Can Ethernet Cables Go Bad?

Ethernet cables are the nerves of the network. They’re the pathway for the signals to go from one device to another. High-bandwidth cables allow higher data throughput. That’s why we see enhancements on Ethernet cables; the internet speed increases. As they’re a crucial part of the network, the Ethernet cables must be in good condition all the time. But just like many things, they also deteriorate over time. In fact, connection problems are commonly caused by innocuous Ethernet cables. Intermittent connection, slow connection, or no connection at all are normally the telltale signs that you have to start shopping for a new cable.

Causes of Bad Cables

Nothing lasts forever, so don’t be surprised if one day your Ethernet cable also stops working. One reason for this is the cable’s poor quality. There are thousands of manufacturers globally, and not all can produce cables of good grade and quality. If you want long-lasting cables, it is recommended that you purchase from trusted brands.

Branded cables, however, still cannot guarantee longevity as environmental factors can also affect the cable’s lifespan. Cables exposed to rigid environments like those with excessive UV rays, heat, moisture, and vibration can degrade faster than those that are in an ideal environment like in server rooms, offices, and data centers. Another factor that can cause the cable to malfunction is the oxidation of the contacts in the connectors. The connector’s pins are made of metals. When it reacts to oxygen in the air and other metals, the pins will eventually wear down. External forces like cut, tear, spill, or constant bending can also damage the cables.

Another cause of cable deterioration is aging. The cable’s copper wires and plastic jackets will inevitably wear out. Although it will take a long time, decades even, before this happens, the cable will eventually start to malfunction once the materials start to lose their quality.

Troubleshooting Cable Issues

If you’re experiencing connection issues, check if it’s caused by the cable first. The easiest way to tell if the Ethernet cable is the culprit of connection problems is by swapping in a known working cable. If, however, there is no other cable on hand, there are a few things you can try to check for a faulty cable.

Check the Link Lights

Indicator lights on the connectors or the devices normally do the job of telling us if something is wrong. For example, on our computer’s LAN port, we normally see a blinking green/yellow light when the connection is up. When something is wrong, the light would normally go red, or there would be no light at all. The same is true on the router’s end. If the light is not its normal color, the cable could already be faulty.

Try Another Network Port

Checking the link lights alone is not a sure way of saying that the cable is at fault. To isolate the issue further, you can connect the cable to another LAN port on the router and on the computer. If you only have one LAN port on your computer, you can use another device with a LAN port to test the cable. If you are getting the same error lights, then most likely, your cable is already defective.

Wiggle the Cable

If you keep on losing your connection, try wiggling the cable once it drops. Something is wrong with the cable’s internal wires if the connection comes back when you wiggle it. It’s best to replace it with a new one when this happens. Constantly wiggling the cable will only cause more damage to it.

Care Tips

Cables keep the connection running smoothly, so it’s important that they are kept in good working condition. Check out some tips below for proper cable maintenance and care.

Bundle Them Up…But Not Too Tightly

Organizing the cables will not only keep the area neat, but it will also keep the cables from damages due to external factors. One way to keep a bundle of cables organized is by using cable ties. Be careful in tying the cables together, though; keeping it too tight will reduce the quality of the cable or, in worst cases, damage the wires inside. It is recommended to use adjustable cable ties, like Velcro, so you can adjust the tightness if you’ve tied the bundle too tight. They’re also easy to remove and are reusable.

Measure the Cable Length

Whether it’s a home or office network, it’s always better to have the exact measurement of the cable that you need. If you don’t cut your own cable, purchase a cable with the closest length to your measurement. Extra-long cables make cabling look messy and less organized. Having the exact measurement will also help you reduce your cabling cost.

Choose the Right Location

During installation, it’s best to hide the cables behind the ceilings and walls to protect them from damages due to external forces. Avoid running them below carpets too, where they will be constantly and unknowingly stepped on. Additionally, avoid sharp bends to keep the wires inside the jacket intact.

Use Cable Ducts

The best way to hide and protect the cables is by using cable ducts. You can easily reopen the cable ducts if you need to check the cables for troubleshooting or if you need to replace them later on. Cable ducts can also hold several cables inside, and they give a clean, neat look.

Choose the Right Cable

This isn’t a care tip but will surely help you save on cost and minimize cable wastage. Since Ethernet technology keeps on changing, it’s wiser to future-proof your network. One way to do that is by choosing a cable that can handle the high frequency and fast internet speed even if your current network isn’t using the latest technology yet. By doing so, you don’t have to keep on replacing the cable when you want to upgrade to newer and faster technology in the future.


As Ethernet cables evolve, they become more flexible and more robust, but they can still go bad as they age or if they’re exposed to external forces or undesirable environmental conditions. As such, it is always good to give them proper care and handling to lengthen their lifespan and keep your connection uninterrupted.

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.