I have one Ethernet port that is wired directly to the router on another level. However, I want to run a desktop and a server both off this one Ethernet port. Can anyone tell me the difference between an Ethernet splitter and a switch?

Also, will either the splitter or switch slow down the connection as opposed to just one connection?

  • 1
    If it were 2 computers that never accessed the network at the same time, maybe ok. But even if the workstation could access the server, it would see some serious lag. I can't even think of a viable route it might take. Better go with a switch.
    – hyperslug
    Commented Feb 3, 2010 at 4:35

2 Answers 2


An Ethernet splitter takes advantage of the fact that 10MBit and 100Mbit Ethernet only use 4 wires, even though the cable (almost certainly) contains 8 wires. The splitter consists of two pieces (see picture): one is connected to each end of the existing cable, providing the appearance of two ports at each end. Each link has 4 dedicated wires, so there is no risk of packet collisions. Gigabit Ethernet does require all 8 wires, so 100MBit (full duplex) is the limit through a splitter; a Gigabit switch would be required to increase the bandwidth. Also, if your router only has one Ethernet port, then using a splitter is not an option.

Ethernet splitter

Referring to your other question, I've listed the main pros and cons of each option:

Ethernet splitter

  • + Ought to be cheapest
  • + Passive; doesn't require a power supply
  • - Limited to providing one extra port, at 100MBit/s
  • - Destination switch/router must have two free Ethernet ports

100MBit/s switch

  • + Potential for many extra Ethernet ports
  • - Requires some set-up
  • - Requires a power supply (unless powered by PoE)

Gigabit switch

  • + Higher bandwidth
  • - Most expensive
  • - Requires the rest of the network (LAN) to support Gigabit to benefit


  • + Relatively cheap, but...
  • - ...not significantly cheaper than switches
  • - Very poor performance, especially as network load increases (due to collisions)
  • -\+ May or may not require a power supply
  • 3
    If you're going to call out power supply on 100MBit switch as a minus, shouldn't that be a minus for the Gig switch and hub as well? Also, most Gig switches will support 10/100, so your other minus really doesn't count. Lastly, "higher bandwidth" is true between machined on the LAN, but might be misleading as it doesn't increase the bandwidth down through your uplink if the uplink doesn't support Gigabit. Commented Feb 6, 2010 at 3:50
  • 1
    @Shannon First, I do mention the power issue for hubs; I ignored it for Gigabit because it was mentioned for 100MBit and was implied, and I only wanted to summarise the main distinguishing features for each. Second, it's not clear what you mean by "other minus". Third, of course: this is exactly why I specified that the rest of the LAN must also support Gigabit for any benefit; any source/destination (such as the internet) with <Gigabit in the way will obviously be slower.
    – sblair
    Commented Feb 6, 2010 at 4:43
  • Do you actually need a splitter on both ends? Doesn't the router detect that two (separate) devices are used, on wires 1-4 and 5-8?
    – M.Mimpen
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:34
  • 3
    Yes, a splitter must be used at both ends. Using the wires in that way isn't part of the Ethernet standard.
    – sblair
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 22:20
  • @M.Mimpen see superuser.com/q/764576
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 15:16

I would go with a switch for sure Less / no collisions And if you ever have network congestion / problems you can more easily weed out the problem with a sniffer

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