Networking / Beginners

Installing In-Wall Wiring

In-wall wiring is the most professional and permanent way to go. However, this often involves climbing around in the attic or under a building, drilling through walls, or working in an office telephone closet. If this is the case, calling in a professional is probably best. Personally, I find it a frustrating task and one I would rather watch someone else do while I sip coffee and eat pastries. Hiring someone to get the job done might cost $30 to $75 per computer, but you'll get a professional job, and if you consider that the price of network cards has gone down at least this much in the last few years, you can pretend that you're getting the wiring thrown in for free.

TIP Look in the yellow pages under Telephone Wiring, and ask the contractors you call whether they have experience with network wiring. The following are some points to check out when you shop for a wiring contractor:

  • Ask for references, and check them out.
  • Ask for billing details up front: Do they charge by the hour or at a fixed rate? Do they sell equipment themselves, or do you have to supply cables, connectors, and so on?
  • Ask for prices for parts and labor separately so that you know whether you're getting a good deal and can comparison-shop.
  • Find out what their guaranteed response time is, should problems or failures occur in the future.
  • Ask what the warranty terms are. How long are parts and labor covered?

In-wall wiring is brought out to special network-style modular jacks mounted to the baseboard of your wall. These RJ-45 jacks look like telephone modular jacks but are wider.

You'll need patch cables to connect the jacks to your computers and hub.

Out of the (Phone) Closet

If you're wiring an office, running all your network wiring alongside the office's phone system wiring to a central location may be most sensible. You might be able to put your hub near the phone equipment in this case.

But this might require you to enter the phone closet for the first time. In most office buildings, telephone and data wiring are run to a central location on each floor or in each office suite. Connector blocks called punchdown blocks are bolted to the wall, where your individual telephone extension wires are joined to thick distribution cables maintained by the phone company or the building management.

These commercial wiring systems are a little bit daunting, and if you aren't familiar with them, it's best to hire a wiring contractor to install your network wiring.

Connecting Just Two Computers

If you're making a network of just two computers, you may be able to take a shortcut and eliminate the need for a network hub or additional special hardware. If you want to add on to your network later, you can always add the extra gear then.

If you're connecting two computers with IEEE-1394, you have the simplest possible cabling setup: Just plug one end of a "6-6" cable into a free IEEE-1394 socket on each computer.

If you are connecting two computers with Ethernet, yours is the second easiest possible network installation: Simply run a special cable called a crossover cable from one computer's network adapter to the other, and you're finished. This special type of cable reverses the send and receive signals between the two ends, and eliminates the need for a hub. You can purchase a crossover cable from a computer store or network supply shop.

TIP Be sure that your crossover cable is labeled as such, as it won't work to connect a computer to a hub and you'll go nuts trying to figure out what's wrong if you try. Factory-made models usually have yellow ends.

[Previous] [Contents] [Next]