Screw Cable Management!

Screw Cable Management!

I'm not trying to pour the haterade on Mike. Believe me, I'm not. But whenever I go to build a new rig -- which happens at least once a month now, it seems -- the last thing on my mind is cable management. In fact, it's a rarity for me to even conside whether I should spend time concealing cables during the first pass of a system build.

Why is that? Because I utterly fail at the single most important element of computer upkeep, as noted by the title of this post. Screw cable management, because "screw management" in itself is far more critical. I have to stop about halfway through every system build because I'm usually missing screws -- those valuable little connectors that lock relatively important parts of your computer into place.

It must be a Murphy's Law kind of thing, because I always seem to have plenty of screws I don't need. I could attach about 30 motherboards to a case right now, but heaven forbid I have any of the little proprietary connectors one needs to stick a new hard drive in Cooler Master's Cosmos case. I could mount a billion fans in my case; i just can't keep the door locked shut. The list goes on. And it doesn't get any less complicated; I'm using a fancy cooling solution (aka: not fans), which invariably increases the chances of losing important-little-bits-that-make-the-water-cooling-work each time I remove and reattach the device to a new processor.

I used to just stick screws back into the box said parts initially came in. That worked for awhile, until I began cleaning my room / moving to a new apartment and decided to toss "all those empty boxes" in the trash. Whoops.

Even the ol' Ziploc baggie technique has failed me, which just goes to show that proper screw management -- like baseball -- is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical. But I think I've finally found a solution for my screw issues, and it's not technical in the slightest. Force of will might be the best way to phrase it; that, or sheer determination. Either way, I strongly recommend you take the following steps whenever you start adding or changing your computer's components around:

1. Buy Ziploc bags. The kind that you run through your fingers to seal shut; none of this flimsy-sandwich-bag crap. And buy a sharpie. Not a pen, a sharpie. We're going for the "permanency" of it all.

2. Put the box of Ziploc bags right next to your computer. You might be tempted to put the Ziploc bags in the kitchen and multitask or something; don't. Once you're elbow-deep in video cards and cables, the last thing you'll do is leave the sanctity of your workspace (the floor) and trek elsewhere for a baggie. No. Put them next to your computer. Hide them under a copy of Hellgate or something if you're paranoid about the aesthetics of your workspace.

3. Place the sharpie next to the box of Ziploc bags. If you're the kind of person whose desk is akin to a black hole for losing stuff, you might want to take the precautionary measure of removing a bag from the container, writing "sharpie" on it with said marker, and placing the marker in the bag. Tape the bag to your computer.

4. Whenever you go to modify your computer -- or better yet, whenever you have a screwdriver in one hand , grab a baggie with the other hand. Use the sharpie marker and write the following on the bag: the name of the part. If you're installing a new part, open the box and dump all of the screws, bits, pieces, mounting devices, whatever -- dump them all in said Ziploc bag. Be extra careful if you're replacing a part, as a single screw can seemingly have many masters. Screws that came with the case (like PCI holders) go in the case bag. Screws that came with the water cooling kit go with the water cooling bag. You get the gist.

5. Remember to put your bags in a safe place (ideally, not a box that could seem like a nondescript empty box at first glance). Then relax!

While you might feel a little obsessive-compulsive at this point, it's for the better. Trust me. There is no worse feeling than getting your computer 65 percent built, only to find that you're missing one of the mission-critical screws for your water block. It's the same feeling Charlie Brown gets every time he misses the football. Only in this case, you might very well miss out on, say, having a door for your case. And that's no fun; no fun at all.



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Talcum X

Every shop I have ever worked for, especially those who have been in business for several to many years, have always had the boxes of "stuff". Large box on the floor under the workbench full of misc. drive bay cover, another box full of the "then infamous" proprietary drive rails (which every mfg. had their own design), and of course cables of every type and length, and all the other spare parts you can think of in the moment of need. But one box was also common among every workbench I have graced my hands onto...and that is a large plastic screw organizer, very similar to the once pictured above. I have one like that, no actually 2, but a bit larger, in my on-site case. very handy, very organized and most of all, it looks like it belongs on any tech bench. And if you really want to be anal, you can get our that labeler that has been collecting dust in the junk drawer ( I know you have one, everybody has one) and label each square section.

These organizers are handy to have not just screws, but brass (and the old plastic) Mobo standoffs, misc. adapters and cookie crumbs...
Ok, don't keep those, it just proves guilt that our eating over the customers rigs again.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error.



Another alternative container is to use the clear plastic containers that contain 3m's Super 33+ Vinyl Electrical Tape. The containers are small enough to store anywhere and large enough to store an assortment of screw, nuts, and connectors. Not large enough to hold a PCI backplane cover though, but those are normally large enough as is.



I find that the simplest way to make sure that I have all the screws is to put them in these neat little storage containers that are all divided out. I then place those in the box for the current motherboard that I am using. Something like the one below.

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