Tech Tips: Cable Labeling

Keep your cable mess organized with easy label makers.

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The Rhino 5200 Label Printer

How many of you have a litter of cables, wires and power cords tangled like old fishing line in the back of your entertainment system? When I visit a professional installation, one of the first things I like to look at is the gear rack, where invariably I stare with envy at the neatly bound and mapped ropes of wires, all terminating in an artful display or order.

In my house, I’ve used some rudimentary solutions for labeling cables. Mostly they fall off and get lost, so I’m back to guessing what’s what. Here are some of the best solutions I found from the tech enthusiasts at AV Science Forum:

Wayne P:
I’ve had good luck with 3M Scotch 35 vinyl electrical tape, which comes in a variety of colors including white, which is what I use. You can get it at Lowes and probably Home Depot as well. I wrap it around the cable a loop or two, an inch or so behind the connector (beyond the sharp bend you’ll get right behind the connector) and label it with an extra-fine point Sharpie. It sticks very well long term, although it does not work as well with ultra-thin cables. Actually, I’ve had more trouble with the sharpie labeling fading over time than with the Scotch tape falling off!

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Gizmologist:
I use clear heat shrink over a label on a cable as I build it. I use it to cover a P-Touch label lengthwise on the cable. If the connectors are already on, I use the same label installed as a flag on the cable so the label sticks to itself. Always works and no gummy residue or failure.

Neurorad:
I use a Dymo Rhino labeler, nylon labels, printed and positioned as flags. Works very well, but it’s not attractive—great for locations behind wall plates. The labels are $15/box, not cheap.

I bought a box of the heat shrink Dymo labels, we’ll see how it goes. The clear heat shrink sounds like a great idea, though, over a cable-wrapped label. If I didn’t already have a box of the heat-shrink labels, I’d try that.

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