Replace your cables to speed up your internet

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Did you know that you might be able to increase your internet connection speed – just by replacing the ethernet cable?  It’s true!

ethernet cables

First of all, which cables are your ethernet cables?

Your internet signal comes in on a cable that emerges from your wall.  It goes from there to the modem.  That cable is not your ethernet cable.

Then there is an ethernet cable that comes out of the modem and goes to one of these places: either directly to your computer (if you only have one computer online), or to a router.  From the router, you could have ethernet cables that go to one or more computers (or none, if your connections are all wireless).  In some cases, the modem and the router are actually one unit.

You can also identify an ethernet cable by looking at the plug on the end – it looks similar to a phone jack plug, just a little wider.  You can’t really identify them by color – they come in a variety of colors.

Once you have identified your ethernet cable(s), get out your reading glasses and look at the writing on the cable itself.  You will find that your cable is most likely one of these three types:

1. Cat5 cable – this is the oldest type of ethernet cable.  If you have had your computer equipment for several years, and have used the same modem and/or router for all that time, you may very well have Cat5 cable.  If you do, your internet connection is slower than it has to be.  Cat5 cable is outdated.

2. Cat5 E cable – the “E” stands for “enhanced”.  In fact, you might see it labeled at “Enhanced Cat5”.  If you had a brand new internet connection installed in your home today, this is probably what would be used.  It is able to handle higher speeds that today’s modems and routers offer.

3. Cat6 cable – this is the fastest cable, and is usually the most expensive (although it is really not much more expensive than Cat5 Enhanced).  It supports the fastest speeds, but it’s kind of overkill for a standard home internet connection.  It couldn’t hurt to use this cable, but for most residential setups, Cat5 E will work fine.

If you discover that your cable is the old Cat5, it’s a simple and inexpensive procedure to just buy a length of Cat5 Enhanced cable and replace it.  On Amazon you can get a 25 foot section for less than $10 including shipping (in the US anyway).  If your various units are all nearby each other, you might get by with a 6-foot or 10-foot length.

It’s definitely worth the swap to get the extra speed without paying for the higher speed package from your internet provider!


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December 24th, 2012

Re: The Computer Tip for 12/24/2012​: Replace a cable, get faster internet?

Did not find Cat5 listed on the cable.
What’s listed on cable is;
ETI Verified to TIA-EIA 568-B.2 Catagory SE UTP 4 Prs 24 AWG 350 Mhz E244534 UL TYPE CM 75*C Broadband Products 0554FT

No mention of Cat5 or 6
Any comment???

Scott Johnson
December 24th, 2012

Thanks John – I did a little checking, and it looks like that cable is Cat5E.

December 24th, 2012

I’m not sure I agree with your analysis. Ordinary Cat 5 cables are rated for 100 Mbps. You say “Replace your cables to speed up your internet”. But as a practical matter no ordinary user has an internet speed anywhere near that. Mine is only 3.5 Mbps and 10 or 50 Mbps would be considered astronomical by most users and prohibitively expensive besides.

Also, if you’re using older equipment built to the 801.11g spec, it is only rated for 100Mbps Ethernet speed. If you have 801.11n equipment then you should be using Cat 5e or 6 but that will only help you on transfers between the equipment connected to the router other than the internet whose speed is controlled by your ISP not any limitations of your cabling.

Scott Johnson
December 24th, 2012

Thanks JG. I guess I mentioned it on the podcast, but not so emphatically on the blog post – it’s true, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to internet connection speed. The ethernet cable is just one of those factors.