Reducing Cable Clutter

I got real sick of having to plug my charger for my MacBook into a power strip on the floor each day I came home from school. I then came up with the plan of using the extension to swap onto my charger. That worked well… for a little bit. I often found myself accidentally bumping the extension after I unplugged it and it would fall behind the desk. What an annoyance eh?

Yeah, I got frustrated. Then I thought “well why not put the power strip in my desk?” and that’s exactly what I did. Well almost exactly, I ended up putting in your standard wall socket / faceplate combination along with a switch. As you can see in the pictures below, it turned out really well and clean. The only time you can see it is if you’re looking down from above or in my MacBook is closed.

It’s definitely the most convenient thing on my desk, even over my iPod dock. Oh, also, the furthest outlet is a switched outlet, so I have my desk lamp on it which is a huge pain to turn off without this giant switch.

I had the parts laying around in my basement so this project cost me $0.00. It was really a simple and quick project, so I would suggest it to anyone that has a desk they are willing to carve into.

EDIT: For those of you who are asking, yes this is an unprotected outlet. I don’t see metallic objects/beverages/anything conductive as a threat mainly because I don’t keep any of those things on my desk. Still, it is a note worthy point, and I plan on adding it soon.

Underneath the desk the outlet is in fact in an electrical box you may find in common use for drywall. I put it there mainly because it was easier to mount the switch and outlet to the box than to the desk. Also, the outlet is wired up with a 3 prong male power cord which is plugged into my mounted surge protector located behind my desk. All of this is shown in the pictures below, and also some other cable management tricks I’ve done.

Sorry that the pictures don’t show too much, it’s a little awkward getting behind my desk.

22 thoughts on “Reducing Cable Clutter

  1. Nice idea. The only thing different I would have done was to install a ground fault circuit interupter (gfci) so if you spill any liquid on it it will instantly cut off.

  2. Pingback: Save Yourself The Reach By Installing A Socket In Your Desk | Lifehacker Australia

  3. Pat-

    I rather hope you’ve installed an electrical box under that outlet and switch, just to cover the bare leads.

    Not that it would impact daily use, put when the day comes that someone needs to move that desk… Plus, it would help keep dust from collecting all over the connections.

  4. So, this is pretty neat – did you run 14/2 from some source, or did you do some other electrical hackery to get power flowing to your new outlet?

    Really clever.

  5. I agree. I’d love to see some under-desk images. I would be cool if they sold an outlet like this that had the 3prong connect on both sides. Then you could just run an extension cord from the wall to the bottom of the desk outlet. This would also solve the issue of needing to move the desk.
    Brent

  6. Hey sorry I can’t answer all of your questions, but I know that protection is a concern. For me I don’t have many metallic objects astray across my desk top, nor do I drink beverages around my computer. It’s still a good idea, however, so I will probably add that in soon.

    For those of you wanting a behind-the-desk shot, I will be adding the images here in a couple of minutes.

  7. I bought a computer secretary that had a double outlet per-installed along with a pair of USB plugs. Definitely a time saver for anything needing temporary power.

    • It’s connected to my MacBook via the standard USB cable. I’m planning on wiring up a circuit that allows me to combine the audio signals from my MacBook and iPod, and then output that to my computer speakers and home theater system located in the same room.

  8. That does look pretty clean. My method for keeping my dear old Powerbook charged up is to leave an extra adapter plugged into the power strip under my desk. I keep the cord that plugs into the computer binder clipped to the edge of the desk when not in use.

    Here is the licensed electrician’s take on this.

    If I were to cut a box face up into my desk like that, I would definitely use a gangable 2.5″ inch deep metal box with 1/2″ knockouts. It would be secured to the top of the desk with 4 #4 x 3/4″ phillips wood screws through the mounting ears, run into pre-drilled holes in the desktop. The metal box would allow the use of a metal, glanded cord connector with strain relief. The box would be properly bonded to the green equipment ground in the cord and to the ground terminal of the GFCI receptacle with a grounding pigtail and #10-32 grounding screw. I would skip the switch all together. I would still worry about paper clips and debris getting into the face-up receptacle when it isn’t in use. Maybe a weatherproof, horizontally hinged coverplate would be in order.

  9. I love how you claim not to drink beverages around your computer with an empty can in the corner of the picture!

    Great job though, might try this out myself…

  10. Very cool. I solved the same problem by attaching a power strip to my desk with double-sided foam tape, but this looks much cleaner. Will have to look into this.

  11. You’ve probably heard this before, but I feel forced to mention – this site’s design is pretty but rather hard to read. The grey on grey is extremely low contrast, which is bad design. The most legible thing on the whole page is this box I am typing in right now. As a side note, the highlight when selecting text in this box is also nearly impossible to see.

  12. Neat idea.

    OT comment, your site is extremely difficult to read being a grey text on grey background color scheme. I’m not (too) old and I don’t wear glasses/contacts and have perfect vision.

    • Thanks Red and Eric, I always welcome criticism of my site. I’ve been trying to play around with the color scheme of text and haven’t really found the right combination yet. But nonetheless, I understand what you two are saying.

  13. This is a nice hack. Here is another alternative I found which would include additional ports (USB, Ethernet, RJ11) and allow for a vertical installation. This can be mounted into a box and installed on the desk surface, or recessed into the surface using some additional hardware. The same manufacturer also makes other components for more professional use (also more $$). Check it:

    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11249

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