patch cables are short ethernet cables (cat 5, 5e or 6 ranging 1-3ft length) used for connecting hardware together. for example a patch cable would be used to go from a rack mounted router to a multi-port rack mounted hub/switch. or from a cable modem to a router. ethernet cable would be longer than patch ethernet cable (cat 5, 5e or 6 ranging 3"+ in length) connecting from a connection device (hub, switch, router, voip controller) to a computer or end device (phone, computer, etc.).