Friday, January 23, 2015

CAT5, CAT5e and CAT6 cables

I have been mainly a software developer for most of my career and I knew just enough about networking to set things up in my home office and maybe help a few friends along the way.

However, I had never done much investigation into the cabling used in Networking such as the differences in CAT5, CAT5e and CAT6 cables.  I just figured that if I was using Gigabit hardware (Gigabit routers, Gigabit switches and Gigabit network cards) I would be running a Gigabit network--right???  Wrong!!!

After I was experiencing extremely slow performance copying files from my NAS device over to my home computer I began investigating some possible solutions.  Many articles recommended checking the cabling on my network to verify I did not have any bottlenecks in my network.

In the past, I always thought that CAT5 was the standard and really didn't know anything about CAT5e nor CAT6 cables.

Well, I soon discovered that CAT5 is a reasonably old standard and should be replaced by CAT5e or CAT6 in modern networks.  Apparently, CAT5 maxes out at 100 Mbps while CAT5e or CAT6 supports 1000 Mbps (Gigabit Ethernet).

Well, according to most articles, CAT5 was such an old standard that most networks would only have CAT5e cable anyway.

In any case, I decided to look through the mess of cables in my home network and replace them all with the newer standard of CAT6 cables. 

Fortunately, one of my friends told me that I could tell what type of cable I had on my network by looking at the fine print on the cable.

Well, as I started going through and replacing all of my network cables with CAT6 cables I started reviewing all of my cables to see what type they were.  For the most part, every single cable I came across was CAT5e.

When I finally started disconnecting the final cords in my network, I found a cable that connected my Gigabit router to my Gigabit switch.  As I looked closely at the cable I discovered it was a plain old CAT5 cable!!! 

This was the bottleneck in my entire network that was causing my whole network to run at 100 Mbps rather than the full Gigabit speeds it was capable of running!!

Apparently, I had kept this cable around for many years as I was collecting cables from various networking devices I had purchased over the years.  Every router or modem ships with its own networking cable, so this cable must have come from a very old device that I had purchased long ago. 

As you can guess, once I replaced this cable my network was running smoothly, all of the lights on my Gigabit switch were lit up (2 lights indicate Gigabit, while only 1 light indicates either 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps) and my file copies from my NAS device went from 10 MB/sec to 80 MB/sec!!!  Woo hoo!!

1 comment:

  1. How does using Cat 6 with Cat 5e jacks and panels affect NEXT when testing? is the Network cable cat6 is the best or Cat5?