What is an Ethernet cable? Here’s how to connect to the internet without Wi-Fi and get a speedier connection

ethernet cable being plugged into internet router
Ethernet cables, which connect your devices directly to your internet router, can speed up your connection.

  • An Ethernet cable lets you physically connect your computer to the internet.
  • Ethernet connections are almost always faster than Wi-Fi connections, and are usually more stable.
  • You’ll need to connect one end of the Ethernet cable to your router, and the other to your computer.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The majority of users access the internet using wireless devices, like phones or laptops. These devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi, wireless signals that broadcast throughout your house.

But if you’ve been using the internet for a while – or you have a desktop computer that you don’t use Wi-Fi for – you’ll probably be using an Ethernet cable instead. Ethernet cables are wires that physically connect your computer to a router or modem.

Ethernet cables can seem clunky or restricting, but they can substantially improve the speed and stability of your internet.

Here’s what you need to know about Ethernet cables, how they work, and what makes them a handy alternative to Wi-Fi.

An Ethernet cable ‘hardwires’ your computer to an internet connection

An Ethernet cable, sometimes referred to as a network cable, is a cord that runs from a router, modem, or network switch to your computer, giving your device access to the local area network (LAN) – in other words, giving it internet access.

 

The benefit of hardwiring your internet connection is that it’s faster and more consistent. Without walls or other objects blocking your Wi-Fi signals, you don’t have to worry about sudden drops in internet speed.

Gaming with an Ethernet cable means less lag and faster loading times for multiplayer games. And every major game console can connect with an Ethernet port – although to connect a Nintendo Switch, you’ll need an adapter.

1_ _What_is_an_ethernet_cable
Ethernet cables come in sizes as long or short as you’d need.

Just be careful not to unplug your cable while you’re using it, as doing so will disconnect you from the internet instantly. Luckily, Ethernet cables are made to snap snugly into place, so it’s hard to pull them out accidentally.

Ethernet cables come in a range of lengths and colors, but both sides of the cord are the same, regardless of the brand of cable or device you’re hardwiring.

Amazon ethernet cable
Ethernet cables are double-sided.

Ethernet accessories can help you connect any device

Although newer, slender models of laptops don’t tend to have Ethernet ports, you can still utilize an Ethernet cable with a USB or USB-C adapter.

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Ethernet adapters can convert to USB, seen here, or USB-C.

Another common accessory to pair with an Ethernet cable is a network switch. This add-on lets you convert an Ethernet connection into multiple ones, allowing you to, for instance, hardwire both your Xbox and Chromecast to the internet at the same time.

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A network switch, which connects to the router via Ethernet, allows multiple devices to be hardwired to the internet at once.

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Is Ethernet faster than Wi-Fi? Yes, and a hardwired connection offers other benefits as well

couple unpacking hooking up internet ethernet cable
Though they can be less convenient, Ethernet cables are typically much faster than Wi-Fi.

  • Ethernet is typically faster than a Wi-Fi connection, and it offers other advantages as well. 
  • A hardwired Ethernet cable connection is more secure and stable than Wi-Fi.
  • You can test your computer’s speeds on Wi-Fi versus an Ethernet connection easily.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The advent of Wi-Fi was a great thing. It has granted easier internet access in harder-to-reach areas, made connecting new devices a breeze – and not to mention, reduced the amount of cables on our floors.

However, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent connection possible, you should still stick with an Ethernet cable. It’s less convenient, but boasts all sorts of advantages.

Ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi

If you want a fast connection, you should consider connecting as many of your devices as possible to Ethernet. This is because Ethernet is nearly always faster than a Wi-Fi connection from the same router.

It’s true that radio waves are incredibly fast. But an Ethernet cable lets your devices send and receive data almost instantaneously. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic connection.

This also means that it doesn’t matter how close or far you are from your router. As long as your Ethernet cable reaches, you’ll see little to no loss in speed.

You can compare Wi-Fi and Ethernet speeds by running a quick speed test using both connections. You’ll almost certainly find the Ethernet connection to be faster.

speed tes
According to testmy.net, internet download speed is almost doubled on this device when using an Ethernet cable, at 310.2 Mbps, compared to 164 Mbps without.

Our own quick test showed an Ethernet download speed almost double that of Wi-Fi.

Ethernet is more stable than a Wi-Fi signal

To use an analogy, an Ethernet cable is to Wi-Fi what a landline is to a cell phone. Rather than transmitting the signal wirelessly, an Ethernet cable carries your data via a cable electronically.

ethernet cable connected to laptop internet
Some laptops have an Ethernet port built in, while others – especially Macs – require a special adapter.

In short, this means that the data is less likely to get lost or degrade along the way. You also don’t have to worry about the signal being blocked or slowed down by nearby electronics or barriers.

Unless your Ethernet cable physically breaks, there’s not much that can disrupt it, short of a power outage. 

Ethernet connections are likely more secure than Wi-Fi

Although a clever Wi-Fi network name like “FBI Surveillance Van” might dissuade some neighbors from trying to hack your network, you’re still more secure with an Ethernet connection.

Any Wi-Fi password can be hacked with enough effort, and since Wi-Fi signals pass through the open air, they can be intercepted. But to gain access to an Ethernet connection, you need to have the cable and the router. There’s no way to hack into Ethernet without a physical connection.

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Read the original article on Business Insider