What Is a Patch Cable?

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A patch cable connects two different devices to each other. These devices might be networking devices like computers or other hardware, or non-networking ones such as headphones or microphones.

Patch cables also go by the name patch lead. The term patch cord is sometimes used as well, but it's often associated more with non-network types of cables such as those for wiring stereo components.

Why Patch Cables Are Used

Patch cables are typically CAT5/CAT5e Ethernet cables linking a computer to a nearby network hub, switch or router, or a switch to a router, etc.

Ethernet patch cables are useful to those building home computer networks and also to travelers who need wired access to the internet like those provided in hotel rooms.

A crossover cable is a specific type of Ethernet patch cable used to connect two computers to each other.

Non-networking patch cables might include headphone extension cables, microphone cables, RCA connectors, patch panel cables, etc.

Patch Cable Physical Description

Patch cables can be any color and are usually shorter than other kinds of networking cables because they're meant for "patching" devices together, which is usually something accomplished over a short distance.

They're typically no longer than two meters, and might even be as short as just a few inches. Longer cables are usually thicker or shielded to prevent electromagnetic interference

A patch cable is normally made of coaxial cables but could also be fiber optic, shielded or unshielded CAT5/5e/6/6A, or single-conductor wires.

A patch cable always has connectors on either end, which means it's not as permanent of a solution as some cables like a pigtail or blunt patch cord. These are similar to patch cables but are intended to be permanently connected on one end since that end has its bare wires exposed and connected directly to a terminal or other device.