What Is An Ethernet Port?

by Jeff Atkins on May 14, 2020
what is an ethernet port

Now that you've got your ethernet cable you might be wondering where I can use it? The great thing about cable is that they are very versatile in what they can be used for. The main categories of use for copper twisted pair cable is audio, video and data applications. So whether setting up security cameras, access points or your home internet a copper twisted pair cable can do the job. With all the different types of devices that you can use an ethernet cable on they for the most part all have one thing in common. That part is an ethernet port and in this article we cover all there is to know about what is an ethernet port.

What Do Ethernet Ports Look Like?

If you're new to networking or never had to connect a device with cable you might be wondering what an Ethernet port looks like. The nice thing is that they are simple to find on many different devices. Ethernet ports are commonly found on gaming consoles (Xbox or PlayStation), computers such as laptops and desktop towers, printers, modem, routers, fax machines and much more. Take a look below on the picture to see what an ethernet port looks like. They will come in a square outer shape but on the inside is more of an angle. The inside consists of gold contacts which are referred to as pins. More on that later.

In the picture below you'll see the 2 ports for ethernet connections. These can come labelled or unlabeled. it depends on the device and brand of product you are using. Labeling can vary from network port, ethernet port, LAN port or WAN port. 

what an ethernet port looks like

What Does An Ethernet Port Do?

Ethernet ports can also be referred to as sockets or jacks. The main function of an ethernet port is to create an ethernet connection. Ethernet connections can be create between computers, servers, switches, hubs, routers, modems, gaming consoles, printers and much more. When multiple devices are connected it is called a LAN (Local Area Network), WAN (Wide Area Network) or MAN (Metropolitan Area Networks). These types of networks range in different sizes. For the majority of networks in your home it will be a LAN (Local Area Network). One of the vital parts to these network is an ethernet port.

The ethernet port connects one to many different devices. The most common type of connection for an ethernet port is from your computer to your router. By connecting all these devices together we call is hard wiring. It is used to establish an internet connection to your device of choice.

How Does An Ethernet Port Function?

 Ethernet ports are connected to devices on the inside of your product. They are connected to NIC (Network Interface Controller) which looks like a motherboard. On one end is the ethernet port and the rest consists of electrical circuits used to communicate with a wired connection. A NIC is commonly used in computers and is something that can be switched with another type of NIC. This depends on the type and brand of computer.

nic showing ethernet ports

Other ways in which an ethernet port function is by being apart of an ethernet controller. These are typically in switches, routers and modems. Each devices controller will do different functions of the network transport.

Connecting An Ethernet Port

Ethernet ports are connected in a couple ways. The most common way to connect an ethernet port is using a patch cable. A patch cable is a copper twisted pair assembled with an RJ45 modular plug on either end. You plug one side of the cable in the port until it clips in and you do the same on the other device. This then creates a connection between both devices.

This can be done from your computer to router, router to modem, router to switch and anything that has an ethernet port on it.

Patch cables can come pre-assembled or you can create custom length cable runs using a Bulk Network Cable. The type of cable will depend on your environment and your speed requirements.

connecting an ethernet port

Performance from Port to Port

The port in your device will have different capabilities. Some of the most popular devices today have gigabit ethernet ports. But that does not cover all the devices in the market today. There are devices having port functions of 10mbps, 100mbps, 1000mbps (gigabit), 10Gb and even up to 40Gb ethernet ports. All these are different ethernet standards and speeds. Your device will often auto negotiate to your speed. Choosing which device is right for your network will consist of deciding what your speed requirements are. If you are running 500Mbps then a gigabit switch or router will be able to give you more than enough power.

Fixing Ethernet Port Problems

Looking to figure out why your ethernet cable isn't working in the port it is connected to? Having an ethernet port not working can be a frustrating scenario. Let's get in to a couple reasons why this might be the case.

  • One the biggest reason an ethernet port isn't working is because the cable is unplugged. Pretty simple fix! Just look to your Ethernet cables to see if they are plugged in all the way and have a secure connection. Just the slightest un-plug from a cable might cause an issue.
  • Try restarting your computer. This goes along the same concept as rebooting your router. Sometime you might have to restart your computer for the connection to work again.
  • Look to see if the cable you are using might be bad. Though it is rare cables can go bad. Double check to see that the cable is working in a different port. You can also try to connect another computer or device with the cable.
  • If all else isn't working give your devices company a call to see if there might be a network setting off somewhere.

Looking for more advice on cable solutions check out why my ethernet cable is not working?

Final Thoughts

Ethernet ports are found on almost every networking device nowadays. They are a powerful tool to connect multiple devices together using an ethernet cable. This can be your computer, router, modem, Xbox, PlayStation or even Chromecast or Apple TV's.

The advance in WiFi technology has reduced the need for ports in some devices but they are still a powerful tool for any size network.

Hard wiring your ethernet ports directly with cable will always present a more reliable and stable network connection. With the amount of activities done over the internet today that is a very important benefit.

Hope you found this article helpful on what is an ethernet port. Next time you see one see if you can spot the different parts to it.

Happy Networking !

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