Dear Lifehacker, Every time I buy a new piece of tech, it seems to come with more extra crap than I know what to do with — manuals, CDs, cables and other assorted accessories. What should I keep and what am I better off just throwing away?Sincerely, Climbing Through Clutter
Photo by Jack Zalium.
The rest of us tech geeks feel your pain. It seems like each time you open a new box, it comes with the gadget you ordered and a bunch of bundled stuff who’s only goal is to mess up your house. Of course, it’s all stuff you “might need later”… and thus we’re often afraid to throw it away. Here are the things you’ll want to keep, the things you can toss, and how to keep it all organised.
However, keeping oodles of cords can obviously get messy. The best solution I’ve found for organising them is to just keep a box full of cables in my closet. Any time I find a cable in my house or get one with a gadget that isn’t plugged into something, it goes in the box. Then, whenever I need a cable for something, I head to the box and see what I have available; 90 per cent of the time, I’ve found what I wanted. If you want to get really organised, you can use some of those old toilet paper rolls to turn that overflowing box into a serious cable organiser .
Software CDs or DVDs
To solve the “lost CDs” problem, I put every software CD I own into one of those early 2000s-style CD cases. Even if it’s a CD I burned, like an Ubuntu CD, I burn it and put it in the case. Then — just like the cables — whenever I need a CD, I can check my case to see if it’s something I already have. If you have the room on your hard drive, I also recommend keeping any ISOs you download somewhere in your Documents folder — that way if you DO somehow lose a CD, you can just re-burn it without having to download the whole thing again.
Toss them. Toss them, toss them, toss them. Driver CDs are almost never useful; not only do they often install bundled crapware you don’t want, but they almost never contain the most up-to-date drivers. Instead, head to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest drivers from their support page. You can download just the drivers you need for your machine, without any crapware, and you’ll always get the latest version.
The only exception to this rule: Keep the driver CDs related to Ethernet or Wi-Fi. If you do a clean install of Windows and Windows doesn’t recognise your Ethernet or Wi-Fi adaptor, you obviously won’t be able to connect to the internet to download the latest drivers. To avoid this Catch-22, you can either keep motherboard, Ethernet or Wi-Fi driver CDs in the aforementioned CD case, or you can always use a secondary computer to download the drivers, throw then on a flash drive, then install them on your main computer. I usually opt for the former.
Check the manufacturer’s website first; as they often post manuals in the support section for easy download. If you don’t see it there, you can check UserManuals.com or use this Google search trick to find a PDF for your particular device. Once you’ve found a PDF copy, download it and store it in a “Manuals” folder somewhere in your documents (or in your Dropbox folder) — if you aren’t starved for space on your hard drive, there’s no reason not to keep a local copy around for whenever you might need it.
When I’m done building, I just put all of my leftovers in the motherboard box. Then, I just throw that box in a closet somewhere. Whenever I need an extra part or cable for the internals of a computer, I just check that box and I’ll have every screw, bracket, and other piece of hardware I didn’t use. The next time I build a computer, I just throw all of its extra parts in the motherboard box from my first build. There’s no reason to have multiple “parts boxes” floating around, since one regular motherboard box will probably hold the leftover parts from many different builds.
If you aren’t planning on tinkering at all with your setup once it’s built, you may be able to get rid of some of the leftovers, but it’s still a good idea to keep a small baggie of HDD screws, mounts, and whatnot around.
How About You?
This probably doesn’t cover every type of “extra accessory” you may encounter, but it covers some of the most popular things you’ll run into, and should help you keep everything a bit more organised. Got a common offender to this problem that we didn’t mention? Share it (and your organisation solution for it) in the comments.
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