The Components of a Wired Network - dummies

The Components of a Wired Network

By Andy Rathbone

It’s important to buy the right components when setting up a wired network. The primary parts of a wired network are the cable, network adapters, and router. These are described in the following sections.

Fast Ethernet or 100BaseT cable

Buy a cable for each PC that won’t be using wireless. You want Ethernet cable, which resembles phone cable but with slightly thicker jacks. Ethernet cable is sometimes called Ethernet RJ-45, Cat 5, or TPE (Twisted Pair Ethernet). The names usually include a number relating to the cable’s speed rating: 10, 100, or 1,000.

Network adapters

Each computer on the network needs its own network adapter, and those gadgets come in many varieties. Most computers come with a built-in network adapter, sparing you the cost. Most newer laptops come with both wired and wireless adapters preinstalled, letting you connect either way.


Many of today’s routers come with built-in wireless, and some even come with a built-in broadband modem. Your purchase depends on your Internet connection and network adapters:

  • Broadband Internet users should purchase a router that has enough ports for each networked computer. If you need a wireless connection, perhaps for laptopping outdoors, buy a router with built-in wireless access. (Dialup Internet users can save money by purchasing a less expensive switch with enough ports for each computer.) Both a router and switch resemble the one shown in the following figure.


The router (or switch) needs a port for every computer’s cable, and the router needs a port for your broadband modem.

  • If you’re using some or all wireless network adapters, make sure that your router has built-in wireless capabilities. If you’re using a switch, buy a wireless access point to plug into it. (Wireless access points can usually accommodate dozens of wireless computers.)

  • Buying the same brand of wireless router and wireless network adapter makes them easier to set up.