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I have cat5 ports through out the office that seem to not work 100%. I wanted to know if there is a software alternative to the $1000 Fluke Meters, that I can do the same thing with. Maybe something I can load it on a small netbook??

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check CDW's scratch and dent sales, you can get a nice tester for a good price sometimes – SpacemanSpiff Oct 25 '11 at 0:48
up vote 6 down vote accepted

You can use functionality in managed switches to watch error counters on the suspect ports. Some switches have built-in "cable test" functions that can help (though I've never seen any that were able to do anything more than detect cable length and open pairs). Finally, you could use something like TTCP and netcat to push traffic over the suspect ports to gauge packet loss and maximum bandwidth as compared to "known working" ports.

Much more than that is going to be difficult because the physical network interface hardware (the PHY, as it's commonly known) isn't going to provide enough information back to driver and application software to let you do some of the more "magic" things that a dedicated cable testing device can do. They cost a lot of money because they do much more than a simple Ethernet card.

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The short answer is no. The longer answer is, it depends on just what sort of testing you want to do.

The reason is that the tests performed by the Fluke, and similar, devices cannot be done in software alone. Even the fact that the cable is plugged into a NIC, which is kind of necessary when using software alone, will preclude most meaningful tests. You may be able to perform some tests that will give you useable data but you cannot perform the full range of tests without suitable hardware.

Have you considered looking around to see if a suitable device can be rented in your area?

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I've used wireshark with Cascade Pilot, but it's S P E N D Y. You'd probably pay less for a Fluke

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Some NIC drivers (I remember broadcom) will allow you to know the length of the cable plugged into your card. It can show if any strand in the cable is shorter, hence cut.

But without a plug on the other end, it will be very difficult to have more informations than that.

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Probably if you are just testing cables, but if you are trying to do cable mapping on a poorly documented LAN, a Fluke or similar can't be beaten.

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