How to Connect an Ethernet Cable to a Laptop

Whether or not it has the right port

What to Know

  • If your laptop has an Ethernet port, plug an Ethernet cable in there.
  • You can also use adapters and docks to expand your port options, including Ethernet.
  • Docking stations can provide more permanent port options in specific locations.

This guide will explain how to connect an Ethernet cable to your laptop, whether it has the correct port or not.

How Do I Connect Ethernet to My Laptop?

If you have an Ethernet port on your laptop, all you need to do is plug an Ethernet cable into that port and connect it to your router on the other end. You may need to disable Wi-Fi or tell your laptop to prioritize the Ethernet connection to make the most of it, but the setup is straightforward.

Laptop Ethernet port with a connected Ethernet cable.

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If you don't have an Ethernet port on your laptop, then you'll need to use an accessory to provide that functionality for you. Some adapters can convert USB-A and USB-C ports to an Ethernet connection, with different bandwidths available depending on the generation of the USB port.

An Anker USB-C to Ethernet adapter.

Anker

For a more comprehensive array of port options, you can use multi-port adapters that come with an Ethernet connection -- make sure that the one you buy has the port you want. Most of them will be simple plug-and-play affairs, with no need to install any extra drivers that Windows or macOS can't find themselves, but double-check compatibility with your laptop and operating system before buying.

For the most robust but location-specific expansion of your laptop's ports, you can use docking stations. These are often powered by a mains connection and can have many more ports and even the option to charge your laptop through them. They are available for both Windows laptops and MacBooks, so whatever laptop you have, you'll find a docking station that can work with yours.

A Mac dock with Ethernet, USB-C, USB-A, and HDMI ports

Can I Connect My Ethernet Cable to My Laptop?

Almost certainly, yes. However, you may not be able to do it with your native port selection. If you have an Ethernet port, you can plug it in—check for the Ethernet RJ45 port on the sides of your laptop to find out, or check the official specifications from the manufacturer.

If you don't have an Ethernet port, that's OK; you can buy an adapter or dock and use that instead.

How Do I Get My Laptop to Recognize My Ethernet Cable?

Your laptop should recognize the Ethernet cable as soon as it's plugged in, but make sure you've plugged the other end into the router, as it won't pick up the connection otherwise.

If you still find that your laptop is leaning on its Wi-Fi connection instead, consider disabling Wi-Fi temporarily to make your laptop prioritize the Ethernet connection instead.

Do All Laptops Have an Ethernet Port?

No. Even when Ethernet was much more common on laptops, many smaller designs still didn't come with an Ethernet port. Today, however, it's uncommon to see Ethernet ports. They're pretty large, which doesn't lend itself to the smaller, thinner designs of modern laptops, and current Wi-Fi speeds are more than enough for most needs, so most laptops don't come with an Ethernet port.

FAQ
  • How do I connect an Ethernet cable to a wireless router?

    Along with the port that connects a router to a modem (if they're separate devices), the router has multiple Ethernet ports that you can use to make wired connections between it and compatible devices. The same tips apply if what you want to connect to the router doesn't have a port.

  • How do I connect a laptop to a router without an Ethernet cable?

    If you're trying to make a hardline internet connection between your router and your laptop, an Ethernet cable is your only option. However, if you're trying to connect to the router to change network settings, you can do so over Wi-Fi.

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