Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

I really hate WiFi, and you should too. If you own your own home or your landlord doesn’t mind a few holes in the wall, running gigabit Ethernet around the house is the best thing you can do for a faster computing experience. But what’s all this about Cat 6 or crossover cables? Here’s everything you need to know about Ethernet cabling.

We also have a free, downloadable guide to home networking with more information on the software side of a home network, such as printer and file sharing.

What’s wrong with WiFi?

WiFi will always be slower than a cabled connection. You probably won’t notice a difference if you have the latest mobile devices all with 802.11ac paired with an appropriate router (Should you buy an 802.11ac router? Should You Buy A Wireless 802.11ac Router? Should You Buy A Wireless 802.11ac Router? 802.11ac promises blistering speeds, but many consumers are just now getting around to upgrading to 802.11n, leaving many to wonder if the new version is worthwhile. Read More ), but this only applies to a handful of devices and only in ideal situations. In most homes, you have all manner of other wireless networks competing for space on the spectrum; you have brick walls; you have different floors in a house and rooms where the signal just can’t reach; and you get some serious lag when gaming or video conferencing. Use Netspot if you’re on a Mac to map out your wireless signal strength Map Your Wireless Network Signal Strength With NetSpot [Mac] Map Your Wireless Network Signal Strength With NetSpot [Mac] Read More , and follow Ryan’s advice to find the perfect WiFi router position Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Setting up a Wi-Fi network should be an easy prospect, shouldn't it? I mean, a house is a closed-in box, and you'd think when you place a device that transmits wireless signals in all directions... Read More .

But this isn’t an article about WiFi. The point I’m trying to make is: always run a wired Ethernet connection when at all possible.  Your computer will thank you for it.

Cat 5, Cat 5e, and Cat 6

There’s lot of jargon associated with home networking, but here’s the important ones. First up: UTP and STP. UTP means Unshielded Twisted Pair, and is the most common. The wires are bundled inside a rubber sleeve with no other protection. STP is shielded; a layer of foil protect the signals from electrical interference, but needs compatible equipment with grounded ports. STP is more expensive, but the signal doesn’t degrade as much over longer distances – it’s commonly used in areas with heavy machinery or other interference.

All UTP cables should in theory support up 100 meter lengths between switches or hosts. If you need longer cables, you’ll need a powered switch to extend as required. This isn’t a hard limit nor an exact science: well-made cables can run longer, and badly-made cables may run significantly shorter.

Ads by Google

lined-up-ehternet-crossover-cable

All network cabling consists of 8 wires; twisted, and made into 4 pairs, each colour coded by a solid colour with their respective dashed/striped white cables.

Cat 5 is the worst kind of Ethernet cabling you can still find, but in theory it should support up to 100 Mbps. Cat 5 uses only 2 of 4 pairs of wires, but to achieve 100 Mbps requires a different set of pins (4,5,7,8) to that used by 10 Mbps (1,2,3,6). Therefore, you may find a particularly cheap bit of Cat 5 which has been made with only 4 wires will only support 10 Mbps. Stay away from Cat 5, unless you need to run a long bit of cable out to a low bandwidth device in your garden shed.

Cat 5e (the “e” indicates “enhanced”), is a version of Cat 5 designed to decrease crosstalk, enabling speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – or “Gigabit Ethernet” as it’s more commonly known. Cat 5e is the most common kind of cable you’ll find being sold today, and is very much adequate for general use in the home. For gigabit speeds, all four pairs in the cable are used.

Cat 6 can in theory handle up to 10 gigabits per section – that’s 10,000 Mbps – at a maximum of around 37 meter length, and is complete overkill for the home because you won’t find any consumer switches that support those speeds. If you were building a new house and wanted something to connect each floor together with, perhaps consider Cat 6 for the sake of future-proofing, but otherwise don’t go out of your way to buy Cat 6 cabling. It is completely compatible with existing Cat 5e and Cat 5 devices. Physically, Cat 6 cabling has more twists in each pair, and has a plastic separator spine running through the center, reducing crosstalk and enabling the higher speeds. Cat 6a is a new standard designed to support 10 Gbps over the full 100 meter length.

Image from Nanhua cables
Image from Nanhua cables

Hubs, Switches, and Routers

Cabling alone is fairly useless: At the centre of any Ethernet network are these 3 devices, each providing a number of Ethernet ports. Although you won’t find hubs being sold nowadays, it’s important to understand them in order to understand switches and routers.

A hub is a fairly stupid device, computationally speaking. It receives a signal on one of its ports, and copies it blindly to every other port – forwarding the message on to everyone. Switches are a kind of clever hub: they examine the destination for the packet being sent, and only forward it onto the appropriate port, so every other machine on the network won’t receive what isn’t intended for them.

Strictly, a router just acts as a gateway between the Internet and your local network, but modern routers are in fact combined switches and a router, so you can plug in (usually) up to 4 devices over a wired connection.

If you have more wired devices than you do ports on your router, you can expand the number of ports by adding switches into the network. All you need is a bit of crossover cable between the switch, and the router. This also means you can place a switch in your office with multiple devices, and only need to run a single crossover cable to the router downstairs. Infrastructure cabling is often higher specced than from your machine to a local switch, since it carries the combined packets of data from all the local nodes on the other end.

Power Over Ethernet

In 10/100 Mbps speeds, only two of the four pairs of wires are used; the unused two pairs of wires can therefore be used to carry up to 25W of power. This is typically used for IP cameras or wireless repeaters, but you’ll need a switch that provides PoE ports.

A 5-port switch, 1 of which provides Power Over Ethernet, available from Amazon
A 5-port switch, 1 of which provides Power over Ethernet, available from Amazon

Crossover Cabling

Crossover is a special form of Ethernet where the send and receive pairs have been reversed. We showed you how to make your own crossover cable How To Make An Ethernet Cross-Over Cable How To Make An Ethernet Cross-Over Cable Ethernet cabling has been standard in networking installation for years. It’s the fastest way of connecting PCs together - to your router or a central switch. Sure, you could go wireless, but the truth is... Read More before. In practical terms, these can be used to:

  • Connect one computer to another computer, forming their own mini-network.
  • Expand a network by connecting multiple switches and routers.

In practice, switches will either have a physical button with which you can enable “crossover mode” on a regular run of cable; or they’ll automatically sense the type of cable plugged in and make the appropriate connections for you. In other words: don’t worry about crossover cables, because you’ll probably never need one.

Figuring Out Slowdown

So you’re trying to wire up your whole network at gigabit speeds, but something isn’t right? Remember that there are three factors at play here: first, the cable itself. Cat 5e should be sufficient for gigabit, so check you haven’t accidentally used a length of Cat 5 instead – they look identical, and only the marking on the cable itself will indicate any difference. Then check the switch or router is compatible with gigabit speeds. Finally, check your computer because it’s quite possible your motherboard only has a 10/100 Ethernet port. If so, you can buy a USB Gigabit Ethernet adapter, or a PCI-E card.

If this kind of thing interests you, consider studying for a basic level CompTIA Networking+ qualification – it’ll look great on your CV. Any other questions? Ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

  1. Yvonne
    October 13, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    If my Rueter has an ethernet cable plugged in will this reduce the capacity for the wireless devices in the house?

    • James Bruce
      October 13, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      No. But adding more wireless devices will slow down every other wireless device.

      • Neil
        November 22, 2016 at 2:22 am

        Good day Sir. What Cable should I use for my Home Network. With 5 Computer to 1 D-link Router to 1 Wifi Modem? Should I use Crossover?

        • James Bruce
          November 22, 2016 at 8:30 am

          You don't need crossover. Standard Ethernet cabling - cat6 if you can afford it for future proofing.

  2. Paul Keemink
    August 30, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Hi James,

    Thanks for the information!

    I'm not very internet savvy, so I was hoping you would take to time to help my with my issue.

    I recently bought a house in a regional area in Australia and the internet connection keeps dropping out and our maximum internet speed is around 700 kb/ps. I noticed that the cable that is coming out off the flooring (don't know why they didn't install a wall mount) only has the following colours: black, white, green, orange, red and blue. Only the blue and white wire are connected to the connector.

    Additionally, I noticed that the wiring that runs to the street (next to the house) is exposed to the weather and that the previous owner split that cable under the house in the crawl space.

    I was thinking maybe I could run a single new cable from our living room only to the cable next to house and somehow connect these? Soldering, stripping and tape?

    Could you please give me advice on how to tackle this and establish a decent internet connection again?

    Thank you in advance!!!

    • John Bartley
      September 19, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Hi James Bruce, (Great name for an Ozzie)
      My query has to do with the type of cable - (crossover or not).
      I am going to set up 4, 4MP security cameras with a network video recorder(NVR). All POE.
      I am going to use CAT6 cabling.
      1 camera will be 100 meters from the NVR run over POE.
      1 camera will be 300 meters from the NVR and I was going to use a Netgear GS108PE in the middle of this run.
      And the 2 other cameras have only a run of 30 meters.
      The NVR will be connected to my modem 30MB fiber.
      So I am wondering if all the cables should be the normal ethernet cabling or 1 or more should be crossover and if so which ones.
      Many Thanks
      John Bartley

  3. Shailesh
    August 16, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Excellent Information.

  4. dg
    August 8, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Hi,
    Thanks for a clear summary of stuff I mostly knew but still doubted myself!
    However, I've got a silly:
    One cable (commercial entity) about 20m long from an ethernet switch to a Mac Pro measuring high speed internet connections in practice - 52Mbps D/L ... I'm in central London - running on gigabit settings.
    I've just run a new more invisible cable to do exactly the same job also about 15m .... over wooden door frames and through Victorian stud walls etc., to replace my 'coil on the floor' commercial cable!
    I've made off the 8 pin r j45 at either end (I've got the tools and done this successfully before) and tested repeatedly with a a quality commercial connections tester - perfect 8 lights in correct sequence.

    I replace the coiled commercial cable with the newly fitted cable and I loose internet!
    Having read you article I double checked and both are Cat5e. The only difference is the new cable is solid copper 8 cores (its stiff to bed sharply which I've avoided) whereas the commercial cable is softer and obviously multi stranded 8 core.

    Testing the two cables produces exactly the same results!
    I'm stumped!
    Doug

    • James Bruce
      August 8, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      That makes literally no sense...

      - The solid core stuff is actually twisted pair network cabling, not just random 8 core signal cable?
      - Did you test the sequence of LEDs on the old cable? Was it perhaps a length of crossover cable that your Mac remembers and doesn't like the new non-crossover one??
      - Does Network Utility show the link as active, even?

      I'm afraid I'm at a loss too. Usually at that point, I'll test again and find actually, one of the wires was dodgy, but clearly that's not the case here..

      • dg
        August 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm

        Hi James, didn't think it was just me ...!
        I tried to be as concise as possible to describe my situation.

        Both cables are standard Cat 5e crossover with twisted pairs, with catalogue stamping data along each sleeve.
        One has solid wires (the twisted cores are stiff), the other has stranded cores (softer twisted pairs).

        Testing shows exactly the same results for both cables.
        As I get no connection at all to the computer, I've not tried network utility - good idea ... I'll let you know.

        Was intrigued by your comments about the Mac remembering old and new cables ..... really? Can you explain this idea?
        Doug

  5. daniele.pezzella
    July 19, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Hello, many thanks for this very interesting guide. My question is:
    I own a fritzbox 7490 which clearly states on the manual it supports lan gigabit (1000Mbps right?). It's also said in the same manual (here: https://en.avm.de/fileadmin/user_upload/EN/Manuals/FRITZ_Box/Manual_FRITZ_Box_7490_en.pdf on page 181) that it supports CAT5 cable, which are up to 100Mbps. Isn't this a contradiction? I mean how can 1000Mbps run on a 100Mbps cable? Maybe there's something that I'm ignoring here, I'm not a professional. Any help on this from your side will be much appreciated. Thanks again!

  6. Neil
    July 16, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Hopefully this is an appropriate place to ask my question. I have a small office that is experiencing issues with our VOIP phones (dropped packets) so I connected to our switch's web interface and ran the built-in cable test and found many errors. Short in cable (generally on pair 3 and 4). Open in cable (generally on pair 3 and 4) and some runs that have both a Short and Open on the cable. Does this indicate a problem, or might this be acceptable? Thanks.

  7. Angelica Gomez
    July 14, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    You've shared very useful and extensive information in just a single article. It's a very great effort. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  8. alwaysursmunna
    July 1, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Which combination of cable Straight-through or Cross-over, should I use to connect two routers, main one at ground floor and other one at first floor

  9. Ron
    June 26, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for the article James.I now know to buy Cat 5e rather than Cat 5 or Cat 6, But a Q please. I'm building an office in the garden and was about to put an ethernet cable in the same underground tube as the power line. Do you think the power cable will interfere with the internet signal?

    Thanks,
    Ron

    • James Bruce
      June 27, 2016 at 7:44 am

      They will absolutely interfere, especially with such a long, parallel run.

    • Ron
      June 27, 2016 at 11:02 am

      So glad I asked - thanks again. At the risk of stretching your generosity, could you please advise on which Cat 5e cable to buy? I'll make sure it's in a conduit well away from the power line. But I've read that there are copper and aluminium cables, and if choosing copper there are structured and unstructured, and there are shielded and unshielded, and if shielded there are S/STP and UTP and there are direct burial cables and non-direct burial cables .... I'm happy to pay what it takes for the right kit but am struggling to find out what that might be. Any tips appreciated please.
      Thanks,
      Ron

      • James Bruce
        June 27, 2016 at 11:07 am

        I've never tried burying the cable, to be honest, so I'm not sure. STP means shielded, and while they do sell specific outdoor versions of cabling, that may not be neccessary since you're burying it in conduit anyway. Some standard STP *should* be fine.

        • Ron
          June 27, 2016 at 12:02 pm

          ok cheers

  10. Levi
    June 25, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Okay I need help which one would be faster for a console?100ft cat6 Ethernet cable or a wifi booster?

    • James Bruce
      June 27, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Wi-Fi is always slower than Ethernet, and has higher latency (pings). This might not matter so much if your internet speed is terrible for online gaming, but it will matter when streaming video or files internally.

  11. Mark
    June 15, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Ok so I have twc modem and I wanted to hard wire the camper as wifi was weak from the house to camper. I made the cable and ran it. Didn't work so I took my laptop out and connected it. Don't work. I went back inside and connected into the same port on modem with a four foot cable and it connected. Back to the 100' and nothing. Verified continuity still nothing.

  12. Mark
    June 15, 2016 at 3:12 am

    Hello. I just purchased what I need to run 100' of cat5e to my camper. Put the connectors on and it does not work. I verified that I wired them correctly. Both ends the same (right to left) Verified connection with volt/diod tester and still does not work. any ideas??

    • James Bruce
      June 15, 2016 at 9:22 am

      100ft should have no issues, and if you've used a continuity tester then something is wrong with the other hardware. What are you plugging them in to?

      • alwaysursmunna
        July 1, 2016 at 4:31 am

        Which combination of cable, straight-through or cross-over, should I use to connect two routers, main one at first floor and other one at second floor

        • James Bruce
          July 1, 2016 at 7:30 am

          Main router -> straight through cable -> Secondary router (via WAN port).

        • alwaysursmunna
          July 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

          Thank you, very much

  13. Just Someone
    June 6, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Hi, I know pretty much nothing about ethernet but just a quick simple question, does plugging in multiple ethernet cables into a router and plugging those into devices cost money/raise the internet bill?

    • No One
      June 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      No more than having them connect via Wi-Fi. Most providers do not charge by the GB but may throttle speeds once you go over a threshold.

  14. Nigel
    June 5, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Hello,
    Nice article.
    I was looking for the signal specifications that would be on the cables if plugged into a router or laptop etc.
    I want to design electronics to interface but I need to check impedance's and levels and drive capabilities and mark space times, protocols etc.
    Thanks from Nigel.

  15. Stephen Grant
    June 1, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I have tp-link 841N router rated at 300 Mbps wi fi speed. It only has 10/100 ethernet ports though. Can you explain how the wireless speed can be higher than the port speed for wired?
    I have Cable internet that is supposed to provide 300Mbps max.

    The modem provides Gigabit output that is connected to WAN on router.

    • James Bruce
      June 1, 2016 at 7:12 am

      On paper, it's faster, and you may get faster speeds than the wired port if transferring files locally through wifi, from one machine to another.

      In reality, it likely isn't faster. You would need the wireless machines to be right next to the router, and that speed would be shared by all devices.

      Assuming you actually get your promised internet speeds, that router is throttling them down to 100Mbs, which is obviously a waste. Upgrade to something with gigabit ports throughout - that's standard nowadays, but check anyway.

  16. John
    May 26, 2016 at 3:36 am

    Hi! Im building a tiny house on a property my family owns, we have a house on the lot that has internet and the tiny house will be approximately 250 feet away. Would i be able to hook up internet in the tiny house by running a cat5e cable or cat6a cable from the router in the main house and running it to the tiny house where i would connect it to a second router? Please and thank you!

    • James Bruce
      May 26, 2016 at 11:04 am

      CAT6 cable *should* be fine for up to 300 feet. However, that's in the best case scenario, with good cabling. You could have a go, but no guarantees!

      I'm not sure how to run longer than that, but it would involve power and a repeater somewhere in the middle.

      You can just plug the WAN port of a second router with that Ethernet cable, yes. It would either be completely isolated, or you could set it up to be part of the same network, like a switch.

  17. Jerry
    May 21, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Hi,
    I'm gearing up to dump my tv services and just stream tv through the Internet. I'm losing a lot of bandwidth through my WiFi. Should I even consider repeaters, or just bite the bullet and run 5e cat to my tv's?

    • James Bruce
      May 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Repeaters may actually hurt the bandwidth due to added overhead. If it's easy enough, run a cable for the best experience. You may want more devices to be attached to, so a little cable run with a switch at the end in your TV cabinet would be ideal.

  18. Kevin
    March 31, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Hello. I have a hardwired cat5e cable, run outside in trunking, termination in RJ45 wall sockets.

    Do I just plug in a RJ45 extension lead (patch lead) from my router to the wall socket No1 and then plug in my smart TV using another RJ45 patch lead to wall socket No2?

    Or is there more to it than that :)

    I am using a Plusnet Technicolour router

    Many thanks

    • James Bruce
      March 31, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Difficult to answer, since it depends how the sockets were wired. Your best is just to try it; if it doesnt work, you can simply wire a crossover cable on one of the ends and it should then work.

      • Kevin
        March 31, 2016 at 3:36 pm

        Hello

        Both sockets were wired up the same way, as per this pdf, but I have heard

        that even if they were not wired up correctly, provided they were both wired up the

        same then it shouldn't make any difference.

        Should I just plug the router into socket No1, or do I have to change any settings.

        Getting really puzzled now :)

        Regards

        Kevin

        • James Bruce
          April 1, 2016 at 10:19 am

          Just plug it in. You wont break anything - the worst that will happen is that the wiring is faulty and no link gets established. No settings to change.

  19. Marty McFly
    January 11, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Hi,

    I bought a 15 metre CAT5E UTP Ethernet cable from Ebay to connect Modem to PC.

    My current Ethernet cable I got with my Netgear n600 works no problem, it is only 1 metre long. I plan to relocate my modem, hence the longer length.

    I connected the new cable in, but my PC could not "detect" the network (modem). The rear light on the modem where the Ethernet cable was plugged into was not flashing as repeatedly as the original cable did. It was like "on----off----on----off", not as "flashy-flashy" as per normal.

    I left it connected for over an hour, but no good.

    Is there something I need to do with my PC to recognise the modem with the new cable?? HELP!!!!!

    I reconnected the original 1 metre cable, worked perfect as per normal.

  20. shelley trenholm
    December 8, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Hi..I'm trying to get my samsung blu ray to connect to my wireless(or vice versa). An error pops up in my settings..Due to the change in the wifi policy, cannot support the TKIP security type in 802.11 mode. Check security settings on the access point...I have no clue??? NOt very tech savy. It worked for 3mths then just stopped. I now connect via tablet to my tv to watch netfix. Can u help me pls?

    • dhc173
      January 8, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      If that error pops up on your blu-ray player, it means that device doesnt support TKIP security. I would say the only option here would possibly be to switch to WPA-Personal security on your router settings, or hard wire your device to directly your router.

  21. Judith Chartrand
    October 3, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I found the article interesting, but unfortunately, I'm not sure it solved my issue. I have an old macbook with a damged wifi card,so I must hardwire it to my router, or wifi. (note I'm not electronically savvy). I wanted to hook my tv up to the internet but my cable that my router is hooked up to is in a separate room.

    I bought a 100 ft Cat 5 ethernet cable hoping not only to use it for internet to my TV but also for using my lap top in my bedroom. However, when I tried the cable there was no connection. This is the second ethernet cable I have purchased. I sent the first one back, because I thought it was defected, and now the second one has the same problem, so I am going to assume, it isn't actually the cable, but something I'm not doing correctly.
    Can anyone help?

    • James Bruce
      October 3, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Hi Judith. It's possible you're plugging into the wrong port on the router. Do you have 4 ports, and then another one in a different color? Can you upload a photo of what the router ports looks like and which you're trying to plug into?

      • Judith Chartrand
        October 3, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        You are correct. I blue port and 4 yellow ports. It is an old Linksys wireless-N-Home Router. The only issue I may encounter is with my macbook, I plugged into a different port, and there was no internet connection. I also remember plugging the cable into the blue port, but then directly to the Modern, and no connection. But that was without the ethernet that comes with the modem. I am doing everything backwards, or perhaps I need a newer router? Thank you for your reply.

        • James Bruce
          October 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm

          Ok, so the blue port should only be used to connect to the modem. The other ports you can plug into, but there's a very tiny chance only the first port works (the ones directly next to the blue one). Have you tried all of them, and do they all give you no internet connection to the macbook? Does the TV work with them all?

        • Judith Chartrand
          October 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

          I'm not sure I plugged it into the first port, but I will try that. Thanks again.

        • Judith Chartrand
          October 3, 2015 at 11:08 pm

          I have done all that you mentioned, but no connection, It is asking me to check my signal cable.

        • James Bruce
          October 5, 2015 at 9:21 am

          Hi Judith. "check signal cable" sounds like the broadcast aerial, not the network connection. Sorry if this sounds like a silly question: but you realise you can't get TV through the internet, right? It would only be used for the "smart" features like netflix app or similar. You still need a cable or aerial connection to view live TV.

        • Judith Chartrand
          October 5, 2015 at 4:52 pm

          Hi, thanks again, I feel very foolish, one reason it wasn't working is because I had my tv on pc and not internet, Once I put it on internet, it sort of worked, but I was never able to connect to any video channels, like youtube. It would never load the videos. It gave a message, but I have forgotten what it said. I have not been able to connect even with the ethernet from the modem. Therefore, I think there is something I need to address on the network preference. I was able to view Drivecast but not youtube, nor Amazon.

  22. Lonnie Veal
    September 10, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Hi-- I Like your article. But I have a question about the 8 wires in an ethernet cable...because I have someone who thinks that they're just like Telephone wires except there 4 pairs of them.

    Is it possible for a PC, if connected directly to a consumer router-- but the ethernet wire has two Mismatched wires (ie: End 1 sequences 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, but End 2 sequences 2-1-3-4-5-6-7-8)

    If you have a SIMPLE PC --> Consumer (Verizon) Modem connection with this mis-wired cable--can a person STILL get access to the internet simply because the Modem isn't utilizing all 8 wires??

    I'm asking this because this fellow is one of those dudes who thinks he's a genius at EVERYTHING...(BTW- He's never even crimped his own cables). And he swears when he connects this PC to HIS Modem it works. But if I plug it into my OFFICE Network (Sonicwall Firewall connected to three subswitches with two Subnets running) the Connection is DEAD.

    I keep telling him the network wire is Mis-Sequenced (I have an Ethernet Wire Tester: It showed me the mis-wired sequence plain as day). But he yanks out a Telephone TONE generator and says the wire is OKAY. But While I know many things, I'm mature enough to acknowledge that a Lot of Networking arcana is beyond me. But THIS one TIME, I need to have a TECHNICAL Explanation to put Mr I'm-A-Genius-At-Everything-I-Touch in his place.

    PS-- I don't let him have my Network Testor because it would disappear.

    Please...Help a Fellow Techie guard his turf!

    • James Bruce
      September 10, 2015 at 9:17 am

      I believe you're correct. 10/100 speeds only need 2 pairs, so older equipment such as that modem should work fine. I don't have anything old enough to test with though, and in the past when I've miswired cables it just doesn't work, which would support it not working your modern equipment. Gigabit speeds require the full set of 4 pairs. I'm also not enough to have ever touched a tone generator ;)

      • Lonnie Veal
        September 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

        Thank you! Thank you! This fellow can usually be deterred by Technobabble...but sometimes I like to actually be speaking Technical Truth. The thing is, when I first started wiring up the office ages ago, I had a young intern who was tasked with crimping the cabling. And I now remember catching him crimping the wires with ONLY 4 WIRES. And I asked him why he didn't crimp all 8...and he replied that "regular networks only needed wires 3, 6,7 & 8...and it was less work" This when 100MB ethernet was the 'Cats Meow' for a small office

        And I remember taking the cable he had crimped, cutting the heads off, and telling him "That's Nice-- but I want these cables crimped, all 8 wires, to industry standard."

        The young fellow 'twitched'...then he growled "Aw, Man!" and I had to listen to him grouse and complain for the rest of the day. And I remember telling him Gratuitously: "Just wait, You will THANK me for this some day..."

        That was over 15 years ago. Had I not caught him in the act, I would have been faced with a network that didn't work over half the building today after I installed the more current firewall router on old 4 wire cables!

        Now, I just have head this Other fellow off at the Pass before he touches the Network Punch Board with his 'Tone Generator'

  23. The Greg Styles
    July 9, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Great article but definitely needed to mention Ethernet over Power adapters. I run four 600Mps units and they allow reconfiguration at any time,are reliable and fast. What's more if you are renting they are a great option as you can network your rental flat, unit or whatever and unplug or change at will ( new flatmate, changing rooms etc) without upsetting the landlord. They also use 256 bit encryption on the connection, and mine work fine on different circuits within the house. Why wire inside the walls at all?

    • James Bruce
      July 13, 2015 at 7:24 am

      I mention them in our latest home networking guide: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/everything-need-know-home-networking/

      However, they're not the wonderful solution you're portraying – they work in about half the cases, and unfortunately you can't test how well they will work for you without laying out $50 for a basic set. It depends very much on your particular wiring configuration, and while you've been one of the lucky ones, many others report problems in getting them to work at all. They're a backup option if actual wiring isn't permitted, but they certainly shouldn't be a first choice.

  24. rudraksh
    May 10, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Excellent article and very helpful.
    I came upon this while hunting for solutions to my problem.
    I would appreciate it if someone could answer this query for me.
    My house is across 3 floors with cat 6 ethernet cabling going to at least 2 points in very floor. I intend to use wired connections for the TV etc but most of our laptops, tablets, smartphones etc. would run on WiFi.
    What would be my effective and cost-efficient way of achieving this? Should i be adding a router on very floor and if so would i end up having multiple networks or is there some solution i am completely missing.
    thanks

  25. reece
    April 28, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    what is a wired cable used for?

  26. Ra
    April 27, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    What about the pros/cons of CCA vs full copper Cat5e cable?

  27. Kate Lucariello
    March 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Sorry, I think I replied to Tom instead of posting a separate comment ....

  28. Kate Lucariello
    March 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    We have an outdated and a newer computer in two locations. We use a Verizon USB 760 3g network (grandfathered unlimited plan, so we want to keep it) modem getting a signal from a cell tower, plugged into a Cradlepoint router and running a 25-foot Ethernet cable to my 2006 iMac (which works well enough for my needs, thankyouverymuch, lol!). My husband just bought a 2013 Mac mini and wants to use it with the net in his shop, which is about 100 feet away. So we need to run a very long Ethernet cable to his computer. Will it work? Should we get a Cat 6 cable? Will that work in the Cradlepoint router and the Mac mini? We do NOT want wifi, so let's not even go there, thanks. Thanks for any help you can give!

  29. Tom Linaker
    March 8, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Hi I have my main router and I am going to run cat 5e upto a switch and then run mutiple devices off the switch so will I need to run my cable between the router and switch A to B or can I run B to B? Also once my switch and cable are installled what would my connectins into the switch be thanks

  30. AWhistler
    February 8, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    10Base-T and 100Base-T ethernet cables were designed to run an ethernet connection and up to TWO telephone lines on a single cable. Since the beginning of time for these cables (back to cat-3 and before), the first phone line used the center pair of wires. The TIA-568 standard defined line 1 as pair 4-5 and the second line as 7-8 (I think). This left 1-2, and 3-6 available for another use....ethernet. That is why the cabling is "funny"...the pairs are not 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 because the first phone line is 4-5...always. When 1000Base-T came around, they couldn't get it done on just two pairs, so they broke the tradition without redefining the cabling standard. So it uses 1-2,3-6,4-5,7-8, not just 1-2,3-6. You can run 100Base-T just fine on a Cat-3 cable, but the distance for reliability is shorter than Cat-5. Cat-5 is perfectly fine for even 1000Base-T at short distances (shorter than the standard limit). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIA/EIA-568 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_Ethernet for information.

  31. Kent
    January 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Question: I need to run Ethernet cable to second floor of home to connect 3 Smart TV's and 2 game consoles(3 rooms) I have a 24 port cisco switch on first floor with enough open ports. Should I run separate cables to each room and device(5 cables)? Or should I use a hub in the two rooms with the smart tv / game console . I had invested in commercial cisco wireless AP and still have trouble connecting all devices. Also need to run a cable to basement for another tv and game console.
    P.S We have a server at home for our business and have cox cable (business class) and a Cisco Pix VPN. I believe we have plenty of throughput.

    • James Bruce
      January 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      I would run a single, decent bit of cable, to a single switch/hub upstairs. Between 5 devices, a gigabit connection would still give each device 200Mbs throughput, which is more than enough for a very long time.

  32. Joseph
    December 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I need some help as I knew no specifications of lan cables until I read this article. I recall reading you wrote that UTP cables have no protection while STP cables have protection from interference. However STP cables require compatible equipment with grounded ports. I have a few questions I need to ask. First is there a stp cable that has cat 5e? Secondly, what kind of compatible equipment would I need for that kind of cable? Also what are grounded ports? Lastly, are there extensions for cables?

  33. Adam
    August 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks heaps for this. I recently installed cat5e at home but was kicking myself as only getting 100mbps and was told should have gone cat6. But I bought a cheap gigabit switch and am now away laughing with gigabit speeds. There are 6 wifi networks around home so really notice show downs.

  34. iqqy
    May 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    How to make a network for gaming? we have build a network for 7 computers but its lag was too high, we were not able to play smoothly even though we made all the things very efficiently, we made crossover cables, with a hub of 10/100 mbps speed, and good laptops. so i am asking what was the reason of the lag? can't we just play smoothly?? and yeah the games weren't even too heavy to play, they were like, CS, stronghold crusader and etc.

    • James B
      May 22, 2014 at 6:16 am

      I'm a little confused - you woulnt need crossover cables. If you actually used a HUB and not a SWITCH, that would be one cause of lag. If you did make your own patch cables, it's also possible they weren't correct. But then, you might also be having problems with frame rate, rather than network lag. Did you confirm all the machines played it smoothly when not running through the network? Did you setup LAN games rather than simply all joining the same INTERNET game?

  35. pmshah
    May 21, 2014 at 2:59 am

    You missed out on how would Ethernet on power line compare to wifi? Incidentally these are quite popular in Europe. I think these would beat wifi boosters to cover the entire premises.

    Another point to keep in mind. If you terminate your cables properly being careful about the pinouts you cover both the possibilities of 1,2,3,6 and 4,5,7,8 combos in a single cable. Just search for "Ethernet pinout" and select images from the listing.

    • James B
      May 21, 2014 at 6:32 am

      Probably better than wifi, yes, but there are many factors that affect them - not something I would use. I'd rather have an ugly cable nailed to my wall ;)

  36. npz
    May 21, 2014 at 2:24 am

    I also prefer wired (cat 6) at home. While wireless has certainly has it's conveniences and is likely suitable for the casual user who does not game, it also has its drawbacks. In addition to what the article mentioned, wireless is only half-duplex. So the problems cited are exacerbated even further with real time two-way traffic.

    Valve did some latency testing, comparing gigabit wired to 80211.N with good signal and weak signal
    http://steamcommunity.com/groups/homestream#announcements/detail/1496614934736756460

    Even the good signal setup, which was between two machines just a few feet apart (no obstruction) was still many times worse than wired

  37. John W
    May 20, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Wiring is a long term investment - up to 20 years. The cost of the cable - even CAT 6 - is insignificant against the labour of installing it and the long term value it represents. Wireless is a fudge, to save people fitting cable. It's a nightmare in business and education. IT departments are forced to provide it for all the damned tablets and smartphones in the building!

    Unless they start fitting 10 Watt transmitters to WiFi routers the signal will never go through all the walls.

    Many commercial buildings are now "flood wired" with CAT 6 multicores all over the place - for future use. In my building Network cable is also used for the phones, the fire alarms, heating management - everything - because the standardised cable is so cheap.

    There are exterior - UV stabilized versions of CAT 6 cable that can be routed on outer walls or even thrown over a roof. These can be really useful where internal installation is difficult or impossible.

    While you are wiring consider a long run to the shed at the bottom of the garden. If your NAS lives in the shed your data will survive even if you are unfortunate enough to have a house fire.

    There are even waterproof network sockets for exterior walls. Now you can be wired up while sunbathing on the patio.

    Don't forget to turn off your router's WiFi if you're not using it and CHANGE THE FACTORY PASSWORD if you are still using it.

    • James B
      May 21, 2014 at 6:30 am

      Excellent advice, thanks John. Retrofitting an existing house can be difficult, but for new builds we should be putting Cat6 everywhere!

  38. Doug H
    May 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    What about using network over AC, such as the Powerline adaptor.

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      They're notoriously unreliable: some users report getting 50Mbs from 200Mbs rated adaptors. They very susceptible to noise, and can reportedly be improved by actually tightening the electric cables in a wall socket. It depends on your home wiring, your plug sockets, and how blue the moon is that day ;) I dont own any myself, but my opinion would be that they're probably better than Wifi in most situations, but nowhere near as good as Gigabit Ethernet.

  39. rk
    May 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Nice article as always. For novices, what should one do if the house is already built and no renovations are in the horizon? How to increase speed or at least experience speeds promised by the ISP and the wireless router manufacturer?

    • James B
      May 21, 2014 at 6:28 am

      I would have a go with powerline eithernet adaptors, though it's a gamble as to the exact throughput you'll achieve. Make sure you order from somewhere with a refund policy!

  40. JimAV
    May 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    There is so much to say. While I agree with all of your points, you glossed over some very salient points. WiFi is easier to set up in an existing house, no doubt about that. However too many people things it's appropriate to build a new house or undergo an extensive renovation and not wire anything and instead just rely on wireless. That's really short sighted thinking.

    The quality of your WiFi connection varies from place to place in your house. Not just room to room, but moving a WiFi device just a few inches, or changing it's orientation can result in a dramatic increase or decrease in performance. If the device is a printer in a cabinet or a TV hanging on the wall moving it even a little just isn't an option. (See Murphy's Law) A wired connection is good practice for any and all stationary network devices. It's not only speed but the ability to connect at all that is at risk. Wired devices are plug and play. No passwords or tweaking required, no interference Wired connections are also full duplex. Meaning they go the same speed in both directions at the same time. Most (With few exceptions) wifi devices only go fast in one direction at a time. This is like talking on a walkie talkie instead of a telephone.

    Fast internal network speeds are critical for many applications. Maybe you don't use them today however your not building or remodeling again in the next few years so let's just error on the side of caution and get all the wiring in place while you are at it. Examples: Backing up your computer to a network storage device goes from minutes to seconds over a wire. Sending a picture to your printer to print a nice 8x10 photo goes from over a minute to just a few seconds. Having multiple high bandwidth devices running at the same time goes from impossible to common place with wired devices. Expanding the range of your wireless network requires WIRE! Cat5e is the least expensive, most adaptable wiring you will install in your home. That wire to your doorbell likely costs more than Cat5e, it's a bargain.

    The Internet: While this is the most common reason to network your home here is something to consider. In my area 10 years ago a 10Mbps Internet connections were fast, today 50Mbps is common and 100Mbps is fast. Google is connecting homes in 4 US cities at 1000Mbps speed. No, that' s not an error, that's gigabit Internet! Where do you think Internet speeds are headed? Don't be short sighted, if you are building renovating WIRE your house adequately for data applications.

    • James B
      May 21, 2014 at 6:21 am

      Wow, thank you Jim. Yes, I think we could go on forever about how terrible wifi is, but bear in mind this was supposed to be about Ethernet cables. Those are all excellent points.

  41. Paul Sheldon
    May 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    What about the need for plenum cable if using HVAC duct for runs?

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Google tells me that's an American term for fire retardent plastics or coating - so yep, good point. Not sure its a concern for home installations...?

    • Paul Sheldon
      May 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Local fire codes usually require that any cabling inside ductwork must be fire resistant/proof. Using existing ductwork can provide a path that otherwise would be difficult or impractical.

  42. Ben B
    May 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    What about fibre optic? I have seen fibre to Ethernet adapters so you could run super fast fibre in your walls from a fibre supported switch to the Ethernet sockets from which you use cat 5e to the device. Maybe a bit quicker? But much more expensive!

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      If you had a huge number of devices to run from say upstairs to downstairs, that would totally be a good idea. Like, maybe hundreds of devices ;)

  43. Art
    May 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    This information was very timely for me as I am updating my switches

  44. David McCarthy
    May 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Great article for non-IT folk (after 25 years in IT, knew to use cable and switches etc. when set up multi-PC home office).
    Too any people believe the WiFi hype, and wonder why it's slow at the other end of the house. Where there's a dominant supplier aren't most of the WiFi routers all still on the same default channel too? Can sometimes see half a dozen all the same in towns/cities. Only use USB for our backup broadband dongle (for when the network or exchange is down). Just wish I could figure out how to share it with the whole network!

  45. Doug F
    May 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Monoprice.com sells network switches and all cabling you need fora home network at good prices.

  46. Kamil
    May 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Since when you need crossover cable to connect router to a switch?
    Router: TX on 1&2 and RX on 3&6
    Switch: TX on 3&6 and RX on 1&2

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 10:42 am

      You use crossover to connect two devices directly: be they computers, switches, routers, or hubs. But like I said, its outdated now anyway since most devices will auto-sense and switch modes appropriately, or have a dedicated crossover port.

  47. Edward
    May 20, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Also beware of what cable you buy! There are companies that sell cables as Cat5e using inferior CCA or CCS (copper clad aluminium/steel) instead of pure copper. Because the manufacturer cheaped out these cables they are having a hard time pushing 100 Mbps over a few meters in a stable way.

  48. Tim G
    May 20, 2014 at 7:28 am

    A point to consider: WiFi is much easier and faster to setup, whereas with cabling, there is installation and cabling costs. Also, if a cable breaks or gets damaged, you need to replace the entire cable (unless, it's only the ends, and you need to only replace the jacks).

  49. Jonathan
    May 20, 2014 at 4:59 am

    A couple of points:
    100Base-t (or 100mb/s on Cat 5) uses the pins 1,2,3,6, which is the same as 10Base-t (or 10mp/s on Cat 5). You can even run two connections on the same wire using wiring adapters if you want.

    Cat 5 might be an old standard, but there isn't anything wrong with it. Most people wouldn't even know if they are using it or not, unless you have a long run (use cat 5e instead) or want 1000mb/s for some strange reason.

    Yes, having 1000mb/s will not make Netflix or your games faster, since you are unlikely to have more than a 100mb/s internet connection. And even if you do you are unlikely to notice a difference.

    Physical cabling is better for security too. Wifi is really easy to hack, but cabling needs physical access.

    Other than that your article is great, and thanks for posting.

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

      Thanks for commenting Jonathan. I'd say Gigabit Ethernet is essential for an internal network if you do a lot of file transfers from a NAS or streaming from another machine, for example.

  50. Howard B
    May 19, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    IIRC, unmanaged (dumb) hubs are still being sold; I have one in my home setup just to provide extra ports for low-speed devices (two BasicTalk VOIP boxes and an extra port or two for 10/100 connections).

    • Mike T.
      May 20, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Other than eBay or Goodwill, you'd be hard pressed to find any Ethernet hub for sale. They disappeared from store shelves about a decade ago as switches became cheaper to produce due to economies of scale.

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 7:18 am

      I can't find any on Amazon, though I imagine you might still find some on eBay?

  51. Nonni
    May 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    POE can go with more than 25w. A standard called POE+ can deliver 34.20 W per port, and also can boost up on 1000 Mbps via Cisco access points. And in the future they will even put more W to POE. As of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_over_Ethernet

    • James B
      May 20, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Good point - I should have noted that it's an evolving standard and 25w is just the start of what is possible.

  52. kompani101
    May 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Whilst I agree with everything explained in your article it is first worth checking what your data speed is into your house from the broadband supplier. A modern wi-fi router should allow a minimum 50Mbit/s transmission rates. In the US the average domestic broadband rate into the home is around 9Mbit/s. To save lots of expense and mess it would seem reasonable to just install a broadband wi-fi booster such that your living accommodation is completely covered.

    • Stephen Donaghy
      May 19, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      The speed of your home network should not be dictated by the speed of your internet connection. There are many good reasons for wanting to ensure you have a solid home network - such as serving files from machine to machine, LAN play and so on.

    • Stephen Donaghy
      May 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Good article but I fear you've glanced over a horrible limitation of USB Gigabit adapters - namely, that they're limited to the speed of USB! Unless it's a USB3 adapter going into a USB3 port (In which case, I'd like to think you'd have a gigabit port in the first place), it's going to be severely limited to USB2 or even USB1 speeds.

    • kompani101
      May 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      Good point, missed that one.

  53. Aidan Harris
    May 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Great advice. I have my entire house wired up and a switch which I use to connect all of my devices up. Last year I also bought an Apple AirPort Extreme router which is by far the best investment I’ve ever made in terms of wireless networking and is much better than my ISP’s standard router. As long as my ISP isn’t up to any tricks I get fast Internet speeds and have fast local network speeds too.

    • abudhabikid
      May 20, 2014 at 3:43 am

      "As long as..." Heh, big if!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *