What is a network switch?

NETGEAR 8 Port Gigabit Network Switch (GS308)
NETGEAR 8 Port Gigabit Network Switch (GS308)

A simple unmanaged network switch is a small box of electronics that adds extra Ethernet ports to a router. It is typically installed by attaching it to an Ethernet port on a wireless router by using an Ethernet cable. It behaves in much the same way as a USB hub that just adds additional USB port to a computer. How many extra Ethernet ports it adds depends on the switch. Unmanaged switches are inexpensive but the more ports they add, the more expensive they get.

A network switch is a device that connects multiple devices on a local area network (LAN) and allows them to communicate with one anther and with other networks. A wireless network switch is a device that does the same thing without using physical cables or ports.However, this will not extend your wireless network coverage, unless your network switch also has a wireless access point function.

Different types and sizes of switches

There are different types and sizes of network switches that depend on needs and budgets. Some common types are unmanaged switches, which are plug-and-play devices that do not require any configuration; managed switches, which offer advanced features and control over the network; and smart switches, which are a hybrid of unmanaged and managed switches. Some common sizes are 5-port, 8-port, 16-port, or 24-port switches, which indicate how many devices can be connected to the switch. The image of an 8-port unmanaged switch, made by Netgear, appears at the top of this page.

Uses of a network switch

You would use a switch when you want to connect multiple devices on the same network, such as computers, printers, scanners, cameras, etc. A network switch can improve the performance and security of your network by reducing congestion and preventing unauthorized access. A network switch can also support different speeds and types of connections, such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or fibre-optic.

To use a wireless network switch to extend a wireless network, you need to have a wireless router that supports wireless bridging or mesh networking. Wireless bridging allows you to connect two or more wireless routers wirelessly and create a single network. Mesh networking allows you to connect multiple wireless devices that act as nodes and create a seamless network coverage.

Steps to set up a wireless network switch

Choose a managed wireless network switch that is compatible with your wireless router and supports the same wireless standards, such as 802.11ac or 802.11ax.

Plug the wireless network switch into a power outlet and turn it on.
Connect the wireless network switch to your wireless router using its WPS button, the web interface, or the app, depending on the model.
Configure the wireless network switch settings, such as the network name, password, channel, and security mode, to match your wireless router settings.

Place the wireless network switch in a location where it can receive a good signal from your wireless router and extend it to other areas.

Connect your devices to the wireless network switch using the same network name and password as your wireless router.

The different ports that a wireless switch can provide

An unmanaged switch provides more Ethernet ports and acts much like a USB hub that adds extra USB ports to a computer. However, there are also other types of ports that a switch can use, such as:

Fibre-optic ports: These ports use light signals to transmit data over long distances and at high speeds. They are usually used to connect switches to other switches or routers in a backbone network.
Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports: These ports can provide both data and power to devices that support PoE, such as IP cameras, wireless access points, or VoIP phones. They eliminate the need for separate power adapters or outlets for these devices.

USB ports: These ports can be used to connect devices that do not have Ethernet ports, such as printers, scanners, or storage devices. They can also be used to update the firmware of the switch or to backup the configuration settings.

The number and type of ports on a switch depend on the model and function of the switch. You can find switches with different numbers of ports, ranging from 5 to 52 or more. You can also find switches with different types of ports, such as Ethernet, fibre optic, PoE, or USB.

For more information…

For more information on how to choose a switch with the right ports for your needs, you can read the following articles:

Different Types of Network Switches – Cisco

Network Switches – A Complete Buying and User Guide – RS Components

Different Types of Switch Ports – GeeksforGeeks

About Eric 275 Articles
I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.