How to Identify Power Bricks in One Clever Stroke

| How-To

Internet, meet Box Of Cords:

What? I'm OCD about cords. Don't judge me. Or ask about Son of Box of Cords.

Contained within are all manner of cables, wires, and cords. Power cords with those bricks in particular. You know, those maddeningly generic wall warts that have a meaningless sticker applied to them that tells you precisely nothing useful, like what device it goes with.

Oh, right! Ullpower! Wait, what?

Like I have any idea what "Ullpower" goes to. Especially when it is some time in the future and I have fished it out of Box Of Cords wondering what on earth it goes to and do I even still have that or did I give it to someone or donate it without a power cord (or with the wrong one).

This is because most companies buy generic power supplies from companies like Ullpower—and a host of others—and those power supplies rarely have any identifying marks that tells you what they go with.

As with many things, the answer is Sharpie. Specifically, a silver Sharpie. Right on the package it says "Great for dark surfaces," and there aren't any surfaces much darker than a black plastic power supply. But if you add silver Sharpie to black wall wart, bam! Instant Lifehack! Check it out: 

Look upon that surface, and see that it is dark.

This plug goes to one of my currently unused IP cameras (a camera that is viewable online, like Dropcam or Foscam makes).  

It's almost worse is when the manufacturer IS on the power cord, but maybe isn't so helpful:

Is it a router or a camera or a print server or...

What on earth did I get from D-Link with this power cord? I have stacks of things from D-Link running around, what do I have that isn't plugged in? Or plugged in with the wrong power cable? Now I can't sleep…

Silver Sharpie to the rescue!

Oh wait, yes I can! Because when this came out of the box I scribbled on the bottom* and now I can always tell what it goes to! I can tell this because I have precisely one NAS (Network Attached Storage device) from D-Link, so I have given this a notation that makes sense to me. If you have multiples, you can add a note on the bottom of the device itself to help match things up. Your mileage may vary.

So if you have a stack of miscellaneous wall warts, pick up a silver Sharpie and get your best handwriting ready. They are available in fine point which is what "regular" Sharpies are, or extra fine point, more like a regular pen for smaller surfaces. Since it probably lives under a desk or in a closet most of the time, it doesn't matter if the power supply has a little writing on the side.

*I say scribbled but you want to be able to read this later, so take a little extra time and make it look presentable.

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Great tip (pun intended), Kelly.  BTW, I think the name of the power adapter is “Fullpower”, not Ullpower.  I have one of these too!

Steve Kohler

I’m going to respectfully weigh in here and suggest that the name of the company you identify as “Ullpower” is actually Fullpower.  Look closely at lines before and below the rest of the letters and you will realize that is a very stylized “F”.  Don’t feel bad—it took a lot of staring at my nameless charger plugs to have that dawn on me.  The silver Sharpie is a really good idea, BTW!


I have a Liquid Paper all purpose correction Pen in my desk that does the work for me.  Just redistributed all my bricks and power supplies and labeled everything that I had missed.

Lee Dronick

Good tip and I may swtich to that. I had been using my lable printer for both the transformer block and to wrap a lable leaf around the plug end.

Now if we can just the manufacutures to slim them down a bit so they don’t block adjacent sockets. Also some plugs are turned 90° so that the cord also blocks adjacent sockets. Yeah I know that I can get power strips with wider spaced sockets. I have some of those short pigtail extensions.

Kelly Guimont

Honestly I states at it a long time and figured if it wasn’t ullpower it was Cullpower! Nice catch on the F everyone! smile


But does it rub off? These plastics are notoriously hard and resistant to markers.


Cool. I didn’t know that Sharpie came in silver. Gonna get one of those.


Robbo - yes it does rub off, but it takes a while. A little care in handling helps. BTW - this tip also works on flash drives - I use it on the covers for the SanDisk Cruzer Fit - which are tiny and hard to identify when the covers are off .

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