Introduction: Tracing CAT5 Cables With a Continuity Tester

I work in a school that has had multiple installers come to run CAT5 cables, while they are secured very well and safe, none of them were labeled when installed.  We recently had an internet problem that required us to trace tons of cables!  I searched online for a cable toner/tracer but while some were reasonable, none were local, and most were outrageously expensive.  So I went to my local Lowes to look for an alternative.

Follow along and I'll show you what I did to track down the cables from the router/switch/patch panel to their destination.

**Please make sure that all cables that you might be tracing are unplugged because I am not sure if the tester could damage computer hardware, or if the computers could damage the tester.**

**Also use proper safety as you are dealing with electricity (albeit very low voltage) you never know what might have been done to the wires!**

Step 1: Tester

For this project i picked up an Extech CT20 from my local Lowes.

It has a nice visual and audio indicator if you have continuity across a wire (and in my case if you have the wire you're looking for!).

Step 2: CAT 5 Male and Female Test Connections

For this section I grabbed a female jack and wired it up with a short 6" length of CAT5 cable, and to save the time of making a really short male connector I just cut the end off of one of the extra cables that we had around.  I also took a small section of CAT5 and clipped just the twisted pair (in this case I will only be using the brown/brown&white pair) to use in case I have two female or two male connections to test (this was not used on this job but will keep with the tester for future jobs).

Step 3: Hooking Up the Test Leads

To make this as easy as possible I stripped the ends off of the pair of brown wires and connected the positive leads from the tester to the brown/white wire and the negative leads to the all brown wire.  I chose this pair for no particular reason except it's the furthest to the left edge of the plug/socket.

Step 4: Down to the Testing/tracking Down of These Wires

I was looking to make a complete circuit with the tester to verify where the wire began and where it terminated you can replace the direct connection with any distance of CAT5 cable and this should work just fine (in my case the longest run was about 100').

I would plug the male test lead into the patch panel and then plug the unknown cables into the female socket and waited for audio/visual confirmation or utter disappointment.  

The nice thing about this tester is that both ends have some indication of the continuity so it doesn't matter if you are at the patch panel or the cable end, you know if you have the wire you are looking for.  The main unit flashes and beeps, the small pigtail end just flashes a green light.

By the end I hd tracked down many cables (and labeled them!) to lessen the burden the next time a similar project has to be done.  I hope you enjoyed the instructable, and may it come in handy if you are faced with a similar situation.

 

Comments

author
good mojo made it! (author)2015-06-25

Huge help on making the testing leads. Thanks!

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author
Computothought (author)2013-02-23

Shame no one thought to check on the work while they were doing it. .You can get a cable tester that will check a live line pretty cheap

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Bio: Ex-Elementary School teacher, now working at a new car dealership as a parts wizard. father to 2 wonderful girls. I learned early on that 'necessity ... More »
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