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How to Install a Power line or Ethernet in Your Home to Improve Wi-Fi
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- Using cables, connect the dots on the network
I consider wired connections to be the most reliable, despite having written mostly about wireless networking for more than five years. It's true for nearly all wireless networks except mesh, which sometimes benefits from a wired network too! It is usually best to connect a broadband modem and Wi-Fi base station with wires to get the best throughput. It also provides an option for connecting high-throughput devices, such as streaming video boxes.
Wire options include three different types: Ethernet, powerline, and MoCA, all of which have different costs, availability, and installation hassles.
All wired networking is based on Ethernet, a decades-old standard that's affordable even in its gigabit form. Wiring, switches, and other elements required to build or extend an Ethernet network are likely to cost only a few hundred dollars. You may be able to pull an Ethernet cable if you have access to crawl spaces or attics, or if you can drill through a single wall.
My old method for crimping RJ45 connectors onto Ethernet cables was to buy a box and cut it to length. In contrast to those I made from scratch, I prefer to buy pre-made, tested Ethernet cables that are already tested to work, since completed and tested Ethernet cables are so cheap now. I like double-sided wall plate accessories that have jacks on both sides for installing plugs in walls.
A "Cat-6" cable refers to a set of standards for electrical performance that allows for specific types of behaviour. The "Cat" represents the category and the "6" represents the electrical specification. You can pay a little less for Cat-5e, but the savings aren't worth it. There is better insulation in Cat-6 to prevent interference, and it is designed for long-term use. With Cat-6 cable, you can connect to 10 Gbps Ethernet when it becomes affordable for home use.
Modern Ethernet switches, cards, and other hardware have auto-sensing and auto-switching ports, so special patch cables and flip switches are no longer needed. Plug everything in, and you're done. One Gbps and 100 Mbps device can work on the same network without causing any additional delays.
The following two options have matured into great alternatives to or extensions of Ethernet if you cannot easily access the innards of your house to run an Ethernet cable.
- Networking over power lines
With powerline networking adapters, you can use your home electrical wiring to carry both power and data. By connecting a powerline adapter to the same leg of an electrical circuit in your home, it forms a network. The current generation of technology offers raw data rates of up to 2 Gbps.
An Ethernet port must be included on a powerline adapter for it to function. Powerline adapters plug directly into a wall socket. Additionally, some come with a pass-through electrical plug, a built-in Wi-Fi router for extending your network, or a second Ethernet port. Sets of two can be purchased for as low as $50 and offer up to 1 Gbps of data transfer.
As an example, if you live in a shared home or in a building with electrical wiring that may extend outside your domicile, you can enable security by pressing the button on each adapter, just like pairing a Bluetooth device.
The current generation of powerline technology is much more tolerant of wiring problems than its predecessors and can connect any two outlets in the home depending on how the electrical panel is set up.
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