Wiring For High Speed Ethernet March 5, 2009

Lets face it, wireless just isn’t going to cut it for a large house with many computers and devices on it. I still to this day have friends asking me why hardwire anymore? Some of them adamantly oppose my preference for copper for reasons unbeknownst to me. Being a software engineer and avid geek I have a great deal of experience with enterprise systems. Although all companies structure their data centers differently there is one thing they all have in common, copper. In order to hit high speeds reliably you must have a direct connection the switch or router. A house with many devices is no different.

Here is a perfect example of why I am hard wiring as many things as I can, leaving the wireless to just the peripherals. My housemate and I stream music wirelessly to other rooms from one central machine. The music is stored on the network via NAS (network attached storage). When we are playing music from our main iTunes machine, the music must be pulled from the NAS via wifi to the machine, then back out to the wireless access point, then out to its final destination. That is a lot of network hops over the airwaves! Now start adding other devices like iPhones or laptops and your music starts skipping and some devices start getting kicked off the network. The problem multiplies when you are streaming video from room to room and doing multiple things at one time. Its an all around bad scene and an annoyance. Enter gigabit ethernet via Cat 6!

Switching to this system we have permanently eliminated this issue, creating speeds that are literally 10 times faster than even 802.11n. In my experience, N is not that fast and progressively gets worse the farther you travel from your access point. Then add 10 other hungry devices on the same access point and your out of luck. Reliability is gone. Hardwiring as many devices as you can frees up your WiFi for the devices that actually need them, PDA’s and laptops.

So, now I have hopefully explained myself enough, onto the actual work! I am not going to give a tutorial on how to run wires, just point out a few tips and tricks I encountered along the way. First and foremost, run more wires than you need! You never know what the future holds and how technology is going to change. Now a days you can run everything from video to home phone over Ethernet cable.

Second, and almost as important as the first, any open wall is an opportunity! Case in point, the new fireplaces that are being installed gave me ample room to run two new pieces of Cat 6 to the living room.

In other cases, I have also run cabling outside along with the coax cable for television. That being said, Ethernet cable does not like the sun and will crack over time. Water should be okay but time will tell. At least its not buried in a wall that I will never want to open again.

To make the installation look neat and professional go down to the Home Depot and get yourself some nice wall plates and Ethernet jacks from Leviton. They aren’t too expensive and give a nice finished look. They are also easy to install and directions come with every port, along with a little tool that helps you punch the wires down tight. One thing the directions don’t tell you is which wiring schema to use! This confused more for a second there until I realized on the back of the port you could peel off the T568B wiring layout to reveal the T568A layout. See the picture below.

Other than that there were really no surprises. The job went quite quickly and the results were immediate. My favorite type of results! Our network is blazingly fast, more reliable, and our access point seems to be happier and faster because of it. Thank you good old copper!

One Comments
Trenton Lipscomb April 3rd, 2009

Funny to stumble across this, John. I was doing the same thing on my 1930s craftsman in Portland. I picked up some rails from a music store for cheap and I’m building out a mini equipment rack in the basement. Monoprice.com has a rack compatible panel which accepts keystone jacks, so I can buy those for $3 per end and cat6 for less than 10 cents/foot. My longest runs are 100′ so I’m able to do this for well less than $10/port. Cat6 FTW!

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