How To Add More Ethernet Ports To Your Router

Multiple Ethernet cables connected to an Internet routerProxima Studio/Shutterstock.com

While most of us rely on wireless internet at home, wired internet is often a better choice. The only downside is that most home routers only have a handful of ports. Adding more ports is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind when setting it up.

RELATED: Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet: How Much Better is a Wired Connection?

Add ports with an Ethernet switch

You can add more ports to your router using an Ethernet switch. Think of these as power bank extensions: they plug into an existing Ethernet port on your router, but they add a range of extra ports depending on what you opt for. The more you spend, the more ports you get (higher-speed switches also cost more).

To expand your range of Ethernet ports, you must first purchase an Ethernet switch. This switch is connected to one of the free ports on your router. From there you can connect additional devices to the switch. You can add more than one switch to your router, but for efficiency you should avoid daisy chaining switches.

Netgear Ethernet Switchnetgear

While it’s possible to turn an old router into a switch, these switches are cheap and cheerful, costing a fraction of what you’d pay for a new router. A cheap four-port switch might cost between $10 and $20, or cheaper if you don’t need gigabit speeds. Just like with a router, you have to power a switch with a wall adapter.

Netgear Ethernet Switch

When buying a port, keep in mind that most models will use one of the ports to connect to your existing router. So an Ethernet switch that appears to have five ports only provides four additional ports for you to connect devices to.

Most switches come with a suitable Ethernet cable to connect to your router. You will need to provide additional cabling to connect your existing devices (such as computers, smart TVs, and network drives). Remember, not all Ethernet cables are created equal and faster speeds can only be achieved with faster cables.

Carefully consider device and port placement

Ethernet switches work by sharing the available bandwidth of the port they are connected to on your router. So if your router has gigabit Ethernet ports and you buy a suitable Ethernet switch that adds four ports, that gigabit bandwidth is shared between those four ports when those devices are used simultaneously.

The important thing to note is that bandwidth is only shared when those devices are all using your network. Using this information, you can try setting your switch so as not to saturate any ports.

For example, you may not be using your work PC and game console at the same time, so plugging them both into the same switch will have little effect on performance. However, if you have a gaming PC that you use at night while streaming movies from a network drive, ideally these two devices should be connected to completely separate ports on your router (not to different ports on the same switch) as the limited bandwidth introduced by the switch can affect the performance of either.

With a little careful planning, you can only plug devices into a switch that would be used at different times. You can also group low-bandwidth devices (like printers) into switches, even if you’re running something that needs more bandwidth (like a computer) at the same time.

Faster Ethernet ports deliver better performance

Most routers should now have gigabit Ethernet ports, and some offer 10Gb networks. If you’re leaning towards a wired network for your home or office, consider investing in the fastest equipment your budget will allow. This may involve replacing your router with a faster version, as well as buying faster Ethernet switches to overcome bandwidth limitations.

This is especially true if it’s not possible to prioritize devices based on usage. For example, if you have multiple computers in one office connected to the same switch, or a family room with multiple consoles that are likely to be used to play online games at the same time.

If your router only supports 100Mb networks, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Gigabit Ethernet means 1000Mb, which is ten times faster than older standards. 10Gb Ethernet improves the available bandwidth again by a factor of ten. Just make sure you match the speed of your switch to the maximum throughput of your router.

This may not make much sense if you don’t have devices that can support the faster speeds, but there are already newer devices that do 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. It’s also not uncommon to find devices with intermediate speeds like 2.5Gb.

If you are not sure what your router supports, check the bottom of the device. Many have the speed of the ports listed, while others have a model number that you can search to make sure. To take advantage of faster ports, don’t forget to buy Ethernet cables with the right speed.

RELATED: What Kind of Ethernet Cable (Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a) Should I Use?

You can place the switch in another room

You don’t have to leave the switch in the same room as your router. Ethernet switches are useful because they can supply an entire room with extra wired ports without having to move your router from its usual resting place.

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. The first is pretty basic, but often unsightly, unless you’re willing to do some plastering to hide cables in the wall. Ethernet over coax (MoCA) allows you to use coaxial cables that you may already have in your walls.

Ethernet extension cable

You may have coaxial cables in your wall if your house is wired for cable services. These connections offer faster speeds than wireless, with fewer of the drawbacks encountered by powerline adapters. Since not every home is wired for cable, they may not be an option.

Ethernet over coaxial kit

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Ethernet over powerline also uses existing cables, but speeds may not be guaranteed. Many Ethernet powerline adapters advertise a combined speed. That means that a speed of 1200Mb/sec should only be 600Mb/sec anyway. The age and quality of the cables, interference, and how much you spend on the adapter all affect the speed you’re likely to receive.

Ethernet via Powerline Kit

The further your destination is from the adapter, the more speed you are likely to lose. Some rooms may be on different circuits, which is great for doing work on the wires in your home, but terrible for carrying an Ethernet connection through the walls. Even connecting another device in addition to an adapter can affect performance.

And then you have to factor in bandwidth saturation, as discussed earlier. Powerline adapters are a convenient way to extend a wired network without running unsightly cables or bringing in the innovators, but they come at the cost of efficiency and that’s something to consider if pure speed is important to you .

RELATED: How to Speed ​​Up Your Internet Connection

Ethernet problems? Check your cables

Wired networking is still the most reliable way to connect your computers, smart devices, and game consoles to the Internet. Wired networks are not as susceptible to interference as wireless networks, with much faster theoretical speeds possible if you are willing to open your wallet.

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