Hardwire Your Network

Even though wireless networking is definitely picking up the pace, a hardwired network will still produce much faster speeds, and is much more secure. I’ve come up with a basic how-to guide on putting the infrastructure in place for a hardwired network.

1. Get the cable and accessories. You can usually buy network cable by the foot at home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. The big decision here is: how much and what type? As far as quantity goes, you could measure exactly where the cable will be run, but an educated guess can be just as effective. However, it might help to overshoot your estimate by about 10%, so that you don’t end up missing some cable. As for type, there are two major categories of network cable: CAT5e and CAT6. The main difference between the two is related to data transmission capabilities. CAT5e is usually capable of approximately 100 MHz of bandwidth, while CAT6 comes in around the 200 MHz mark. Yes, CAT6 is better, but is also more expensive. If CAT6 is in your price range (check with your local home improvement stores), by all means go for it. If not, CAT5e will still produce excellent speeds, especially when compared to wireless. There are also some accessories you will need to purchase. Pick up some low-voltage wall boxes (one for each wall plate), RJ-45 jacks, and faceplates to cover it all up with. You also might want to think about getting some fish tape or glow sticks to make it easier to run the cable down the wall.

2. Cut the hole(s) for the wall jack(s). Before you cut anything, be sure to check where the studs are in the wall. You can do this by either using a stud finder, or just by knocking on the wall. If it sounds hollow, there is no stud in that location. If it sounds (and feels) solid, don’t cut there – you’ve got a stud! Once you’ve found an appropriate location to cut, hold up the low-voltage box to the wall, trace the outline, and score it lightly. Next, cut along the lines you’ve scored until the piece of sheetrock falls out. It helps to have a keyhole saw to do this, but a serrated kitchen knife will also do the job. NOTE: It helps to pick a location close to other wall plates, such as cable and/or power. That way you won’t have to worry about drilling a hole in the attic to get the cable out from inside the wall.

3. Insert the low-voltage box(es). If you scored and cut correctly, then the low-voltage wall box should fit snug inside the hole. Once it is in, fold up the pieces of metal hanging down to secure the box.

4. Run the cable. Take the roll of cable you purchased and use a fish tape/glow stick to fish one end of the cable through the hole, and up into the wall. Again, if the wall plate is not close to others, you may need to drill a hole to get the cable up out of the wall. Otherwise, you should be able to run it through the existing hole. Once the cable is in the attic, continue to pull, and trail the cable over to where the other hole is located. Remember to run in wide swoops – don’t make abrupt turns and/or create kinks in the cable, as this will result in decreased performance. Once you reach the location of the other hole, run the cable down the (hopefully) pre-drilled hole and into the wall. Fish it out, and…your cable is run!

5. Wire the jacks. In a standard ethernet cable, there are usually eight wires: White/Orange, Orange, White/Green, Blue, White/Blue, Green, White/Brown, and Brown. For RJ-45, there are two major wiring schemes that specify where the wires should be placed in the jack: (T568)A and (T568)B. If you’re wiring from computer to computer, use A. If you’re going from computer to hub, use B. The B scheme is demonstrated in the list above, but most jacks have a label on the side with both schemes listed.The jack should have come with a punchdown tool to use when seating the wires inside the appropriate slots. Once you’ve decided on a scheme, simply sit the wire on top of the corresponding slot, push down with the tool, and repeat for each wire.

6. Finish it up. Pop the jack inside the faceplate’s hole, and then screw the faceplate into the low-voltage box. Finally, go get some patch cables, and connect your components!

While this is still a very rudimentary guide, I think I’ve covered most of the basics. Of course, every application is different, but if you’re looking to boost the speed and security of your home network – hardwiring is just what you were looking for!