Keeping track of network cabling isn’t a very exciting subject. It also seems to be misunderstood at times. Today we’re going to talk about some of the steps need to upgrade from Cat5 to Cat6 cabling as well as why you might want to do it. There will be some Amazon links included that earn me a few pennies if you purchase using them.
My home was built in 2005-6 and conduit for network cabling was included in the walls. At that time, Cat5 cabling was used and it was definitely the best choice at that time. Now that 15 years have passed, there are better options and I’m in the processing of upgrading. This requires a number of steps to get the full benefit. I’m going to list some of the items that need to be addressed.
Before we dig too deep, what the heck is Cat5 and Cat6 anyways? Why does it matter? Rather than me trying to explain it all, I suggest you read Quick View: Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Ethernet Cables. The very quick answer is that Cat5 supports speeds up to 100 Mbps. That was great 15 years ago. Now you can buy gigabit Internet in some locations which is ten times faster than Cat5 supports. So you could be paying for something your wiring can’t deliver.
Cat5e was an interim solution and it does support up to 1 Gbps. If that’s what you have now, you should be good in the short term. In theory, Cat6 supports up to 10 Gbps. My desire to upgrade from Cat5 to Cat6 is to prepare me for the next 15 years of data transfer.
Yes, WiFi dominates these days and good WiFi routers can support faster speeds. But they can only do their job with fast Internet if the wiring carrying Internet signals supports the faster speeds.
Cabling and Patch Cables
I can’t tell you exactly how much cable you’ll need as it depends on how many cable runs are involved and the length of those runs. In my case, I’m guessing that 200 feet of cable would be more than enough. Typically you buy cable in bulk and this Amazon Basics Cat6 Ethernet Solid Bulk Cable (23 AWG, UTP) – 1000-Foot will be enough for most projects with some to spare. You, or your installer may also needs a few other things to complete the job. A wire crimper and Cat6 cable ends are high on that list.
To connect the wall plates to switches and other devices, you’ll need some patch cables. In my mind, you can never have enough of them. The Amazon Basics RJ45 Cat-6 Ethernet Patch Internet Cable – 10 Feet (5-pack) is a good option to have on hand. Maybe you need some longer and some shorter and there are plenty of options available.
It may seem a bit odd, but even the smallest part can potentially slow down everything else. For that reason, you’ll want to make sure the wall plates support Cat6 or better. Here is a Cat6 Ethernet Cable Wall Plate that fits the bill.
If you plug in to the wall plate above, there is only one connection. If you need to support more wired devices, you’ll need a switch. Maybe you’ll only need a couple of ports, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra. For that reason, consider the NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch. If you have multiple locations, you may need more than one switch.
Last, but not least, your devices need to support the higher speeds. This includes WiFi routers, computers and any other device connected to the network.
Getting all the pieces required in place may be a simple project and it may be quite complex depending on your situation. But if you want fast data transfer and Internet speeds, it is an upgrade you should start planning!