How to Establish an Ethernet Connection Between Your Computer and Router

Investing in an Ethernet cable helps maximize your internet connection and speed.

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Last Updated: May 9, 2024
A white Ethernet cord connected to a black Windows laptop and a white Eero router.
Improving your internet speed can be as simple as connecting your device to your router with an Ethernet cable.

An Ethernet cable offers a more stable connection than Wi-Fi. In this guide, we’ll provide step-by-step guidance and useful tips for setting up an Ethernet connection. Whether you’re a beginner looking to set up your first Ethernet connection or an experienced user seeking to optimize your wired network, we’ll offer practical advice to help you make the most of your Ethernet connection.

What’s an Ethernet Connection?

An Ethernet connection refers to a wired network connection that uses an Ethernet cable to link devices directly to a network router or modem. It operates on the Ethernet standard, which governs how data is transmitted between devices within a local area network (LAN). Ethernet connections boast higher speeds, lower latency, and greater reliability. An Ethernet connection provides a stable and consistent network connection, bypassing the potential interference and signal degradation that can occur with wireless connections.

While Ethernet itself doesn’t directly boost Wi-Fi signal strength, using Ethernet connections in conjunction with Wi-Fi can enhance overall network performance. By offloading data-intensive tasks to wired connections, such as streaming high-definition video, Wi-Fi bandwidth is freed up for other devices. This can reduce congestion on the Wi-Fi network and improve signal quality for wireless devices, leading to smoother and more reliable wireless connections.

What Cables Do I Need to Create an Ethernet Connection?

A white Ethernet cord with a focus on the end plugs.
An Ethernet cord features two of the same modular plugs on each end. (Photo: Kate Fann)

If you want to establish an Ethernet connection, you need an Ethernet cable and Ethernet ports. Ethernet cables come in various categories, such as Cat5e, Cat6, or Cat7, each offering different speeds and capabilities. These cables have RJ45 connectors on each end, which are designed to plug into Ethernet ports.

Ethernet ports are found on networking devices like routers, switches, and network interface cards (NICs) in computers or other devices. They allow you to physically connect your device to the network. Most modern routers and computers come equipped with LAN Ethernet ports to connect to establish a wired connection between your device and the network.

How to Create a Wired Connection from Your Router to Your Computer

In just a few steps, as shown below, you’ll be able to connect to the internet via an Ethernet cable instantly.

1. Connect Your Computer

An Ethernet cord connected to a black Windows laptop.
The location of an Ethernet port will vary based on your device. (Photo: Kate Fann)

Connect one end of the Ethernet cable to your computer. Since both ends are the same, it doesn’t matter which end you choose.

2. Connect Your Router

An Ethernet cord beside an Ethernet port on a white Eero router.
On a router, the port for a wired connection will be labeled LAN or feature a symbol, such as this one on an Eero router. (Photo: Kate Fann)

Connect the other end of the Ethernet cable to your router. The router will be labeled for a wired connection and is usually denoted as LAN. Some routers, such as my Eero router, feature a symbol of two outward-facing arrows with a dotted line between them.

3. Confirm Ethernet Connection

Two screenshots with one image showing a Wi-Fi signal icon and another showing a wired connection icon to confirm a wired connection has been made.
On my Windows device, the Wi-Fi signal icon changed to show a wired connection.

After Step 2, your computer will automatically create a wired connection. No sign-in or authentication is required. Confirm the connection has been made by checking your internet connection. On my Windows laptop, I confirmed my connection on the toolbar. The Wi-Fi signal icon changed to a wired connection icon.

The Benefits of Establishing an Ethernet Connection

Graphic that displays the benefits of using an Ethernet connection with various icons and text.
There are hardly any disadvantages of using Ethernet versus a wireless connection.

Choosing to establish an Ethernet connection can prove incredibly beneficial when performing a variety of tasks.

  • Higher speeds: Ethernet connections typically offer faster data transfer speeds compared to Wi-Fi. A wired connection is ideal for tasks such as large file transfers, streaming high-definition video, or online gaming, which would often cause a slow Wi-Fi connection.
  • Lower latency: Ethernet connections generally have lower latency, or lag, compared to Wi-Fi, resulting in smoother and more responsive online experiences. This responsiveness is particularly important for activities like online gaming or video conferencing.
  • Greater reliability: Ethernet connections are less susceptible to interference and signal degradation than Wi-Fi, providing a more stable and consistent network connection.
  • Improved security: Wired Ethernet connections are generally more secure than Wi-Fi connections; they aren’t vulnerable to wireless eavesdropping or unauthorized access from neighboring networks, reducing the risk of data breaches or cyberattacks.
  • Reduced Congestion: Using Ethernet connections for data-intensive tasks, such as streaming multimedia content or downloading large files, Wi-Fi bandwidth is freed up for other devices. This reduces the network congestion and improves overall Wi-Fi performance for wireless devices.

How to Troubleshoot an Ethernet Connection

While attempting an Ethernet connection, you may be faced with some challenges. Below are the most common troubleshooting techniques you may encounter.

  • Faulty Ethernet cable: Ensure the Ethernet cable is not damaged or defective. If the issue persists, try using a different cable.
  • Loose connections: Check that the Ethernet cable is securely plugged into both the device and the router. Loose connections can cause intermittent connectivity problems.
  • Hardware compatibility: Verify that the Ethernet port on the device is functioning correctly and compatible with the Ethernet cable.
  • Network configuration issues: Double-check the network settings on the device to ensure they are configured correctly. This includes IP address settings, gateway, and DNS servers. Use automatic (DHCP) or manual configuration as appropriate for your network setup.
  • Router configuration: Check the configuration settings on the router, including DHCP settings and port configurations. Ensure that Ethernet ports are enabled and properly configured.
  • Software firewall or security software: Disable any firewall or security software temporarily to see if they are blocking the Ethernet connection. Configure firewall settings to allow Ethernet traffic if necessary.
  • Network infrastructure issues: If multiple devices are experiencing Ethernet connection problems, there may be issues with the network infrastructure, such as the router. Check for power or connectivity issues with these devices and reboot them if necessary.

If you’re unable to establish an Ethernet connection to the internet, contact your internet service provider. Service outages or issues with your internet connection could be the cause.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ethernet

Do I plug Ethernet into WAN or LAN?

An Ethernet cable plugs into the LAN port of your router or modem/router combo. The LAN ports are used to connect devices within your local network, such as computers, printers, or gaming consoles. The WAN port is used to connect your router to the external network, such as the internet, usually through a modem.

Which Ethernet port is fastest on a router?

The Ethernet port labeled LAN on a router typically offers the fastest internet connection speeds among the Ethernet ports. These LAN ports are designed to provide high-speed connections for devices within your local network, such as computers, gaming consoles, or smart TVs. They often support Gigabit Ethernet speeds, offering optimal performance for data-intensive tasks like streaming high-definition video or transferring large files between devices on your home or office network.

Why is my router not detecting Ethernet?

If your router is not detecting Ethernet connections, ensure the Ethernet cable is securely plugged into both the router and the device you are trying to connect. Check the Ethernet cable for any signs of damage or wear that could be causing a poor connection. Verify that the Ethernet port on your router is functional by testing with a different device or cable. If the issue persists, try restarting both your router and the device you are attempting to connect to, as this can often resolve connectivity issues.

How do I authenticate Ethernet?

You don’t need to go through a separate authentication process as you might with Wi-Fi networks. Once you’ve connected your device to the Ethernet port on your router or modem/router combo using an Ethernet cable, the connection should automatically establish without requiring additional authentication steps.