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How to Upgrade Your Network to Gigabit Ethernet

Technical Trivia

Ten(10) Steps to Upgrade Your Network to Gigabit Ethernet

Today's networks are faster than ever before, greatly expanding our connectivity potential. To make sure you're up to speed, you'll need to make sure your hardware and software are up to standard.

Gigabit Ethernet refers to the new standard of wired networking technology. Much faster than its predecessor, FastEthernet, it is needed to fully realize the high speeds promised by internet service providers today. This explains how to make sure your hardware and software are compliant with Gigabit Ethernet standard.

1 Decide if upgrading is worthwhile for you.

  • If you, and possibly also members of your household, regularly download large files, stream media, or perform other network-intensive tasks, such as hosting files on a server, or playing online games, you would likely benefit from the upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet.

  • Medium to large enterprises which require multiple users to be connected to the network simultaneously would also notice an improvement in productivity.

  • Individuals who use the internet solely for non-resource-intensive tasks such as e-mail, instant messaging, or surfing the web, may not see enough benefit to warrant the effort of upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet.

2 Check the network ports on your devices.

  • If you purchased your computer, gaming console, or other network-capable device within the last two to three years, they may already be equipped with Gigabit-ready network ports.

  • In Windows: Click on the start menu, click inside the search box (or click 'Run...' in older versions of Windows), type ncpa.cpl and press enter. Right-click the icon for your network adapter, and left-click 'properties'. In the dialog box that opens, click the 'Configure' button. In this new dialog box, scroll in the main window until you find an entry similar to 'Connection Type' or 'Speed', and select it. Click on the 'Value' drop-down menu. If you see '1.0 Gbps Full Duplex' or similar, your computer is Gigabit-ready. If not, you may need to upgrade your hardware, as described in Step 6, below.

  • In Ubuntu 12.04: Right-click the networking icon in the top panel of the desktop, and left-click 'Connection Information'. In the dialog box that appears, look at the 'Speed' value. A value of 1000 Mb/s indicates Gigabit-readiness.

  • For other devices, check the instruction manual for the device's technical specifications. Look at the network adapter specifications for the keywords 'gigabit' or '1000 Mbps.'

3 Don't forget about network printers.

  • If you use a networked printer very frequently, you might consider checking it for Gigabit readiness, as well. Check the instruction manual, just as in the step above.

4 Check your cables.

  • Look at the side of your network cables, and notice the cable type printed on them. If they are all labeled 'Cat5e', you are ready to go. If not, you can purchase new cables relatively inexpensively.

  • In most cases, Cat6 cables do not provide a significant performance increase over Cat5e cables. However, if you wish to future-proof your network, you may consider using Cat6 cables.

5 Check your Router/Switch.

  • Even if every other part of your network is upgraded to Gigabit standard, if your router and switch are still FastEthernet, they will bottleneck your network.

  • For home use, many people already use a combination switch and router in a single device. A home-use Gigabit router/switch is very similar.

6 Upgrade your network hardware.

  • (Step 2) described how to check if your networking hardware was compliant with the Gigabit Ethernet standard. If you found that it was not, you have a couple of options.

  • An economical choice would be to purchase a PCI Gigabit network expansion card. This card installed in the rear of your PC, alongside your existing hardware. Disadvantages to this configuration include less-than-optimum speeds, and the need to remember which Ethernet port is attached to the Gigabit network card, and which is your old FastEthernet port. Accidentally connecting a Cat5e cable to a FastEthernet port would result in no performance gain at all.

  • A somewhat more expensive, but more effective solution is to replace your computer's motherboard. Ensure that the motherboard includes an on-board Gigabit adapter. For maximum speed, purchase a 64-bit motherboard, making sure that you have, or can obtain, a compatible 64-bit processor chip. Most larger computer stores can help you select the right products and install them for you, to ensure that all of your hardware components are compatible with each other.

7 Update your devices to the latest firmware.

  • Now that you have upgraded your hardware, or even if you did not require any upgrades, now is an excellent time to make sure that all of your devices' firmware and device drivers are up to date, for maximum speed, performance and reliability. The updates included in Windows updates may not be sufficient; visit the websites of your devices' manufacturers and download the latest updates direct from the source.

8 Upgrade your Storage Media and RAM

  • Make sure your hard drive(s) mention a speed of 7200 RPM, and also consider a RAID 1 array, for improved access speed.

  • Alternatively, consider using solid state drives. While more expensive than traditional hard disk drives, solid state drives allow you to read and write almost instantaneously, vastly decreasing the speed bottleneck of a traditional hard disk drive.

  • Adding additional RAM to your system will also increase overall performance. A good minimum is 8GB total, but you probably won't notice a significant improvement after 12GB of RAM, unless you intend to use multiple resource-intensive software programs, such as 3D rendering or simulation programs, simultaneously.

9 Review your ISP contract.

  • If you frequently download large files, stream high-quality media, or otherwise use the internet heavily, it can be easy to unwittingly exceed your monthly download limit, leading to costly overage fees.

  • Check with your internet service provider to review your current download limit, and upgrade to a new plan if necessary. Choose the highest limit you can afford.

  • If you are unable to switch to a new plan or if you are still concerned about possibly exceeding your monthly limit, make sure you monitor your internet usage. Most ISPs will allow you to sign up for an account on their website in order to monitor your activity, make payments online, and possibly even modify your existing plan.

10 Run a Speed Test.

  • Once you have completed your upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet, visit a website such as // which will check your current network speeds. If you are still not satisfied with your network speeds, you may want to go back and review some of the steps of this article.

Web Sources and Citations:

SOURCE: // | Posted By Jennifer Lynn, Teresa, Grahamster,
SOURCE: //,2321.html | Posted By Don Woligroski,
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