How to Hook Up an Ethernet Switch
By George Pickard
The Ethernet switch is a basic component of the computer network. It connects computers, printers and routers on your network. The switch is an intelligent device that learns which devices are plugged into which ports and “switches” network traffic from one host to another based on that knowledge. You can install a switch to create a local area network (LAN) or to expand the number of devices on your current network.
Consider locating your switch where physical access is controlled. Security should be a primary concern when setting up your Ethernet switch.
Ensure that you’re Ethernet switch is located in a cool, well-ventilated area. Leave ample space around the switch for heat dispersion.
Power your switch on. Connect the devices you wish to network to the switch. Plug one end of an Ethernet cable to your device’s Network Interface, and the other end to an open port on the switch. After a few seconds, the indicator light for that port on the switch should change from off, or yellow, to flashing green. The green light means that a device is connected, and the light will flash as data is sent or received.
Configuring the Devices on Your LAN
Connect a router to your switch if you want your devices to be able to connect to the Internet, or to another network. A router is a device that “routes” data from one network to another. If your switch has a port labeled “WAN” or “Internet,” connect an Ethernet cable from that port to your router. Otherwise, connect the router to any open port on your Ethernet switch. If you’re using a home or small office broadband router, connect the router end of the Ethernet cable to the port labeled “LAN” or to any of the open numbered ports. Professional assistance may be required to configure a high-end router.
Check to see if you have a DHCP server on your LAN. Most home or small office broadband routers have a DHCP server, configured by default. The DHCP server assigns IP addresses to your computers automatically.
Assign IP addresses to the computers on your LAN. If you're not running a DHCP server, manually configure the IP settings on each of the computers. They need to share an address space to communicate with one another. Use a private address range, like the 10.0.0.x range. The last number in the series, where the "x" is, can be a number between 1 and 255. It's common practice to assign the router the first address—10.0.0.1—and then each computer and printer another unique number in the sequence. For example, 10.0.0.2, 10.0.0.3, 10.0.0.4, etc.
Assign the subnet mask. This is what tells your computer how many and which addresses are local. A subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 gives you 254 possible hosts on the same network.
Assign a router or "gateway" address. Any traffic that has a destination outside your network, as defined by your subnet mask, is routed by the address you designate here. This is usually the address you gave to the LAN port of your router.
Assign a DNS server address. DNS resolves names like "thatcompany.com" to an IP address. Obtain your DNS server address from your router's configuration, or from your Internet Service Provider.
Verify connectivity by using the "Ping" utility. In Windows, hold down the Windows key and the "R" key. Type "cmd" without the quotes. This opens a console window. At the prompt, type "ping" plus the IP address of the device you want to check. Press "Enter." For example:
The Ping utility tells you whether or not a device replies. If your device does not reply, check the power, the cabling and your IP address configuration.
- The ports on an Ethernet switch are autosensing. That means they automatically detect the speed and duplex of the connected device. If you have a mix of older and newer computers and printers on your network, you may have a variety of speed duplex capabilities as well. If you change which devices are plugged into which ports, you may want to reboot your switch so that it can resense the speed and duplex of your devices.
George Pickard has worked in management and information technology for the past decade. He has been writing professionally since 1999, when he was first published by Adventures Unlimited Press. Pickard has an extensive background in medical information technology, and attained Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Cisco Certified Network Associate certifications in 2001.