Moving a PC into the Attic

Connectivity

I drew a diagram showing all the wires that would connect the attic PC to my desk:

  1. One high quality, 10 meter VGA cable, capable of 1280 x 1024 @ 85Hz sourced from Lindy for about £40
  2. Two 5 meter PS/2 keyboard/mouse cables from Belkin (via Ebuyer) for a couple of quid each
  3. One 10 meter stereo audio cable for connecting the speakers to the PC sound card, from Lindy for about a fiver
  4. One 5 meter USB 2.0 active cable from Direct USB store for less than twelve pounds
  5. One BT phone line extension kit, cut to size (about 5 meters) from my local Wilkinson's for £5 or so

Item 1 above was not cheap, but I had been badly bitten some years earlier with a cheap 3 meter extension cable that just produced ghosting on my monitor, unless I ran it at 680 x 480! Not a pretty site.

I spoke at length to Lindy about my options and plumped for the 10m super duper gold plated VGA cable which is screened so many times you end up with more screening that cable! But it worked! Of course, I bought this cable first, and tried it out whilst everything was still in my office. On the basis that my picture was crystal clear (no matter how many ways I laid it next to a mains cable) I ordered everything else.

You may wonder about the mix of 10 meter and 5 meter cables. Well, with hindsight I could have got away with perhaps 7.5 meters on the VGA cable but better safe than sorry, heh? I originally bought FOUR PS/2 extension cables with a view to connecting them together to provide the 10m I was after. In the event 5m was enough to reach from the office to the KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse switching unit) in the attic so I used the other two for my daughter's PC. The audio cable was the shortest I could find; it introduced no hum or noise at the 10m length.

CD Writer

There still remained the problem of not having a CD (or Writer or DVD ROM).

I discovered that Planet Micro sold external housings into which you could put any kind of CD/DVD drive and plug it into a USB 2 hub or socket on the back of your PC. For £20 it seemed like the solution to a problem (which was that bespoke USB 2 external CD/DVD drives were £80 plus) so I purchased one at the same time as a 7-port USB 2.0 hub from Dlink for about £15. I transferred my existing CDRW into the housing and it all worked like a dream, and meant I could plug my HP 930C printer and Canon 650U scanner into the hub too, even though they were lowly USB 1.1 devices; the hub just ran each port at its best speed without lowering the speed of any other ports.

All computers on my network can access this single CDRW, although of course cannot boot from it should I wish to reinstall the operating system, for example. When (and if) that occurs I will have to go into the attic and put the relevant CD into the corresponding PC's captive CD ROM. Doesn't really happen that often!

So my USB 2.0 port on the back of my PC (now in the loft) is connected to the active 2.0 5m cable down to a DLink 2.0 self powered hub. To the hub is connected all other USB devices, including my HP 930C printer, CDRW, and 7-in-1 card reader. My USB scanner is not connected to the hub - you'll find out why later.

In the event, and especially after my experiences with standard USB 2.0 cables (not active) I suspect that I could have easily got away with not buying the active 2.0 USB 5m cable - but it cost me less than a tenner over and above a standard cable so what the hell! It's a FIDO moment.

To see now how I ran the cables from the "office" (4th bedroom) into the attic, read on.

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