Does using an Ethernet cable affect the WiFi speed?


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Nowadays, basically every smart electronic device in your household is fully WiFi capable, from laptops to smart TVs and everything in between. When it comes to things like gaming and downloading large files, you may notice that WiFi speeds can be unstable, sometimes slowing down to a crawl.

In situations like these, the common solution is to connect an Ethernet cable for faster and more consistent speeds. They’re easy to find, and quite affordable, but it begs the question. Does using an Ethernet slowdown wireless performance for other users on the same network?

In this article, we go in-depth to answer the question, give you the pros and cons of using either option, and tell you exactly how it all works to help you make your own decision based on what you need. So, let’s get right into it.

What exactly is Ethernet?

To put it simply, Ethernet is the traditional way of connecting computers together in a local area network or LAN. Using it requires you to have an Ethernet cable, as well as a device with an Ethernet port and a router. From there, it’s as simple as connecting your device to your router with the cable.

Does using an Ethernet cable affect the WiFi speed

Ethernet almost always performs faster than WiFi, making it superior for activities like transferring large amounts of data or streaming. It’s also far more reliable and stable since it doesn’t rely on signals to work meaning it can’t be interrupted by factors like weather or other WiFi users.

On top of this, Ethernet connections are also more secure than WiFi connections because there’s a direct connection to the router. WiFi signals can be picked up by anyone, leading to less security and the possibility of being hacked. It’s not something that happens often, but it opens up the possibility of it.

WiFi Vs. Ethernet

So now you might be asking, if Ethernet is so good, why use WiFi? For starters, WiFi has many advantages and strengths, mostly revolving around convenience and portability. Ethernet is fast, but it requires you to have a cable setup, on top of an Ethernet capable device, and sometimes you can’t access those things.

In these situations, WiFi is the shining solution that just works. On smaller devices like smartphones, it’s often your only choice. Not only is it far faster to establish a connection, it’s also far less cumbersome with connecting only requiring a few button presses.

It’s also a hassle to bring an Ethernet cable around for a laptop sometimes. They’re tolerable at home for a one-time setup, but you aren’t going to want to whip out your cable during a short visit to a friend’s house. WiFi is excellent in situations like these, and many big strides have been made to bring it closer to the standard of Ethernet connections.

So does an Ethernet cable slow down WiFi for others?

Now that we understand WiFi and Ethernet, this brings us back to the original question, does using Ethernet slow down wireless performance for WiFi users? The simple answer for this is no, act of using a cable does not do harm WiFi users in any significant way.

Ethernet cables slows down WiFi

If anything, someone using Ethernet would theoretically increase the speeds for WiFi users. Wireless communication speeds are dependent on the number of users on the same network at once, so removing even one device from the equation can help a lot.

What can lead to slowdown however are the things you do on a network. This is where the misconception that Ethernet slows down WiFi users often comes in.

Then what causes WiFi slowdown?

What actually causes slowdown are the number of devices on one network, and what those devices are doing. Every router has a limit on its maximum data transfer rate, and we call this bandwidth. When a lot of devices are on the same network at once, your router struggles to keep up, and will slow down as result.

Both Ethernet and WiFi connections eat up bandwidth, but because Ethernet is often used for heavier tasks like video streaming and downloading large files, this can lead to Ethernet users taking up the lion’s share of bandwidth. This isn’t to say that WiFi users can’t do the same, but because WiFi is already so inconsistent, it gets hit harder by this.

What can I do about WiFi slow down?

Now that we’ve cleared up the question of “does using Ethernet slow down WiFi”, we can move on to the question of “How can I improve WiFi performance?” Thankfully, there are some tips we can share.

WiFi connection affected by Ethernet

Surprisingly, one of the best ways to improve WiFi performance is to simply use more Ethernet cables in your household. Having more wired connections provides your Ethernet capable devices with far better performance, and also frees up your wireless traffic allowing for higher quality wireless connections.

You can also choose to upgrade your router to a better model with higher bandwidth limits and more Ethernet ports. Once again, more wired connections frees up network congestion, and having higher bandwidth limits increases the performance for everyone.

Can WiFi outperform Ethernet?

Does using Ethernet slow down wireless performance? No, but can WiFi eventually outperform Ethernet? For now, it seems unlikely.

WiFi has many strengths to its name. Between portability, availability and convenience, it’s no surprise that most people love WiFi. It’s the current standard for wireless connections, and that’s not going to change.

But Ethernet has been and will remain king when it comes to stability and performance. It may be the traditional method, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be overtaken any time soon. If you’ve got a laptop or desktop, we highly recommend investing in an Ethernet cable for all usage scenarios.

We won’t count WiFi out entirely however. With the rate at which technology as moving, it’s fully possible WiFi will catch up with Ethernet speeds and stability at some point. Until then however, at least you get the option to choose between the two in order to maximize your internet speeds.


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