How to Install Ethernet Cable Ends
By Jack Gerard
Ethernet cables, also known as Category 5 (Cat5) and Category 6 (Cat6) cables, are a common sight when working with a wired computer network. While most people are used to working with ethernet cables in predetermined lengths, buying cable in bulk and cutting it to the needed length can be much more economical for IT specialists who have to maintain or expand a large network. Even if you don't have a lot of networking cable to maintain, being able to install the end connectors (known as RJ-45 connectors) onto an ethernet cable can mean the difference between replacing a damaged Cat5 cable and being able to repair it. Installing end connectors on an ethernet cable should only take a few minutes, though some specialized tools are needed in order to do it properly.
Cut the current end of the ethernet cable off unless the cable is already even. Though you will be cutting the cable again before attaching the RJ-45 connector, this gives you an even end to begin working with and eliminates the possibility of problems caused by internal wires of different lengths.
Use your CatX rotational stripper to remove the outer insulation from your ethernet cable. Insert the cable into the stripper so that approximately 1 1/2 inches of cable has passed through it, then tighten the stripping mechanism as you turn the stripper around the cable. This will cause it to cut through the jacket insulation without damaging the insulation of the wires inside. Remove the cut insulation and set the stripper aside.
Untwist the wire pairs that have been exposed until you have 8 separate wires coming out of the ethernet cable. Pinch the wires between your fingers to straighten them, sliding your fingers along them until they are relatively straight and even.
Consult the images of the T568A and T568B specifications (see Resources below). It doesn't matter which specification pattern you use, so long as both ends of your ethernet cable are wired using the same pattern. If one end of your cable already has a connector on it, look at the wires going into it and identify the pattern being used so that you can use it on the other end. If you are placing connectors on both ends, either use the pattern that has been used by other ethernet cables that you own or pick one based on your own preferences. Regardless of the specification you choose, you simply need to arrange the wires in the order shown for that specification and then pinch the wires straight again.
Cut the wires so that approximately 1/2 an inch of exposed unwound wire remains. Measure the wire to make sure that you haven't exceeded this length to avoid potential problems with data loss. Group the wires close together if they are spread apart, making sure they remain relatively flat.
Insert the wires of the ethernet cable into the RJ-45 connector, making sure that the wires line up properly with the conductor plates of the connector. A portion of the ethernet cable's outer insulation should be in the connector as well; if you have exposed wires, you either have not inserted the cable deep enough or your unwound wires are too long.
Crimp the connector and your wires using the RJ-45 crimping tool. The tool should press an electrical contact down into the wires so that they can connect to the conductor plates while also tightening a clip that will hold the cable itself in place. Once the connector has been crimped, your ethernet cable is now ready to use (provided that there is a connector on the other end of the cable of the same wiring specification.)
- Cat5 and Cat5e are the most commonly used types of ethernet cable; well over 90% of all cable that you will be working with will be either Cat5 or Cat5e. Double-check wiring specifications of other cable types before installing an RJ-45 connector on them to ensure that the cable you are using conforms to T568A or T568B specifications.
- Make sure that no unwound wires extend beyond the body of the RJ-45 connector you are installing; you want to keep as much of the internal wiring wound as possible, since unwound wires can result in major data loss through the cable.
Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.