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With two or more desktop PCs or laptops at home, it is advantageous to establish a home network cabled with bulk cat6 or cat5e bulk cable. File sharing between computers gives family members more flexibility in saving important data and documents on different computers, and you can access these anytime from any unit. You can also share videos, music files and photos with other members of the family.
Another benefit of a home network is the sharing of the printer and other peripheral devices like network scanners and share Internet connectivity. You avoid the inconvenience of moving each device from one desktop to another, which can be annoying when family members are working simultaneously on different computers and require printing or scanning jobs. Family members can also enjoy playing multi-player games that support LAN (local area network) mode when the computers are networked.
Ethernet cables are quite affordable when you buy in bulk, for example, cat5 bulk cables cost about $80 per 1000 ft pack. Thus, with a pack of cables, a few tools, and RJ45 connectors, you can establish a home network through a few simple steps that involve preparing different lengths of Ethernet cables that will connect the devices to a network router.
Ethernet Cables for the Home Network
Ethernet cables are available in different standards, with most home networks cabled with category 5 (cat5) or category 5 enhanced (cat5e) cables. Some homeowners have started to use the more advanced category 6 (cat6) cables for their home networks, but if you are just starting with a network with few connected devices, it is more cost effective and practical to put up a network using cat5 or bulk cat5e cables. Besides being substantially cheaper that cat6, cat5 or cat5e cables are more flexible and easier to handle that the thicker cat6 cables.
Cat5, cat5e, and cat6 Ethernet cables consist of four pairs of twisted wire that either come in unshielded twisted pairs (UTP), or shielded twisted pairs (STP) that has extra resistance. Cat 5 provides 10/100 functionality, meaning the cable supports theoretical data transfer speeds from 10 to 100 Mbps, while cat5e provides up to 1000 Mbps or gigabit speed. The more superior cat6 supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) and in case you decide to use it, gives future proofing to your network.
The four twisted wire pairs inside the Ethernet cable are color-coded, one wire being solid colored and the other a white wire with a colored stripe. Thus, you will see twisted wire pairs made of blue and white/blue, brown and white/brown, green and white/green, and orange and white/orange inside the cable sheathing. The difference between cat5 and cat5e cable is the greater number of twists per length of cat5e, while cat6 uses a thicker gauge of wire and may contain a plastic sheathing or spline separating the wire pairs. The twists are extremely important because they reduce crosstalk between the wire pairs, which means less noise and signal interference during the transmission of signals. When you prepare the exact length of Ethernet cables for your network and terminate each end of the cable using RJ45 connectors, cat5 and cat5e handles similarly while cat56 may be more difficult to prepare because the thicker wire is harder and less flexible.
The RJ45 connectors for cat5 and cat5e cables are the same, while those for cat6 have larger holes to accommodate the thicker gauge of the wire. Most RJ45 jacks are labeled with color coded wiring diagrams for either the T568A or T568B standard, or both. It is important to follow the same wiring standard when terminating both ends of the cable, though you can have a combination of T568A and T568B standards in your network without encountering any issues in performance.
You can prepare straight through Ethernet cables for connecting network devices to the router, and crossover cables to connect one computer with another, bypassing the router or hub. Straight through cables have the same color-coded diagrams at both ends that terminate with the RJ45 jack, while crossover cables require a different color-coding for each end.
DIY – Preparing Ethernet Cables for the Home Network
To prepare your own Ethernet cables, you will need a wire cutter, wire stripper, RJ45 crimping tool, RJ45 connectors, and a sufficient length of Ethernet cable for your network, for example 1000ft cat5, cat5e or cat6. For every device that you will connect to the network router, run the full length of the Ethernet cable in place and cut the required length with sufficient excess to avoid cable stretching and to have sufficient lengths to work at both ends. Once you have pre-cut the cable to the lengths that you need, the following simple steps will help you in terminating the cables with the RJ45 jacks at both ends.
You will save a substantial amount when you learn how to make your own Ethernet cables from cat5e bulk or cat6 cables, and you will have more flexibility in repositioning or adding devices to your network.