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We’ve all experienced that time when the ethernet cable we need to connect our devices to our home networks just wasn’t long enough. this got me thinking if ethernet cables can be joined together to make them longer or if there are better alternatives.
ethernet cables can be joined with an rj45 coupler that has two female connectors if both cables are already terminated. One end of each ethernet cable must be inserted into the coupler until it clicks into place. however, using a coupler may cause signal loss in the cables.
although using an rj45 coupler may work to connect two ethernet cables, it is not the best solution. Let’s take a look at some of the alternatives to determine the best way to get the ethernet cable lengths you need.
use an rj45 coupler
The cheapest and easiest way to join ethernet cables is, without a doubt, to use an rj45 coupler.
an rj45 coupler is a small device, usually made of plastic, that has two female rj45 connectors on each end.
They are designed to provide a way to connect two ethernet cables and can be particularly useful when you have two shorter cable lengths.
basically, it turns the two shorter lengths into one longer cable.
rj45 couplers really couldn’t be easier to use.
simply take one of your ethernet cables and plug one end into one of the coupler’s female connectors until you hear it click into place.
repeat this process with one length of cable and you will find that the coupler falls between both lengths.
The final step would be to connect the other ends of each cable where needed, be it a router, a network switch, or the end device such as a computer.
To remove the cables from the coupler, press and hold the tab on the end of the cable while pulling on it.
something to keep in mind with using a coupler is that both ends of the ethernet cables must already be terminated.
this means they will have an rj45 connector on the end that was crimped to hold it in place. essentially no wires will be exposed.
yes, ethernet couplers are great given how simple they are to use and only cost a few dollars, but they’re not the best solution out there.
Joining the ethernet cable with an rj45 is likely to affect the signal going through both lengths of cable, so I find using them is great for a temporary solution, but not a permanent solution.
twist the wires
Another inexpensive way to join ethernet cables is to strip the cable and twist the internal wires together.
This process involves first removing part of the outer jacket that protects the stranded copper wires inside, exposing them.
once you’ve done this on both lengths of cable and have a decent amount of cable to work with, you’ll need to twist both sets of internal cables to make it look like it’s one length.
When you’re satisfied they’re as secure as you can make them, wrap the joint with electrical tape.
I think this option is adequate to bail you out while you organize a more permanent solution.
It’s definitely not a good idea to try to use this long-term, especially when you consider the cables are just kinked and likely to come off if moved.
Not only that, but twisted cables will fail sooner or later due to 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 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 try soldering both lengths of wire.
The same steps I outlined above apply, but instead of twisting the wires and hoping the electrical tape will hold them together in place, you’ll solder the wires instead.
this method will mean the makeshift length of ethernet cable is likely to last a bit longer, but I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you really know what you’re doing.
again, this way of joining the 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 cable lengths and need a slightly longer length, why not buy one?
It may cost a bit to buy one, but it’s incredibly easy to get an ethernet cable that’s already finished and it comes in a variety of different lengths and colors.
I see this as one of those cases where it’s easier and less stressful to buy the solution instead of going through the hassle of trying to join two lengths of cable together and it still doesn’t work the way you’d like.
use a network switch
One of the best long-term solutions to joining ethernet cables is to join them indirectly by placing a network switch between them.
There are a wide variety of network switches, some costing several hundred dollars, but for the purpose of joining ethernet cables, a simple and inexpensive ethernet switch will do the job just fine.
Unmanaged switches are plug and play devices, so all you need to do is provide power to them and they start working right out of the box.
Instead of plugging either end of both cables into the coupler’s rj45 connectors, plug them into an available port on the switch.
Switches often have LED lights to indicate when a device has been properly connected and is transmitting data, so it’s easy to tell if it’s working or not.
Because the switch will definitely need AC power, you need to consider where it will be placed in relation to an outlet.
It’s no good using a switch when you have no choice but to place it near a power outlet only to find that the existing lengths of ethernet cable you have won’t reach.
That said, you can always plug the switch into an extension cord for more flexibility in where the switch is placed.
terminate your own cable lengths
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 some tools and a little investment of time and money, but in my opinion it’s the best option out there.
The first step would be to buy an ethernet cable box that has a total length of around 1000 feet.
if you don’t already have them, you’ll also need some wire strippers, a crimping tool, and some rj45 connectors.
Without going into too much detail on how to actually terminate the cable, wire strippers are used to expose individual wires which are then placed in the correct order and cut to size.
the cables, keeping them in the correct order, are inserted into the rj45 connection as far as they will go.
Finally, the connector and the cable that goes into it are fed into the crimping tool, which is tightened until you hear the connector crimp.
If you don’t hear anything but you are using enough force, you can see if the crimp was successful by looking at where the wires meet the connector. you will also not be able to remove the connector if you try to gently pull it out.
Not only is it a great skill to learn to terminate ethernet cable, but terminating your own means you can get the exact length you need without it being too tight or too loose.
1000 feet of cable is also very useful, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting more cable for a while.
Any cables you don’t use remain coiled inside the box, so they can be easily stored away and only bought back when you need to create a new length of cable.
This method is definitely the best, in my opinion.
If you’re looking to join ethernet cables together, my advice would be to forget trying and get the exact length of cable you need, a maximum distance of 100m or 328ft.
if this is not possible, or if you don’t want to have to terminate your own ethernet cable, the next best thing would be to put a network switch or rj45 coupler between both lengths of cable.
the switch is probably the best route to take, but you’ll be limited to where you can place it in relation to an available outlet, while you’ll most likely experience some signal degradation if you use a coupler.
If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, here are a few others you should check out:
- Are ethernet cables waterproof?
- Should the wi-fi be turned off when using ethernet?
- Best ethernet cable for gaming: buyer’s guide
- can ethernet cable limit speed?
- power over ethernet: what is it and how does it work?