Spring Cleaning Tip: Purge old cables

Box of random computer cables and leads

We all have boxes of cables for everything we have had in the past, those white red and yellow AV cables, those red green and blue cables, and loads of others besides. Let’s go through and recycle the ones we don’t need.

Sort your cables

Sort your cables into what function they provide, by fitting the connector to the device, you can store it with that cable and save space by recycling any cables you don’t need any more. 

Use elastic bands and Velcro ties to bundle up the cables you are keeping and if you are not storing the cable with the devices, label them what function they are for and what device they fit together with the date you sorted it.

If you audit your cable collection in the future, you will easily see when you matched them and can recycle any cables from devices you no longer own.

Old phones and their cables

Go through your old phones and remove old SIM cards and memory cards. Go through your phones and remove contacts and messages.

Once you are happy that your data is removed, you can recycle your mobile phones at the nearest recycling point, which you can find on the Recycle Now website.

A/V Cables

Unless you are using older games consoles, you won’t need to keep the older cables.

You won’t be connecting newer devices using anything other than HDMI these days, so you can get rid of all the other cables, and just keep a couple as spares. I have included the connector types that were commonly used to aid identification.

Guide to connectors - Analogue

Diagram of Composite Video connectors with yellow being the Composite Video and the Audio being supplied as white for the left audio channel and red for the right audio channel. The outer casing serves as ground.

Composite video

Composite video uses a single yellow phono connector for the video picture.

Audio is provided by red and white phono connectors.

Diagram of the three Component Video connectors with individual Green (Y channel) Blue (Pb channel) and Red (Pr channel) connectors. The outer casing serves as ground.

Component video

Component video uses three distinct colour channels for the video using phono connectors. Audio is provided the same way as Composite video.

Diagram of an S-Video connector, 4 pin round connector with two pins for Chrominance and Chrominance Ground, and the other two pins for Luminance and Luminance Ground


S-video uses 4 pins to provide the video connection. Audio is provided the same way as Composite video.

SCART connector showing two rows of pins numbered 20 to 2 evens at the top row and 21 to 1 on the bottom row with 21 being the shield.


SCART is a connector that combines both component video (RGB) and composite video support as well as S-video. It also includes the audio.

Pinout of VGA port with the first row being pin 1 being for the red channel, 2 for the green channel, 3 for the blue channel, 4 not connected then pin 5 being ground. The second row pins 6 to 10 are also ground. The third row pins 11 and 12 are not connected, pin 13 is horizontal sync and pin 14 is vertical sync with pin 15 being not connected.


The VGA connector supplies RGB channels with both vertical and horizontal sync pins. Audio is either provided via a 3.5mm connector or red and white phono connectors.

Guide to connectors - Digital

DVI connector with pins laid out in 3 rows 1 to 8, 9 to 16 and 17 to 24 then 4 pins labelled C1, C2, C3 and C4 with the cross being C5. Different combinations for DVI-A, DVI-D and DVI-I.


DVI is actually a system that can use analogue (DVI-A), digital (DVI-D) and integrated (DVI-I) to send the picture. Audio is provided the same as VGA.

HDMI pins labelled odds on the top row 19 to 1 and evens on bottom row 18 to 2


HDMI is a break from previous connectors as both audio and video are sent digitally through this connector in 3 dedicated channels.

Camera cables

Sort out the cables you use with your cameras and get rid of any cables that don’t fit the camera you use.

Smartphones have much better cameras in them these days, in comparison to compact domestic cameras so you will be better off recycling your old camera and their cables.

Computer cables

Unless you have a specific need to keep older connectors, these can be disposed of.

Since most computer devices are USB these days, you no longer have to work with a soup of different cables.

Match your USB cables with your devices and store them with these devices, then recycle any cables that are extra or don’t match.

Here are some examples of those older cables and connectors:


Centronics parallel, serial (RS232) and MIDI/game port.

Selection of Serial, Parallel and MIDI/Gameport connectors


IBM AT keyboard and IBM PS/2 keyboard and mouse.

PS/2 keyboard and mouse connector next to IBM AT keyboard connector in comparison


FireWire, IDE, SCSI

Selection of FireWire (IEEE1394) and SCSI connectors

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