View Full Version : Townhouse prewired with CAT5 cable. Now what?

08-19-2002, 02:16 AM
I've just moved into a townhouse that is prewired with CAT5 cable throughout the entire house. How do I use this cabling to network two PC's in different rooms upstairs? I also have a XBOX and GameCube downstairs that will use broadband to access the Internet in the near future.

What hardware do I need to buy and how do I configure the network so that all four systems are using the same Intenet connection.

I know a little about routers and home networks but I'm not sure how this all works when the house is prewired.

BTW, I'm using AT&T Broadband as my ISP.

Any help would be much appreciated.

08-19-2002, 02:34 AM
All you need is a nice cable/dsl router with a built in swtich.

A 10/100 Base-T network card for each computer.

And some 3-7 foot Cat-5 straight through cables to go from the ACO to the NIC.

The wiring of the Cat-5 was the hardest part ;)


08-19-2002, 03:16 AM
OK, but where do I set up the router so that I can get on the net through any of the CAT5 jacks located throughout the house? What gets plugged into what and where is it located? Thanks for your help!

08-19-2002, 05:56 AM
In a proper pre-wired setup, every floor of a building has a "telecom closet"--a small room (closet-sized, perhaps--imagine that) to which each pre-wired line on that floor should run. The telecom closets for each floor are often stacked right on top of one another, from the architect's perspective, and the backbone cable of the pre-wiring (perhaps a 25-pair copper feeder or a fiber-optic line) runs down that stack. This backbone cabling should end in a room that will become your equipment room--the room or closet where you keep all your routers, switches, modems, etc.

The long and short of this is that the house wiring should be laid out like a star, with all cables radiating out from patch panels in the equipment room and ending in faceplates in various other rooms. This is how I would expect a pre-wired house to be wired. From these faceplates, you would run general-purpose, straight-through cat5 cable to any PCs you want to network.

Also, the RJ45 sockets in the walls should be labeled so that you know which two would make up a connected pair. Essentially, if there's a patch-panel socket in your equipment room labeled "4A", there should also be a faceplate socket somewhere else in the building, also labeled "4A" or something similar. This labeling would identify that a cat5 connection exists between the two sockets. If there are no such labels, your wiring installer needs a good swift kick in the ass. ;)

08-19-2002, 09:55 AM
I think I found where the equipment room is. So should my cable modem and router be hooked up in this room? Or do I just plug my router into any CAT5 jack in the house?

BTW, I don't see any labels on the CAT5 jacks.

08-19-2002, 06:52 PM
Your cable modem should go in the equipment room. Also, you'll probably be using a router, a NAT box with a switch/hub, or some other means of letting all computers share the cable broadband connection. This should go in your equipment room as well.

EDIT: I should read posts a bit more closely. I just noticed you've been talking about a router all along! Silly me...

08-19-2002, 07:34 PM
Originally posted by: Kell
Your cable modem should go in the equipment room. Also, you'll probably be using a router, a NAT box with a switch/hub, or some other means of letting all computers share the cable broadband connection. This should go in your equipment room as well.

Just as a matter of curiousity, why? Couldn't he just plug into any Cat5 jack? Is it just a matter of aesthetics and orderliness or are there other good reasons?

08-19-2002, 08:04 PM
Because it's easier to centralize your resources.

The feed from the ISP goes to the closet | From the closet, you have branches that go to all the other rooms.

Some flavor of router connects the ISP feed to some flavor of hub/switch (which may be integrated into the router unit) which feeds all the other branches (except those connected to phones, if any).

If you have all of the computer in one room, then it would be more efficient to put the switch (or router/switch) in the room with the computers (saves UTP runs). If you have a binch of computer in one room, and another computer or two in another room or two, then put the router/switch in the closet, put a small switch in the room with the bunch of computers, and connect the individual computers in the other rooms to the router/switch in the closet.

There's another couple zillion combinations, depending on where the computers/phones are (if he's even using the Cat5 for phones), and how many / where they are.

GENERALLY SPEAKING, the primary distribution resource should be central, with feeder connections to other hosts or clusters of hosts .... it conserves the limited cabling resources.



08-19-2002, 08:06 PM
Well, to tell the truth, the router really needs to go near either a phone jack where the DSL connection will be made, or near a Cable jack where the cable modem will be located. I would guess that provision has been made in the equipment closet for both types of connections.

And, yes, the router can go on any port, but putting it in an equipment closet just gets it out of the way, neatens up the house, and maybe keeps it out of harms way from pets/kids/spouses/etc....

08-19-2002, 10:01 PM
The CAT5 jacks in each room are also used for phone service. However, I don't have phone service because I use my cell phone for all calls. In the garage is a box that has the cable for my TV/Internet going to all the different rooms and all the CAT5 wires going to the different CAT5 jacks throughout the house. There are no CAT5 jacks that I can tap into with a router at this location. Also, nothing is labeled telling me what goes where. How do I tap into this CAT5 cabling if there are no Jacks? I don't think I can just plug a router into one of the CAT5 jacks in the house and be able to access the net from all the other jacks... can I??

I called the management today and even though they had all these townhouse prewired with CAT5 they have no idea how I go about using the cabling to set up a home network.

Are there any companies that can come out and look at my setup and tell me what I need to do? I called AT&T and they said they have nothing to do with home networks.

08-19-2002, 10:16 PM
Sounds like wireless is looking better and better :) Are you sure the cable was even meant for anything besides phone use? And even if it was, you might start to wonder whether it was done right.

08-19-2002, 10:27 PM
I can't figure out why they would wire the whole place with CAT5 if it's just for phone use. However, looking at how they have everything set up, it doesn't look like they ever intended this system to be used for home networking. I think you're right, wireless is looking better and better. I was originally going to go wireless until I realized this whole place is CAT5. Oh well, thanks for the help guys! I guess I'll go research wireless routers.

08-19-2002, 10:44 PM
The ONLY way to install a structured cabling plant is home runs to a central location. There is no point in doing it any other way, especially as new construction.

Just to be clear; there is a huge difference between phone wire & jacks, and category-rated structured cabling and information outlets. Are you sure you aren't pointing at a phone wire / jack and calling it "Cat5" because it looks kinda like the Cat5 UTP you've seen in stores?

It's possible that the cables are unlabeled, that's easy enough to trace, no big deal. If the cables in your "closet" just pass through, then I'm thinking you don't have a structured cable system .... maybe they just used Cat(something) to wire up the phones. It'd be a nice voice system, but nearly worthless for data without replacing all the recepticles, and still semi-worthless if it doesn't home run to some central location.

If you really want to resolve it, check the yellow pages for a data cable installation outfit and give 'em a call. They can usually do a quick qualification (or even read the cabling for "EIA/TIA Rated Category 5" printed on the jacket) .....and trace the runs with a toner. Don't forget to ask 'em for the ballpark price before they come out. Lots of places will come out for a quote at little or no charge.

Good Luck


08-19-2002, 11:48 PM
Well, their ad says, "5 catagory wiring/phone & data". All the jacks say CAT5e on them.

I think I see where the problem is. The CAT5 wiring and TV/Internet cable run to a box in the garage. The cover on this box has Leviton Telcom printed on it. According to the wiring chart on the back of this cover, all the CAT5 wiring is wired into a Bridged Voice Module. I'm assuming this is for phone service. The chart also shows a Coaxial Splitter and a Data Module. I've got the Coaxial Splitter which has my cables running into, but there is no Data Module. I think this missing Data Module is what I need to tap into with a router. The Data Module diagram looks like it has six CAT5 jacks. It also shows for connectors for each jack. I'm guessing there is four connectors for each CAT5 cable.

Anyone think I've found the problem?

I'm going to speak with management tomorrow and find out why the Data Module is missing when they advertised data as well as phone.

08-20-2002, 12:13 AM
I know Leviton; they're the primary supplier of Cat5e keystone jacks at Home Depot. I've used a few of them in my 10/100 home network with no problems (though I tend to prefer AMP or Panduit parts all the same).

They have "CAT5E" printed on them in grey when they come out of the box. It guarantees the jack itself to be rated for Cat5E, but not necessarily the cables running behind the walls. The only way to tell if the cables themselves are rated for Cat5e is to look at the cable itself and see if the rating (such as "CAT5E", "ENHANCED CATEGORY 5", or "350MHz") is printed somewhere on the jacket, or (as ScottMac suggested) have a sweep/crosstalk test done on your sockets. Probably easier to just look at the extra cable laying in your garage, if you know it's the same as what got used in the walls.

Wireless would be easier, but if you already have sufficient hard lines within your walls, it would be a shame to let them lie unused. :( Cat5/5E Ethernet hardware tends to be a lot cheaper, a lot faster, and a lot more reliable than wireless.

EDIT: If you can read the printing off the cable, but you can't quite figure it out, maybe we can. :) Feel free to post it.

08-20-2002, 12:23 AM
I just looked at the cables and they are light blue and have Category 5e printed on them.

Am I correct in assuming that without that Data Module being wired in that there isn't much I can do?

08-20-2002, 12:30 AM
You should be able to get another data module from HD and install it. Punching is pretty straight forward. The jacks are color coded for each pair, and the module should fit right in.

The box in the garage is your "wireing closet." If you install a cable modem, split the cable BEFORE it goes to that gawd-awful eight-way splitter, then amp the input to the eight-way (or don't use it at all). An eight-way passive split is a bad thing.

Regarding the data cabling, it sounds like you'll be all set once you replace the data module.



08-20-2002, 01:21 AM
Which wires get hooked up to the data module? All the wires are already hooked into the bridged voice module.

08-20-2002, 02:27 AM
OK, I think I'm finally getting somewhere.

Here's what I have in my garage:

Leviton Basic Telephone and Video Unit (http://www.levitonvoicedata.com/structuredmedia/BTV.asp)

Here's what I think I need:

Leviton Basic Home Networking Unit (http://www.levitonvoicedata.com/structuredmedia/bhn.asp)

It looks like I could just add this:

Leviton Category 5e Voice and Data Expansion Module (http://www.levitonvoicedata.com/structuredmedia/cat5board.asp)

Now I'm not sure how I would go about wiring this. Like I said above, all my CAT5 cables are going into the Bridged Telephone Module. Would I just run those wires into the Category 5e Voice and Data Module?

Thanks for the help guys!

08-20-2002, 02:38 AM
I'm a little lost with this, but what happens if you go back to the earlier idea of just plugging your router into a jack? Will it work? Is this data module needed to make the network work, or is it just needed so you can put the router in the garage?

08-20-2002, 04:53 AM
rw120555, That is the question I've been trying to ask. My guess is it won't work but I really have no idea. Are all the CAT5 cables in the walls linked together or does each jack have its own cable that runs directly back to the box in the garage? Could someone please answer this? Thanks,

08-20-2002, 09:06 AM
NO, you cannot just plug the router into a the existing jacks.

The phone bridge module puts all connections attached to it in parallel (sorta like twisting all the orange wires together, all the blue wires together, etc). That setup won't work for Ethernet.

To use those cables for data, you'd remove them from the phone bridge, and punch them into the data module.

Is there only one cable run to each location (each wallplate)? If so, then you gotta figure out where you want phones, and where you want 'puters.



08-20-2002, 09:25 AM
So in other words, right now he has a bunch of phone jacks, and he wants/needs to convert some of them into computer jacks?

Why wasn't anything labeled for him -- would that be standard or necessary practice given that it is not yet setup for computers, or was it just sloppy? In general, does it sound like whoever did this did it right?

Just curious so I know what to do if I ever want a new house that is computer ready!

08-20-2002, 10:17 AM
rick67 what you need is a fellow AT geek to come over and look at your setup
where is this townhome? i'm sure someone would volunteer for beer or food.

08-20-2002, 10:37 AM
OK, here's what I'm going to do. Please let me know if I'm doing something wrong or if I've got it right.

I'm going to go over to HD and pick up the Leviton Category 5e Voice and Data Expansion Module for about $25 and a 110 punch down tool. Because the installer failed to label the wires, I'm also going to need something to help me figure out which wires go to which CAT5 jacks. Can anyone recommend a cheap tool I can use for this?

My plan once I figure out which jacks the wires go to is to remove those that I want for data from the Bridged Telephone Module and connect them to the Leviton Category 5e Voice and Data Expansion Module. I'll then need to pick up a amp for the cable, split the cable and run one end into my cable modem. The other end will go to a splitter which runs to my TV's. I'll then run the cable modem into the router and the router into the data expansion module CAT5 jacks. Can anyone recommend a Linksys router for this?

I hope I got this right. Please let me know if I'm missing something.

08-20-2002, 10:40 AM
johngute, I think I have it figured out but I could be way off. I live in the Vancouver, WA area.

08-20-2002, 04:20 PM
I believe you are on the right track.

HD might also have a cheap circuit toner, or continuity-style circuit tester (you plug in a loop at the remote end, and the reader on the closet end ... move jack-to-jack until it sees the loop device on the remote end).

Good Luck


08-21-2002, 05:53 AM
I picked up the data module at HD yesterday along with a Ideal LinkMaster UTP/STP Tester. I installed the data module, removed one CAT5e cable at a time from the voice module and wired it into the 4-Pair 110 connectors on the data module. I then used the LinkMaster to determine which CAT5e jack it went to in the house. I ran four of the CAT5e cables to the data module. These will be used for two PC's upstairs and two game systems downstairs. All lines tested good and are ready whenever I get around to getting a router.

What router should I buy?

I want to thank everyone that helped me get this all worked out.

08-21-2002, 06:20 PM
There are many different 4 port home routers. You can get a decent one for $40 - $50. If you need to expand in the future you could buy a switch or hub to go between the router and the cable.

Do you have cable internet service yet? Most cable internet services only give you one IP for one computer. If you install the router before they show up, they'll see the router right away.

The D-Link 604 router has been going on sale at Best Buy and other places with a rebate that makes it very cheap. Linksys and a few other companies make ok routers as well.