What Are the Different Types of Computer Cables?

By Gregory Hamel

Computers are complex machines consisting of many interconnected parts. While certain computer components plug directly into the motherboard, many computer devices such as hard drives, mice, and digital cameras must be connected to a system using cables or cords. There are many types of cables that can allow devices to connect to a computer.

Video Cables

Video cables are cables that allow a computer to connect to a monitor or TV screen and output visual information. Video cables plug into the computer's display adapter or graphics card and then into a video input channel on a monitor. Computers can make use of many types of video cables. Video Graphics Array (VGA) is a standard video cable used by many computer monitors. S-Video, DVI and HDMI are other common video cables that can be used to send video to a monitor. HDMI is the only video cable that also sends audio signals. S-Video, DVI and HDMI cables are not exclusivity used for computers; these cables are also often used to connect DVD players, game consoles and other video devices to TVs.

Hard Drive Cables

Internal hard drives must connect to the motherboard to send information to the random access memory and ultimately to the central processing unit to run the operating system and programs. The two main types of hard drive cables are IDE cables and Serial ATA cables. IDE cables are thick, ribbon-like cables that can be used to attach up to two IDE hard drives to the motherboard. Serial ATA cables are much smaller than IDE cables and many motherboards have several Serial ATA ports available.

Peripheral Device Cables

Peripheral devices such as mice, keyboards, external hard drives and digital cameras typically connect to a computer using either Universal Serial Bus (USB) or FireWire cables. USB is a standard interface that is available on almost every modern computer. Many computers have three or more USB ports allowing several USB devices to attach to the computer at the same time. FireWire (also called IEEE 1394) is a data transfer technology created by Apple Computer which is similar to USB and is sometimes used on external hard drives and digital camcorders. FireWire ports are common on Mac computers.

Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables are a type of computer cable used to attach a network interface card (also called LAN card or Ethernet Controller) to a device such as an external modem or router. Ethernet cables are necessary for most wired Internet connections.