Magsafe for the rest of us
January 9, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

How can I protect the USB ports of my device?

I'm working with expensive devices. These expensive devices have USB ports on the main board. The USB ports are easily damaged when the USB cable is tripped over. These main board cost a lot of money to replace.

Right now my solution is to tape the cable to the machine with a little bit of slack and hope that any pressure only tears the tape off, but leaves the USB port intact. Ideally I'd replace this with something else (permanent adhesive is ok), which introduces some sort of slack in the cable at the device end, but doesn't use plain old tape.

Does something like this exist?

posted by mhz to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you introduce a usb hub (powered or otherwise) into the mix and lock it down somehow so that it is thing that gets damaged in your scenario? I use C-clamps to keep my little hubs semi-permanently affixed to my desk.
posted by mmascolino at 7:13 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Failing the USB hub idea, you could attach the cables to the device via a USB extension cables, then anchor the short cables securely to something immovable. That way, if the long USB cables are tripped over, the long cables will pull loose from the extension cables, not from the device itself.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:28 AM on January 9, 2012

"attach the cables to the device via short USB extension cables", rather (sorry).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:28 AM on January 9, 2012

Or even duct tape a USB extension to the back of the device. If you trip over the cable, the extension's USB plug will take the damage. If there's more tension left, the extension will detach, or the duct tape will and the length of the extension will relieve the tension.

Could you use brightly coloured cables so that people don't trip over them?
posted by stereo at 7:35 AM on January 9, 2012

1) Spring cables?

2) Can you explain what it is in your working environment that makes you have to have the cables trip-over-able? There are cable-run protection "thresholds" available that you pop over a cable and glue down to the floor. The threshold is smooth/rounded so you can drive chairs over it and won't trip. You can have devices on one side, run several A/B USB cables under the threshold thing, and have hubs on the other side. Or you can fix the cables to the ceiling.
posted by krilli at 7:39 AM on January 9, 2012

Run the cable along the ceiling instead of the floor.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:40 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can the device cables be taped don to prevent tripping? Seems like that's problem #1.

Buy several of these for < $2 each. Tape it down to the floor across the walkway. Plug the expensive device into it. if the device cable gets yanked, the thing in danger is a $2 extension, not a motherboard.

Or like the comment above suggests, hang the extension from the ceiling. The extension still provides insulation to the motherboard, AND it's out of tripping range. Belt and suspenders.
posted by chazlarson at 7:42 AM on January 9, 2012

"taped down"
posted by chazlarson at 7:43 AM on January 9, 2012

The hub idea seems the most sensible, but if you want a MagSafe style solution, have a look at what Jab Nab offer (German). You can buy it from
posted by devnull at 7:47 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, if you don't mind drilling into the chassis of your device, Neutrik make industrial-grade USB panel jacks that you could connect to your device's motherboard with a simple extension cable.
posted by schmod at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2012

XBox 360 controllers have a neat little anti-trip connector inline with the cord. If you snag the cord, this disconnects instead of yanking the cord out of the socket. I doubt these are available on other USB cords, but it might be worth a look.

If I was having this problem and didn't have to worry about it looking elegant, I'd just plug in a hub via a USB extension cord, then affix the extension cord firmly to something by any means necessary. Then the extension cord and/or hub takes the abuse, not your expensive USB port.
posted by neckro23 at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2012

At its root, this is a basic safety issue. You should be more concerned about humans cracking their heads open than the expensiveness of your devices.

The *only* acceptable way to deal with this is to ensure no-one can ever trip over the cable.

Longer cable. Re-routed cable. Put it under the carpet. Find a wireless solution. Reposition the device.

Please don't ever think someone tripping over your reckless safety hazard is inevitable or acceptable, either at home or in the workplace.
posted by alan2001 at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks all…

I'm working with large format printers. Most use ethernet, but some also use USB. They are very finicky, and do not like hubs or extensions. I currently tape it down with some slack (as mentioned in the question), and was looking for something slightly more elegant.

Tripping is actually very uncommon, but unless the cable is pulled out with care, the board is at risk every time someone pulls the USB cable, even purposely.
posted by mhz at 4:40 PM on January 9, 2012

Are you sure the problem with extensions isn't signal attenuation due to total cable length? An extension a few inches long shouldn't reduce the signal quality sufficiently to cause a problem, so long as it's reasonably well-made.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:41 PM on January 10, 2012

So this is the jack on the printer that you're trying to protect? Is this a USB A or USB B port? I haven't found a B -> B extension of any length.

If that's the case, maybe an option would be a series of regular cable management clips attached to the printer next to the port. Run the USB cable through them in an "S" shape with some slack. Put a cable tie or bead or something on the wire just after the last clip to prevent the last bit of slack on the way to the port from being taken up. If someone gives the cord a yank, you've got some slack to take up, and then 3-4 strong adhesive patches to pull off before any strain makes its way to the port. Perhaps add some countermeasure to prevent anyone unplugging the thing at the printer end; maybe something like this secured with a small padlock or wire tie?
posted by chazlarson at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2012

Or just tie a knot in the existing cables around a bolt or other immovable piece of hardware. Any sufficient force pulling on the cable after that point will just damage the cable. The section from the anchor point to the machine won't receive any of the force.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:51 AM on January 12, 2012

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