Help me with my home Ethernet setup
April 22, 2020 3:58 PM   Subscribe

When we had some rooms redone in our house 18 months ago, I thoughtfully had the contractors install Ethernet jacks (along with ~100 feet of loose cable, described within). I'm now trying to get this connected to my home network, which currently exists as an integrated DSL modem / wifi router that is nowhere near those new rooms. Pretty sure I need a hub or switch or something similar, but what exactly?

TL;DR here is the goal: take an Ethernet cable connected to the LAN output of my DSL router, run it around the house and connect it to [thing], connect current Ethernet jacks to [thing] so I can plug computers into them and they will have internet. What is the thing?

More details: my recently-finished room has Ethernet jacks installed. Call this "the office". The cat-5 (6?) cables connected to the jacks in the office are spooled in the basement, outside the office. The internet comes into my property at the entirely other end of the house, call it "the front hallway." That is the entire current setup, i.e., the jacks in the office are useless and wifi is the only practical way to connect to the internet. The cables from the office won't reach the front hallway, but they could both easily connect to the basement.

What do I do? I can get a cable from the router in the front hallway into the basement, either by drilling a hole in the floor or via installing a new jack in the baseboard molding. Then what? I assume I need to get a crimper and whatever else to finish the dangling ends of the ethernet cables connected to the office jacks. Right? Then, I'll have a bunch of cables pulled together, one going to the WAN via my DSL router and the rest going to ethernet jacks around the house. I need to connect them to some sort of device - what sort? Hub? Router? Switch? Does it need to be "smart" (i.e. have a firewall or packet filtering or something) given that it's connected to a standard ISP router on the upside?

I'd like it to be fast, expandable, and simple. If I could plug the computers into the device and have them "just work," that would be perfect, which sort of suggests DHCP to me and therefore maybe a router? Then again I'll be attaching a NAS which would be nice to have on a fixed IP in case I want to allow external connections to e.g. a personal file server.

I promise I've searched online for solutions to this situation! Everything seems to be either too summary, or it describes the problem in great detail and then essentially "you have to choose one of these 3-5 solutions" with no more guidance on how to choose or what to do once you've chosen. Thanks!
posted by Joey Buttafoucault to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, you already have a router? All you need is a network switch. A simple, dumb network switch that has enough plugs for all the cables you’ll be connecting.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:10 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

And here one I'd recommend. I just bought a second one so that I could move my router closer to my FireStick.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:12 PM on April 22, 2020

you need to determine if your DSL device is a modem + router, or just modem. If it includes the router, it should do dhcp and all that jazz. If it doesn't you will need a router to sit between the modem and the computers.

You probably dont need to buy or rent a crimper. When i did this i went to home depot/lowes and bought some gigabit keystone jacks, probably leviton, but possibly lutron - $5 ish each. they should include a one use plastic crimp tool. buy a spool/length of cat5e. then you need to figure out wall plates, if you have a cable or phone jack, thats easy to replace with a dual or more port keystone jack and add the ethernet keystone to. Use a keystone on the other end of the cable also, then a short patch cord to a switch.

if your dsl device is only a modem and not a router, most routers have a 4 port switch built in, which you could put in the basement and run that one cable to, although if you need access back by the modem, a separate switch makes things easier.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:34 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd bet your DSL router is a router it's doing dhcp already - it's the sort with many sockets on the back, right, one WAN port and maybe four ports to plug your devices into, plus maybe it also does WiFi? If so, should just need a switch, which is a nigh on invisible-to-the-network component to just make everything talk to everything else seamlessly. Your router will take care of DHCP once that's in place.

Running cables: a wall plate is the gold standard solution for what you're talking: one wherever all your cable ends come together and the switch will live, and one where your router is. The magic terms:

A keystone wall plate and a keystone RJ45 socket are easy to work with - keystone is the form factor that allows you to have a blanking plate to fit to the wall with square holes and a little thing with the socket fixture to put into it. You can probably get all in one wallplates for a single socket and that's also fine but the keystone ones are likely easier to work with.

An RJ45 punch down tool lets you press the eight wires in your cable into the slots in the back of an RJ45 socket. It's easier than trying to crimp a plug on, honestly. You peel back the outer covering of the cable revealing the eight colour coded wires and punch them down into the relevant colour coded slots of the socket back; that has sharp contacts that cut the insulation on the inner wires. The sockets always have two colour schemes on, and for your purposes just use the same colour scheme at both ends; doesn't matter which one you choose as long as you're consistent.

The switch should be cheap and dumb, so you're probably looking at $30 for an eight port one, don't go overspending. There are more expensive ones with advanced features but you won't want the features and setting it up will just be confusing, so don't bother. There will also be PoE ones (power over Ethernet); also unnecessary for your purpose. This is commodity stuff and brand names are not especially worth paying for. Netgear, D-Link and TP-Link will all sell something of this nature (among many others), just get whatever you find that's on offer.

If you go with a plug instead, you will want to buy or borrow an RJ45 crimp tool, as you say, but this will end up with an untidy cable end disappearing into a hole in the floor. The wall plate will look much nicer.

Amazon sell all these things, so even if you don't want to buy from there it's a good place to investigate the options.

(Source: have despaghettified the wiring I inherited with my house, with all the components described.)
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 4:39 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Get the part number off of your hardware, Google it and find out exactly what you have before deciding how to proceed.
posted by dgeiser13 at 4:42 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: All of the above ideas are right on about getting a simple unmanaged switch. A few finer points:

If you have only one end of the ethernet terminated (at the wall jacks) and bare wire coming down to your basement, you need to terminate them to either rj45 Ethernet jacks or RJ45 plugs, and if plugs you need the crimping tool.

The plugs and crimping tool are a pain in the butt. I would go for the jacks. They are much more user friendly. You will mess one or two up so get a few extras.

Ethernet termination has two standards - the A and B schemes. I don't know why. All of your cables just want to have the same termination on both ends. If the electricians wired their jacks in A scheme, you use A scheme in the basement or wherever your switch goes. The jacks have handy color coding right on the side. Look at a jack in the room and copy it.

Next you will need to connect from your freshly terminated ethernet jacks to your little unmanaged switch. Some six inch patch cables will do this and look very cute. Get longer ones if your jacks have some distance to travel to the switch.

To clean things up a bit - you may want to snap those jacks into a frame, and mount it to the wall or shelf where your switch will live. It has little areas where you can write in the room or device at the other end - helpful for troubleshooting.

Lastly - drill that hole and run a cable from the LAN ethernet port of your router/modem and connect it to the first port on your switch. The switch will send all traffic through your router/modem and to the internet.

That's it for the hardware - next I'll describe the routing DHCP and what to do with that NAS.
posted by sol at 5:02 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

OK so if you have connected all the jacks, the lights on the switch are lighting up, and the ethernet is working, then what about DHCP and routing?

You probably need to do nothing. Most likely the equipment sent from your internet company handles all of the roles needed for local IP network management. It acts as the modem to connect to company wiring (cable, fibre, etc.), the router that routes traffic, a DHCP server that assigns the Hosts and local IP addresses inside your network, a Network Switch to create a little Ethernet network and to connect to, lastly, an onboard WiFi Access Point with radio to create a wireless extension of your network. We'll call this the Router to make things easier.

As soon as you plug a device into the ethernet and it connects through the switch to your router it will ask around for the nearest DHCP server and request an IP address - the DHCP server built into your router will respond and assign it an IP address.

If you need a static IP address for a NAS or printer you instruct a device to have a static IP - it will broadcast that IP to the network upon first connecting - and any DHCP servers on the network will take note and start sending traffic to that IP.

So when you acquire a NAS - the simplest thing to do is to plug it in and let it get an IP address from the router, find out that IP - then log into the controller software for the NAS - tell it to get a static IP, and then restart. Upon restart the static IP address will be recognized by your router.

If you try and manually assign a static IP address that is already taken by a device or assigned to a device by your router - there will be trouble - so you will need to avoid that.

Any device with static IP needs to be on the same subnet as all other devices on your network. The router sets up the subnet automatically - it's the range of numbers that are valid addresses within your house. The addresses will all look something like this:, or, or You can do more research on masking and address ranges, or take this shortcut:

1. find the ip address of the router - like - usually a sticker on the side of the router
2. for your NAS static IP copy the first three numbers from your router - but change only the last number i.e. 192.168.1.XXX
3. and don't pick a number already taken by another device, and limit yourself from 2 to 254. Go for a super high number like 250 to be safe.

That will assigning static IP that will work fine on 99% of networks.

For advanced setup- if you want to find out what IP addresses have already been doled out, you may want to run a scanner like the strangely named Wifiman app for iPhones and iPads. It will try and seek out and list all devices and their current IP addresses.

If you cannot find the IP address of your router here's how to find out from a connected iPhone, Mac, or Windows PC.

Good luck!
posted by sol at 5:27 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

My goodness, How much is that froggie in the window and Sol, those are great instructions!

(Also, am an "A" man for crimping my cables.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:52 PM on April 22, 2020

Yeah, add a jack in the DSL location and cable to the basement. Find a good place where they can all meet with some slack and where you can get power and mount things. Treat all the jacks the same and put them into a patch panel (frame). Mount and power a switch. Use patch cables to go from the patch panel to the switch.

Hopefully, your contractors labeled the cable ends that they left so that you know which one is which and can put them in a reasonable order.

At $WORK that place would be the 'closet' and would have a thick piece of plywood attached to the wall for a good backing to attach patch panels and switches (decent ones have mounting brackets or at least slots on the back that you can put a couple of screws in and slide it into place).

Leave room for expansion, you could pull a phone line there and move the DSL, ditch the bad wifi and add a bunch of access points or more rooms. Do PoE and add an UPS so your network stays up when the power goes out.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:20 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

For those who wonder, if you wire the A scheme to the B scheme you get a crossover cable. Once upon a time that was necessary when wiring one switch to another or a router to a switch (rather than either to a PC), but devices work it out automatically nowadays.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 6:35 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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