Networking – How to use a home network patch panel


I'm planning a home network in a house that's not built yet.
One recommendation is to add network sockets in various rooms and have them all end in a central place, where it all connects using a network switch. So far so good.

Another recommendation says to not connect everything directly to the switch, but to a patch panel which in turn is connected to the switch. I'm unsure why this is good.

  1. Is there any practical advantage of using a patch panel if you're not planning to re-wire things very often?

  2. How does a patch panel actually work? Let's say it has 24 ports. Does it have another 24 ports on the backside that go to the switch, or what? Wikipedia isn't helpful on this.

I am planning to run network cables through conduits inside the walls and terminated with network sockets in the wall (as opposed to having just conduits and long regular network cables that have a normal plug in each end). Going by RedGrittyBrick's answer, a patch panel is nearly unavoidable in that case.

Best Answer

First of all, have a look at this question from DIY.SE.

Now, if we have a look at the picture in the question: enter image description here

The Dell switch is sitting above two patch panels. The patch panel would then run cables out to a socket that would be mounted against a wall and then you would use a normal Cat5/6 cable to plug into the wall and into your desktop/computer. If you just had a cable connected to the switch, through the wall, and into the back of the computer, you are limited to the length of the cable. A patch panel would mean a bit more effort and only the most hardcare would really care about having one - it would look a bit more tidy.

For the wiring standards for the network cable Wikipedia has some good pictures.

To answer your questions:

  1. Not necessarily. It's probably down to personal preference - patching in a number of cables can lead to numb fingers - and makes it look neater than having cables trailing from a switch.

  2. A patch panel would have, as you say, 24 ports on the front. This is the rear of a patch panel - each port has 8 connections that are made up to the networking standard - and is also patched into the wall plate at the other end. enter image description here

Image of the back of a wall-mountable patch panel:

enter code here