In theory, networking computers with Ethernet cables should be easy; you plug it in, and you go. In practice, a variety of things might need to be addressed before everything can operate normally.
You may have accidentally obtained "crossover" cables, which do not use hubs or routers. These are typically orange, whereas standard Ethernet cables are blue or gray.
Your cables may not be plugged in correctly. If you have an Internet router, one port is specifically designed to go from the router to the modem. Attaching this port to a computer usually does not work.
Ethernet cables can get frayed (especially if the cable is in a foot traffic area), and kinks can develop that will break down the internal wiring. Your Ethernet cable may have to be replaced if this is the case.
The jack at the end of the cable can come loose over time if it is regularly inserted and detached. Sometimes the wiring here can be repaired, or you can wiggle the cable a little to see if your connection is re-established.
Sometimes the signal quality can be interfered with by a cordless phone or microwave. Try moving those devices away from your cables, or moving the cables.
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