Can Cat 5 cable achieve Gigabit speeds?


I was asked this question twice this week so thought I’d clarify a few things. Cat 5 and Cat 5e cable (note the ‘e’ for ‘enhanced’) can certainly achieve Gigabit speeds, this is what it was designed for. This is achievable but only when all twisted pairs are used and you have short run lengths. The reality of being able to push Gigabit speeds from other equipment on the line has to be addressed too, don’t focus solely on the cable.

Most new PC equipment over the last few years can do these speeds but there are some new PCI Gigabit network cards that I have tested and they are a way off data transmission at 500Gbps, let alone Gigabit.

Clearing up the terminology

I’ll break here to look at quickly at speed terminology in a little more detail as there is lots of confusion here for non-techy people. First off, let’s define speed and fix a common mistake. Take a speed of “100MB/sec” what does this represent? Well, it means that you achieve 100 MegaBytes per second (important to note the large B in there). Since there are 8 bits in a Byte, we are actually achieving 800Mbps (800 Megabits per second). Got it?

Older Ethernet equipment typically ran at 10/100 speeds. The big jump from 100M bit/sec to Gigabit is accomplished by a few special signal changes that can take additional advantage of the Cat5 cable, so if you already have this installed then you may be in luck. Here’s the caveat though:

Cat 5 cable is typically unshielded twisted pair and it contains four twisted wire pairs. Fast Ethernet (10Base-T and 100Base-T) use only two of these pairs whereas Gigabit Ethernet (1000Base-T) uses all four pairs. “So use all four pairs in my Cat 5 cable and I’ll be OK?” I hear you ask. Well, caveat number 2 is that you need to keep your run lengths down. For most domestic installations you will be fine if you already have Cat5 installed as the run lengths can have little speed difference if kept around 10 metres max length (quoting from my own experience here). If you have longer cable lengths then you need to consider upgrading to Cat6, although you should do a speed test first. Personally, I’d go for Cat7 (Class F as it’s officially called) and get some future proofing in there, especially if starting from scratch.

Do bear in mind also that the quality of the cable can vary, so try to go with one that has good reviews or one from a reputable supplier if possible.

Is 10Gb/sec possible on twisted pair cables?

The current 1000Base-T specification only supports 100 metre runs of cabling and to get to the IEEE proposed 10Gb/sec we will definitely require fibre. Even the 10Gb comms across fibre have a suprisingly low limit of just 85 metres.


Cat5e seems to be giving about the most bang for your buck in most countries. I’d estimate that most domestic households won’t come anywhere near the throughput of that for quite a few years to come, but if you have the extra money or want to future-proof as much as possible then Cat7 will be a good alternative.

Hope this helps you to choose your cables!






External 1TB hard drives at discount prices

Seagate external hard drive review

Seagate 1tb external hard drive review. You can get these 1 TeraByte (1TB) hard drives at incredible prices this month:

Seagate Expansions 1TB

This is a super slick USB2.0 drive that has good transfer rates and nice packaging.  It sits on rubber feet so suffers no vibration problems and looks good on any desk.  Easy ‘plug and go’ setup and Seagate reliability.  Highly recommended.

Best price on Seagate 1TB hard drive

Western Digital Elements 1TB

With USB 2.0 and 7200rpm this drive is very keenly priced.  The gloss case means it sits nicely on your desk, ready to backup your docs, photos etc.  Performance is pretty good and we only noticed a small hum when searching for and copying files.   Quiet, cool and comes with a 2 year warranty.  Currently on free delivery via Amazon.

Best price on Western Digital Elements hard drive

Differences between Cat 5 and Cat 6 network cable

I am often asked “what are the differences between Cat 5 and Cat 6 network cable?”. Here’s my take on it:

Physical differences between Cat 5 and Cat 6 network cable

Cat5 Cat6 Cable DifferencesThe main physical differences between these cables is the way in which the spacing inside the cable is maintained. By spacing, I mean that between the pairs of copper wires there is a physical divider. This is most often made of a flexible plastic and it’s like a ‘plus’ sign in cross-section, running down the center of the cable with the 4 cable pairs separated into each quadrant. In a few cases there is foil wrapping used and separation is done with a braided sheath.

The idea behind this separation is that it reduces “crosstalk” between cables hence the data packets are not lost and speed of transfer is improved.

Cat 5 and 6 bandwidth rating

Category 5 cables are rated at 100 MHz, Category 6 cables are rated at 250 MHz. This effectively means you could push 2.5 times the amount of data down them but in the real world this is not always the case as there are a few other factors that come into play. Category 6 cabling does support the bi-directional transmission that we see in Gigabit Ethernet setups aka 1000BASE-T (1 gigabit is 1000 megabits per second!).

Signal-to-noise ratio performance advantages

Cat 6 cable provides a SNR (Signal To Noise) ratio that is approx 15 times better than Cat 5 cable over a large range of frequencies and compensates well for external ‘noise’ and temperature variations.

Popular applications for network cabling

Cat 6 has much better support for HD video, coping well with HD-SDI which demands up to 1.5 Gigabits per second. It can be used in any application that requires Cat 5 cabling such as till data, PC networks etc, so replacement of older Cat 5 cabling can be done with this newer cable as the end connectors (RJ45) are the same.  Do read my next paragraph for a caveat though.

Using Cat 6 cable with Cat 5 RJ45 plugs

The cabling is easy to terminate but watch out for the end connectors. Cat 5 RJ45 connectors are NOT the same as Cat 6 RJ45 connectors. This is a common mistake made by electrical wholesalers and even some suppliers. They don’t know the difference and often brand the end terminations as suitable for both Cat 5 and Cat 6 cabling. You won’t be able to fit Cat 6 into the old connectors because the inner cable diameter is usually that bit bigger. Stripping off the outer sheathing may help temporarily if you are in a fix, but this will usually break the integrity of the end connector as the plastic sheathing also helps to prevent the cable from pulling out. Before attempting a network installation, do a test run with your cable and end terminations.  The RJ45 plug will, however, fit in exactly the same socket so no need to change the wall plate, switch, hub, or device socket.

Ready made cables will definitely help the beginner out there as the connections are already made and there is often a moulded boot in place to support the cable and prevent excessive loads from pulling it out. Prices are often as cheap as making your own so go for these unless you need extra long lengths.
Hope this helps to straighten out the lack of information out there, please leave me a comment if you find this helpful.


Can I install OEM software on Mac Boot Camp or Virtual Machine?

Well, it seems there are lots of people asking about this installing OEM Windows software on Mac desktops and laptops. This is a grey area that I’d like to clear up (or make slightly off-white). I’ll present the facts and you can make your own decision.

OEM versions are, in theory, to be used by system builders. It is generally accepted now, although unwritten, that people can readily purchase these and install them. Just look at the plentiful supplies on major ecommerce sites and you’ll see that the OEM software is not just for system builders. Effectively, someone who installs an operating system on a PC is doing the job of a system builder, it’s just the component assembly part they are missing, and many system builders actually buy whole machines now anyway.

The thing to note with OEM software, is that if your computer dials out for licence verification then it needs to be installed on just one piece of hardware to be classed as genuine. That’s the only check. Since Retail versions are much more expensive than OEM, people are naturally drawn to them.

There are a few things to be aware of for OEM installation which I’ll clarify here:

1)  Retail versions come with both 32-bit and 64-bit installations as an option. OEM versions are one or the other, so you will want to make sure you’re ordering the right version. For your Mac, check that it is a 64 bit machine and go for this if it is. If you do have 64 bit then choose a product like Windows 7 as it’s stable, well rounded and I have seen Windows 8 splutter and complain a few times. Something like this would be perfect:

Cheap Windows 7 OEM (opens in a new tab)

The differences in 32 and 64 bit operating system software can often be marginal unless you are really pushing the computer hard, but for a small price difference 64 is a better operating system when on full load. Many software programs are 32 bit so they don’t take advantage of the extra ‘word architecture’ but when you run something like Adobe Photoshop 64 bit that is resource-hungry, it can be noticeable.

2)  OEM versions are tied to the hardware they are installed on and cannot be moved. This will only be an issue if you are planning on using virtualization software as well as your bootcamp (dual boot) installation, since the virtual machine “hardware” looks different to the real hardware.

3)  OEM versions do not come with telephone support from MS, although if you try to talk to a Microsoft representative about issues you are getting on a Mac then you may be fighting a losing battle as they are known to pass them back to you.

To summarise, I would go with an OEM dual-boot installation (64 bit if possible) OR run a virtual machine. You may even be able to run a cheaper XP licence as a virtual machine and this may suffice. If it is to run an older program such as MS Money this could work well as it may run more happily too.

64 bit architecture explained on Wikipedia

Drop me a comment below if this helped you or please click the social buttons to help others save a bit of money too.

Gigabyte SKT-AM3 GA-880GM-UD2H Motherboard

Just built up this system today for a customer. It uses a very nice motherboad from Gigabyte, the GA-880GM-UD2DH. For a top notch system at a great price point, this is currently my pick.

I dropped in an AMD Phenom II processor which can happily run at hugely overclocked speeds with this board. Add 4GB or more of quality DDR3 12800 RAM and you have a great system, rock solid, ready to run Win 7 64-bit at blistering speeds.

Twin SATA II 500GB drives allowed for huge storage but most people would be OK with a single 500GB drive.

Here’s the components I used, add your own DVD drive, case, PSU etc.

GA-880GM-UD2H motherboard

Amd phenom 1055T

ddr3 12800

Windows 7 Premium 64 bit