Networking / Beginners

Wiring with Patch Cables

If your computers are close together and you can simply run prefabricated cables between your computers and hub, you've got it made! Buy CAT-5 cables of the appropriate length online or at your local computer store. Just plug (click!), and you're finished.

If you have the desire and patience, you can build custom-length cables from crimp-on connectors and bulk cable stock. Making your own cables requires about $75 worth of tools, though, so it's only sensible to do so if you have many cables to make, or if you need to run cables through holes that the pre-built cables' connectors won't fit through. Factory-assembled cables are also more reliable than homemade ones because the connectors are attached by machine.

You might guess (correctly) that it really doesn't matter which pair of wires you use to connect pins 1 and 2 at each end of the cable, as long as pin 1 goes to pin 1, pin 2 goes to pin 2, and the wires that carry these two signals are twisted together. However, the color codes do matter if you're using wall-jack connectors or patch panels, for two reasons. First, jacks are often labeled with colors instead of pin numbers. Second, telecommunications professionals are used to seeing the wires in a particular order, and in fact there is an industry standard known as "586A" that specifies the color coding. It's best to stick with the standard.

TIP If you buy wall jacks or patch panels, it's best to use all "568A" hardware so that the color code-to-pin correspondence is consistent throughout your network.

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