Windows 7 : Creating a Windows Network - Installing Network Wiring

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6/28/2013 7:32:21 PM
When your network adapters are installed, the next step is to get your computers connected. Installing wiring can be the most difficult task of setting up a network. How you proceed depends on the type of networking adapters you have:
  • If you’re using wireless adapters, of course, you don’t need to worry about wiring. Lucky you. 

  • If you’re using phoneline networking, plug a standard modular telephone cable into each phoneline network adapter and connect them to the appropriate wall jacks. The adapter must be plugged directly into the wall jack, and then additional devices such as modems, telephones, and answering machines can be connected to the adapter. Remember that each of the phone jacks must be wired to the same telephone line. 

  • If you’re using a powerline networking adapter, follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. If you’re using a powerline bridge, plug the bridge into a wall socket and connect it to your computer or other networked device with a CAT-5 patch cable. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for configuring the adapter’s security features. You should enable encryption if it’s available. 

If you’re using wired Ethernet adapters, you need to decide how to route your wiring and what type of cables to use. The remainder of this section discusses Ethernet wiring.

Cabling for Ethernet Networks

If your computers are close together, you can use prebuilt patch cables to connect your computers to a switch. (The term patch cable originated in the telephone industry—in the old days, switchboard operators used patch cables to connect, or patch, one phone circuit to another.) You can run these cables through the habitable area of your home or office by routing them behind furniture, around partitions, and so on. Just don’t put them where they’ll be crushed, walked on, tripped over, run over by desk chair wheels, or chewed by pets.


As you install each network card and plug it into the cables running to your switch, you should see a green light come on at the switch and on the network adapter. These lights indicate that the network wiring is correct.

If the cables need to run through walls or stretch long distances, you should consider having them installed inside the walls with plug-in jacks, just like your telephone wiring. I discuss this topic later in this section. Hardware stores sell special cable covers that you can use if you need to run a cable where it’s exposed to foot traffic, as well as covers for wires that need to run up walls or over doorways.

Switch Lights Do Not Come On

If one or more UTP switch link lights do not come on when the associated computers are connected, the problem lies in one of the cables between the computer and the switch. Which one is it? To find out, do the following:

Move the computer right next to the switch. You can leave the keyboard, mouse, and monitor behind. Just plug in the computer, turn it on, and use a commercially manufactured or known-to-be-working patch cable to connect the computer to the switch. If the light doesn’t come on regardless of which switch connection socket you use, you probably have a bad network card.

If you were using any patch cables when you first tried to get the computer connected, test them using the same computer and switch socket. This trick might identify a bad cable.

If the LAN card, switch, and patch cables are all working, the problem is in whatever is left, which would be your in-wall wiring. Check the connectors for proper crimping and check that the wire pairs are correctly wired end to end. You might need to use a cable analyzer if you can’t spot the problem by eye. These devices cost about $75. You connect a “transmitter” box to one end of your cabling, and a “receiver” to the other. The receiver has four LEDs that blink in a 1-2-3-4 sequence if your wiring is correct.

General Cabling Tips

You can determine how much cable you need by measuring the distance between computers and your switch location(s). Remember to account for vertical distances, too, where cables run from the floor up to a desktop, or go up and over a partition or wall.


If you need to run cables through the ceiling space of an office building, you should check with your building management to see whether the ceiling is listed as a plenum or air-conditioning air return. You might be required by law to use certified plenum cable and follow all applicable electrical codes. Plenum cable is specially formulated not to emit toxic smoke in a fire.

Keep in mind the following points:

  • I refer to “CAT-5” here, but if you’re using 1000Mbps Ethernet, you must use CAT-5E or CAT-6 equipment.

  • Existing household telephone wire probably won’t work. If the wires inside the cable jacket are red, green, black, and yellow: no way. The jacket must have CAT-5 (or higher) printed on it. It must have color-matched twisted pairs of wires; usually each pair has one wire in a solid color and the other white with colored stripes.

  • You must use CAT-5-quality wiring and components throughout, and not just the cables. Any jacks, plugs, connectors, terminal blocks, patch cables, and so on also must be CAT-5 certified.

  • If you’re installing in-wall wiring, follow professional CAT-5 wiring practices throughout. Be sure not to untwist more than half an inch of any pair of wires when attaching cables to connectors. Don’t solder or splice the wires.


    If you really want to get into the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of pulling your own cable, a good starting point is Frank Derfler and Les Freed’s Practical Network Cabling (Que, 1999; ISBN 078972247X), which will help you roll up your shirt sleeves and get dirty (literally, if you need to crawl around through your attic or wrestle with dust bunnies under too many desks at the office).

  • When you’re installing cables, be gentle. Don’t pull, kink, or stretch them. Don’t bend them sharply around corners; you should allow at least a 1-inch radius for bends. Don’t staple or crimp them. To attach cables to a wall or baseboard, use rigid cable clips that don’t squeeze the cable, as shown in Figure 1. Your local electronics store or hardware store can sell you the right kind of clips.

    Figure 1. Use rigid cable clips or staples that don’t squeeze the cable if you nail it to a wall or baseboard.

  • Keep network cables away from AC power wiring and away from electrically noisy devices such as arc welders, diathermy machines, and the like. (I’ve never actually seen a diathermy machine, but I hear they’re trouble.)

Wiring with Patch Cables

If your computers are close together and you can simply run prefabricated cables between your computers and switch, you’ve got it made. Buy CAT-5 (or better) cables of the appropriate length online or at your local computer store. Just plug (click) them in, 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, and more detailed instructions than I can give here. Making just a few cables probably doesn’t make buying the tools worthwhile. Factory-assembled cables are also more reliable than homemade ones because the connectors are attached by machine. They’re worth the extra few dollars.

For the ambitious or parsimonious reader, Figure 2 shows the correct way to order the wires in the connector.

Figure 2. Standard wiring order for UTP network cables.

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. Personally, I find it a frustrating task and one I would rather watch someone else do. Hiring someone to get the job done might cost $30–$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 10 years, you can pretend that you’re getting the wiring thrown in for free.


Look in the Yellow Pages under “Telephone Wiring,” and ask the contractors you call whether they have experience with network wiring.


To pick a technical nit here, the modular connector used in networking is really called an 8P8C connector. The “true telephone RJ45” connector is slightly different, and not compatible. If you’re buying RJ45 connectors, just make sure that the package says that the connectors are for networking use.

In-wall wiring is brought out to network-style modular jacks mounted to the baseboard of your wall. These RJ-45 jacks look similar to telephone modular jacks but are wider. You need patch cables to connect the jacks to your computers and switch, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Connect your computers and switch to the network jacks using short patch cables.

Connecting Just Two Computers

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


Microsoft is encouraging the use of a special USB Cable for use by the Windows Easy Transfer program, for people who don’t have a network. But, you can just as easily (and much less expensively) use an Ethernet crossover cable.

If you are connecting two computers, simply run a special cable called an Ethernet 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 switch. You can purchase an Ethernet crossover cable from a computer store or network supply shop, or you can make one, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Wiring for a UTP crossover cable. The cable reverses the send and receive wires so that two network cards can be directly connected without a switch. Note that the green pair and orange pair are reversed across the cable.


Be sure that your crossover cable is labeled as such. It won’t work to connect a computer to a switch, and you’ll go nuts wondering what’s wrong if you try. Factory-made models usually have yellow ends. When I make them myself, I draw three rings around each end of the cable with a permanent-ink marker.

If you have a cable that you’re not sure about, you can tell what kind of a cable it is by looking at the colors on the little wires inside the clear plastic connectors at the two ends. Considering just the colors on the wires, without regard to whether the colors are solid or striped:

  • If you can see that each color is in the exact same position at both ends of the cable, in the arrangement “AABCCBDD,” you have a standard Ethernet patch cable.

  • If a pair of wires that is together at one end of the cable is split apart at the other end (that is, if one end has the pattern AABCCBDD and the other has BBACCADD) you have an Ethernet crossover cable.

  • If the pairs of wire are all split symmetrically around the center of the connector (that is, if the pattern is ABCDDCBA), the cable is a telephone cable and not an Ethernet cable. You can’t use this type of cable for networking.

Connecting Multiple Switches

You might want to use more than one switch to reduce the number of long network cables you need if you have groups of computers in two or more locations. For example, you can connect the computers on each “end” of the network to the nearest switch, and then connect the switch to a main switch. Figure 5 shows a typical arrangement using this technique.

Figure 5. You can connect groups of computers with multiple switches to reduce the number of long cables needed. Use the cascade port on the remote switches to connect to the central switch.


A switch’s uplink or cascade port is a connector designed to be connected to another switch or hub. Some switches have a separate connector for this purpose, whereas others make one of the switch’s regular ports do double-duty by providing a switch that turns the last switch port into a cascade port. Refer to your switch’s manual to see what to do with your particular hardware.

If you need to add a computer to your LAN and your switch has no unused connectors, you don’t need to replace the switch. You can just add a switch. To add a computer to a fully loaded switch, unplug one cable from the original switch to free up a port. Connect this cable and your new computer to the new switch. Finally, connect the new switch’s cascade port to the now free port on the original switch, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. You can expand your network by cascading switches. The instructions included with your switch describe how to connect two switches using a patch cable. Some switches have a dedicated uplink port, whereas others have a switch that turns a regular port into an uplink port.

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