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We’ve all experienced that time when the Ethernet cable we need to connect our devices to our home networks has not quite been long enough. This got me thinking around whether Ethernet cables can be joined to make them longer, or whether there are better alternatives out there.
Ethernet cables can be joined with a RJ45 coupler that has two female jacks if both cables are already terminated. One end of each Ethernet cable needs to be inserted into the coupler until it clicks into place. Using a coupler can result in signal loss across the cables, though.
Although using an RJ45 coupler may do the job at connecting two Ethernet cables together, it isn’t the best solution. Let’s take a look at some of the alternatives to determine the best way to get the lengths of Ethernet cable that you need.
Use an RJ45 Coupler
The cheapest and simplest way of joining Ethernet cables together is undoubtedly to use an RJ45 coupler.
An RJ45 coupler is a small device, usually made from plastic, that has two female RJ45 jacks at each end.
They are designed to provide a way of connecting two Ethernet cables together and can be particularly useful when you have two shorter lengths of cable.
It essentially turns the two shorter lengths into a longer, single cable.
RJ45 couplers really couldn’t be made any easier to use.
It is simply a case of taking one of your Ethernet cables and plugging one end into one of the female jacks on the coupler until you hear it click into place.
Repeat this process with the one length of cable and you’ll find the coupler sits in between both lengths.
The final step would be to connect the other ends of each cable into wherever they need to go, be it a router, a network switch, or the end device like a PC.
To remove the cables from the coupler, hold down the tab at the end of the cable whilst pulling it out.
Something to note with using a coupler is that both ends of the Ethernet cables must already be terminated.
This means they will have an RJ45 connector at the end that has been crimped to keep it in place. Essentially, there won’t be any wires left exposed.
Yes, Ethernet couplers are ideal given how simple they are to use and that they only cost a few dollars to buy, but they aren’t the best solution out there.
Joining Ethernet cable with an RJ45 is likely to affect the signal that passes across both lengths of cable, so I see using them as being ideal for a temporary workaround, but not a permanent solution.
Twist the Wires Together
Another budget way of joining Ethernet cables together is by stripping the wire and twisting the inner wires together.
This process first involves removing some of the outer jacket that protects the twisted copper wires inside, exposing them.
Once this has been done on both lengths of cable and you have a decent amount of wire to work with, you will need to twist both sets of inner wires together so it looks as if it is a single length.
When you are happy that they are as secure as you can make them, wrap the join with electrical tape.
I consider this option to be suitable to get you out of a pinch whilst you organise a more permanent solution.
It definitely isn’t a good idea to try and use this long term, especially when you consider the wires are only twisted together and they are likely to become disconnected if they are moved.
Not only that, but the twisted wires will fail sooner or later because of corrosion.
My advice would be to use this method to get you up and running quickly if you need to, but find a more reliable and more permanent solution as soon as you can.
Solder the Lengths Together
An alternative that can be used if you have exposed wires to work with, is to attempt to solder both lengths of cable together.
The same steps as I described above apply, but instead of twisting the wires together and hoping the electrical tape holds them together in place, you would solder the wires together instead.
This method will mean that your make-shift length of Ethernet cable is likely to last a little longer, but I wouldn’t recommend attempting this unless you really know what you are doing.
Again, this way of joining Ethernet cables can be used to get you up and running relatively quickly, but still look for a better, more permanent solution.
Get a Longer Length of Ethernet Cable
If you only have two shorter lengths of cable and need the one length that is just a bit longer, why not just buy one?
It may cost a little bit to buy one, but it is incredibly easy to get hold of Ethernet cable that is already terminated and comes in a variety of different lengths and colors.
I see this as one of those cases where it is just easier and less stressful to buy the solution rather than go through the hassle of trying to join two lengths of cable and it still not work out quite as you would like.
Use a Network Switch
One of the better, longer-term solutions to join Ethernet cables together is to indirectly join them by placing a network switch in between them.
There is a wide variety of network switches out there with some costing many hundreds of dollars to buy, but for the purpose of joining Ethernet cables, a simple, inexpensive Ethernet switch will do the job just perfectly.
Unmanaged switches are plug and play devices, so all you need to do is provide it with power and it will start working straight away.
Instead of plugging either end of both cables into the RJ45 jacks on the coupler, you plug them into an available port on the switch.
Switches will often have LED lights to indicate when a device has been successfully connected and is transmitting data, so it will be easy to tell if it is working or not.
Given that the switch will undoubtedly need AC power, you need to consider where it is going to be placed in relation to a power outlet.
It’s no good using a switch when you have no choice but to position close to a power outlet only to find the existing lengths of Ethernet cable you have won’t reach it.
That being said, you can always plug the switch into an extension cord to give you more flexibility around where you place your switch.
Terminate Your Own Lengths of Cable
The solution I would always recommend, and what I personally do within my own home network, is to terminate your own lengths of Ethernet cable.
This will require a few tools and a bit of investment in time and in the monetary sense but is the best option out there in my opinion.
The first step would be to buy a box of Ethernet cable that has a total length of around 1000 ft.
If you don’t have them already, you will also need to get yourself some wire strippers, a crimping tool, and some RJ45 connectors.
Without going into too much detail on how to actually terminate the cable, the wire strippers are used to expose the individual wires which are then arranged in the correct order and cut to size.
The wires, whilst keeping them in the correct order are fed into the RJ45 connect as far as they will go.
Finally, the connector and the wire going into it are fed into the crimping tool, which you squeeze together until you hear the connector has been crimped.
If you don’t hear anything but are using enough force, you will be able to see whether the crimp has been successful by taking a look at where the wires meet the connector. You also won’t be able to remove the connector if you try and gently pull it off.
Not only is being able to terminate Ethernet cable an excellent skill to learn, but terminating your own means you can get the exact length you need without it being too tight or having too much slack.
1000 ft of cable also goes a long way, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting any more cable for a while.
Any cable that you don’t use remains coiled up within the box, so it can be easily stored away and only bought out again when you need to create a new length of cable.
This method is hands down the best, in my opinion.
If you are looking to join Ethernet cables together, my advice would be to forget about trying and instead get the exact length of cable that you need, at a maximum distance of 100m or 328 ft.
If this isn’t possible, or you don’t want to have to terminate your own Ethernet cable, the next best options would be to place a network switch or an RJ45 coupler in between both lengths of cable.
The switch is probably the best route to take, but you will be limited to where you can place it in relation to an available power outlet, whereas you will more than likely experience some degradation of the signal if using a coupler.
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