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Are there any utilities or simple tools or techniques to easily test a CAT5 cable, to see how well was it installed?

Cat5 is often installed by amateurs, but has been installed and "working" for years. Proper cable testers and certifiers like a Fluke or LanTech often cost over USD$1000 and people who have them are few.

Aren't there some sort of special network cards, or USB cat5-testing devices, one can plug into a computer and test the cat5 with software? Perhaps an Intel utility for their cards?

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What are you looking to test? Are you just looking to see if the cable is OK or are you looking to run a full battery of tests for performance and the like? If you just want to see if a cable is punched properly they sell pretty cheap devices to do that. – Brent Pabst Sep 12 '12 at 16:33
are you testing patch cables or cabling throughout a building? If it's the former, throw it away and buy a new one if it's homemade; no test required and much much cheaper. – gravyface Sep 12 '12 at 17:34
Forget it man, virtually all professionals have a problem with amateurs getting to use higher end functionality using cheap network cards instead of expensive equipment. They're going to repeat again and again to "buy a Fluke". I'm an EE, and I know a cable tester can do much better than an NIC in physical terms, but just for doing approximate TDR for locating faults, NICs are definitely enough. Some NICs actually do have them. – Milind R Nov 8 '14 at 6:14

Buy a Fluke cable tester, they're what everyone else uses.

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Want to add to my toolkit something allowing to test and troubleshoot cables in a troublesome LAN. A Fluke is just much too expensive, simple continuity testers are just too simple. Just found one bad cable now - computer worked OK, but network seems flaky. The cable apparently has bad terminations. Changed it, but just based on appearance. – user135698 Sep 19 '12 at 22:12

If you are going to continually test cables afterwards buy a fluke you won't be disappointed. If this is a one time only call around locally to companies and IT shops see what they would charge you to come out and test your runs. You could also do some searches on Google to rent a fluke cable tester. I found a few companies that do it.

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Yes, cable certifiers are the best way. See some cheaper ones. Fluke, test-um, wavetek, microtest. Intel 82577 gigabit network cards have an "advanced cable diagnostics" with TDR, they do several tests. I ended up using "Totusoft LAN Speed Test" to benchmark the cable. Became visible it would only transfer at 40Mbits. Another cable benchmarked at 95mbits. – user135698 Dec 12 '12 at 16:23

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