To be a technician, you need to familiarize yourself with the wide variety of CompTIA A+ cable types and connector types.
All CompTIA A+ cables seen when working with computers and mobile devices are covered in this article. We’ll explain to you all CompTIA A+ cables including network cables, video cables, multipurpose cables, peripheral cables, hard drive cables, and adapters, as well as their features and functions.
Let’s get started with our free CompTIA A+ practice test to pass the real exam on the first try.
Networking Cables in CompTIA A+ Exam
Network cabling is networking hardware that connects one network device to another or two or more computers to share scanners, printers, and other devices.
Depending on the network’s topology, physical layer, and size, many types of network cables are utilized, such as coaxial cable, optical fiber cable, and twisted pair cable. The devices can be separated by as little as a few meters or as far as the eye can see.
The majority of networking cables are Ethernet cables of various types. Ethernet is a set of communication protocols that enables computers to communicate with one another. It is classified as a networking protocol, which is distinct from an application protocol.
Ethernet explains the structure and transmission of data by network devices so that other devices on the same local or campus area network segment can detect, receive, and process data (wired or wirelessly).
An Ethernet cable is the actual, encased wiring that transmits data. Small voltage pulses (1 is voltage, 0 is no voltage) are carried over a single frequency via Ethernet connections. Baseband transmission is the term for this type of transmission. It’s bidirectional, so hosts can send and receive data over the same wire. Cable classifications indicate the various capabilities.
CAT5e, CAT6, and CAT6a
Category 5e (CAT5e), Category 6 (CAT6), and Category 6a are the most prevalent standard cabling grades (CAT6a). All of them are compatible with both 10BASE-T and Fast Ethernet networking.
CAT6, CAT6a, and CAT7 connections can support 10BASE-T (10GB) Ethernet networks. Regardless of category or speed, all copper Ethernet cables have a distance limit of about 100m (about 300ft) before the data signal diminishes, necessitating the use of a switch, hub, or repeater to increase the signal.
PVC and Plenum
In terms of fire protection, there are two types of TP cable:
- Standard: For patch cables between a network interface card (NIC) and a network jack or in a patch panel. PVC jackets are common, and when burned, they can produce a lot of smoke.
- Plenum: A plenum space is a section of a building that allows for the circulation of air for heating and cooling (ventilator shafts, under floors, or between suspended ceilings and permanent ceilings). When burned, plenum cables produce less smoke and emit fewer harmful compounds, and they are usually self-extinguishing. Plenum cable jackets can be manufactured of Teflon or a customized type of PVC that emits less smoke than standard PVC when burned.
STP (Shielded Twisted Pair) vs. UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair)
Twisted pair (TP) cabling is a type of wiring that involves twisting two wires of a single circuit together to improve electromagnetic compatibility.
The most popular of the various cabling kinds is TP cabling. Four twisted pairs of wires are often surrounded by a flexible jacket (unshielded TP, or UTP) or various forms of metal foil or braid in TP cabling (shielded TP, or STP).
STP and UTP both use the same RJ-45 connector, but STP has a metal shield between the wire pairs and the outer jacket for electrical insulation. STP is likewise tougher and more durable than UTP, although it is more expensive and difficult to loop through tiny areas. It’s utilized when UTP cable can’t be used due to electromagnetic interference (EMI). Both cables are available as prebuilt assemblies or as bulk cables and connectors.
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Standards T568B (EIA-568B) and T568A (EIA-568A)
T568B is the wiring standard for all types of Ethernet UTP wires (EIA-568B). This type of connection, also known as a straight-through cable, is widely used to link a host to a client, such as the RJ-45 wire that connects a PC to a home network (dissimilar devices). When looking at the top of the connector from left to right, the wire order is:
- Pin 1: orange/white stripe
- Pin 2: orange
- Pin 3: green/white stripe
- Pin 4: blue
- Pin 5: blue/white stripe
- Pin 6: green
- Pin 7: brown/white stripe
- Pin 8: brown
The orange and green wires used in T568B are swapped in the T568A (EIA-568A) standard. This sort of cable is also known as a crossover cable, and it is most usually used to link two hosts directly, such as a PC to another PC or a switch to another switch (similar devices). When looking at the top of the connector from left to right, the wire order is:
- Pin 1: green/white stripe
- Pin 2: green
- Pin 3: orange/white stripe
- Pin 4: blue
- Pin 5: blue/white stripe
- Pin 6: orange
- Pin 7: brown/white stripe
- Pin 8: brown
You can make a crossover cable by adhering to the T568B standard on one end and the T568A standard on the other.
Fiber optics is a data transfer method that uses glass (or plastic) threads (fibers). A fiber optic cable is made up of a bundle of glass threads, each of which may transmit light-wave modulated data. Fiber optics is the fastest internet service available, and it’s mostly utilized as a network backbone. Fiber optic cable comes in two types:
- Single-mode has a narrow core (between 8 and 10 microns) that can convey a single light beam across great distances (up to 60km or further). The light source in the single-mode cable is a laser diode. Cable television and telephone businesses are two examples of common uses.
- Multi-mode cable has a bigger (62.5 micron) core than single-mode cable and can carry many light beams over short distances (up to 10km). An LED light source is used in multi-mode cable. Local and metropolitan area networks are common applications (LANs & MANs).
Several connector types are used in fiber optic devices and cables:
- SC: square connections
- LC: square connections
- ST: Round connectors.
RG-6 and RG-59 Coaxial Cables
The oldest type of network cabling is coaxial, which has data lines that are wrapped by a wire mesh for insulation. Prior to the introduction of fiber optics, cable internet was the fastest internet service available to home and business consumers.
Wire internet uses the same RG-6 coaxial cable as cable television but adds a device called a cable modem to transform the signal for usage by computers and home/business networks.
With a 75-ohm resistance, an 18-gauge center conductor, quad-shielded versions, and the ability to transport signals up to 1.5GHz, RG-6 is ideal for HDTV signals.
The 75-ohm resistance of RG-59 is utilized in older cable TV or satellite TV systems, as well as in CCTV surveillance installations. A 22-gauge central conductor and a single outer shield are used in RG-59. It can handle transmissions with a level of up to 50 MHz.
The BNC connector (Bayonet-Neill-Concelman) is a coaxial cable connector that is small and quick to connect and disconnect. CCTV cameras and various types of video projectors often use BNC connectors. BNC connectors have a positive-locking bayonet mount and are crimped to the coaxial cable.
The F connector is a coaxial radio frequency connector that is used for “over the air” terrestrial television, cable television, satellite television, and cable modems worldwide. The coaxial wire can be crimped or compressed to attach F connectors. A threaded connector is used in high-quality cables.
A coax signal splitter (also known as a two-way splitter) splits the power from the input port evenly among the output ports. A 2-way splitter, for example, has one input port and two output ports. One of the output ports receives half the power of the input signal. The remaining half is routed to the alternate output port.
CompTIA A+ Cables: Video Cables
It’s useful to know the physical and feature differences between different video connector types, such as VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort component/RGB, BNC, S-video, and composite, when choosing a monitor or projector for usage with a specific video card or integrated video port.
A video graphics array connector is a type of computer analog video output connector. A VGA card designed for use with a conventional analog monitor has a DB15F 15-pin female connector that connects to the DB15M male connector on the monitor’s VGA cable.
A VGA port and monitor may display an infinite number of colors by adjusting the levels of red, green, and blue per dot (pixel) onscreen, but practical color limitations are based on the video card’s memory and the required screen resolution.
VGA has a base resolution of 640480 dots (horizontal x vertical dots). Super VGA, or SVGA, is an upgraded form of VGA that commonly refers to 800600 VGA resolution.
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A high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) is a connection and cable that allows high-quality and high-bandwidth audio and video streams to be transmitted between devices. HDMI was originally designed for use with high-definition televisions, but it is now used on laptops, desktops, and monitors, as well as HDTVs and HD projectors. HDMI comes in a variety of types, but older HDMI cables may not support advanced features like 3D or resolutions higher than 1080p.
The latest HDMI standard, version 2.1, enables video resolutions and refresh rates up to 10K, as well as video resolutions of 8K60 and 4K120. Version 1.4b supports 1080p HDTV and resolutions up to 40962160 (commonly known as 4K x 2K), 48-bit color depths, several types of uncompressed and compressed digital audio, 3D over HDMI, and Fast Ethernet in its previous version. Type A, which has 19 pins, is the most common HDMI port. It’s utilized to get high-definition resolutions like 1920×1080 (known as 1080p or 1080i).
A mini-HDMI connector is defined in the HDMI 1.3 and later specifications (Type C). It has the same 19-pin layout as the Type A plug but is smaller. A micro-HDMI connector (Type D) is defined in the HDMI 1.4 specification, which employs the same 19-pin configuration but in a connector the size of a micro-USB plug.
DisplayPort is a digital video interface that connects a video source to a display device like a computer monitor. It can also hold audio, USB drives, and other types of data. DisplayPort is identical to HDMI in terms of resolution and audio/video functionality, but there are two key differences:
The DisplayPort video standard is a royalty-free video standard
Displays can be daisy-chained with DisplayPort 1.2 and later.
DisplayPort, like Ethernet and USB, uses packet transfer. The clock is embedded in each packet sent (whereas DVI and HDMI utilize a separate clocking signal).
DisplayPort ports are not compatible with USB, DVI, or HDMI; but, with the right adaptor, devices that enable dual-mode DisplayPort (DisplayPort++) technology can send HDMI or DVI data.
DisplayPort has a maximum transmission distance of 3 meters over passive cable and 33 meters over active cable in principle. A DisplayPort connector has 20 pins, with pins 19 and 20 used for 3.3V, 500mA power on active cables. DisplayPort cables can be as long as 15 meters, although the quality degrades as the length increases.
There are three versions of DisplayPort available right now:
DisplayPort 1.1 has a maximum data transfer rate of 8.64Gbps per second (Gbps)
DisplayPort 1.2 introduces a mini-DisplayPort connector and 3D capabilities, as well as a maximum data transfer rate of 17.28Gbps
DisplayPort 1.3 supports 4K, 5K, and 8K UHD monitors and has a maximum data transfer rate of 32.4Gbps.
DVI was created to be a replacement for VGA while remaining compatible with VGA signals. It was created as an industry standard for sending digital video material to display devices with dimensions up to 2560 x 1600 pixels. Computer displays and projectors are two common devices that use the DVI connection. Depending on the signals it supports, the DVI connector may be referred to by one of three names:
- DVI-A (analog only)
- DVI-D (digital only)
- DVI-I (both digital and analog)
CompTIA A+ Cables: Multipurpose Cables
Cables have several functions, such as the capacity to charge batteries while also transferring data.
The Lightning connector can be used to charge batteries as well as send data. Apple’s 30-pin connector was utilized in iOS devices up until the iPhone 4 and the 3rd-generation iPad. The 8-pin reversible Lightning connector was introduced to iOS devices in 2012. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, employs the USB Type C (USB-C) port. Data transfer rates are similar to those of the USB 2.0 standard.
Apple first introduced Thunderbolt as a high-speed peripheral connection technology for its macOS desktop and laptop computers. Thunderbolt has also been adopted by various Microsoft Windows computers and motherboard makers.
Thunderbolt allows external peripherals to be connected to a computer. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the Mini DisplayPort (MDP) connector, but Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector. Thunderbolt is also used for high-resolution video and high-speed storage, such as external drives, network-attached storage (NAS), and Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID).
Thunderbolt also allows peripherals to be daisy-chained. A cable from the computer connects to the first device in the Thunderbolt chain. Because there are two Thunderbolt ports on the gadget, another device can be attached to the second port, and so on. The display must be the last component on a Thunderbolt daisy chain if storage and display devices are intermingled.
Thunderbolt may be linked to docks with numerous connection types due to its high bandwidth.
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a plug-and-play interface that lets a computer communicate with peripherals and other devices. Input devices such as keyboards, mouse, and scanners; storage devices such as flash drives, optical discs, and external hard drives; output devices such as printers, multifunction devices, and even screens; and adapters for both wired and wireless networks can all be connected to USB ports. When a USB hub is linked to a single USB port (also known as a root hub), the port can connect to several devices.
The USB-C connector is an industry-standard for data and power delivery via a single wire. The USB-C connector is easy to attach (reversible; no up or downside to the plug) and provides backward compatibility with USB 2.0 with the right adapter. The USB-C standard refers to the cable’s connection type rather than its data transfer rate. From USB-2 to USB-3.1, USB-C can handle any data rate.
USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.1
On the A+ certification exam, there are three USB port standards:
- USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
- USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed); also known as USB 3.1 Generation 1
- USB 3.1 (SuperSpeed+); also known as 3.1 Generation 2
A single USB port on an add-on card or motherboard may handle up to 127 devices using multiport hubs and daisy-chaining hubs with any version of USB. USB devices are hot-swappable Plug and Play (PnP) devices.
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Serial Peripheral Cables
A serial cable is a data transfer cable that uses the serial communication protocol to send data between two devices. Although serial cables did comply with the RS-232 standard, the shape of connections varies depending on the serial port utilized. Serial refers to the flow of data bits across the cable in a line, one after the other.
Serial connections were created for the low-speed transmission of telephone modems, but they were also used for other devices including keyboards, mouse, and other peripherals. Although USB cables have mostly supplanted serial cables, a USB to serial converter can be used to connect to an older machine if necessary.
Hard Drive Cables in CompTIA A+ Exam
The purpose of hard drive cables is to transport data to and from the motherboard.
Serial ATA is a computer bus interface that connects mass storage devices including hard disk drives, optical drives, and solid-state drives to host bus adapters. SATA cables are high-speed serial cables of the next generation. SATA cables can be used both inside and outside the computer.
SATA cables installed inside computer casings provide high-speed data transfer and improved airflow inside the case. External SATA (eSATA) cables enable external drives to be attached at the same data rate as internal drives, while also providing superior shielding to protect the connection and data.
A cable that connects peripherals to a motherboard inside a computer case (also known as an ATA or PATA [parallel ATA] cable). IDE connectors are found on older hard drives, and an IDE cable is one that can accommodate them. Currently, SATA and SSD storage drives are the most popular. An IDE cable usually has three connectors: one for the motherboard, which splits into two. You can connect two hard drives to a motherboard with just one cable this way.
A set of standards for physically connecting and exchanging data between computers and peripheral devices is known as the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI). Inside computers, SCSI cables have largely been replaced by SATA cables. In comparison to an IDE connector, which only supports two drives, a SCSI drive system allows up to seven (or even fifteen) SCSI disks to be daisy-chained together.
Physical cable adapters are frequently used as a temporary (and cost-effective) solution to technical compatibility issues during an upgrade cycle.
DVI to HDMI
DVI to HDMI cables and adapters are widely accessible because HDMI uses the same video signals as DVI. Typically, these adapters can just transfer video information, although some recent graphic cards can also broadcast HDMI audio over DVI.
USB to Ethernet
A USB to Ethernet adapter connects a device that does not have an Ethernet port to a wired network.
DVI-I to VGA
VGA-compatible analog video and DVI digital video are both supported by DVI-I.
Installing and Maintaining Cables
A+ certification requires a thorough understanding of cable installation and maintenance, as these procedures directly impact the efficiency and stability of the network. With a carefully planned and executed installation, accompanied by consistent maintenance, networks can function seamlessly, reducing the likelihood of repairs or replacements in the future.
Cable Installation Steps
- Pre-Installation Planning: Prior to starting the installation, it’s crucial to plan and coordinate the process, including determining the type of cable required, cable length, and routing path.
- Preparing for Installation: Once the plan is in place, the next step is to gather the necessary tools and equipment, such as cables, connectors, cable ties, and conduit. Before installation, inspect the cables for any damages or defects.
- Installing the Cables: The installation process may vary based on the type of cable and environment, but typically involves pulling the cable through the conduit, connecting the cables to necessary devices, and securing the cables in place. Ensure a safe and secure installation by following the manufacturer’s instructions and best practices.
- Testing and Resolution: After completion, testing the cables to verify proper connectivity and correct data transmission is vital. In case of any issues, troubleshooting should be done to resolve the problem.
Cable Maintenance Tips
- Cable Cleaning: Dust and debris buildup can hinder cable performance. Regular cleaning can maintain optimal performance.
- Connection Verification: Loose connections can result in data loss. Regular checks should be conducted to confirm all connections are tight and secure.
- Proper Cable Storage: Improper storage can cause damage to the cables and impact performance. Store cables in a dry, cool place, avoiding excessive bending or twisting.
- Damaged Cable Replacement: Damaged cables can cause performance problems and data loss. Regular inspections should be done to identify and replace damaged cables promptly.
The post above covers all CompTIA A+ cable types that a technician must master. We hope you found this post to be useful. Thank you for your reading!