“Pinout” is a term describing how an electrical cable is wired. Some cables do not have pinouts because they only contain a single internal wire, like coax cables. But if a cable has multiple pins on the end of the cable, it will have a pinout.
Each type of multi-pin cable has a standard pinout or two, but these layouts are not set in stone. Some machines will require non-standard pinouts; this will require users to use a custom cable.
Pinouts also come into play when using a cable with two different ends. For example, going from DB9 (9 pins) to DB25 (25 pins) will mean the DB25 side has 16 unused, “dead” pins.
If you need to know what pinout a cable needs, ideally there will be a spec sheet handy showing it. The next best option is contacting the manufacturer of the equipment the cable will be used with to see if they have a spec sheet available. If you have a cable tester available, that can be used to see how the pins line up. As a last resort, a cable can also be cut open to verify the pinout.
In the guide below, we will be highlighting the standard pinout configuration for common types of multi-pin cables.
Ethernet uses two main pinouts, straight and crossover. Straight cables are used to connect computers to other devices, like modems and routers. Crossover cables are used to connect two computers directly. The wires inside ethernet cables are color-coded to industry standards, making it easy to follow the standard pinout options.
The term “DIN” covers a variety of different connectors used for power, audio, data, video, and more. DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, the German national standards organization that developed DIN connectors. There is a bit of basic information to know about DIN connectors before working on assembling one.
There are many different versions of DIN connectors. The name of each type comes from the number of pins the connector has (3-pin DIN, 4-pin DIN, etc.) Some of these pin numbers come in different configurations, with the pins arranged differently from one configuration to the next. For example, 8-pin DIN comes in 262° and 270° versions.
Note: This image does not display all available DINs, but these are the most common types.
There are also Mini versions of some DIN connectors, but these are generally developed for specific uses and referred to by other names. For example, an S-video connection is actually a 4-pin Mini-DIN but is generally just called S-video.
The other key detail about DIN connectors is that they do not have a standard configuration. Other types of cables have standard pinouts; the wires inside the main cable are connected from one side of the
Computer cables (data cables) are somewhat similar to audio and video cables. Instead of transmitting sound or images, they send data for your computer to use. This can be anything from sending over a Word document to streaming movies and TV shows. Technically ethernet cables fall under this category, but ethernet is such a broad topic it needed its own independent article. Common types of data cables include:
USB is the most common type of data cable today, being found on computers, printers, hard drives, cell phones, and more. Along with transmitting data, USB is commonly used to recharge batteries on cell phones and other devices like video game controllers. There are several types of USB cables in various shapes and sizes. The two primary groups are USB 2.0 and USB 3.0.
USB 2.0 is capable of speeds up to 480 Mbps and comes in a few different varieties. When someone just says “USB”, they are generally referring to USB 2.0 Type A. These are the standard rectangle-shaped connections you can find on any computer. Next, there is Type B, which is also called a printer cable. Newer printers use this more square-shaped connection instead of older serial connections. Mini USB used to be used on cell phones but has mostly been replaced by Micro USB. You will still occasionally see it on other devices like digital cameras and GPS. Micro USB is still the standard on many Android phones but is starting to be replaced by USB 3.0 Type-C.