It’s great for troubleshooting (4 out of 5)
The IntelliTone 200 Probe Kit is a cable troubleshooting set from Fluke Networks. Let’s say you have a phone line in an office that has either stopped working, or is getting a lot of signal noise. The line worked just fine before, but now it is causing problems. What can you do to fix it? One of the first things you need to do is trace that phone line back to the panel and see if anything has been pulled loose. Maybe something pulled one of the wires out or something got crossed. However, when you go back to the panel, you might have hundreds of lines in front of you. How are you supposed to figure out which one is the phone line you are trying to troubleshoot?
In the previously mentioned instance, what you’d do is connect the toner device to the end of the line where the user was having a problem, then you’d use this IntelliTone Probe at the panel to locate the wire. The toner sends out a signal down the wire, and this probe is supposed to pick it up. Part of the problem with a lot of these probes is that when you have a whole bunch of wires bundled together, you’ll get a lot of false positives when trying to ‘tone out’ the line.
At my job, we’ve used this probe along with toners to troubleshoot phone and network lines. It seems to work a lot better on Ethernet cable than it does phone lines, but it still works for either. I recently had to use it to locate an Ethernet line that was no longer working. Once I was able to identify the cable back at the server room, we ultimately determined that the problem was due to a bad port on a switch we were using. This probe allowed me to locate that line without running the risk of accidentally disconnecting anyone else in the process.
With a toner connected at the other end of your line, this probe will beep loudly once you land on the line it is looking for. It has eight different lights to indicate signal strength, and you know you’ve got the correct line when you’ve got numbers 7 or 8 lit. Any less than that is problem due to signal bleed over, which happens quite frequently when trying to isolate a single cable amid a bundle of dozens or more. When trying to find something like a single Ethernet line, you basically just run the probe over all the cables until you hear beeping, then start trying to figure out which one is the right one. It’s not all that precise.
There have been times where we were trying to troubleshoot a phone line using this probe, and it would give false positives all over the phone block. For example, with a toner on one end, we’d just run this probe down the prongs of the phone block until something beeps, but I’ve seen it beep on a dozen or more different lines when none of them were correct. It’s a frustrating part of troubleshooting phone lines, especially older lines.
Dealing with line toners and probes to identify cables is a painstaking process, but there really is no better way to do it. This IntelliTone Probe Kit (currently $128.99 @ Amazon.com) will greatly help you get the job done, but it takes a little while to know when it has actually found the line versus when it thinks it found the line. It still beats crawling through ceilings to trace troublesome lines.