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Right now I'm running a simple network in my apartment using a wired/wireless router that supports speeds up to 100BASE-T. I've got my desktop, printer, and NAS device connected directly to the router using ethernet cables, and everything else (game consoles, etc.) is connected wirelessly.

What I want to do is speed up the connection between my desktop and NAS device. Both devices support 1000BASE-T, but right now they're limited by the maximum speed of the router (100BASE-T).

If I were to connect the two devices to a switch that supports 1000BASE-T, and then connect to the switch to the router, would the devices be able to communicate directly with each other through the switch at 1000BASE-T (i.e. bypassing the router), or would their speed still be limited by the speed of the network as a whole?

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migrated from serverfault.com Jan 4 '12 at 3:32

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Yes, you should expect to get gigabit speeds out of two devices connected to a gigabit switch, regardless of whether there happen to be any 100 megabit or 10 megabit devices connected to the same switch. It doesn't even matter if the router is 100 megabit.

The whole point of a multi-speed switch (as opposed to a hub) is to keep the traffic and speed limitations of some devices from affecting other devices.

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So long as they're on the same subnet (highly likely on a home network) the two devices will communicate at full GigE speeds. It may not get to full GigE speeds, there are some variables at play about that, but it'll absolutely be faster than 100Mbit.

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To add a bit of detail, switches internally maintain a list of MAC (hardware) addresses of devices hooked up to/through them. On local networks packets will be dispatched to the destination machines using the MAC address, not the TCP/IP address (packets for non-local machines will use the MAC of the gateway which handles routing from there). Thus your two devices will happily talk to each other using only the switch, with only traffic for other devices being passed through to the router. –  fencepost Jan 4 '12 at 3:41
    
And even if the switch does send the traffic to the router, it won't matter anyway. Not all the packets would get to the router, but the two machines wouldn't know or care about that. (This is one of the reasons Ethernet flow control is off by default.) –  David Schwartz Jan 4 '12 at 3:44
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