How can I clean up a spaghetti monster of cables?

Solution 1:

Color coding, shorter cables, and zap straps help.

Probably most important - label both ends of each cable as to where the other end goes.


Keep a couple of long, brightly colored (ie. really ugly) cables handy somewhere, for when you need a temporary cable. They will look out of place and help you remember to replace them with properly labeled ones asap.

Solution 2:

I've actually seen worse! I suggest you start documenting for rigth now, (per patch port <-> switch port). Start planning the logical placement of your infrastructure and clients on your switch(es):

  • Infrastructure (router/switches/servers) (switch A: ports 1-20)
  • Clients (Switch B: ports 20-40)... (Also, might want to keep VLAN memberships somewhat together)

Once you differentiate between clients and infrastructure (and VLAN associations), it will be much easier to just unplug and, re-wire everything. I agree with the other posts> shorter cables would be very useful.


Per your added request for details, sounds like you need to know where to begin. Obviously, try as hard as you can to get some kind of port documentation from the previous administrator (If you're lucky!). If that's not available, you will need to:

  • See if the patch panels and room ports are labeled, if they are then, GREAT! start documenting!
  • If the patch panels and/or room ports aren't labeled, a cable tester might come in handy:
    alt text

Good Luck m8!

Solution 3:

Be aware that this is going to take HOURS UPON HOURS to get straightened out. It is long, tedious work.

My suggestion for the process in the server room ..
1- build a structure for how plugs are identified. Label as necessary to make it clear.
2- install some cable management on the rack. If you can't get or find premade ones, use cable ties, make them into loops, and connect them to the sides of the racks.
3- buy a crimper and learn how to make patch cables.
4- One by one, replace each cable with one that is routed properly, made to length, and labeled at BOTH ends, each having BOTH ends identified.
5- Don't move/reuse cables. If something moves, cut the ends, re-make and re-label the cable. You can re-use a cut cable for a shorter one .. my point is to make sure that you don't have mis-labeled or over-length cables in the rack.

I have found that color coded patch cables are over-rated, except for the very few (< 5%) key cables that are only to be touched in an emergency. Examples are the cable from the switch to the internet router, or from the switch to the mail server.

The idea of having some odd colored temp cables is excellent, provided you have the discipline to swing back and replace them correctly.

NOTE: Others will disagree with the idea of making your own patch cables. My conclusion is that the added risk of cable failure is outweighed by the gain from properly routed cables for all but the critical cables I mention in the color coding note.

Solution 4:

A good wire-wrap labeler (I personally own a Brady ID Pal) is worth its weight in gold. The things I've learned about cable management are:

  1. Self-documenting systems are great
  2. Label everything at both ends
  3. Color coded cables might make sense (I try and color code different VLANs, ISLs, VLANs, KVM, Side A/B)
  4. Use the right length of cables
  5. Use cable management brackets if you can
  6. Velcro is great for Cat5/6 and Fiber (it's dirt cheap as well - get velcro plant tie from Home Depot or your local hardware store)

As for that mess above, get some downtime, yank everything out and then do it right. Learning how to do it "right" takes a surprising amount of practice. You can even get classes on it.

Solution 5:

If the problem is that you don't know WHERE the cables lead, here would be how I might approach it.

First, make sure all drops on the front of the patch panel are labeled properly, with unique numbers or alpha-# labels.

Next, you will probably need to get the assistance of someone after hours and get a walkie talkie and a labeler. Tell all users to leave all PCs and ethernet-connected equipment on when they leave.

Have your helper walk around with the walkie talkie and labeler. Have them unplug one device at a time. You look at your hubs\switches and check which link light goes out. Trace from there to your patch panel, and radio you helper to label the drop with whatever number you already have on your patch panel.

This will match up all drops in the office to each patch panel.

Now as far as cables going to and from stuff inside the computer room \ rack, you pretty much have to physically trace it or do the same thing as you outside drops and disconnect cables and look for link light drops to see what is being disconnected.

You can use Sticky notes to temp label cables until you print out proper lables, and I agree, cables not going outside of the computer room should be labled at both ends.

Also .. if you do need to trace your drops remote ethernet cable testers are pretty inexpensive, and you might as well plug one in to help you find out if any drops are bad..

Don't know if that helps at all