Give it the Boot! Putting Boots onto Ethernet Cable
Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Technical Manager, Fluke Networks Copper/Fiber CCTT, BICSI INST1, INSTC, INSTF Certified
No doubt at some point you have purchased an Ethernet cable that was already terminated to RJ45 8P8C connector plugs at both ends (factory made) which came with “boots” already attached. Are boots found on all factory premade Ethernet patch cables? Can you add them to cables you make? What are cable boots really for and do you need them? This blog addresses all of these questions and more.
Most, but not all, factory premade Ethernet patch cords come with cable boots already installed. Typically, these boots are molded right into the cable jacket plastic and cannot be removed even if you wanted to take them off. Other cable boots are not molded in, but instead are slid on and locked on the cable at the rear of the RJ45 8P8C connector during the termination process. There is no significant functionality difference between these strategies.
It should be noted that cable boots are only seen in the context of male connector plugs (AKA RJ45 connectors, but sometimes with field termination plugs too). The primary purpose of cable boots is to provide strain relief to ease pressure on the male connector plug termination. Cable boots are not associated with patch panels or keystone jacks as those types of terminations typically have their own method of providing strain relief.
We do recommend using strain relief boots for three key reasons:
- Electrical performance stabilization since the cable cannot shift around as readily at the rear of the RJ45 8P8C connector with a boot attached
- Helps to keep your Ethernet cables within the specified bend radius
- Professional appearance
Of those three reasons, the first is the most important. The strain relief boot helps take the pressure off of your termination (specifically the golden contacts) and gives it a degree of durability. RJ45 8P8C connector plugs are the least performant and least desirable way to terminate solid copper Ethernet cable, and quite frankly if you do decide to terminate your bulk Ethernet cable with them you need all the help you can get!
Stranded copper conductors are far superior to construct Ethernet patch cables and get a durable and reusable cable (The very definition of a patch cable is something designed to be durable and flexible with male connectors on both ends). You can get more “bite” into stranded copper conductors vs solid copper conductors when terminating cable using to RJ45 connectors. Solid copper has no such advantage. Solid copper Ethernet is much better with IDC style terminations and has other key advantages. IDC or Insulation Displacement Contact terminals are what is found inside keystone jacks, patch panels, and field termination plugs.
For more information on why self-installed RJ45 8P8C connectors should be far down your list of preferential termination options see Choosing the Right Termination - Keystone Jack vs RJ45 Connector vs Field Termination Plug.
By now you are probably asking why trueCABLE even sells RJ45 8P8C connector plugs given the potential associated issues when using them on solid copper bulk Ethernet cable. Well, it comes down to two reasons:
- Sometimes, depending on the installation, you have no choice but to use them. A tight weather sealed WiFi AP housing or surveillance camera used outdoors is a good example.
- Consumers demand them anyway, usually because the average DIY installer does not fully understand the risks and potential issues and often does not know any better
So, we do offer these silly little plastic (or metal and plastic for shielded) connector ends even if the installer can get into a good deal of trouble. We went the extra mile to help keep fitment tolerances between our cable and RJ45 8P8C plugs as perfect fitting as possible and we test and revise as necessary. That said, there will still be the occasional unforeseen issue.
To further improve the installer’s odds of getting a good RJ45 termination we offer strain relief boots. We strongly advise you to use them.
This blog has a companion video demonstrating how to put on our strain relief boots. It is recommended you watch the video and read the blog that follows as both mediums bring something to the table.
trueCABLE offers two primary types of strain relief boots, depending on which cable and RJ45 connector you are working with:
The simple slip-on type is just that. After your cable is cut to length, slip the boot down the cable and then fully terminate the RJ45 plug. Slide the boot back up and over the RJ45 connector. That’s it. The boot can be slid backward if you wish to terminate the cable again.
The cut-to-fit style is permanent in nature. Once on, it won’t be coming off. They have locking bars that slide into the RJ45 plug housing, and those bars are crimped into place during your crimp/termination process. The cut-to-fit locking style comes in two sizes, large and small.
When shopping on our website many customers ask “What exactly is the difference between them? Both say 5.5 to 7.0mm cable diameter compatibility.” This is a very good question.
Large Cut-To-Fit on the left. Small Cut-To-Fit on the right.
The large cut to fit boot has taller locking bars to accommodate for larger inside dimensions of our unshielded Cat6 or Cat6/6A RJ45 connector plugs, plus the Cat5e Shielded internal ground connector plug too. The small cut to fit version is used only for our Cat5e unshielded RJ45 connectors due to their smaller internal dimensions. In other words, the large cut to fit boot won’t physically slide into the Cat5e unshielded RJ45 plugs we offer.
Slip-On Style How-To
Slide boot down the cut end of cable...
Cut-To-Fit Style How-To
Of course, there are multiple sizes of our strain relief boots to accommodate the types of cables we offer. This handy chart indicates compatibility.
Please note that this guidance is subject to change at any time. We do our best to keep this information up to date, but our cable specification sheets list the specific boots that are compatible. The specification sheet for any one cable we sell will take precedence.
Pass Through RJ45 Plug
Standard RJ45 Plug
So, now you have given your cable the boot! Given the low cost of this accessory, and the headaches it can save you from, go get you some.
trueCABLE presents the information on our website, including the “Cable Academy” blog and live chat support, as a service to our customers and other visitors to our website subject to our website terms and conditions. While the information on this website is about data networking and electrical issues, it is not professional advice and any reliance on such material is at your own risk.