When USB was invented, it was seen as a way to hook up peripherals where you’d pretty much set things up, then forget about the connection. However, in today’s world of dongles, digital cameras, audio and MIDI interfaces, control surfaces, and USB thumb drives, you might find yourself giving your computer’s USB ports a lot of exercise. These are connectors like any others, and excessive wear and tear will cause them to fail — and replacing a USB connector on your motherboard is not a task to be taken lightly.
One solution: Buy a bunch of short extender USB cables. Plug them into your USB port(s) and USB device(s). When you want to plug in a USB device, plug one cable into another. That way, if a USB connector should break, it will be on an easily replaceable cable — not your motherboard or USB peripheral device.
But if you’re dealing with more than USB, or you don’t want a bunch of little cables dangling all over the place, then check out the Marathon Computer RePorter ($59). What do you get for your hard-earned bucks? A 5-foot cable that plugs into the ports on the back of your computer and brings them out snake-fashion to a handy tabletop box. You get two USB connections, FireWire 400 and 800, and 1/8" audio in and out. The enclosure is shaped to fit comfortably in your hand while you plug/unplug your computer peripherals.