Leads, cables, AC Adapters, Wall-warts, how on earth do you keep track of them all?

Why, oh why can’t the majority of manufacturers actually indicate on the leads or adapters which product the item shipped with?

Years ago I started writing on external drive AC adapters with a ‘CD pen’ to identify what they were.

I must have dozens and dozens of generic looking adapters now I have no real idea to which items (currently unplugged to which they belong) - all the more surprising as my hoarder nature probably means I have all the boxes/packaging.

I have finally identified the AC adapter for a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner which has an obscure (to me) 16V power requirement - even searches for replacement adapters are generally unhelpful due to poor quality images or different part numbers.

My fault for not being more organised perhaps, and while I can match the output specs on adapters to requirements on individual devices the text on them is so bloody tiny I resort to taking photos and zooming up on the phone!

What does everyone else do? Label them with stickers, indelible pens or other?

I wondered about coding them somehow with multiple coloured cable ties but seems too tedious.

Not quite the same thing but, during a big system rebuild a few years ago, I colour coded all my cables, signal and power, with half-width strips of electrical tape every 6 - 8 inches, a different colour for each box (or power supply / box combination). Access to the back of my system is constrained (to put it mildly), and it was a huge help in keeping track of which identical-looking black or grey cable goes to which box.

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It certainly is challenging, particularly when stripping down a system and subsequently needing to reassemble. The camera on my phone’s become a vital aid in ensuring I know exactly what needs to go where and with what.

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Yes colour coding was along the lines of what I was thinking, I have some small coloured cable ties somewhere which might woek but it will naturally rely on keeping a record.

A lot of mains leads/adapters got bundled into boxes a few years ago when things had to go into storage - all a bit of a rush at the time which is where a lot of the confusion arises from.

There are so many adapters for small devices which are too similar and si few have a product brand name on them, just the adapter manufacturer. Fortunately most are for small computer peripherals with several duplicates so just a case of matching adapter output to power input requirement on the device and wiring polarity.

Yes the camera is very handy too for actually reading the tiny text on the adapters.

I’ve started to take unboxing photos particularly with more expensive items to ensure I have a visual record of what came with what.

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I brought a Brother Labeling device from Cosco over the lockdown, and labelled up a lot of the plug top, however I have a drawer full of old transformers, usually from kit I no longer have. A couple of old phone ones that are easily identified got sold on eBay.

The problem is when I do need a spare one, I have to look at each one to see its Voltage and Current output. I really should sit down one evening and label them all.

I cant say I bother with cables, except I have labelled the Naim cables to help identify where they go, and which way, in case I forget the direction rule one day

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When not in use I put them all in a big box, or 2! That way i know where they are.
When i moved home I threw (recycled) a fair few out, I now regret this.
Even if I no longer have the original product/load, the PSUs often come in useful for my ‘projects’. :0)


Self-adhesive printed labels presumably or similar?

I did a quick search on Amazon earlioer and there seem to be loads of labelling tags (coloured, numbered etc) available which may be worth a further look - I think I’d prefer a non-adhesive system I could write or print on and wrap around the cables. The CD pen worked in the past but quite difficult to read on black plugs, at least it is these days!

Years ago I started putting all manner of sorted cables in ‘zip lock’ bags, mostly audio or AV cables. It really helped to stop them tangling up together - that’s half the challenge now with many many boxes of cables/AC adapters most are not bagged and tangled up like a bowl of spaghetti - tends to be those moments when you tidy loose cables up by chucking them in a box!

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Yes, and have had so many other uses for labelling in the Kitchen, Kids stuff, etc

Not easy to wrap around a cable though - never managed to get it to precisely fit - expect there is a back that I haven’t got

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Sticky labels on the wall warts, or sellotape wrapped labels on cables, or simply reading the input specs of the target unit and finding a suitable wart from my box of warts.

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A simple solution yes, perhaps I’m being fussy but I’d prefer not to use sticky labels/tags etc as if they come off there will likely be residue on the cable/adapter - life’s too short to worry perhaps.

Yes there will be a residue when they fall off in five years time, but seriously Mr. O’M., life is too short……especially at my age!!

And I do have a large box of assorted wall warts. Every conceivable variant of DC Vout and current rating.

And if I or Sue go away for a night or two then we need to take a battery of chargers……tablet, phone, mp3 player, earpods, camera battery etc etc

I recently moved a Brother label between 2 plug tops, no residue. Of course if there were, then white spirit or IPA should clean it


Sue found some stuff called De-Solv-It Sticky Stuff Remover which seems to be quite effective.

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I don’t bother matching up adapters. If the voltage is right and the wattage equal or greater than what is written on the device I am powering, I just hook it up, using an adapter if necessary.

Most are USB chargers and I have a drawer with about 50 USB-micro, B, and C leads with various amperage ratings so I can usually find something. Another drawer is just full of the wall-warts. The only thing that ever catches me out is accidentally using the right power wallwart with the right type of adapter and then noticing something won’t stay powered on or charge because I used the wrong amperage cable.

I also have several multi-voltage wallwarts that come with 24 adapters because you never know when the PSU for your router, set top box, whatever, will die on you.

However, what I do is tangential to the bigger issue. It’s, as has been mentioned, an environmental catastrophe. I think we discussed on another thread how there really needs to be a ratified low voltage DC mains for the home. Where I am, mains outlets on new builds generally have 5A USB C along side AC mains on the same faceplate. But behind the wall there is a localised SMPS so not a great solution IMO. Given that almost more items in the home now are powered by USB-C DC than mains AC, I think it is high time IEC pulled their finger out and drove some standards through.


Didn’t everyone use these ?



I’ve got a box full leads and wall-warts I’ve no idea what they belong to and scared to throw out in case there’s one that I’ll need. Since we moved I’ve started to label them.

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Your situation is more challenging than mine, as it’s likely you have far more items to identify, but there’s no getting away from the need for a key / legend.

I have a mere eight different cables, though I also differentiate the power from the signal by doubling the tape bands on the former. Even with that modest set, I need to keep a sheet of cardboard with pieces of each tape colour stuck to it, as it can be difficult to tell e.g. blue from green or red from orange under artificial light.

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You’ve not gone truly label maker manic until you have a label maker with a label on it reading “LABEL MAKER”.