely and large bundles of cables just don’t look pretty. This is where you tighten everything up.

Use cable clips to manage stray cables that couldn’t make it into your cable management compartment. If you don’t have a compartment at all, you can use a whole bunch of cable clips to keep it all tight to your desk.

Use cable ties or zip ties to tighten up any loose bunches of wires together, especially watching out for these spots:

  • Where your cables connect to your PC
  • Where your cables connect to your monitor
  • Wherever there are lots of cables grouped together

tie pc cables tight

If you can’t help but leave a group of cables showing, you can use a cable management sleeve to wrap them up neatly.

And that’s pretty much it—everything you could possibly need to know about desk cable management.

A cable managed life is a happy life

The road to perfect cable management isn’t always straightforward. You might waste more time than you plan to, get unbelievably frustrated, or even end up like this…

Man tangled in cables.

But eventually, you’ll figure it out and you’ll have a desk setup that sparks maximum joy.

If you need extra motivation to get started, check out our interactive gallery of amazing desk setups.

Note: SBR-88’s setup is the featured image and showcased throughout this post.

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5 Comments

  1. TechDek Organization Products

    That’s a great article about desk cable management. By the article we understand than A CABLE MANAGED LIFE IS A HAPPY LIFE. Thanks for sharing this kind of informative articles.

    Reply
  2. Sebastien Dubois

    Thanks for article! Really well made! I will use some recommendations!!

    Reply
  3. Zachary Aaron Underwood

    Awesome bits of information, thank you!

    Reply
  4. David

    Thank you for the article, it’s a nice summary! I have a question regarding section 2A, though. You mentioned that one should lay out everything before mounting the power strip. With cable management features like a cable tray, what would you recommend? Mounting the tray first and putting the power strip into it, or would it be better to mount tray and power strip separately? Anything else to consider at this point?

    Reply
    • Thao Tran

      Hey David. It depends on the size and type of tray you get. Most of the setups I’ve seen have them mounted separately. But if you’re getting something like an IKEA Signum (linked in article), I’ve seen people just throw their power strip in there too because it has so much space. I wouldn’t sweat the power strip placement too much. Just find a decent spot towards the back of your desk close to the side of the nearest power outlet. And good luck!

      Reply

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