Now you have network cards installed in your PCs, and a switch. All that’s left on the hardware side are some cable to tie everything together. This is where things get tricky, because you can go one of two ways – either purchase the cables pre-made, or make them yourself. The real decision rests on what you’re planning to do. If you’re wiring your whole house, you’ll want to go out and buy a box of Category 5 unshielded twisted pair cabling (aka Cat5 UTP), some RJ-45 plugs, and make the cables yourself. If the cables you need are much shorter (limited to a room or two), then it may be cheaper to buy the cables pre-made. There are upsides and downsides to each method.
The upside of purchasing cables is that the work is already done for you – the cable is wired correctly, and all you need to do is plug it in. The downside is that pre-made cables are generally expensive – you’re being charged an arm and a leg for someone else to have done the work. However, if you only a need a few cable runs to connect your equipment, it’s generally a waste to buy a huge box of cable, the RJ-45 plugs, and the crimping tool you’ll need to make your own.
If you do choose to make your own cables, you need all three of these elements, plus a whole lot of patience. While making a cable may look easy, it can also be a real pain, especially trying to get everything just right. It’s too easy to accidentally nick a wire, wire the plug wrong, or mess things up in a myriad of other ways if you’re not careful. If you are going the DIY route, make sure that you create your cables correctly, as outlined in a later article in this series.