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Wired for 'Net: Creating Your Own Secure Home Network

by bob.g (follow)
DIY (67)      home (49)      Network (2)     
Most people, when they are thinking about home networking, automatically go wireless. It's easy, it's cheap, and it's convenient - all you have to do is turn on WiFi on your laptop or other connected device and you're set. But sometimes, you don't want a wireless network. Security can be a major issue with wireless; you want to make sure only certain people are on your network, and even the best wireless security can fall prey to a teenage kid with a few skills and a lot of patience. Bandwidth issues can plague wireless network users as well, especially if you're using your network to stream or share audio and video. And of course if you are integrating home security into your network, you want something that is a bit more reliable and private than what a wireless network can provide. That's why so many people are still wiring their homes for a wired high-speed network. If that's where you are now, or even if you're just starting to think about a home network, here are some things you need to do:

Attribution - Flickr


Cat6 cable. Get this by the foot and get about 10% more than you think you will need, based on the diagram you made on your floor plans
Drywall boxes - single gang. Make sure these have the little "ears" on the top and bottom of the box.
RJ45 jacks and plates - get one for each port, and a couple extras just in case.
Ethernet switch
Velcro strips or cable ties

Tools you will need:

Ethernet crimping tool. If you buy your cable in bulk and have to put on your own ends (which I recommend)
Cordless drill
Hole saw (usually 1", depends on how many wires you plan on running through each hole)
Pointed hand saw/drywall saw - makes it easier to cut the holes for the new wall boxes
Fish tape
Pencil and Sharpie
Ruler/tape measure
Stud finder
Cable tester (you can also use your laptop to test the connections)



Obviously, any time you start an undertaking like wiring your house for a network, you've got some planning to do. The first thing you need to do is determine which rooms you want wired. Are you doing a true "whole house" network, or are you just going to wire the office, the living room, and two bedrooms? A floor plan of the whole house is a useful thing to have at this stage, so you can sketch out ideas.

Then you need to decide how many ports you want per room. In the home office and bedrooms, you may only need one or two ports. In the living room, you may want four or five ports, so that everyone can use the network together. On your floor plan, draw a small box everywhere you want a port in each room.

Now that you know where you need to run the wires, you need to decide where the central distribution point will be. Sometimes, a small linen closet can be re-purposed to fit this role, sometimes it is just an out of the way corner of a large room. Wherever you decide to put it, it should be centrally located (as much as possible) to the ports you plotted on your floor plan.

Now plot the paths the cables will need to run. Consider whether you have access below the floor, in a basement, or above the ceiling in an attic. Ideally, you will have both, but the time to realize where you cannot run cables is before you start trying to run them.

Before you go out and start shopping, there's one more step in the planning. You need to research and decide what speed you need. For average Internet surfing, a 10mbps switch is sufficient. However, if you are a gamer, or want to share a media library throughout the network, you'll want to spend the money to get a gigabit switch. It's a bit more money, but you'll thank me later.

Attribution - Flickr

Mount the wall boxes

Find a place on the wall where there is no stud. Each box should come with a template that will help you cut the hole, so use that template and the enclosed directions for the box. You will also want to drill a large hole near the distribution point - it needs to be large enough that all the wires you are running will fit through it.

Attribution - Flickr

Run the cable

Here, you'll need to do some drilling with a smaller bit, so that you can run the wire through the top or bottom plates in the wall (depending on whether you are going up through the attic or down through the basement). Pull the wire through with the fish tape, making sure to label both ends of the wire with Sharpie so you know where it runs once you connect the cable to the switch.

Connect the wires to the jacks

This is where you will need to crimp ends onto the CAT6 cable. Make sure the ends line up correctly - you can find diagrams for the wire inside or on the back of the packaging for the ends. Plug the jacks into the switch and get ready to test.

Attribution - Flickr

Test the connections

You can use your laptop for this step; just plug the connections into the laptop and see if you have a signal. If you don't, you'll need to troubleshoot; check the ends to make sure the wires are connecting properly where you crimped, check the switch, etc. Make sure you label the switch so you know which port goes to which connection - this will eliminate guesswork later on.

Wiring your home for a wired network can be a little bit of work, as you can see. But once you've got your secured, private, high speed network up and running, you will see that it's worth the work.

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