While most of us rely on wireless at home, wired internet is often a better choice. There are only a few ports on most home routers. Although adding more ports is simple, there are some things you should consider before setting up your router.
Add Ports with an Ethernet Hub or Switch
You can add more ports to your router using an Ethernet hub, which is also known as a switch. These are like power-bank extensions. They plug into the existing Ethernet port on your router and add a variety of ports depending on what you choose. Higher speed hubs tend to be more expensive, so the more you spend, you will get more ports.
To expand your network of Ethernet ports, you will first need an Ethernet hub. The hub can be connected to any spare port on your router. You can then connect other devices to the hub. Although you can add more than one router hub, it is best to avoid daisy-chaining hubs.
Though it’s possible to repurpose an old router into a switch, these hubs are cheap and cheerful, costing a fraction of what you’d pay for a new router. A cheap four-port hub might cost between $10 and $20, or cheaper if you don’t need gigabit speeds. A wall adapter is required to power a hub, just like a router.
Netgear Ethernet hub
When purchasing a port, keep in mind that many models will only use one of the ports to connect to your router. An Ethernet hub with five ports may only have four ports.
Most hubs come with an Ethernet cable for connecting to their router. To connect existing devices, such as computers, smart TVs and network drives, you will need additional cabling. Remember: not all Ethernet cables are equal, and higher speeds can only be attained with faster cables.
Consider Device and Port Placement Carefully
Ethernet hubs work by sharing the available bandwidth of the port they are connected to on your router. If your router has four gigabit Ethernet ports, and you purchase an Ethernet hub that adds four more ports to it, the gigabit of bandwidth available will be shared among those four ports when they are being used simultaneously.
The important thing to note is that the bandwidth is only shared when those devices are all using your network. This information will help you to set up your hub so that it doesn’t saturate one port.
You might not use both your work computer and gaming console simultaneously, so connecting them to the same hub will have minimal effect on performance. However if you have a gaming PC that you use at night while streaming movies from a network drive, these two devices should ideally be connected to entirely separate ports on your router (not to different ports on the same hub) since the limited bandwidth introduced by the hub may affect the performance of either one.
With a little planning you can only connect devices to a hub that will be used at different times. Even if you have a lot of bandwidth, such as printers, you can group them into hubs.
Faster Ethernet Ports Deliver Better Performance
Most routers should have gigabit Ethernet ports by now, and some offer 10Gb networking. Consider investing in the most cost-effective equipment possible if you are looking to create a wired network at home or work. This may involve replacing your router with a faster version, but also buying faster Ethernet hubs to remove bandwidth limitations.
This is especially true when prioritizing devices on the basis of usage is impossible. This is true if there are multiple computers in one office that can be connected to the same hub or a family room that has multiple consoles that will likely be used simultaneously to play online games.
If your router only supports 100Mb networking then it’s probably time for an upgrade anyway. Gigabit Ethernet means 1000Mb, which is ten times faster than older standards. 10Gb Ethernet improves available bandwidth tenfold again. Make sure you are able to match the hub’s speed with your router’s maximum throughput.
This might not be a good idea if your devices aren’t capable of supporting faster speeds. However, newer devices do exist that support them. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5 each have gigabit Ethernet ports, and Apple sells the M1 Mac mini with an optional 10-gigabit Ethernet port if you need it. You may also find devices that have speeds between 2.5Gb and 5Gb.
If you aren’t sure which ports your router supports, look under the unit. Some routers will list the speed of the ports, while others may have a model number that you can search to confirm. Don’t forget to ensure you buy the right speed Ethernet cables to take advantage of faster ports.
You Can Place the Hub in a Different Room
You don’t have to place the hub in the exact same room as the router. The advantage of Ethernet hubs is that they can be used to provide additional wired ports in a room without the need to move your router.
There are a few ways to go about this: use an Ethernet extension cable, use an Ethernet over coax adapter, or use Ethernet over powerline. This is the simplest, but most noticeable method. However, unless you are prepared to plaster your walls to conceal cables, it can be quite unsightly. Ethernet-over-coax allows you to use coaxial cables that you might already have in your walls.
Ethernet extension cable
If your home is wired for cable service, you might have coaxial cables installed in your wall. These cables offer faster speeds than wireless and have fewer drawbacks than powerline adapters. They may not be possible because every home isn’t wired for cable.
Ethernet Over Coaxial Kit
Ethernet over powerline also uses existing cables, but speeds may not be guaranteed. Many Ethernet powerline adapters claim a combined speed. That means a speed of 1200Mb/sec may only be 600Mb/sec either way. The age and quality of the cables, interference, as well as how much you spend on the adapter will all factor into the speed you’re likely to receive.
Ethernet Over Powerline Kit
The further you are from the adapter the slower you will lose. You may have rooms that are on different circuits. This is great for working on wires but not for carrying Ethernet connections through walls. Performance can be affected by even plugging in an adapter alongside another device.
And then, you have to account for bandwidth saturation, which was previously discussed. Powerline adapters are a convenient way of extending a wired network without laying unsightly cables or getting the renovators in, but they come at the cost of efficiency and you should keep that in mind if raw speed is important to you.
Ethernet Problems? Check Your Cables
Wired network is still the best way to connect your computers, smart devices and gaming consoles to the Internet. Wireless networks are less susceptible to interference than wireless networks. However, wired networks can achieve theoretically higher speeds if you have the funds.
Make sure you understand the limitations that hubs and powerline adapters introduce, and remember that many problems with wired networks can be solved simply by swapping out a few cables.