The majority of home networks require many more Ethernet connections than those provided by home routers (typically 4).
Therefore it is common to expand the number of Ethernet ports by adding an additional switch or switches to the network.
A network switch can be added to any of the LAN ports of the router as shown in the diagram below:
Connecting Multiple Switches
You can connect multiple switches to the router and also switches to switches.
When connecting multiple switch aim for a star topology and try to avoid cascading switches. See home network topologies.
How Switches Work
A switch works by using the MAC address of the connected devices.
If we take a look at the diagram below showing an 8 port switch:
Device 1 communicates with device 2 at the same time as device 7 communicates with device 8. Likewise for the ports 3,4,5,6.
So if each port is 100mbits/s then we have a total of 4*100 Mbit/s across the switch.
Now lets have devices connected to ports 1-7 and port 8 connects to the router and the devices only communicate with the Internet and not each other.
If each port is 100Mbit/s the maximum throughput is 100Mbits as all devices are connecting to the router.
Adding Devices to Switches
What devices you add to what switch can greatly affect your network speeds.
If you have local NAS (Network Attached Storage) or local servers and transfer large files locally then you will need to be aware of your data flow before assigning devices to switches.
If you have a collection of mixed switches then use the faster switches for the shared devices like NAS boxes.
Mixing switches with different speeds.
If you have a mixture of switches e.g 10/100 and 1Gbit/s switches then the slower switches should go on the end of the network nearest to the nodes (computers).
Switches vs Routers
When expanding the ports on the network we use additional switches and not routers.
Generally we avoid having more than on e router on a home network. See- Two Routers on a Home Network
Common Questions and Answers
Q-When connecting a switch to a switch don’t I need to use special ports?
A -Many years ago the answer would be yes but now all modern switches and routers use auto MIDX which automatically detects the connections, and does the crossover if needed.
Q- Does adding extra switch require additional IP addresses?
A- Yes and no. A switch works on MAC addresses and not IP addresses so it doesn’t need and IP address. However a managed switch needs to be managed, and this involves connecting to the switch via a browser.So a managed switch does require an IP address for the management interface.
Q- How do I find the IP address of my managed switch?
A- You can usually find this information on the DHCP leases table on the home router. Alternatively use a network scanning tool like fing.
Related Tutorials and resources:
- Networking Topologies and Layouts For Complete Beginners
- Basic Home Network Hardware Components, Devices and Services
- Basic Home Networking Course for Beginners
- Two Routers on a Home Network