Commonly Used PC Cables and Ports

It’s a scenario that’s all to familiar to anyone who works in remote tech support. You’re on the phone with a client who “has no internet”. First thing you do is check the physical connections. You ask the client to check that the network cable is plugged in. After a few seconds of silence on the phone, the client asks “which one is that?”

Lucily, we’re largely in a wireless world, with the only cables connected to our computers supplying power. However, in office environments, wireless peripherals are a rarity.

Display Cables

From Left to Right: VGA, DVI, DIsplayPort and HDMI Cables

Starting from the left, we have the venerable VGA cable. Introduced in 1987, this cable is still commonly used to connect computer monitors. This cable usually has a blue plug at each end that is secured to the connector with two thumb screws.

A video card with VGA, DVI and HDMI ports.

Next, we have the DVI cable. This cable was introduced in 1999 to connect displays with higher resolution than what was supported by VGA. The connectors are similar to VGA. The plug is typically white with two thumb screws securing it to the connector.

Both VGA and DVI are considered legacy interfaces. Many new PCs are only shipping with DisplayPort ports to connect the monitor. The connector is rectangular with a corner cut off. Commonly, there is a button that needs to be depressed in order to unplug it.

Finally, if you’ve bought a new TV in the last 15 years, you’ve seen the HDMI cable. The connector looks similar to DisplayPort, but does not have a locking mechanism.

Ethernet

Often called a network cable or “Cat 5”, this cable is responsible for connecting your PC to the network or Internet.

Ethernet Cable

The port this cable plugs into typically has two LEDs. One is usually solid while the other is blinking, indicating a link and activity respectively. Often blue in color, people of a certain age will note that the connector looks like an oversized phone jack. There is a tab on the connector that needs to be pressed in order to release it from the jack.

USB

USB Cable
USB Logo

Finally, we have the USB cable, used to connect virtually every other device under the sun. From printers and scanners to keyboards and mice, chances are it connects via USB. USB cables almost always have the USB logo on the connector.

The USB logo also helps with orientation when plugging in the cable. If the port is horizontal, the logo should face up when you plug it in. If the port is vertical, the logo should face to the left when you’re looking at it from the front of the PC. Remember this trick to plug the cable in the right way, the first time, every time.