Spring Cleaning: Cables to Keep (Or Not)
Cables to Keep Around the House
Spring is here and a lot of us are going to use that nicer weather to get a little cleaning done. If your house is anything like everyone else's, there is probably a junk drawer somewhere with a big mess of old cables. After untangling all the knots, you will want to look at each cable to see what you should keep and what can be tossed.
Keep: Micro USB 2.0
Micro USB is better known as a “phone charger” since they are mostly used for Android phones. Not to mention tablets, streaming devices, smart speakers, and more. Micro USB is not going anywhere anytime soon, so keeping a few extras around is a good idea right now.
Keep: Micro USB 3.0
This upgraded Micro USB is mostly used for external hard drives. Some cell phones use these for charging cables too. While not as widespread as the older 2.0 version, this is new enough that hanging onto one or two of them is worth it.
Lightning cables are the Apple equivalent of Micro USB. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or any other handheld electronic made by Apple, you need to hang onto these. If you do not have any Apple products, you probably will not have one of these cables in the first place.
Also called a “headphone cable”, these are used to connect headphones to cell phones, computers, stereos, and pretty much anything else that uses audio connections. This is a must-have cable and keeping several spares lying around is a great idea.
Ethernet is the lifeline of Internet access and you should always have at least one spare around. There are different types of Ethernet, the most common being Cat5e. The writing on the outside of the cable will say what type it is. If you have an older Cat5 cable it can be thrown away, but keep everything else.
Keep: 3-Prong Power Cords
Also called “universal power cords”. Most modern electronics use these such as computers, televisions, and certain video game consoles like the Xbox One use these cords for power.
Keep: 2-Prong Power Cords
2-prong power cords are older than the 3-prong version, but they still see a lot of use. These are used on devices that are too small for a 3-prong plug or do not need as much power to turn on. There are two versions of this, polarized and non-polarized, that are different shapes so be sure to keep an eye on that.
Keep: USB B
Better known as a printer cable, these are used to connect printers to a computer. If you own a printer, you should absolutely keep one of these around.
HDMI is the most common audio/video connection today, being used on computers, televisions, video game consoles, and more. There is probably at least one device (or several) in your home that uses these. You have every reason to keep them around.
DisplayPort is a newer cable designed specifically for computer monitors. If you purchased a monitor recently, it may use this type of connection. Some manufacturers are switching over to Mini DisplayPort but the transition is still a work in progress, so these are good to hang onto for now.
Keep/Toss: Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort
Another cable for Apple devices, Thunderbolt (older versions are called Mini DisplayPort) is found on MacBooks and other medium-sized devices as a data and video port. The older Mini DisplayPort version does not work with newer Thunderbolt connections. If one of these cables does not have a lightning bolt symbol, it can be upgraded for the newer Thunderbolt version.
Keep/Toss: Mini USB
Mini USB is the predecessor to Micro USB. While it has been replaced on some devices like cell phone, other electronics like digital cameras and GPS devices still use it. If you have any low-key electronics, this is likely what they use. Otherwise, these are safe to throw away.
DVI is an older, bulkier video cable that has mostly been replaced by HDMI. If you have an older computer monitor you might still be using one of these, but they can be discarded otherwise. It also comes in a few different varieties, so you could have more than one type lying around.
Most TV and Internet providers are switching over to newer cables or have done so already. If you do sign up for TV/Internet service that uses a coax cable, the service provider should bring their own during installation. You may want to keep one spare around just in case, but coax is on its last leg in many homes.
Toss: Apple 30-pin
You do not need this unless you own an Apple device from before 2012 (which most people do not anymore) because that is when Apple stopped using them. Feel free to toss these.
VGA is an old standard for computer monitors. Being analog only, it has much fuzzier image quality than newer cables like HDMI. If you have a monitor with VGA that has not given out yet, it is probably time for an upgrade.
Unless you have an old DVD player or TV, or something truly outdated like a VCR, nothing in your home should use these anymore.
Anything that uses this will be even older than anything that uses RCA. And they can be just as easily recycled.