How to terminate data cabling

Written by brent watkins
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The ability to terminate CAT-5, CAT-5e and the newer CAT-6 data cables can save money by using inexpensive bulk data cable to wire a home or business. With the right tools and a little instruction, you can add connecting plugs to the ends of raw cable to create everything from handy patch cords to lengthy cable runs. For our tutorial, we will terminate data cable into RJ-45 "keystone" jacks that mount easily into wall plates. These wall mounts are used for professional network installations.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Un-terminated CAT-5e cable
  • Network cable jacket stripper
  • Keystone jacks
  • Wall plates
  • Network cable tester

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with the data cable. This tutorial will assume you are using common CAT-5e cable. CAT-5e cable consists of a plastic jacket covering 8 wires grouped in 4 twisted pair sets.

  2. 2

    Using a network cable jacket stripper, remove about 1 inch of the outer jacket to expose the coloured cable pairs.

  3. 3

    Separate the four twisted pairs of wire. Note the colour positions for the keystone jack provided in the instructions for the particular jack you are using. Different jacks will connect the cable differently. Some connectors come straight out of the back; others will be set 90 degrees from the jack.

  4. 4

    Take care to keep the pairs twisted to at least 1/2 inch of their connectors. The twisted configuration is required for the data cable to function properly.

  5. 5

    Insert each wire into the corresponding colour code slot. If the wires do not align with their correct coloured slot, your connection will fail to work properly.

  6. 6

    Firmly press the keystone jack's plastic header to "punch down" the wires into their connectors. The connectors are self-terminating. Be sure the header is completely seated against the terminal jack to assure a solid connection.

  7. 7

    Insert the keystone jack into your wall plate. Make sure you push the bottom of the jack in first until the bottom latch is secure, and then push the top latch in. You should hear a click or feel the jack snap into the wall plate when it is properly seated.

  8. 8

    Use a network cable tester to confirm the jack is functioning properly

Tips and warnings

  • Keystone Jacks differ in design. Some network cable professionals prefer a style that has a hinged punch down device that is attached to the jack so that it won't become separated. There is nothing more annoying than misplacing the little plastic punch down header. Keystone jacks that feature hinged punch down designs can be easier to use and feature a small plastic lock to retain the cover.
  • Take care not to nick any of the wire pairs when you strip the jacket. If you damage any of the wires, make a clean cut of the cable end and start over.

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