What is an Unmanaged Switch : Working, Connection & Its Applications

Much of today’s Internet traffic travels across a lot of switches: many fast, reliable, and affordable switches to be specific. A network switch or Ethernet switch are the heart of the network  and is an essential building block of the network which connects different devices together. There are different kinds of network switches available like KVM, unmanaged, PoE, smart, managed switch, etc. These switches allow different devices on the network to transmit data between devices like computers, printers, servers, etc. These switches are very helpful in processing data packets & connecting them to the destination. So this article discusses an overview of one of the types of network switch like an unmanaged switch – working with applications.

What is an Unmanaged Switch?

An unmanaged switch definition is; a switch that allows network devices to communicate with one another by simply providing a connection to the network is known as an unmanaged switch. These switches are plug-and-play devices including fixed-configuration so you cannot make any changes within the configuration. These switches are frequently used in a small, or when there is no need for advanced features such as port security, VLAN tagging, or traffic prioritization.

Unmanaged Switch
Unmanaged Switch

How Does Unmanaged Switch Work?

Unmanaged switches are the least expensive type of network switch. They are designed to simply forward traffic from one port to another without any configuration. Unmanaged switches do not have any management features such as configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting tools.

They have multiple ports on them. Each port is connected to a device such as a computer or printer using an Ethernet cable. The device that you connect to a switch port is called a host or host device.

They only forward traffic based on the destination MAC address of each frame received by the switch. This means that they do not examine the contents of the frame at all and only look at its header information (MAC address). If the destination MAC address matches the MAC address programmed into that switch port, then it forwards that frame out through that same port to another device.

To understand better, If an unmanaged switch connected to a network, then all of the computers connected to it will get the same information at the same time. This can cause problems when one computer needs a file that’s on another computers’s hard drive because it will take longer for that computer to receive it from its own hard drive than from another computer’s hard drive(assuming both computers are on the same subnet).


How to connect an Unmanaged Switch?

 The simplest way to connect a computer to an unmanaged switch is to use a standard network cable. The cable should have a RJ-45 connector on each end.

Most unmanaged switches come with a set of cables that one can use for this purpose. However, if the switch does not have any spare cables, It can be purchase at the local computer store.

A crossover cable or plug adapters to connect your computer directly to the switch port. These options can help reduce the number of cables in your network by connecting the two devices directly with no intermediary device such as a hub or router.


The unmanaged switch characteristics include the following.

  • The operation of this switch mainly depends on auto-negotiation for settings.
  • These are applicable to star & daisy chain simple network topologies.
  • These types of switches are capable of creating & storing MAC-address tables to make traffic management better as compared to Ethernet hubs.
  • No difference in how these switches treat broadcast & multicast traffics, but they can cause severe jamming issues known as broadcast storms.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of unmanaged switches include the following.

  • These are not expensive.
  • These switches have a compact design and have a variety of mounting techniques like wall-mount, desktop, or rackmount to save your effort & space.
  • These switches are suitable for beginners with simple networks.
  • These switches have a lockable port cover that ensures fundamental safety & helps in avoiding any kind of tampering directly on the device.
  • Its installation is very easy.
  • Most of these switches in the market today support 100M or 1G speed that is completely sufficient to use in small business and home networks.
  • These are plug-and-play devices, so you can utilize them without requiring professionals to arrange & maintain this switch.
  • Its usage is very simple because there is no requirement for active monitoring

The disadvantages of an unmanaged switch include the following.

  • It has a fixed configuration, so it doesn’t support any options or configuration interface.
  • They do not provide any method to observe network traffic.
  • They do not include any superior features which are required for large or smart networks.
  • They do not include any management options on the network, especially for IoT devices.
  • When we use these switches, security issues might be the main concern as they don’t require any configurations & they can’t check network performance or activity.


The applications of the unmanaged switches include the following.

  • These types of switches are generally used on network spurs to connect edge devices
  • These are used on a small stand-alone network with simply a few components.
  • These are suitable for any business network that needs to simplify the installation of surveillance cameras based on IP & wireless access points.
  • They are used in homes, small businesses, SOHO or to include short-term workgroups in bigger networks.
  • This is an essential network device used in industrial applications.
  • These are applications where partial networking resources are used because they are easy to install.
  • These are used in machining, manufacturing, mining, oil, and gas, etc.
  • These switches can also be used with PoE standards for providing power supply to your TVs & laptops.

Thus, this is all about an overview of a network switch like an unmanaged switch – advantages, disadvantages, and its applications. The main reasons to use these switches are; less cost, easy maintenance, and plug-and-play. These switches are used in the home, industrial and small businesses. Here is a question for you, what is managed switch?