Whether you’re getting a PC or a laptop for the first time, you’ll encounter several strange names and acronyms that sound confusing to the average person, especially when it comes to computer cables.
Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to learn what each cable is called and its purpose. When tinkering with your computer, you’ll eventually know all kinds of cables by heart. But if you’re still new to this, here’s a guide you’ll find helpful.
If you’re looking for computer cables and ties at tech stores, you’ve probably seen USB cables. The universal serial bus (USB) cable is a kind of data cable that connects peripherals to your computer, such as your keyboard, mouse, headset, and, more commonly, your flash drive. It’s common to see them on most modern devices that have ports.
The USB cable has several functions, including:
- Data transfer and charging cable for phones and tablets
- Storage (flash drives and external hard drives)
- Wireless adapter for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Input and output devices (webcam, scanner, printer, and speakers)
USBs come in two formats: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. The latter is newer and is known for its blue tip, which the 2.0 doesn’t have. Another type, called the USB-C or the Thunder Bolt, has the same use, but it’s characterized by its smooth, oval tip, unlike the angled ends of the 2.0 and the 3.0. This type is often connected to Apple Macs and the latest laptop models.
A video graphics array (VGA) cable connects to a computer or any projection-enabled device, such as a TV or a monitor, to transmit images or videos. Most VGA cables come with a blue plug with five pins in three rows. This type is also one of the most commonly found cables connecting a CPU to a monitor, so you can see your screen once you boot the PC.
Digital visual interface (DVI) cables work similarly to VGA cables in projecting images and videos. These cables have somewhat replaced VGA ones, especially after the evolution of analogue technology to digital.
If the cable has a flat pin, you can quickly tell one apart from the others. There are two known types of DVI cables: analogue and digital. Analogue cables have four pins around the flat pin. On the other hand, digital cables have only one flat pin.
Current PC models may do away with the VGA or the DVI cable and use a high-definition media interface (HDMI) cable instead. HDMIs are favoured more than the former because of their dual purpose of projecting video and audio. So, it’s the best option to connect your computer to an LED Smart TV to work on a bigger monitor without missing out on the sound.
You’ll know if you have an HDMI cable if you see a plug shaped like an elongated isosceles trapezoid. Since this type of computer cable has overtaken VGA and DVI cables, you’ll rarely find older computer models with HDMI ports.
Nowadays, a computer is pretty useless without a proper internet connection. However, you can connect your PC to a local area network (LAN) using an ethernet cable. This cable is known as an RJ-45 cable too. One end goes to your network switch or router.
Ethernet cables are still relatively standard among PC or laptop users despite wireless connectivity being the norm. The cable ensures a secure connection, though your internet’s strength and speed depend on its length and durability. Short and weak ones will result in poor signals. Thus, visiting a reputable shop that sells long and heavy-duty ethernet cables is best. You can even choose among various colours.
If you use your computer to play games or watch videos, you’ll need working speakers connected to the PC through an audio cable. Also known as the audio jack or a phone connector, the 3.5-millimeter audio cable’s primary designation is to connect sound cards, mini stereos, and CD players to a speaker or your computer’s audio ports to project sound. You can even connect your headphones or microphone with it.
When inserting the ends of audio cables, follow this guide:
- Green port – headphones and speakers
- Pink port – microphone
- Blue port – DVD, CD, or mp3 players
Remember these colours, so you can avoid accidentally inserting cable ends on the wrong ports.
You won’t often see PS/2 cables unless you use a gaming keyboard and mouse. These cables come with two plugs on one end, generally coloured green and purple. The green plug connects the mouse to your PC while the purple is for your keyboard.
PS/2 cables are still found at many tech stores, but multipurpose USB cables have phased out many.
You may not need a DisplayPort if you already have an HDMI cable. However, DisplayPort is superior if you’re working with higher screen resolutions. The DP 2.0, in particular, can support a resolution of 1080p at 120Hz up to a high dynamic range. You’ll have better graphics from a DisplayPort than a regular HDMI cable.
It’s an excellent tool for a working professional or a student using study-from-home essentials. The one drawback to a DisplayPort is that you can only use it on computers and monitors. But if you only need a cable for a PC, it’s good to invest in a DisplayPort.
There are many kinds of computer cables, but they all serve one of two purposes: transferring power or data. A professional can always help you pick the cables you need, but it will be better to familiarise yourself with the different types of cables and their uses, so you can find replacements on your own should you need any in the future.