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How to Get your Home Wired with Network Cables (Almost) Like a Pro

You might have noticed by now how I’m a big fan of using cables — as opposed to Wi-Fi — as a way to extend a home network. Getting your home wired is the only way to get the best-performing system, including one with lots of Wi-Fi clients.

Running cables sure is a pain and, sometimes, can be so for a rather unusual reason. A reader, named Martin, wrote to me just the other day, saying in part:

[…] I had to drill a bunch of little holes to push the wire through. Not a huge deal. The thing is, by the time I got it to where I wanted, the connector’s head was damaged. Now I have a non-working cable. […]

Well, Martin, I feel you. But using ready-made network cables is not ideal in your case. Most importantly, that cable still works fine, and you’re very close.

That’s right, the actual physical work of running the cables from one place to another (and installing the mounting boxes) is the hardest part of getting a home wired.

If you’re willing to do or have done that, this post will help you deal with the rest. It’s easier than you think and will come in handy when you need to fix a home network.

Getting your home wired: The wires inside a network cable
Want the best Wi-Fi network for your large home? It’s time to get your hands dirty!

Getting your home wired: What you need

First and foremost, you need to figure out the places you need to run the cables to and from. A network cable has two ends. Generally, they are both the same. But for the sake of this post, let call them A and B.

A is where the cable starts, and B is where it ends. More specifically, the A end goes into a switch (or router), and the B end goes into a wired device (like a computer, or a Wi-Fi broadcaster, or another switch).

Figuring out the locations

You only need one or two cables to have a mesh system with a wired backhaul in many homes.

In this case, you run the cable(s) from where the router is to where you want to put the Wi-Fi satellite unit(s), which should be the other end of the home or at least the middle of it.

Alternatively, you can run a cable from the modem (or any Internet source) is to where you want to place the Wi-Fi router. It’s all about proper hardware placement so that you get the best coverage.

See also  Mesh Wi-Fi System Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters

On the other hand, if you want to go all out and get the entire home wired, you’ll need to have a place where all the cables’ A ends converge. It’s best to have them all in a small room or closet, where your Internet service line comes into the house.

From there, have the B ends of the cables go to different parts of the house, as many as you want. Personally, I have two for each room in my home. The place I use as my office, I have a couple for each wall.

What network cable to get

If you only need to run a cable in an open space, it’s OK to use a long ready-made cable. But chances are you will have to run the cables behind a wall, in the attic, outside the house, etc.

Cable types

In this case, it’s best to buy them in bulk. Now you can cut any length you want, and bulk cables are a lot more affordable than ready-made alternatives.

By the way, if you intend to run cables in the attic or outside of your home, it’s a good idea to use weatherproof ones or use a conduit if you live in areas with rough weather or extreme temperatures.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, my experience is indoor cables can last decades outdoor with no issue. The weather plays a big role. But generally, it’s always better to use high-quality cables.

Get the bulk long enough for the entire home. (Note that each cable needs some slack.) Generally, a spindle of 1000 feet (330 m) is more than enough for a large house.

Cable grades (CAT5e vs. CAT6 vs. CAT7 vs. CAT8)

As for cable grades, there’s no discernible difference between CAT5e and CAT6 (or CAT6a) for home applications. Both can deliver up to 10 Gbps but at different max lengths.

(CAT5e can indeed do ten Gigabits per second, despite conventional wisdom that the grade maxes out at 1Gbps. CAT7 is similar to CAT6, just better in terms of continuous length. CAT8 can deliver up to 40 Gbps. More on them in this post about setting up your home network.)

It’s your switch, or router, and the end device that determines a connection’s final speed. So, CAT5e cables will suffice for virtually any home. But it doesn’t hurt to go with CAT6 (or any higher grade).

The rule is that the harder it is to run the cables, the more you should use a higher (and more expensive) cable grade. Pick the part-over-labor-cost ratio that makes sense for you.

See also  Home Wi-Fi Network Explained and How to Build One From Scratch

The basic rule of network wiring

Running network cables is different from wiring a home for electricity. You need one cable for each connection.

That’s because you can’t split a network cable the way you do an electrical wire or service line (phone or coaxial) and expect it to work.

The only way to make one network connection available to multiple wired devices is via a switch. And that involves multiple cables.

That said, let’s take this specific scenario:

If your Internet service line comes in your basement, that’s where you want to put your router. Now, if you want to use a wired device in your living room (like your Xbox) and another in your office (a desktop computer), here are the two ways to wire:

  • One cable that runs from the basement to the living room.
  • Another cable from the basement to the office.
  • Connect the cables’ A ends to the router and B ends to the wired devices.

Mission accomplished!

Getting a home wired the daisy-chain way — not ideal but more real

  • One cable from the basement to the living room.
  • A switch in the living room.
  • Another cable from the living room to the office.
  • Connect the first cable’s A end to the router.
  • Now connect the first cable’s B end and the second cable’s A end to the switch
  • Then connect the second cable’s B end to the desktop computer.
  • Use a third short (ready-made) cable to connect the Xbox to the switch.

Either wiring method will work equally well in terms of speed — they’re just different in the amount of wiring, parts, and labor.

And in reality, you’ll probably use both. That’s because even when you use the standard way, there’s always a chance you need to connect more wired devices than the number of network ports available at a location.

And that brings us to the next important part: The things you attach to the ends of the cables.

What parts to get

Bulk cables don’t include the parts that make them work as network ones. In other words, they are generic wires. Before it can work as a network cable, we have to turn each end into a network connector or port.

So, we need to get these modular bits and install them at the A and B ends of each cable.

Connector vs port (Crimp vs. Jack)

A connector is an end that goes into a network port. A jack is a network port you can plug a connector in. They are male and female terminals.

Network Cable Wiring
A network Jack (top) and a network Crimp. They make a port or a connector, respectively.

The parts for these ends are normally called connectors and ports, but you also find them labeled as RJ45 Crimps and RJ45 Jacks, respectively. (There are many other names, too, like plugs, couplers, and so on.)

If you buy a ready-made network cable, you will note that both ends are crimped connectors. And that’s a good thing, when applicable, always use ready-made cables, which come in many appropriate (short) lengths, to connect wired devices to your network.

Yes, you can make one (I’ve made plenty myself), but I’d recommend against using connectors (crimps) for the cables’ ends when it comes to getting a home wired. It’s best to turn them into network ports. I speak from years of experience.

Here are a few reasons:

  • Less work: It’s much easier and faster to attach a port (RJ45 Jack) to a cable.
  • Higher chance of success: The possibility of making a mistake with a jack is much slimmer than with a crimp. Pay a bit of attention, and you can make a perfect network port at the very first try — more below.
  • Stability: A network port remains stationary, which allows the cable behind it to stay unchanged.
  • Flexibility: Once you have a network port, you’re free to use a cable of any length to connect to it.

That said, let’s all agree that we’ll go with using RJ45 Jacks. The objective now is to create a network port at either end of a cable.

You can also buy jacks in bulk. You need two for each cable, so get how many per your need and then a couple more as spares. They are relatively inexpensive.

Getting a home wired: Matching cables and jacks

The bulk cable grade mentioned above (CAT5e, CAT6, and so on) is just part of the deal. A network cable’s actual grade depends on what you put at each end, too, whichever is lower.

So if you use a CAT5e bulk cable with CAT6 jacks, you’ll get a CAT5e network cable. And the rule is always to use the cable and modular bits of the same grade.

If you have to mix them up for some reason, keep this in mind:

You can use CAT6 jacks (or crimps) on a CAT5e cable, but the other way around is not a good idea. So, if you decide to go with CAT6 wiring, don’t use any CAT5e end bits.

Also, make sure you use the same type at both ends of a cable.

Extra: Patch panel

A patch panel is basically many RJ45 Jacks (network ports) arranged in one place for easy management.

If you want to run five or more cables, it’s a good idea to get a patch panel for their A ends instead of having many separate network ports.

Each port on a panel is numbered, which is a great way to know which cable goes to which location. (That is if you also number the other end of the cables with the same digits.)

By the way, if you need to run more cables than the number of LAN ports on your router, then it’s also time to get a switch to add more ports to the router.

The tools you need

For the job we’re about to do, namely turning a cable’s ends into network ports, we need two pieces of equipment. Both are relatively inexpensive, costing about $20 each.

Home Network Cable Wiring 19
My trusty Punch-down (red) and Crimp tools, I’ve used these for years, and they still work well. Note the 12-port patch panel and the single Jack.

A Punch-down tool

This one is a device that you use to punch the cable’s internal wires onto a jack. It’s super easy and fun to use.

A Crimp tool (or a pair of scissors)

This tool is primarily for crimping the network cable, turning its ends into network connectors. But it’s also great for cutting a cable or removing its shielding to reveal the internal wires.

For what we do here, though, you can get away with a pair of scissors.

Getting your home wired: The inside of a network cable

Inside each network cable (CAT5e grade or higher), you find eight little wires in four twisted pairs.

Each pair has a color of its own, including Blue, Orange, Green, and Brown, with one wire being a solid color and the other mostly white with a color stripe.

It’s important to be aware of these colors since each wire needs to match the jack in a particular order.

Network Cable Wiring
The four twisted pairs of wires inside a network cable. Note the pull string.

Other than that, you’ll also find a pull string, which is thin but very strong, that works as the support when you need to pull the cable from one place to another.

As a result, you can pull pretty hard on a network cable without damaging it. Just don’t pull too hard.

By the way, when running a network cable, make sure you give it some slack and then leave some extra at both ends. You can always cut it shorter or roll it up, but the other way around is very hard.

Understanding the wiring pattern

You need to know the wiring pattern to add a port (or a connector) to a cable’s end. There are two, including T-568A and T-568B.

(Don’t worry about the details of these numbers. Consider them as proper names.)

These are popular terminations, or pinouts, for Ethernet cables of CAT5e and higher. They are two specific ways to match the colors of the wires with pins of the terminal pieces (connector or port).

T-568A vs. T-568B

Either of these patterns will work as long as you use the same at both ends. In this case, we have a Straight-Through Ethernet standard cable.

(If you use T-568A at one end and T-568B at the other, you’ll make a Crossover Ethernet cable. This cable won’t work as the straight-through one, but it’s great to connect two devices directly without a router in between. Still, it’s not a good idea to mix up the cable’s two ends. Pick one and go with it. Consistently!)

It’s worth noting that generally, T-568B is the preferred wiring pattern and the one I’m using for this post as well as in real-life. If you buy a ready-made cable, chances are it also uses this wiring pattern.

By the way, if you use wrong patterns (even when consistently so at both ends), the cable will not work at all or work at reduced speed (10Mbps or 100Mbps). Not a good thing.


Extra: How to find out if a cable uses T-568A or T-568B

To find out if a cable uses which pattern, take a look at its connector. First, flip it so that the clip side is way from you. Now, if the first pin is stripe green, it’s a T-568A; if it’s stripe orange, it’s a T-568B.

T568A vs T568B
The two common terminals of network cables.

Now, look at the other end. If it’s the same, then it’s a straight-through cable. If not, then it’s a crossover. (By default, all network cables are straight-through, you have to specify that you want a crossover to find one.)

Of course, you can always cut off the tip of the cable and re-crimp it. However, again, we don’t do that in this post.

Extra: Why making your own network connectors is not a good idea

As you can imagine from the pattern above, crimping a cable is quite painful and prone to errors.

That’s because:

  1. You first have to arrange all eight little wires in a specific pattern as shown above — good luck with that!
  2. Then cut off the tips of the wires to make them all even — good luck again!
  3. Then stick all of them into a tiny crimp plug without messing up the pattern — make sure you hold your breath when you’re at it.
  4. After that, insert the plug itself — with the wires loosely attached — into the crimper’s hole.
  5. Finally, crimp the whole thing with one hand while keeping your other’s fingers crossed in high hopes that the wires’ order won’t be shoved around during the process.

OK, it’s not that painful, but you get the idea.


Getting your home wired: How to make a network port

Making a network port (CAT5e or higher) out of a cable’s end is much easier than turning it into a connector.

You only need to deal with a single wire at a time. As long as you’re not severely color-blind, you can’t make a mistake. The steps below will help.

By the way, I used CAT5e parts for the photos, but everything is the same if you use CAT6 and higher equivalents.

Also, the pictures only serve as examples and are not part of a real project — I’d be too busy to take photos (and my hand wouldn’t be that photogenic).

1. Determine the wiring pattern

Take a look at the jack and determine which wiring pattern you’ll use. Again, either will work, but the T-568B is the most common.

Note how each groove has its own color corresponding to the cable’s wires, as mentioned above.

Network Cable Wiring
A close-up of a network Keystone Jack: Note the T-568B pattern, the lower row of colors: Stripe Orange, solid Orange, strip blue, solid blue. The rest are on the other side.

2. Prepare the wire

Cut the cable tip to remove the parts of internal wires you might have inadvertently damaged during the installation — something that happened in Martin’s case mentioned the top of the post.

Network Cable Wiring
Remove about 1 inch of the shielding to get the wires out.

Now use the crimp tool (or the scissors) to remove about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the shielding to reveal the copper wires. Spread them out as twisted pairs. (You can cut off the pull string or just put it out of the way.)

3. Install the wires on the jack

Keep the pairs as together as possible. Now press them down individually on the grooves of the jack, matching the colors of the pattern (T-568B in this case.)

There’s no need to press them down too hard, just tight enough so they won’t fall out.

Network Cable Wiring
Press the wire individually on the Jack, matching the wiring pattern (T-568B). Here’s the right side.

Home Network Cable Wiring 8 1
And here’s the left side.

Network Cable Wiring
And here’s from the top.

4. Punch ’em down!

Now comes the fun part. Use the punch-down tool to push the wires down onto the groove — one at a time.

Network Cable Wiring
Place the Punch-down tool on top of the groove with the blade side on the outside.

You need a surface for this (the wall will do). Make sure you put the blade side of the tool’s tip on the outside — it’ll cut off the extra wire. Now press it down in a quick action. You’ll hear a satisfying click sound.

Network Cable Wiring
Note how the extra wire is cut off.

Network Cable Wiring
All clean!

Repeat that with the rest of the wires, and you got yourself a network port perfectly attached to the cable. (The attachment is actually really tight, much more durable than a hand-crimped connector head.)

5. Attach the port to a face plate

Now, if you have a mounting box, attach the port to the box’s faceplate, and mission accomplished. If not, you can get a surface-mount box. Even if you leave the cable loose, you still just got yourself a network port.

Network Cable Wiring
Each Keystone Jack has a clip for it to fit tightly on a faceplate.

Home Network Cable Wiring 18
Like this.

Home Network Cable Wiring 17 1
Here’s the real newly minted network port.

And that’s it. Now repeat the same process at the other end of the cable and the rest of the cables, and you just seriously got your home wired.

Extra: How to wire a patch panel

Wiring a patch panel is like wiring a bunch of jacks at the same spot. The principle is the same: You match the colors of the wires with the grooves on the panel.

Network Cable Wiring
Wiring a patch panel shares the same principle as that of a single jack.

Under each panel, you’ll also see the pinout patterns of both T-568A and T-568B wiring methods. Pick one, and go with it consistently. By the way, on a patch panel, you might find all eight wires of a cable on one side.

Patch Panel Finished
A patch panel makes organizing and managing network cables an easy job.

Again, make sure you get a panel that has enough ports for the number of cables you’ve run. In this example, I used a 12-port panel even though I only ran six lines. By the way, I finished this job in less than 30 minutes, including the time spent on the photos.

Getting your home wired: The takeaway

Again, what I described above is the easiest part of wiring a home, though it can seem the most intimidating. Hopefully, the latter is only so before you’ve read this post.

So here’s the trick: Get someone lanky to do the actual work of running the cables. Once they’ve gotten the cables’ ends sticking out of the wall (or the floor), send them home! It’s time for you to have fun while saving some money on labor.

It’s very satisfying to see how much better your home (Wi-Fi) network becomes afterward, especially when you can claim you did that (all) by yourself!

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51 thoughts on “How to Get your Home Wired with Network Cables (Almost) Like a Pro”

  1. I had a 10 year old house that has CAT5 runs terminated in 568 already for telephone POTS in each room. I went to the distribution panel and installed a 16 port switch and removed the POTS punchdown board and terminated all the jacks with 568 crimps (whew, that is the hard part to get all the colors right order) – but I now have 1Gbps full speed throughout the house! I left a few POTS connections as they were for old telephone service in a few rooms.

    Question: All the attic cables are the blue (plenum?) rated type. Should I go with this kind of cable if I ever needed to add more runs – is it more fire safe?

    Reply
    • Great job, Shawn! You should go with CAT5e or later. What type doesn’t really matter much. Generally you don’t need to worry about fire hazzard with network cables. But if you are unsure, get a conduit.

      Reply
    • I am no expert, so don’t take this as a final authority, but my understanding is that plenum rated cable is required anywhere that cabling is run where it is part of an air distribution system. The idea is that the jacket is more flame resistant (and smokes less?), so in the event of a fire, smoking cables don’t distribute the toxic smoke throughout a building and cause occupants to be unable to find there way out (or cause them to lose conciousness on their way out). My thought is that an attic space wouldn’t necessarily be considered a plenum. I am also not sure if the color is a reliable indicator of plenum rating. There is another rating for cable, too (riser), which is less stringent, as a riser isn’t part of the air distribution system.

      I used this link when I was researching the possibility of running cables through HVAC ducts – which I haven’t yet attempted: https://www.bwcfla.com/blog/plenum-vs-riser-cabling

      Reply
  2. Mr Ngo

    Thanks for all the good information. I’ve run new wire in an older house I had to clean up an old home network before wireless was popular. We’re building a new home and I want to do as much as I can to future-proof it for my remaining days. I’ll have 2 access points for complete coverage. I also plan to run LAN wire to TV locations, computer locations, surveillance cameras, appliances (IoT), and probably a few more things I haven’t thought of yet. Not all will be used immediately, but I won’t have to go back and try to run wire later.
    Everything will go to a dedicated closet where the service comes in.

    I haven’t had luck in finding someone to help plan this for the new home. Everyone wants to do all the work for a ridiculous price. Any suggestions on how to get it planned so I can do the install?

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong

    I’m finally taking the plunge and will be wiring my apt shortly. I’ve ordered all the equipment (will go with Cat6) and will have professionals install the wires, but am planning on connecting the jacks/crimps (for ceiling AP) & patch-panel myself, as you suggested. I’ve also ordered a basic test kit (one that goes through each pin individually at both ends of the cable) to check for faulty connections. My questions:

    – testing kits: is it worthwhile getting anything more sophisticated than what I mentioned above? If yes, do you have any recommendations?
    – speed test: I keep reading about people getting only very low real-world speeds on their cables. Is this a real concern? And if yes, what’s the best/easiest way to test for it? Could I just connect two computers at either end of a cable, then measure the speed at which a file is copied (eg. LAN speed test)? Or would you recommend a throughput test ( eg Tamos)? If I understand correctly, the throughput test involves router & switch, so might make it harder to pinpoint the reasons for a slow connection.
    The cables I’m using are obviously not crossover ones & I’m aware that the max measured speed would be capped at 1Gbps due to my ethernet adapters/Gigabit-switch, but it would nevertheless be reassuring to know that I get the max out of my equipment/the cables aren’t defective before I patch up those walls again….

    Thanks for your input!
    Roman

    Reply
    • If you do your job properly, don’t worry about speed testing, Roman. It’ll work. But if you mess up (which is hard), you can always cut the cable’s tip and rewire it. So a simple test kit, for correct wiring, will do. I don’t even use that anymore. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hello, this is very helpful. In the past I have meshed(activated AIMesh) 2 Asus RT-68us(former TMO AC1900), but I think I daisy chained them, meaning I had a cable from the primary RT-68u running to the secondary/node RT-68u, they were both on AIMesh. I wanted the secondary to be wired for a stronger Wifi signal, so what was I actually doing AIMesh or daisy-chaining the routers? can you do both? I have multiple IoT devices, cameras, lights, Chromecast, Google Max, Google hub, minis etc.
    For the next setup I am looking for an Asus Wifi 6 to act as primary and run the RT-AC68s as nodes. I can wire the nodes. What is the ideal Asus Wifi 6 for a setup like this. Probably I need the strongest connection to a PS5, plex server and also work laptop.

    Reply
  5. I appreciate this article very much. I have a question about the cabling itself. We’re planning to build a new house in the next year, and my plan is to have a network closet and run cabling from various rooms to the closet and create my network. A couple of the devices will be Power over Ethernet devices. Does that impact the type of cabling I should buy? I’d prefer not to carry different types of cabling just for ease of install and maintenance, but I also don’t want to break the bank of providing PoE cabling throughout the house where 90% won’t be PoE devices. So, I’m thinking it’s either Cat6 Plenum or Cat6 CMR Riser cabling. There will be one cable that will go to a garage-mounted camera, which suggests to me that outdoor Cat6 will be necessary as well. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    Reply
      • Thanks, Dong, I will follow the advice of a wise person who said “Get someone lanky to do the actual work of running the cables. ” 🙂 I’ve seen some pictures where the cables are different colors. Does it help if you lay, say “blue” for 2nd floor and another color for first floor? (along with marking the cables separately) Is there any benefit for color coding?

        Reply
        • Not really. It’s fun but in the end, it’ll make you more confused using different color for the same type of connection. That said you can use colors for specific ones like between the modem and router, router and switch, etc. Use a panel and number the ports as I mentioned in the post, that’s the best.

          Reply
  6. Tremendous article—the best I’ve found so far. I have 5 ports on my router, which I rent from my internet provider. I need to add two more. Since two of my room are 100 feet away from the router, I was going to add an internet switch near those rooms. Then I’ll run new internet cable (cat5e?) to create two additional jacks. Do you recommend a particular wire. There are so many out there and I don’t know the differences. Thanks for a great article.

    Reply
  7. Hi Dong,
    I have learned so much about home networking from your site. You’ve convinced me that wired backhaul is the way to go and I’m going to take the plunge and run a few wires on the outside of my house. After a lot of reading, I’m still not sure about one thing related to multi gig ports and how it relates to my router.

    I’ve just ordered the Asus RT-AX86U and it has one 2.5Gb port. I know that the system is limited by its weakest part, however, I’m wondering if there’s any benefit of connecting the router to my wired network via the multi gig port as a LAN. For example, if I chose to connect the node to the network using the 2.5 GB WAN port.

    My internet is stupid slow, and I know this wouldn’t help with that, but I’m wondering if it would add anything to internal network speed for any wired devices with multi gig capabilities over a standard gigabit connection.

    Thanks,
    Kristin

    Reply
    • No, unless you have a Multi-Gig switch which you likely don’t, Kristin. You can use that port for a fast Multi-Gig device, or as the WAN port if you have Gig+ or faster Internet (which it seems like you don’t.) More on Multi-Gig in this post. Way to go on getting your home wired, by the way!

      Reply
  8. Hi Dong.
    Thank you for all the helpful information around your site.
    Unfortunately I am still lost on which option to go for.
    We are in at 4 floor townhouse with the fiber internet (1000 mbps) coming in at ground level, which is connected to the router supplied by the internet provider (an Icotera i4850-00), which is not possible to put in bridge mode. From there, I have direct wired connections from the ground floor to almost every room in the house. At present, I have wired the icotera directly to each satellite in an old Eero mesh system (one wired satellite in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor respectively). From the satellite in the 1st floor I have connected the TV also by cable.
    My problem is the wifi and the wired TV loose internet connection very often, which is driving us nuts.

    I believe we need 3 satellites to cover our house, and I prefer to wire the TV in the 1st floor.

    I would also prefer to use power over ethernet.

    My questions:
    1. Which system should I choose? (It seems the Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8 AX6600 is a good choice, but can I connect 3 of those and do they work with PoE)?
    2. Should I replace the provided router Icotera i4850 with the router unit of the new system or run cables from the Icotera to router unit of a new system and then wired from there to the satellites?
    3. How and where in the line do I set up the PoE injector ?

    Really hope you can give some guidance..
    Thanks, Simon

    Reply
  9. I hired a telecommications pro to wire my home, patch panel and all. I opted for Cat 6a cable but I realized the installer installed a Cat6 patch panel. Will it make much difference? My speeds are now are excellent but perhaps they could have been even better if the panel was Cat6a rated?
    Thanks Dong, you the best!

    Reply
    • For your case, Marc, that’d make zero difference, no matter how you try. Also, the patch panel is easy to replace and the difference between CAT6 and 6a is in the cabling, not the terminals. You’re in a good place.

      Reply
  10. I live in a 3000 sq ft house with a slab foundation and have an Asus XT8 mesh system (thanks for the recommendation Dong!) The mesh system gives me great wireless coverage right now for 11 devices (I have 400 mps service), so I have two questions:

    1. Should I even bother with the hassle of ethernet wiring? I think I would need to bring the cable up from the router and then through the attic and then down to the node to make this happen.

    2. Assuming the answer to the above is “heck, yeah!” I’m guessing the Cat 7 cable I would use should be connected to any LAN port of the router, yes? However, which node port should be connected with the cable? WAN or LAN?

    Thanks for your great site!

    Reply
    • Sure, Tom.

      1. Not really if it’s working well right now. The XT8 is tuned for wireless (as most tri-band sets). Using wired backhaul is fine with it, but major firmware might break the mesh (because developers make the firmware assuming that folks use the wireless configuration). Then you need to wait for a minor firmware release to fix that.
      2. CAT5e is fine but it doesn’t hurt to go with a higher grade. More here. Use the WAN port on the node. More here.

      Reply
  11. Moved into my home 10+ years ago and learned it was already wired with ethernet – 15 lines all home-run to a point in the garage. But I learned a year later that it is all Cat 5, not 5e or 6.

    Currently I have Gigabit internet and see 800 down/900 up. I am trying to set up a Wifi 5 mesh network for the first time, but would also like to look ahead to upgrading to Wifi 6e mesh network in 2022 or 2023.

    Should the speed limitations of Cat 5 wiring in my home be a concern as I prepare to set up a mesh network with a wired backhaul for a Wifi 5 router (Asus RT-AC88u or Netgear Orbi) and 2 or 3 mesh nodes/satellites?

    Reply
      • Hi Dong, isn’t Cat 5 officially intended/supported up to 1000Base-T only ? For 2.5G Ethernet you’d need Cat 5e – and then Cat 6 or better for 10GBase-T ? Speeds higher than ones in the official spec might work on lower-spec-cable, especially on shorter distances and when there is less interference and crosstalk from other cables – but that’s just “might” ? Then commenting on Tony’s question I would say trying to use existing cables, with new termination – would likely make sense in a home user scenario, if only to save time and effort needed to lay new wiring – but would require some testing, also for CRC errors etc. Just my 5c 😉

        Reply
        • CAT5 is generally 100Mbps, Dobry, some cable *might* be able to handle 1Gbps. CAT5E sure can do 10Gbps easily, I’ve been using that. More here. And yes your suggestion makes sense.

          Reply
          • Alright, looks that we agree. If you meant “they will likely work in real life” then this is what I meant too. I was more referring to the standards which define what speed each of the cable categories must support, over the rated max distance – in order to be compliant with it’s category rating. And because the cable manufacturers need to provide some margin – so then often cables actually work also with higher speeds than those for which they were officially rated. Cheers !

  12. Thank you Dong. I have read this right through.
    1. Running cat6 from living room (router is here) to office for my Mac
    2.Want to put face plate with two jacks in the living room wall and the same type in the office (only need 1 cable but it seems most say run an extra cable in case)
    3.Then run short cable from router to jack and short cable on office from jack to Mac
    4.It seems difficult to buy bulk cat6, but best buy has Lan cable with connectors, can I cut those off and add RJ45 connectors to same cable?

    Reply
    • Then you should already have ALL the answers, Labren.

      1. Sure, CAT5e is fine too.
      2. Yes, remember one cable per jack (each end). You can’t split the cable the way you do a phone line.
      3. Yes, just like you’d use any device with a wall network port.
      4. Yes, I mentioned that specifically in the post. Make sure you use CAT6 end bits on a CAT6 cable.

      Reply
  13. I was having trouble getting internet in the basement and my current WiFi router setup and extender just doesn’t cut it so I was about to buy an expensive WiFi mesh system and read this article and it motivated me to run CAT 6 cable to the basement. Anyways, I bought the tools your recommended, ran the wire, and everything now works great in the basement with a two router setup(one in basement connected to the one upstairs by CAT 6 cable).

    Great article Dong! I also really like abundant use of pictures in this article which makes the process so much easier to follow.

    Reply
  14. Hi Dong,

    How do you quickly identify which Cat5E cable connects to which room? We have Cat5E already run in the house, but it terminates in RJ-11 ports, so I’m trying to replace the terminations with Cat5E ones. The problem is, in the basement it’s just a bunch of unlabeled Cat5E cables without connector pins and I don’t need/want to attach them all to a jack.

    Reply
    • You can get an inexpensive toner. That’s what I had to do as I bought one of those kits that have the numbered ends so that I would know which room had which but there were no RJ11 connectors.

      Instead I just used an inexpensive toner to determine where each one terminated. The side that generated the tone plugged into the RJ11 jack and the I used the other end where the cables were loose. I could have also just gone ahead and changed the the RJ11 jacks to RJ45 and then used the kit I had.

      Reply
  15. Dong: re modems, if I set up an AiMesh w/ wired backhaul (2 AX58U routers), what about the modem (Xfinity); does that play any meaningful role in establishing a reliable, good system? If so,
    – Thoughts re brand/model? Not all work with Xfinity of course.
    – Hard wire or wi-fi connection from router to modem? Does it matter?

    Thanks!

    Randy

    Reply
  16. Thanks for your wonderful reviews, posts and tips, Dong. Appreciate the insights!

    I moved into a 4-level, 2000SF townhome and am using a TP-Link Deco M5 mesh with generally decent but certainly mixed results. I’ve had to use 4 nodes: basic modem/router +1 M5 on basement/level 1, and one M5 on levels 2-4. A daisy-chain style setup is the only choice given cable/internet comes in to the basement/level 1, and then it’s in a closet. So that, plus multiple floors – in spite of an overall small footprint – seem to be challenges, though I’ve never experimented with a higher-end modem/router or other mesh units (M9 didn’t exist when I installed).

    It’s time for a faster, more consistent system. I am following your lead and exploring a wired AX system: the initial owner installed a complete home wired system/board (10+ years ago – so I need to confirm exactly what I have). Here are my questions:

    1. On the presumption that it is at least CAT5 am I correct that all I’d need to do is swap out the current modem/router in the basement/level 1 for a WiFi6 unit, and then hardwire that to an additional WiFi 6 router(s) on the other levels (I’m thinking first trying just one additional router on level 3)?

    2. Sounds like you’d still recommend one of the Asus dual-band AX routers in this instance (RT-AX88U, AZ89X, AX3000) and skipping the tri-band, wireless mesh systems?

    3. If I do hav the ability to go wired/wired backhaul, is it really as simple as buying 2-3 new AX routers, connecting them, and then simply connecting all our devices wirelessly to the routers?

    Many thanks, Dong!

    Randy

    Reply
    • Get a bunch of dual-band AiMesh routers (any of those you mentioned or a mix of them will do) and swap them out with the TP-Link hardware, Randy. Daisy-chaining is fine with wired backhaul. You will need to set up your network from scratch but it’ll work much better.

      Reply
  17. Hi Dong,

    I’ve been poking around the site a bit trying to find the right place to ask this question. Based on some old columns of yours (I thought here, but maybe on CNET back in the old days) I wired my a fews house using Actiontec Moca adapters/wifi access points to run from my upstairs router to the downstairs family areas. Well with everyone at home we’ve got Zooms running all the time and the wifi doesn’t reach the porch, so I’m looking to up my game.

    I don’t know whether I should try and add another moca adaptor/wifi access point near the porch. Upgrade my existing router or scrap everything and get a mesh system. Right now having the entertainment center hard wired for streaming is really nice.

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    • I’d say it’s time to step up the game and wire your home with real network cable, K. But if you still want to stay with MoCA, it’s good to change the adapters into newer standard that Gigabit-capable, like this one: https://amzn.to/2D9pzfM

      Reply
  18. Doing. Your a total idiot or really smart. I wonder how much money your making off all the just right placed ads throughout the article.

    As for your article, did you watch a few YouTube videos to figure it out? If people do it your way, they’ll have slower speeds than with their wifi. With your suggestions, I promise!

    Reply
    • How would they get slower speeds? Can you elaborate? As for your questions, I’d say I’m more comfortable in my own skin than you can ever imagine. 🙂

      Reply
      • I can’t believe you actually bothered responding to that totally disrespectful comment of that idiot, Dong. But that says a lot about you, too. Have a great day! Love your website. Thanks for the honest and useful information!

        Reply
        • He did give me a choice of “smart”, so maybe he had a point there, Gail. It’s all good. I’m happy to have any real input, as opposed to the crazy amount of spams I have to go through daily. 🙂 And you’re welcome!

          Reply
  19. Any tips on running cable in a house with completely finished basement (and no accessible attic? Can cables be run in HVAC ducts, and if so, how does one manage to get the cable fished through all the turns?

    Reply
    • Jeff, I have the same type of basement. I just ran the cable loose under the floor and drill a couple of holes on the floor itself. I did use outdoor cables for this part.

      Reply

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