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Find the patch cables you need to complete any networking project

What are patch cables?

What is a patch cable? That’s a question that gets asked frequently, because it can be a little confusing—especially when you see that term applied to different types of cables. For example, Ethernet, HDMI and telephone cables can all be labelled as patch cables.

Patch cables are used to connect a device or component to a central device or hub that’s a short distance away, allowing the two to communicate. Even though it can be applied to any number of cables, in general use the term “patch cable” usually refers to Ethernet cable.

What is the difference between a patch cable and an Ethernet cable?

If an Ethernet cable can be a patch cable, what’s the difference between the two? What is an Ethernet cable?

Ethernet is actually a standard for transmitting data, and Ethernet cable is designed to facilitate this transmission. Ethernet cable is often sold in long lengths such as 100 feet and may or may not come with connectors installed. Among Ethernet cables, there are two standards that see the most use. Category 5e cables support Gigabit Ethernet. Higher speed networks require Cat 6 cables, which can support the much higher data transmission rates of 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Cat 6 cables are backwards-compatible with older, Gigabit Ethernet equipment.

An Ethernet patch cable is simply a relatively short Ethernet cable (usually it uses stranded wire for greater flexibility), with a connector on both ends—typically an RJ45 connector.

Are patch cables straight through?

Most patch cables use straight through wiring. This means that the cable alignment on the connector at one end will match the alignment at the other end. Straight through patch cables are used to connect a host to a client, for example connecting a computer to a router, or a Blu-ray player to a TV.

A crossover patch cord (one where two of the wires have their positions reversed between the connectors) is sometimes used to connect two similar devices—for example, connecting two PCs. Many modern devices now incorporate auto-sensing technology that means a straight through patch cable can be used instead of a crossover cable.

Usage situations for patch cords

There are many situations in a home or small business when a patch cable is the solution. Assuming that “patch cable” is usually referring to RJ 45 Ethernet cables, there are many short distance scenarios where they are needed.

If you connect your own Wi-Fi router to your ISP’s internet gateway, that connection will require a patch cable. Many printers support being directly connected to a computer or a router using a patch cable. For superior performance to wireless, game consoles and video streamers are often physically connected to a router using Ethernet patch cords. Connected smart home devices such as security cameras, smart TVs and lights often offer the option of directly connecting to a router using a patch cable for reduced lag and to avoid using Wi-Fi bandwidth.

Basically, in any situation where you want a device physically connected to a host for faster speed, higher security, and no worries about interference or wireless network congestion, a patch cable is your best bet.