Hardware

List of different computer cables types : guide to names, functions and uses

Speaking of computer cable types, everything would just be so much easier if we would just use their complete names. Indeed, what makes it so complicated to understand their different uses and functions is that we call them by their abbreviations. Here is a list of the main computer cables explained, that should guide you through the wire mess.

VGA Cable – Video Graphics Array

Unless you work in the computing field (and even so), some of the following cables we are going to talk about may seem alien to you. Let’s start with the VGA cable. VGA stands for Video Graphic Array. Its function is to connect the computer and the monitor together. But, since the increased use of digital connections, its popularity has much declined. Still, all graphic cards or any device displaying images and videos will provide a port for VGA cable connection.

You can easily recognise this type of cable as it shows 15 distinct pins divided in 3 rows of 5 pins. To understand it further, every row matches the different colors used in visual display: green, blue, and red.

VGA cable

DVI Cable – Digital Visual Interface

Here is another cable that is tricky to understand, as there is not only one DVI cable, but several of them: DVI-A, DVI-D and DVI-I, all meant to transmit digital and/or analog signal. DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface. These cables are commonly used together with VGA cables thanks to converters in order to function properly.

DVI cable

IDE Cable – Integrated Drive Electronics

We can hear you, wondering out loud what the hell is an IDE cable. Well, IDE stands for Integrated Drive Electronics, although that might not help you much in understanding its function. These cables are in fact used to connect motherboards to outside storage devices, that probably why you never heard of it: you might never need it, unless you are a computing ninja. Just so you can recognise it if you come across one, IDE cables are wide and flat, resembling a ribbon, and have more than 2 plugs. They have 40 pins for the standard version, and 44 pins for the smaller one.

IDE cable

SATA Cable – Serial Advanced Technology Attachment

Again, what the hell is this? No worries if you don’t know, again, you might never need it for your daily use. Just know that SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, that these ports have 8 pins each on 2 different connectors and that they are usually preferred over IDE cables in newer hard drive models.

SATA cable

eSATA Cable – External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment

Same as SATA cables, with an extra « e » standing for « External », eSATA cables are the improved version of SATA cables and offer the possibility to connect devices such as optical drives and external hard drives.

eSATA cable

HDMI Cable – High Definition Multimedia Interface

Here is finally one cable you have probably already heard of. HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. This cable is quite recent and is only compatible with newer devices, such as the ones transmitting high definition broadcasts. Like DVI cables, HDMI cables are available in several types: A, B, C and D.

  • HDMI-A is the most commonly used and shows 19 pins on the male side. It functions with single link DVI-D connectors.
  • HDMI-B is larger-sized and shows 29 pins. It works as well with DVI-D connections as with dual links.
  • HDMI-C also shows 19 pins and is usually used with portable electronic products.
  • HDMI-D, also 19 pins, has a look a bit different from the other HDMI cable types. It looks more like a micro USB cord.

HDMI cable

USB Cable – Universal Serial Bus

This one you probably know as well (if not, have you ever seen a computer at all?). It is found on everything, from headsets to mouses, by way of flash drives or else keyboards. Indeed, the USB cable is the most popular connecting cable for computer accessories. Still, you might not know before what its complete name is. Well it stands for Universal serial buses, which fits with the idea of connecting universally any accessory on your computer. USB cables exist in various sizes and shapes, according to their power capacities:

  • USB 1.0 can transmit data up to 12 Mbps,
  • USB 2.0 can go up to 480 Mbps; they also work with older versions of USB drives,
  • USB 3.0 can transfer data up to 4.8 Gbps and also work with earlier USB models,
  • Micro and mini USB cable types are commonly used for smaller electronics such as phones and cameras.

USB cable

Ethernet Cable

These cables, you might know them if you are under 30 and have known the internet without Wi-Fi, or if you live in a big house where Wi-Fi can’t go through all the rooms. They are used in the set up of LAN (Local Area Networks) in order to connect devices such as routers and modems to a computer. They come in 3 different types, each version transmitting data at a faster speed than the previous model:

  • Cat 5
  • Cat 5e
  • Cat 6

Ethernet Cable

FireWire

A bit like USB cables, although not as commonly used, FireWire serve multiple and similar purposes. They are used for connecting printers and scanners for example. They exist in two types, according to their transmission rate:

  • 1394-A type: transfers up to 400 Mbps,
  • 1394-B type: transfers up to 800 Mbps.

FireWire

Now we hope computer cables have fewer secrets for you. Do you still have any question we could answer regarding computer cables? We would love to help!