How to shorten a power cable

Shortening USB, 5V and audio cables

What problems will I be getting myself into if I try to shorten these cables. The reason for the question is that I have been looking at a stereo cable that has been in the junk box for some time. I found that each "lead" consists of about 7 strands of enamel(?) coated wire that is just so fine that one wonders how it could have been produced. Trying to scrape off the enamel is not easy – the wire strands break. Is the "enamel" solder through? What is the best method? Any member had success shortening USB and 5V cables? Tips/tricks gratefully received.

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Just as an aside, joining cables by other than matching impedance connectors (eg: cutting and soldering cables) affects the cables impedance, which can upset data transmissions.

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How (and why) are these cables different?

What differentiates a charge-only USB cable from a data cable is the how they are produced. More precisely, their wiring system — the number of wires within the cable. Underneath the fancy body of your USB cables are wires, right? The number of wires a cable has will determine if charges your phone, transfers data, or does both.

USB cable wiring system
USB cable wiring system

Data cables typically contain four wires (positive, negative, data transfer & data receive). The positive (+) and negative (-) wires carry electric power to the device while the other two data transfer (D+) and data receive (D-) wires are responsible for data exchange. Charge-only cables, on the other hand, only have the positive and negative power wires but lack the data exchange wires.

All USB cables have the positive and negative wires (because they are the most important) but not all USB cables have the data exchange wires — this is why some cables only charges your smartphone.

A USB Data cable (with 4 wires)
A USB Data cable (with 4 wires)

Step 1: Measure the Desired Length of Cable

Use your phone and your powerbank or whatever you’ll want to use the cable for, e.g. laptop/wall plug to measure what length you want it to be. If you already know you want it to be, say, 7cm long, it’s still advisable to check if it’s a suitable length.

Use a pencil to mark out the desired length. Remember that the point where you cut the cable is not the full length of the finished cable because the USB head takes up some length too.

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Subscribe Now:http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=ehowtech.Watch More:http://www.youtube.com/ehowtech.You can make headphones shorter using a very specific technique and the right tools. Make headphones shorter with help from an audio engineer with a degree in Audio Recording in this free video clip..Expert: Joey Biagas.Filmmaker: Hunter Lemoine.Series Description: With today’s technology, you’d be surprised by just how easy and inexpensive it is to turn your home into a recording studio. Learn about music recording at home with help from an audio engineer with a degree in Audio Recording in this free video series.

Video taken from the channel: eHowTech

Step 4: Strip the Flat Cable

You may cut the cable to size before stripping the cable and wires once at the end, or keep stripping the cable and stripping the wires until you reach the desired length. This lets you practise stripping so the final strip will be perfect.

Use a sharp blade to gently cut the cable, then pull off the cut off segment. You may need to experiment with this to find the best way to strip it. In my case, I only had to slice it on one side to be able to pull it off with some force, but it may not be the same for other cables of other materials.

Be careful not to cut too deep, as the insulation around the wires might be nicked, weakening the wires. If the cut is too shallow, it might be hard to pull out the cut off portion.

The idea is to strip off the cable to expose a short segment of wire that can be stripped then soldered to the USB connector, ultimately mimicking the condition the connector was in before we cut the cable.

USB Connections

Each USB device uses the standard A type connector to the USB host or Hub through A type receptacle. The other end of the cable has series B connector which is used to plug into the B type receptacle.

A connector is used for the upstream connection towards the host and B connector for the downward stream to the USB device. When the device is connected to the PC, it activates the host to recognize it. The PC detects the device and manages a control flow between the device and computer.

PC also manages the data transfer between the device and PC. Once detected, the PC sends data to the USB system software to recognize it which then identify the device and assign an address. This address is used to detect the particular USB device. The software controls the input and output data between the PC and device. If the software fails to assign the address, PC will not detect the device.

USB A, B 2.0 and 3.0 Cable Pinout

The USB cable provides four pathways- two power conductors and two twisted signal conductors. The USB device that uses full speed bandwidth devices must have a twisted pair D+ and D- conductors. The data is transferred through the D+ and D- connectors while Vbus and Gnd connectors provide power to the USB device.

usb A&B male & female pinout

usb A&B male & female pinout

usb 3 female pinout

usb 3 female pinout

USB A Wiring Connection

The USB cable has typically four wires to connect the A type connector

Pin 1 Red +5V
Pin 2 White D-
Pin 3 Green D+
Pin 4 Black GND

USB Hub

The USB Hub is used to connect many devices to the PC using a single USB connector. The hub can detect the attachment or detachment of devices in each port of the Hub. It also distributes power to all the devices connected to it and also detects low speed and full speed devices.

It has two components – A Hub controller and a Hub repeater. The controller enables the Hub to communicate with the PC for configuration and control of devices attached to it. The repeater has hardware support for reset, suspend and resume signals.

I recommend you to use a hub with an external power supply if you want to connect more than 2 or 3 devices because they will absorb a large amount of current and the USB port cannot provide it by itself.

USB Flash Drive

The most commonly used USB device is the Flash drive the commonly called Pen drive. It is a mass storage device capable of functioning like a hard disk of computer.

article updated and edited by P. Marian on Oct 15, 2014

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Dave Johnson Freelance Writer Dave Johnson is a technology journalist who writes about consumer tech and how the industry is transforming the speculative world of science fiction into modern-day real life. Dave grew up in New Jersey before entering the Air Force to operate satellites, teach space operations, and do space launch planning. He then spent eight years as a content lead on the Windows team at Microsoft. As a photographer, Dave has photographed wolves in their natural environment; he’s also a scuba instructor and co-host of several podcasts. Dave is the author of more than two dozen books and has contributed to many sites and publications including CNET, Forbes, PC World, How To Geek, and Insider. Read more Read less

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