Cisco CCNA / CCNP Home Lab Tutorial: The (Many) Cable Types And Their Purposes

    January 25, 2006

One of the most common questions I get from CCNA and CCNP candidates who are setting up their own home labs is “What cables will I need?”

The answer is “It depends.” As you know from your exam studies, the physical layout of your lab is what determines the cables youll need. Lets take a look at the most common home lab cable types and when you will need them.

Straight-through cables have quite a few uses in a CCNA / CCNP home lab. Youll need them to connect a switch port to an AUI port on a router (and youll need a transceiver for that as well). If you have an ISDN simulator, straight-through cables can be used to connect a routers BRI port to the simulator.

Crossover cables are used to connect switches and allow them to trunk. If at all possible, get two switches in your home lab. This will allow you to gain valuable experience in manipulating root bridge election, working with STP, and creating EtherChannels.

DTE/DCE cables are used to connect two routers via their serial cables. If you are planning on using a frame relay switch in your lab, youll need several of these. You can also get some great practice in by directly connecting two routers and bringing the connection up (and making sure it stays up!). This is valuable practice for your CCNA exam.

Octal cables are used to connect an access server to each of the other routers and switches in your lab.

Finally, theres that precious blue cable, the rollover cable. Rollover cables (sometimes called “rolled cables”) allow you to connect a host device directly to a router or switchs console port. These cables have a way of disappearing around an IT shop, so make sure to take one home – and leave it there!

Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933, is the owner of The Bryant Advantage (, home of FREE CCNA and CCNP tutorials and daily exam questions, as well as The Ultimate CCNA and CCNP Study Packages.

For a FREE copy of his latest e-books, “How To Pass The CCNA” or “How To Pass The CCNP”, and for free daily exam question, visit the website and download your copies!