Why do some RJ45 cables have a rubber boot protecting the clip?

Cat5 Ethernet cable with boot

Have you ever wondered why some Ethernet cables have that little rubber dome, boot-like thing protecting a plastic release clip and others don’t?

Cat5 Ethernet cable without boot

You might be wondering why all network cables can’t look like the bottom image?  I mean, after all it’s easier to remove and release the plug without that stupid rubber thing in the way.  Is the boot just there for aesthetics?

Well, I have admit if that I didn’t work with networking equipment on a daily basis then I probably wouldn’t even notice the difference or even care why it matters.  You probably think the rubber boot is nettlesome because you have to press down really hard with your thumb to release the cable from your laptop or the wall.  Is there really a purpose behind the boot?  Can you just cut it off without damaging the cable?

The purpose of the boot

It turns out removing the boot does not have a deleterious effect on the cable but it is there for three reasons:

1. To keep you connected

The chief purpose of the boot is to protect the plastic clip from flipping up and eventually breaking off the cable.  The plastic clip, also called a retention clip, makes that familiar “click” noise as you plug in the cable; it snaps the plug into place and secures it there.  Without the clip, would probably randomly get disconnected from your network as the plug would simply slide out with the slightest tug.

2. To protect the clip

Network engineers often have to pull Cat5 (tech jargon for Ethernet cables) through very tight areas often crowded with dozens of other cables.  The boot protects the clip as it makes its odyssey, through the labyrinth of wire spaghetti, around corners and through narrow conduit.  For this reason, Ethernet cables with these little rubber boots are often referred to as anti-snag cables because it keeps the clip from catching and halting the cable pull.

3. To protect your nails

It’s easy to get jam the clip under a nail as you try to release or plug-in the Ethernet cable so the boot serves as a barrier to block your trusty thumbs from sliding into it.

If you hate the boot but are afraid to put the cutters to your cable then see if you can gently slide the cable boot down the length of the cable.  Some cable boots are just a rubber hood that are loosely connected to the cable sheath.  If that’s the case it’s easy to slide it out of the way.

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  • Dave

    Excellent quick synopsis…and answered my question 🙂 Thanks!