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How do I Wire an Ethernet Cable?

By Rachel Burkot
Updated: May 16, 2024

An Ethernet cable is used to manage Local Area Networks (LANs). An Ethernet cable is long and contain a lot of wires. Wiring this type of computer cable involves collecting materials, sorting out the wires and connecting the system to the Ethernet jack. The materials can be found at most computer or electrical stores.

The cable for wiring should be either a Category 5, 5e, 6 or 7 cable. Category 5 is for basic functionality, while 5e is for gigabit operation, and 6 and 7 should be used for future proofing. Wire cutters are also needed to amend the cable as necessary. For patch cables, RJ45 plugs and an RJ45 crimper are necessary, while fixed wiring requires RJ45 jacks and a 110 punch down tool. A wire stripper and cable tester are recommended, but an Ethernet cable can be wired successfully without these items.

The cable itself comes in either solid or braided form. Braided is more flexible and easier to work with, and it is generally recommended for patch wiring. The solid cable should be used for longer extensions of the cable in one position. Each cable contains eight color-coded wires in four pairs. Each pair contains one white wire and one colored wire, and the wires are twisted closely together to prevent interference of any kind.

The RJ45 plug looks like a phone plug, and there are two different types, based on whether the cable is braided or solid. With braided wires, the connector should have sharp points that pierce the wire, while a solid wire should use a connector with points that grasp the wire on both sides. It is critical to pick the right kind of plug, as choosing the wrong one will ruin the wiring of the Ethernet cable. The RJ45 jacks are only to be used with solid cable, and they are color-coded for easy reference.

To wire the Ethernet cable to the computer network, first cut off 2 inches (5.1 cm) of the cable sheath using the wire cutters. Next, untwist the pairs of wires and align them by color. Trim all wires to equal lengths, leaving about a half-inch (1.3 cm) of the wire exposed, and insert the wires into the RJ45 plug, making sure they are in the correct order. Use the RJ45 crimper to crimp the plug, and be sure the wires come to the front of the plug, touching the metal contact in the plug. Now cut the cable, and repeat the procedure for the second RJ45 plug.

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Discussion Comments
By anon243593 — On Jan 28, 2012

What pins should be terminated in an RJ-45 connector to provide “future proofing”?

By NathanG — On Aug 01, 2011

@hamje32 - Don’t even bother if it’s Internet speed that you are worried about.

It’s true that Cat 6 is fast, but it doesn’t boost your Internet speed and is in fact limited by your Internet speed. If we think of the Internet as the so called superhighway, for example, consider the Ethernet cable as the off ramp to your destination.

If the highway is congested, having a fast off ramp won’t get you to your destination much faster. By the time you hit the ramp, you’re already moving slow.

If you want to know where a Cat 6 cable will help you, it’s if you have a home computer network. That’s the setup I have. I have several computers hooked up to each other by Ethernet. In this case, since it’s a home network, the highway between the devices is blazing fast, and the Cat 6 off ramp, so to speak, makes it possible to move large files quickly between computers.

By hamje32 — On Jul 31, 2011

I have Cat 5 Ethernet cables and have heard that the Cat 6 cables are very fast. I wonder if I should go ahead and get the Cat 6 cables? I could use a boost in my Internet speed. Some of the graphics and videos just load too slowly.

By David09 — On Jul 30, 2011

I don’t know anything about cutting or crimping the Ethernet cables I have. They are literally plug and play ready. I just plug one end of the cable into the back of my DSL modem and the other end into the back of my computer. I don’t have to cut or twist anything.

I imagine if you were an electrician and needed to string out a long piece of cable over some distance, you might need to do that stuff, but I’ve never had to mess with it.

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