Make your Home Network go Gigabit

Posted March 13, 2008 3:04 pm by with 15 comments

If you have ever noticed, almost all current network cards support 10/100/1000 ethernet, but very few routers actually support the /1000. The last /1000 is actually called gigabit networking, allowing you to transfer 1 gigabit per second – which is the same as 1000 megabits per second or 125 megabytes per second – over your network. This increase in speed is significant, especially if you need to transfer large files between computers on your network.

Gigabit routers are available, but they are usually pretty pricey. I have a solution that can work with your current setup for under $50. It can definitely be worth the extra money if you intend to do any file transfers. Time is money, you know. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Check out your favorite computer warehouse – I will use Newegg for sample prices – to find a simple gigabit switch that has 4 ports or more.
  • Dlink and Linksys both have switches available for under $35 at Newegg which can be used for this purpose
  • When you get the switch, you will want to shut off your router and modem
  • Unplug all the ethernet cables on your router except the one that goes to your modem
  • Plug the switch into the router with an Ethernet cable
  • Plug all computers and other networked devices directly into the switch

Using this process allows all the computers on your home network (assuming they are all wired into this switch) to communicate at gigabit speeds, without investing in a gigabit router.
In my house, I have Ethernet wired in the walls to a few different locations. All the drops lead to the furnace room where they are mounted in the wall. I have it set up so that there is a gigabit switch in the furnace room supplying signal to two of the locations, and the other lead goes to my room, where I have it go into another gigabit switch with my equipment plugged in there. Then, from there, that switch goes into the router.

My overall network speed has seen a very noticeable increase since the switch to gigabit. For me, it was well worth my time. I hope it can be worth yours too!

15 responses to Make your Home Network go Gigabit

  1. Matt March 14th, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    It is completely unecessary and useless to shut off the modem and router.

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  2. Tyler Thompson March 15th, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Matt,

    The reason I suggested shutting off the router and modem was because I ran into an issue with one router I used that didn’t like the addition of the switch without being restarted (quality of router was sub-par). I thought it would be easier just to say that from the get-go in case there were similar problems with other models. Shutting the modem off, however, wouldn’t help much.

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  3. Dave March 18th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I may be asking something stupid, but, is there such a thing as a wireless gigabit switch and would it allow the wireless connections from laptops or other desktops work at this faster speed, too?

    I admit I am not too knowledgeable about this, but I have a D-Link Wireless Router Access Point connected now.

    Thank you.

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  4. captainfish March 18th, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Also, isn’t there a limit on how much data can travel through a Cat-5 cable? Should they not upgrade to Cat-6 or Cat-5e at least?

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  5. Tyler Thompson March 18th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Cat-5 cable is not certified for gigabit, however, yes, starting at Cat-5e and above are all capable of carrying the signal. Most cables made sense I’ve been in the business have been the enhanced version – I will edit the article to reflect your suggestion. Thank you!

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  6. Matt April 17th, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    A friendly grammar note: there is a difference between “sense” and “since”. I hated my english classes too, but thought I’d point it out.

    Also, for those who are going this route, make sure your NIC cards are gigabit capable. (PC, XBOX 360, Laptop, etc). Not all new ones are, and most old one’s most certainty are not. However, I have been wanting to do this for some time now and might finally bite the bullet.

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  7. Pete June 21st, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Hey Tyler, thanks very much for the tip. I didn’t turn off the router the first time I did this, and it still picked up the network connections as 100Mb/s. Turned power off and on and presto, 1Gb.

    Matt, just a friendly note to you. It’s not polite to so rudely comment on an article someone has taken time and effort to write. If you have something to say, try being more constructive, like “Hey Tyler, I don’t think you need to turn off the router, it should still pick things up even if it’s on.” You wouldn’t talk to someone this way on the street, so leave it out. Also, I’d have a look at the grammar in your last post before pointing out others mistakes in a public forum like this.

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  8. Steven A. Ealy November 22nd, 2009 at 9:09 am

    While plugging your networked devices (PCs, what not) into the gigabit Ethernet switch will no doubt boost your connection it does not make your network Gigabit. You still have other bottlenecks to worry about such as making such your cable is cat6 to fully support gigabit networking and that your network interface cards inside the computers are gigabit. If the cards inside the computer aren’t gigabit it won’t matter if the Ethernet switch is 10GB. Plus the WAN port in the back of wireless G routers are rated at 10/100 anyways so you ultimately cannot switch to a true gigabit network until you have a gigabit router.

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  9. Steven A. Ealy November 22nd, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Also: Comparing today’s prices with gigabit switches and routers it makes logical sense to just pay the extra $30-40 and get the added security features and wireless networking. Plus when you buy a gigabit Ethernet switch you want to be sure that it supports full duplex. Doing so will allow it to send or receive packets at the same time.

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  10. Graham December 18th, 2009 at 4:30 am

    IMOA

    a home network using a 10/100 wired network with cat5 cable is more then enough speed for surfing the internet and downloading music, movies and playing online games as most home internet connections aren’t going to use the full ability of this kind of network.

    Wireless networks using the latest WPA2 security are just fine for surfing the internet, however IMOA I just cant stand them. What can I say, I’m addicted to speed and there is NO wireless network on the network today that’s secure enough or fast enough for me to do what I like :)

    We now have GIGABIT networks on the market, but you know what… Not all Gigabit network routers / hubs / switches are made the same. A typical gigabit hub is faster then a 10/100 hub, however its not a “True” gigabit hub. In order to see True gigabit speeds you will need a few things first.

    1) Switch / Router / Hub that supports Jumbo Frames.
    2) CAT6 / CAT6E network cable (550/600mhz cable speed)
    3) All computers connected to a device that supports Jumbo Frams with a MTU of 9000+

    a simple example would be this. You just got your kid a new pool for the backyard. You grab the garden hose and turn it on all the way and slowly your pool starts to fill. However with this hose its going to take aprox 1 hour to fill this pool because this hose can only let so much water through. Just like a 10/100 network can only transfer so much data

    Now when you have a device that supports Jumbo Frames its like taking the hose from a fire truck and filling that same pool in 3 seconds. Just like how a Gigabit device with a MTU of 9000 can transfer a lot more information then the 10/100 device.

    99% of all current 10/100/1000 Routers support a max of 1500 MTU. MTU stands for Maximum Transmission Unit, the more MTU’s your device can support the faster your network will be able to transfer files between computers. You can get some device that support over 9000+ MTUs.

    This will NOT speed up your internet connection in any way shape or form. This will only speed up your home network. Just thought I would clear that up :)

    However just because you have a device that supports a super high MTU doesn’t equal faster transfers between computers. You will also need to upgrade the cables that go from your computer to your device. Currently Cat5/cat5e cables are shipped with most devices and its good enough to plug your device into your cable / dsl modem. But in order to take advantage of getting fast speeds between your computers you will need to upgrade all the cables between all your computers to CAT6 or Cat6e network cables.

    Please note that in order to even get close to seeing the true speed of a gigabit network your computers will need to have hard drives that are raided. Don’t get me wrong you will still see super fast speeds even without the raid and speeds that will make upgrading the home network worth it.

    I hope this also helps some people, I tend to rant so please forgive me :)

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  11. Dan January 15th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    A lot of people forget that the stated speeds are only half-duplex. At full duplex a 10mbps network runs at 20mbps; a 100mbps network runs at 200mbps.

    The person who mentioned about RAID etc. has a small point as the system itself (whether hard drive is IDE/SATA etc. and if its stand alone or an array makes a difference). But generally speaking this isn’t much of an inpact to a system as internet traffic (downloading) impacts system resources therefore a fast CPU (and multi-core preferably) and fast RAM with not bad capacity is even more important. The way to avoid the system bottleneck of the page file is on either a ramdisk (using parts of your ram) or the turbo drives you can get which loads some of the hard drive into a solid state RAM via PCI-E so it can be quickly written to and read (basically like your actual RAM but doesn’t waste any of your real RAM).

    Obviously, cables are important. Cat5e are fine for this. network adapters are even more important (generally speaking when comparing cat5e and cat6/7 … cat6 and 7 are much better shielded and faster but more expensive and for most networks cat5e is fine to use) as they can only use up to their full-duplex ability.

    The gigabit switch plugged in a normal router is a clever trick for a cheap faster network although there are obvious draw backs.

    The first is your internet connection is unlikely to be above full-duplex Tbase10 (i.e. 20mbps) so regardless of your setup it wont speed up your internet.

    If say the average web connection is 5mbps (for this example) plugged into a 100mbps router which is then plugged into a 1000mbps switch… can you see how that is?

    A lot of consumer routers out there aren’t that reliable requiring some people having to reboot their router every now and then; I am unaware of the same problem with a switch so if your router has big problems sharing the internet with say 4 clients this would obviously be a good work around.

    Routers although more advanced then switches and hubs use very small amount of resources (microprocessor, ram etc.) and there are always new features being added i.e. in addition to being a router, they have a built in firewall, wireless (if wireless router of course), QoS etc. all depending on model. The small resources can easily become overwhelmed i.e. 4 computers connected to the internet – 1 is using skype; 3 wireless devices i.e. a laptop and your mobile etc. and of course several neighbours trying to access your router (ok its passworded but the router still needs to communicate with it). A lot of work!

    Of course there are more factors involved… your internet connection ratio, how busy the service is, DNS lookups (this is generally a BIG problem for most people.. so you can download at a good speed? However can take up to 3 seconds to check per site (a lot of webpages use content from various domains i.e. adverts etc.)), can you receive gzip pages from sites which offer it?, what browser you use (some are much faster) and are you keep downloading the same content again and again?

    You can change your browser settings in how much gets saved to cache which speeds up pages (if you have slow HD etc. it could actually be slower) and if many people intend to visit the same or similar sites having a cache gateway server would be a better idea. This will save frequently visited sites to its hard drive but storing the most accessed to its RAM. it would then intercept your request and deliver it over gigabit speeds without the DNS lookups etc. You can set it to ignore websites you ned to login etc.

    Hope this helps.

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  12. Dr Mojo January 28th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Yeah Matt, don’t be a douche in a public forum.

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  13. Better Than Mojo April 4th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    The only douchebag on this discussion thread is Dr. Mojo.

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  14. JimmieBlake July 29th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    This information is very useful, my network speed is unbelievably slow, although the router is supposed to take more. This is very bad for me, because I do need to transfer large files between computers on my network and sometimes I have to wait up to ten minutes to get it done. And if I have two windows opened on the Internet, the messenger and another program, it's the death of me and my computer. I will try your solution, I hope it will put an end to my misery.
    _________________
    Jimmie Blake – Intex Filters

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  15. JimmieBlake July 29th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    This magnificent French Renaissance chateau contains 250 rooms complete with 65 fireplaces, 34 bedrooms, an indoor pool, a bowling alley and more.

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