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What Is the Purpose of An Ethernet Cable?

If you decided to go with wired (ethernet) connections over wireless connections, it’s important you get to learn some facts about ethernet cables. While this post won’t tackle all the available types of ethernet cables today (here’s a useful guide to know each one’s pros and cons), read on to learn where a good quality ethernet cable different types of ethernet frame format and can be useful to your work or home setup. 

Local Networks: Connecting PC 1 to PC 2 and so on

Ethernet cables are used in connecting computers to a local network or connecting two or more routers, switches, and other devices built with ethernet ports to each other. 

Desktop computers are often built with an ethernet port, which users use to connect to a wired network. The port is normally connected to a built-in Ethernet network adapter (known as the ethernet card), which you can find attached to its motherboard. Laptops also have ethernet ports, but not all (MacBook Air is a notoriously good example of a laptop built without one but instead lets you connect an Ethernet dongle via its USB port). 

Ethernet cables aren’t just designed for computer use. Other consumer electronics like televisions, gaming consoles, or video recorders all come with ethernet ports that you can connect to any other device with the same ethernet port. 

Google Chromecast, which many people know as a device for streaming TV shows and movies via a wireless connection, can also work without Wi-Fi. You’d just need an ethernet adapter, so you can attach an ethernet cable to Google Chromecast and use it for your computer or other devices.

Routers, the Internet and Building a Smart Office

The most common purpose of an ethernet cable is to connect a Wi-Fi router or modem to the landline phone or another internet port. Ethernet cables are important to access the internet because it is responsible for carrying broadband signals between your router, modem, computer and other wired internet-capable devices. 

If you have Wi-Fi at home, its modem would probably be connected to the main router by ethernet cable. Many households use both Wi-Fi and wired connections. While wireless connections have paved the way for building a smart office or smart home that works with built-in Wi-Fi capability, the more devices are connected to a single router, the slower internet speeds will become. 

Using Ethernet cables to hardwire specific devices is often an effective solution to get a more stable connection with slightly more accurate speeds. A hybrid setup allows users to combine both ethernet connections and a smart office or home. For example: 

  • Hardwire devices that you use more regularly, such as the gaming console, desktop computer, or stationary laptops. 
  • Hardwire devices that may be susceptible to security breaches. These include routers and modems, surveillance cameras, NAS drivers, and so on. Wi-fi is super portable, but one of its weakness is the susceptibility to hacking or signals being intercepted by scrupulous people. Data sent via ethernet cables won’t be accessed by anyone not physical present near the local network. 
  • If you have a smart home, you have an option of hardwiring devices like your smart assistant, such as Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, etc. These devices usually require more stability than your smart speakers, printers (which you really don’t use 24/7), smart kettles, and other smart kitchen appliances. 

Generally, if you use ethernet cables when hardwiring your devices, it could generally improve internet speed when gaming, streaming, uploading/downloading big files, and performing other bandwidth-heavy tasks. 

Ethernet Cable Types

Using Ethernet cables to connect one computer to the next (and more computers) is good for office set-ups because the computers can “communicate” even without the internet. However, the issue with this is that ethernet cables have limitations in terms of length and durability. If you force ethernet cables to extend to reach another computer that is beyond the cable’s specifications, the connection won’t work, or if it does, the signal would be of poor quality. 

Because of these limitations, different ethernet cable categories and types are made. Using newer or more advanced ethernet cable types helps in optimizing certain tasks and improves signals on a case-to-case basis. 

For higher internet speeds, experts recommend using at least Cat 5e or Cat 6e ethernet cables. Of course, there are higher/newer types of ethernet cables available but most of them are not compatible with existing devices in the market today. If you’re replacing a damaged ethernet cable, the easiest way to learn what type you have is to check on the stamp on its casing (newer ethernet cables have these details printed and readily accessible, but old ethernet cables do not). 

Whether you’re just starting out building a computer setup at home, or you’re future-proofing your cables, you’ll find out that ethernet cables are the backbone of your local network and the internet.

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