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Telecommunications began, of course, with the humble phone line, but it has quickly grown into e-mail, Internet access, and home computer networking. The jargon can be confusing, but the actual cabling and connections are straightforward. Here's how to get wired.

Typically, to jump into cyberspace, you'd simply plug one end of your modem-either an external model or a built-in-into a standard telephone jack, which is hooked up to standard 2-pair or 3-pair telephone wire.

Installation gets a little more challenging when you're linking phone, answering machine, fax, and modem together, but it's still a relatively simple matter, involving the addition of a multi-line jack and perhaps an adapter or two to your present POTS (plain old telephone service) wire.

If, however, you're wiring from scratch or adding a new phone line for a home office, it's a good investment to wire the new run with 4-pair, Category 5 cable. Even if you need only one phone line now, you can eventually run up to four lines off it; whereas you may not be able to wire any future devices off the POTS wire. Category 5 cable comes in several versions, including interior, exterior, and fire-rated.
Bring the Cat-5 cable into a standard wall box. Don't make splices inside walls; make them where accessible, using RJ-45 couplings. Avoid sharp bends when routing cable. When making connections, strip off as little insulation as possible, and untwist only as much wire as necessary.
Wire an 8-pin, RJ-45 jack (used for computer hookups) to the cable, using a screwdriver or a specialized punchdown tool (shown on this page) to press the conductors into the slots on the back of the jack. Although a standard 4- or 6-pin telephone connector will fit the wider RJ-45 jack, the RJ-45 connector won't fit the traditional jack.
If you're adding a standard phone, fax, or answering machine, negotiate your way around the room with either 2- or 3-pair line cord (see page 128); or, if your device calls for it, use a Cat-5 patch cable (available in different lengths) with RJ-45 connectors at both ends.

Lightning strikes, power spikes, and even daily voltage fluctuations can potentially travel right into your home on electrical or phone lines and make "toast" of your expensive audiovisual gear, phone equipment, and home computer networks. To protect both your investment and important data, it makes sense to add surge protection to your wiring scheme.
There are two main types of surge arrestors: point-of-use and whole house. Both are designed to block excess voltage from reaching your expensive electronics. Instead, the arrestors divert excess voltage back through the grounding system to the grounding electrode conductor and into the earth. Note: You must have an adequate grounding system for the arrestor to do its job.
Point-of-use devices, like the one shown above right, resemble multi-outlet power strips, and, unfortunately, many cheaper versions are little more than that.

When shopping, compare joule ratings (the higher the better); maximum voltage the unit will let pass through (the less the better); and the maximum spike the unit can sustain without failing. Many protectors come with insurance policies in case of failure. Good units have an internal fuse and a reset button. Many come with telephone jacks, as well as 120-volt outlets. Check whether the strip has room for all your large plugs and/or transformers.
Whole-house arrestors reside either inside or just outside the service entrance panel, clamped to a knockout. They are usually wired to a double-pole, 240-volt circuit breaker and to the neutral bus bar.
You can also help protect a computer by placing it on its own dedicated circuit and installing a so-called isolated ground receptacle (shown below). If you're using a plastic housing box, wire this device like any other receptacle. For a metal box, wire the circuit with 3-conductor cable. Make hot and neutral connections as usual, but attach the grounding wire to the box only. Then, run the extra red wire from the neutral bus bar to the receptacle's grounding screw, and tape the wire green to identify it as a second uninterrupted grounding wire. There's an extra step you can take to protect your equipment during a lightning storm or power outage: unplug it. This advice applies not only to equipment plugged into receptacles on household voltage, but also to phone lines that may be connected to a lone computer or, worse yet, to a computer network. In either case, detach the phone line from its jack.


Multicomputer families and home businesses may feel the need to access data, share peripherals such as printers and scanners, share Internet connections, or simply play computer games against each other from different rooms. Home computer networks come in two basic flavors: coaxial cable and twisted pair.

CABLE NETWORK: This is not the same cable that serves your TV or video: it's RG-58 coaxial, also called thinnet, which is smaller in diameter, is rated for 50 ohms rather than 75 ohms, and takes knurled BNC (bayonet) fittings like those shown at left.
Coaxial networks have their pros and cons. On the positive side, cable networking is fairly inexpensive there's no hub or distribution center (see below) required, just cable, couplings, and network interface cards for your computers or other devices. On the down side, cable networking is limited to io-base (io-megabit) transmission, which means it will be slow. Devices must be wired in series or "daisy-chain" fashion, so if one leg fails, the whole system goes out.
Make cable connections between cable and computer with BNC T-fittings and standard F-connectors. At the end of the line, close the unused end with a plug. You
can buy cable with ready-made F-connectors at both ends or buy cable in bulk and add your own F-connectors.
UTP NETWORK: This is a techy-sounding acronym for "unshielded twisted pair"-in other words, a network that travels via Category 3 or Category 5 cable. Cat-3 cable can handle only io-base transmission speeds, so opt for the faster 100-base (100-megabit) Cat-5 cable instead.
The heart of a UTP network is the central distribution center, or "hub." You'll need a hub with enough input and output ports to handle all your computers and shared peripherals, such as printers and hard drives. Plug the hub into a nearby 120-volt receptacle.
You'll also need some other items: a network interface card (NIC) for each computer (unless your computers offer built-in support for Ethernet), some Cat-5 patch cables, and networking software "drivers" for each machine.
Networking pieces are available as kits, which include a hub, two or more NICs, patch cables, and software. However, if your computers don't have the same expansion slots or internal hubs (either PCI or ISA versions), you'll need to buy the pieces individually.
Plan to connect devices as shown below with home-run wiring (also called star topology). Drill and fish wires between rooms as necessary.

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Updated: 02/2018   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com