In any system that has multiple components or a degree of complexity, then something is going to decay. It’s a law of physics. Even if there aren’t any moving parts, there is going to be something that wears down over time and may require repair, maintenance, or replacement. This includes the LAN cable that acts as the medium between your computer and your modem or router.
However, it might be a challenge to figure out when a replacement is needed and when you just need to make a change or two. Cables aren’t exactly the sort of thing that has clearly visible wear and tear as a signal of when you need to get a new one. So, how does someone tell how to identify if a LAN cable might need replacement?
The Obvious Indications
Let’s open with the obvious signs. If the cable is determined to no longer work or has physical damage, then a replacement is in order. This is true in any circumstance and they’re also the most logical criteria for when to get something replaced.
The first part is easy enough. A LAN cable that doesn’t work needs to be replaced. You only do this once you’ve gone through all of the necessary steps to determine that the problem is something that can’t be solved or comes from a different source.
There are multiple ways to check if the cable itself is the problem. Do some quick troubleshooting, like plugging in a different cable or replacing the devices. If the process of elimination tells you the cable is the problem, then you can buy a replacement.
For the second, it is equally easy. Cuts, exposed internal workings, torn jackets, broken snap-in locks, and the like are all visible problems. While a typical ethernet cable can survive a little damage, more severe ones can cause render them useless. In general, you want the cable physically intact because these are designed to not only transmit data but also reduce interference from external and internal sources.
A more subtle physical sign is twisting. Ethernet cables that get all twisted or in knots are at risk of causing damage to the internal components. Any damage there will cause a loss of signal or degradation of the data transmitted, particularly since the internal workings of these cables already use twisting to reduce electromagnetic interference. These are major performance issues and aren’t the easiest thing in the world to fix.
One reason to replace a cable is to prevent problems that may arise. These could be technical ones, brought about by the march of technology. Another reason could be that the lifespan of the cable is running out. For reference, the average cable only lasts about five to ten years, though it’s advised in most places that you replace them every five years to prevent any loss of performance or degradation.
If you want to head off problems in this manner, you should consult a technician. Get an expert to check network performance and other elements. Have them make sure that the time is right, or if the cable has a few more years before it begins to decay and degrade.
Another good time to replace your cables is when you’re updating everything else. Every so often, you’re going to want to change your modem or router, along with other cables. Let’s face it: technology moves forward, and you need to upgrade every so often so you’re not left behind.
When the time comes to update the rest of your networking technology, you should probably upgrade the cables too. This prevents the potential issue of your cables being outdated by newer hardware or standards. If you mix older hardware with newer cables, you don’t get the speeds that the ethernet provides or find them incompatible. At the same time, older cables with newer hardware also see the reduced performance because one isn’t keeping up with the other.
From a purely financial perspective, Ethernet LAN cables aren’t terribly expensive unless you need to buy in bulk. If you’re only buying one or two, then the financial burden isn’t an issue. If you need to replace an entire building’s worth of cables, that’s going to be a problem. In most such instances, you need to replace the whole thing rather than staggering it out over time.
Financial restrictions could limit your ability to make replacements. If possible, make room in the budget for it. If that isn’t possible, you might find yourself dealing with faulty or inefficient networking until you can afford to get new cabling. In general, you’ll want to spend on quality cables rather than cheaper ones, since they will last longer and require replacement less frequently.
Replacing a LAN cable isn’t terribly difficult. Unless you have to re-cable an entire building, it’s generally a plug-and-play procedure. There are clear instances or opportunities when you should invest in a replacement to keep your network functioning at peak performance.