How to Use a Switch in a Network

By John Wu

A network switch is used to connect computers and other devices to a wired local network. Ethernet cables are usually used with network switches, but some switches also have fiber-optic ports. Wired gigabit networks with switches are much faster than traditional wireless networks. With some minimal setup and configuration, a network switch can be up and running in a short time.

Things You'll Need

  • Ethernet cable(s)
  • Crossover cable

Step 1

Determine what speed switch you need. Many switches can only go to speeds of 100 Mbps, while some gigabit switches can get up to 1000 Mbps. To decide on a speed, find out if the computer(s) you're connecting are capable of going at gigabit speeds. If so, a gigabit switch is best.

Step 2

Determine if you want any advanced features. More advanced switches can accommodate more than one network (on one physical switch) through virtual local area networking (VLAN).

Step 3

Determine how many ports you need on the switch. The number of ports should be equal to, or greater than, the number of computers that you are connecting.

Step 4

Configure your switch. Connect a computer to the switch using the IP address found in the switch manual. Set up the IP address for the switch, network address and netmask.

Step 5

Configure the VLANs, if necessary. Decide which port goes to which VLAN, and configure the switch appropriately.

Step 6

Connect a cable from the uplink port to the rest of the network. Many newer switches can detect the uplink connection from any port. Use either an orange crossover or Ethernet cable.

Step 7

Connect Ethernet cables from the computers to the switch's ports. If multiple VLANs are being used, make sure the computers are on the correct VLAN.

Step 8

Hard code the settings, if necessary. Most computers automatically negotiate the switch's settings. If hard coding is necessary, log into the switch and hard code the settings on a per port basis.