Computer cables are confusing to most users. Here’s a visual guide to help you quickly identify all the common cable and connectors that came bundled with your computers, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. You may also refer to this guide for ideas on how to hook different devices using commonly available connectors and converters.
Also see: Organize Computer Cables with Binder Clips
1. USB Cables and Connectors
You can use USB cables to connect most new devices to your computer including flash memory sticks, portable media players, internet modems and digital cameras.
Computer accessories like mice, keyboards, webcams, portable hard-drives, microphones, printers, scanners and speakers can also be connected to the computer through USB ports. Additionally, USB cables are also used for charging a variety of gadgets including mobile phones or for transferring data from one computer to another.
How to recognize USB Cables - The standard USB connector, USB-A, is a rectangular connector. The USB-A end is present on every USB cable as it is the end that connects to your computer.
The other end of the USB cable may have different connectors including USB-B (a square connector commonly used with printers, external hard drives, and larger devices) or smaller connectors such as the Mini-USB and Micro-USB that are commonly used with portable devices such as media players and phones.
Additionally, many other connectors have USB-A connectors at the end that connects to the computer, and a device-specific connector at the other end (e.g. the iPod or a Zune). Then you have USB Male to Female connectors for extending the length of a USB cable.
Many other non-USB cables can also connect to your computer via a USB converter; these cables have the standard USB-A connector on one end while the other end could have connections for other ports such as Ethernet or audio.
2. Audio Cables and Connectors
2.1 - 3.5mm headphone jack
The most common audio cable is the standard headphone jack, otherwise known as a TSR connector. It is available in several sizes, but the most common ones used with computers are the 3.5 mm or 1/8” mini audio jack.
Most speakers and microphones can connect to the computer with these audio cables. The microphone port on your computer is usually pink while the speaker port, where you insert the stereo audio cable, is colored green. Some computers have additional TSR audio ports colored black, grey, and gold; these are for rear, front, and center/subwoofer output, respectively.
A larger variety of the TSR connector, 1/4â€³ TRS, is commonly used in professional audio recording equipment and it can be connected to a computer using an 1/4” to 1/8” converter (pictured right).
2.2 - Digital Optical Audio
These are fiber optic cables and can therefore transmit pure digital audio through light. Some laptops and audio equipment have a mini-TOSLINK jack but you can use a converter to connect it to a standard TOSLINK (Toshiba Link) port.
3. Video Cables
3.1 - VGA
One of the most common video connectors for computer monitors and high-definition TVs is the VGA cable. A standard VGA connector has 15-pins and other than connecting a computer to a monitor, you may also use a VGA cable to connect your laptop to a TV screen or a projector.
Converter cables are lso available to let VGA monitors connect to newer computers that only output HDMI or DVI signals. A smaller variant of VGA, Mini-VGA, is available on some laptops but with the help of a converter, you can connect any standard VGA monitor to a Mini-VGA port of your laptop.
Related: How to Connect your Laptop to a TV Set
3.2 - DVI Monitor Port
If you have purchased a computer in the recent past, chances are that it uses DVI instead of VGA. The new breed of “thin” laptops use the smaller variants of DVI like the Mini-DVI and Micro-DVI (first seen in MacBook Air).
A DVI cable has 29 pins, though some connectors may have less pins depending on their configuration. DVI’s video signal is compatible with HDMI, so a simple converter can allow a DVI monitor to receive input from an HDMI cable.
Additionally, DVI to VGA converters are also available for connect your new graphics card to old monitor that supports only VGA mode.
3.3 - S-Video
S-Video cables, otherwise known as Separate Video or Super Video cables, carry analog video signals and are commonly used for connecting DVD players, camcorders, older video consoles to the television.
Standard S-Video connectors are round in shape and may have anywhere between 4-9 pins.
4. Audio and Video Cables
4.1 - RCA Connector Cables
RCA connector cables are a bundle of 2-3 cables including Composite Video (colored yellow) and Stereo Audio cables (red for right channel and white or black for the left audio channel).
Sometimes additional cables may be included, offering additional audio channels and/or component video instead of composite. Component video offers better picture than composite because the video signal is split in different signals while in the case of composite, everything is transferred through a single yellow plug.
Uses of RCA Connectors - The RCA cables are usually used for connecting your DVD player, stereo speakers, digital camera and other audio/video equipment to your TV. You can plug-in an RCA cable to the computer via a video capture card and this will let you transfer video from an old analog camcorder into your computer’s hard drive.
4.2 - HDMI Cables
HDMI is the new standard that provide both audio and video transmission through a single cable. HDMI support a maximum resolution of 4096Ã—2160p (HD is only 1920Ã—1200) with up to 8 channels of digital audio and are used for connecting Blu-Ray players to an HDTV.
Standard HDMI cables can be up to 5 meters long, but higher quality ones can be up to 15 meters long, and the length can be further increased with amplifiers. HDMI is backwards compatible with DVI so you can use a converter to watch video on a DVI device through the HDMI cable though you will have to use another cable for the audio.
4.3 - DisplayPort
A combined digital video and audio cable that is more commonly used in computers is DisplayPort and the smaller derivative Mini DisplayPort. Both support resolutions up to 2560 Ã— 1600 Ã— 60 Hz, and additionally support up to 8 channels of digital audio.
Mini DisplayPort connector is currently used in MacBooks but we could them in other computers as well in the near future.
Standard DisplayPort cables can be up to 3 meters long, but at a lower resolution cables can be up to 15 meters long. DisplayPort connectors are available to connect VGA, DVI video, or HDMI video and audio with a DisplayPort cable or connection. Additionally, converters are available to convert Mini DisplayPort into standard DisplayPort.
5. Data Cables
5.1 - Firewire IEEE 1394
Firewire, otherwise known as IEEE 1394, i.LINK, or Lynx, is a faster alternate to USB and is commonly used for connecting digital camcorders and external hard drives to a computer. It is also possible to ad-hoc network computers without a router over FireWire.
Firewire typically has 6 pins in its connector, though a 4 pin variety is common as well.
5.2 - eSATA Cables
While SATA cables are used internally for connecting the hard drive to the computer’s motherboard, eSATA cables are designed for portable hard drives, and can transfer data faster than USB or FireWire.
However, the eSATA cable cannot transmit power, so unlike USB, you cannot power an external hard drive with eSATA. The eSATA cable is somewhat different from the internal SATA cable; it has more shielding, and sports a larger connector.
6.1 - Phone RJ11 Cable
The telephone cable, otherwise known as RJ11, is still used around the world for connecting to the Internet through DSL/ADSL modems. A standard phone cable has 4 wires and the connector has four pins.
The connector has a clip at the top to help maintain a tight connection.
6.2 - Ethernet Cable
Ethernet is the standard for wired networking around the world. The Ethernet cable, otherwise known as RJ45, is based on Cat5 twisted pair cable and is made from 8 individual wires.
The Ethernet connector, likewise, has 8 pins and looks similar to a phone plug, but is actually thicker and wider. It too has a clip to help maintain a tight connection like a phone connector.
Related: Clean Computer Cables with Vinegar
A cable, also known as a cord, plug, or connector transmits power or data between devices or positions, which is covered in plastic by one or more wires. A power cable and data cable are the primary types of computer cables.What are the 4 basic types of computer cabling? ›
Computer Cable Connections - How to Connect Computer Cables
There are four types of computer cable connections to a monitor: VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. If your monitor accepts two or more cables types (e.g. VGA and DVI), you should just connect a single display cable to it.
Twisted pair, coaxial cables and fiber optic cable are three major network cable types in the communication systems. They have different cable structions, speed, bandwidth, and applications.What are the different types of cables used in computer? ›
There are two main types of computer cables, a data cable and a power cable. A data cable is a cable that provides communication between devices. For example, the data cable (i.e., DVI, HDMI, or VGA) that connects your monitor to your computer allow it to display a picture on the monitor.What are the 3 types of cable connectors? ›
There are three types of cable connectors: coaxial cable connectors, twisted-pair cable connectors, and fiber-optic cable connectors with the twisted pair.What are different types of connectors and cables used? ›
Electrical connectors are classified into three types based on their termination ends: board-to-board connectors, cable/wire-to-cable/wire connectors, and cable/wire-to-board connectors. Six levels of interconnection are normally seen in electrical connectors.What are the 3 most common cable used in computer networking? ›
The main types of network cables are coax, fiber optics, and shielded and unshielded twisted pair.What is a DP in cable? ›
DisplayPort (DP) is a digital display interface developed by a consortium of PC and chip manufacturers and standardized by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). It is primarily used to connect a video source to a display device such as a computer monitor.What cable connects a PC to a monitor? ›
Use an HDMI Cable to Connect Your Laptop to the Monitor
It's among the most common audio/video standards used today. It's capable of delivering high-definition AV signals over a single cable. Most modern laptops come with at least one HDMI port that you can connect to a computer monitor.
A port is a generic name for any connector on a computer into which a cable can be plugged. A cable is simply a way of connecting a peripheral or other device to a computer using multiple copper or fiber-optic conductors inside a common wrapping or sheath.
Peripherals you can use with your computer
The most basic computer setup usually includes the computer case, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but you can plug many different types of devices into the extra ports on your computer. These devices are called peripherals.
- USB-C (Apple Thunderbolt-3) Connection. ...
- HDMI V 1.2 and V 1.3 Connection. ...
- DisplayPort Connection. ...
- DVI Connector. ...
- Mini DVI Connector. ...
- VGA Connector.
Ethernet is probably the most common form of computer network. It typically consists of 10BaseT twisted-pair cables and NICs optimized to use the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard. A similar standard, called Fast Ethernet, uses 100BaseT twisted-pair cable.How do you connect computer wires? ›
Locate the two power supply cables that came with your computer. Plug the first power supply cable into the back of the computer case and then into a surge protector. Then, using the other cable, connect the monitor to the surge protector.What are the two cables used to connect the monitor? ›
All computer monitors have at least two cables, a power cable and a data cable. The power cable connects to the power outlet, or better, a surge protector, and is what allows the monitor to turn on. The other cable is a data cable and is what allows the picture (data) from your computer to be displayed.What are computer cables? ›
Computer cables are used to connect monitors, keyboards, printers, hard drives, and other peripherals to computers. The IEEE GlobalSpec SpecSearch database contains information about many different types of computer cables.Are connectors and cables the same? ›
A connector is the unique end of a plug, jack, or edge of a card that connects to a port. For example, all desktop computer expansion cards have a connector that allows them to connect in a slot on the motherboard. When referring to cables, the connector is the end of the cable that connects to a port.What is an example of a connector in a computer? ›
Connector - The description of the end of the cable that joins a cable to a port. Centronics, DB, DIN, mini-plug, and USB are all examples of connectors.What are computer connectors called? ›
AC Power, Mic/Line Input, Speaker/Headphone Output, USB, Ethernet, VGA, Serial RS-232, eSATA, Parallel DB25, Displayport , DVI, Firewire, USB. PS/2, USB, Serial, Parallel. LEGACY CONNECTORS: (many of these are still in use today)