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Why Do Some Network Plugs Have Covers and Some Are Naked?

Hang around an office long enough and you’ll see a distinct trend in network cabling. Some cables have a covered plug and some cables are naked. What’s the purpose of the little plug cover?

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Michael Kjörling wants to know:

Some RJ45 plugs have an exposed lock release clip, like this:

However, others place the release clip under a rubber cover, like this:

I find that the rubber cover is almost never anything but a nuisance.

  • Does it actually have a function besides being annoying?
  • Can I take a suitable tool and simply cut it off without affecting the cable’s function?

Taking hand tools to the poor little rubber cover seems a bit extreme. Should Michael leave the covers be?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Journeyman Geek offers some insight:

From experience, those retention clips break off a lot on the first sort of cables – those are fine for cables that are well protected and/or going to be plugged in and forgotten, but the moment those clips bend the wrong way, they break, and you end up with a cable that dosen’t clip in place. They also snag each other sometimes and are just a PITA.

Cable boots (yes thats the proper name for them) keep cables from snagging, those clips from breaking, and generally ensure the cable dies from other things, like rabbit attacks, pruning shear accidents, and backhoe incidents. On the other hand, those cables are not slipping out from their sockets cause a tiny bit of plastic broke, and thats whats important.

Feel free to remove them, or get cables without them, but I personally find them pretty useful (and cables with them tend to be better made in many cases). They have no major structural or electrical purpose.

Another contributor, oKtoSite puts in another vote of confidence for the utility of the cable add-on:

When retracting a RJ45 plug through narrow tubing or around corners, the clip tends to snap off, effectively making the network cable useless in most environments. The rubber dome (most commonly referred to as a cable boot) nearly always prevents that from happening.

You wouldn’t know how many network cables I’ve seen with broken off clips.

Having pulled our fair share of cables, we’re soundly with these two: the boots are useful and, unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise, you should leave them be.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/12/13

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