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Network Cable Tracer for Live Network?

Posted on 2007-04-01
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Last Modified: 2013-11-09
Occassionally I get called to troubleshoot equipment on an unfamiliar network and when I get there, I find that none of the cables in the wiring closet are identified or marked in any way. In these cases, there is no way to tell which cable on a switch or router goes to what jack in a particular office. It would be great if I could just plug some kind of a testing device into the RJ45 jack in the office and then use a tone tester at the router or switch on the other end to find the associated cable. Is anyone aware of a network cable tracer / tone tester that can be used on a live connection, i.e., while plugged into a router, switch, hub, etc?
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Question by:rball
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 18833922
There are lots of different toner solutions available. The only problem is that the cables have to be disconnected from the switch. That tends to make you not too popular with the users. If that is not a problem, an excellent unit is one made by Fluke called the Intellitone Pro:
http://www.flukenetworks.com/fnet/en-us/products/IntelliTone+Toner+and+Probe/
There are other less expensive units available such as:
http://www.datacomtools.com/catalog/tone-probe.html

However, if you want to be able to locate the cables while connected to the switch, Fluke has a nice unit, the CableIQ tester,  that will cause the switch port to pulse at 1 of 2 speeds so that you can locate the cable while still connected to the switch. The unit also does basic cable testing to see if it meet the requirements of phone, 10/100, or Gigabit requirements. An excellent tool to have available for diagnosing connection problems and for labeling:
http://www.flukenetworks.com/fnet/en-us/products/CableIQ+Qualification+Tester/

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Author Comment

by:rball
ID: 18834221
Thanks for the input RobWill. Yes, I do need something that will allow me to test while everything is still connected. The CableIQ unit looks very good and provides cable qualification as well. Pretty expensive though, considering I just need to be able to identify cables at the switch. You've pointed me in the right direction, so I'll look through other associated products and see what else might do the same job. I'll get back with award points if your suggestion leads to a simpler and less expensive product.
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by:Rob Williams
ID: 18834239
You are right, network test gear is not cheap. I used to use their cable certification meter for the same purpose and it is 6 times the price.
Not sure where you are located, but a good source in the US is Provantage. I'm in Canada and I can't buy from them, but researching, I have found them to have a great reputation, very competitive pricing, and a source for numerous different makes and models.
http://www.provantage.com
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 18834259
Another product you may want to have a look at is Test-um meters. I don't know if they will flash the port, but if they will, their units will give you far more "bang for the buck". Lrmoore here on Experts-Exchange has been very please with these meters. Might be worth giving Test-Um a call:
http://www.test-um.com/products.asp
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Author Comment

by:rball
ID: 18834265
I too am in Canada (B.C.). Yeah, this stuff is definately pricey. Every time I have a customer that requires a cable install to be certified, I have to rent a cable certification unit at $200 a day. The one I rent is priced at $6800 Canadian.
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Rob Williams earned 500 total points
ID: 18834290
I owned one up until 4 months ago. At least you can rent one <G>, I can't here. I also had an Enterprise LAN meter >$20K, but I have changed the focus of my business and I had a chance to sell them at a good price. The CableIQ is a good meter to give you the confidence that the cable is good, and is a great tracing and labeling tool, but if you need the lines certified, you still need a proper certification meter. That Test-um meter is supposed to certify for <1/4 the price of the Fluke.
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Author Comment

by:rball
ID: 18834345
Thanks for all the good information. I'm looking pretty seriously at both the Test-Um Validator and the CableIQ units. If I can find some decent pricing, I think I'll bite the bullet and purchase one of these. I'm awarding you the points for your help.
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 18834464
Thanks rball, Good luck with it.
Cheers !
--Rob
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