Keeping routers in working order is the first step to keeping your office or small home business ticking over properly. But why might a router go bad? The most straightforward answer is general wear and tear which leads to problems because of a build-up of heat, dust, and other foreign objects.
Being able to identify how your router has broken will help you decide whether to attempt a quick fix yourself, look into asking for a professional fix, or simply replacing the device and getting a new piece of equipment.
We will go through example reasons for routers going bad and look at ways to stop them from failing (especially when you absolutely need them!). Taking care of your router will be much easier after finding out how best to take care of it.
Can Routers Go Bad and What causes router failure?
Routers aren’t designed to last together. No technology is, to tell the truth. As there is little interaction with the router after it is set up, however, many users might think that it will work forever because they haven’t needed to fix anything about it since buying it. This can be deceptive.
Even after years of apparent use, a router can fail due to natural wearing caused by normal use or it can also simply have a sudden hardware failure without any notice. In the latter case, there is little you can do. Sometimes technology fails and we can only plan for that so much.
Another rarer problem is a software failure – if the router is updating and the device loses power, it can cause the software to be corrupted beyond repair (or “to be bricked”). Although this is unlikely, thinking about how the router updates will help avoid this problem.
The most common reason for a router failing is either:
- Overheating and the damage it causes, or
- An accumulation of dust (which may cause a)
The place where a router is placed will largely determine how quickly this happens. Most home routers will not fill with dust too quickly as they’re generally placed out of the way and are not around large industrial equipment which will spit lots of dust out (compared to, say, a router that was placed in a carpenter’s workshop).
However, in a larger enterprise, the router may be stored with many other electrical appliances and tightly packed into a spot in the cupboard or another storage facility. This will cause a build-up of heat and will lead to more failures than keeping the router on its own on a shelf.
Related to overheating is exposure to sunlight. If you leave it next to a window where the sun shines most of the day, this will lead to the router being unable to cool down effectively and cause more overheating issues and other problems than there would be if it was stored in a cool, clear corner of the house or office.
How long can I expect my router to last for?
This really depends on what kind of router you have. Assuming it is stored in a place where it is protected from dust and the elements, however, will extend the lifespan of the device greatly.
Commercial grade routers (that’s to say, routers designed for large enterprises or medium to large size offices) are expected to last around 10 years after the point of purchase. These heavy-duty machines will be stored safely away in a communications closet and keep cool by the use of cooling and heating technology. If you are using a router in an enterprise situation that does not last for this long, you may want to start looking at different products or reviewing the process in your comms closet!
For home users, these kinds of lifespans are not generally usual. Although some users may not need to replace their router for 8 or 9 years, this will be partially down to luck and partially down to good maintenance. Plans should be made to replace a router every few years, especially if you are suffering from connectivity issues regularly. A router going down once every few months is probably nothing to worry about, but frequent issues should be addressed quickly.
A good rule of thumb would be to replace your router (and most other technology) no less frequently than every 5 years. Most devices are not designed to survive longer than that and planning to replace them before that point will prove for minimal downtime.
What are some signs that my router is going bad?
Here are some of the most common reasons to suspect that your router may be going bad:
If you frequently have limited connectivity messages from your router, something is starting to fail. This could be a problem for your Internet Service Provider, but it is most likely a problem with the router.
Using an Ethernet cable, you can check if it is a problem with your WiFi connection. If you are using an Ethernet cable already, however, you may need to check the cable. If you cannot get rid of the messages via these methods, you may want to look into replacing your router.
Slow internet connection
If you are often facing a connection speed that is lower than what you are paying for, it is probably the router slowing down packets that it is trying to send and receive. A lull in your connection is unlikely to be a surefire sign of a broken router, but continued drops in connection could be something more serious for your router’s health.
Reconnecting multiple times per day
Although some people don’t think much of this problem, having your devices disconnect and reconnect frequently throughout the day is a sign of a problem with your router. Having the router disconnect devices means that it is failing to work correctly in terms of communicating with connected devices.
This could be a sign of a software error on either side of the connection (either the router itself or the device or devices that are connecting to it), so it might be wise to contact expert help before replacing the unit.
How can I tell my router is going bad?
As has been previously mentioned, one of the easiest ways to check if a router is going bad is by checking how well it holds a connection. This will be the first step to finding out if you need to purchase a new one.
As for checking if a router is down without reports, you can plug a computer straight into the port that the router is plugged into and see if it works. This basically removes the need for a router, so this is the easiest way to test if the router is the problem or if there are other issues at play.
If you plug a laptop into the cable modem and the laptop connects to the internet without any trouble, you probably have an issue with your router and should look into replacing it. If, when it is plugged in, the laptop does not connect, the router can be discounted and you may need to contact your Internet Service Provider and have them investigate why your internet connection is down.
How should I go about dealing with a bad router?
A bad router can cause a lot of problems, but there are 4 easy steps you can follow to make your life as simple as possible.
- Contact your Internet Service Provider
In some cases, the router has come directly from the Internet Service Provider and they will be able to either fix the issue on their end or send out a professional who can deal with the issue. Even if this isn’t technically a problem caused by the provider, the technician is also a trained IT professional – they may be able to fix the device without too much trouble.
If the Internet service provider cannot fix the issue before the router or by analyzing how the router is calibrated, you may have a cable issue. Cables fail all the time, again usually because of wear and tear.
After replacing cables and checking settings, it may be time to replace the router all together. This should be the final step, hopefully, especially for those in a home setting. Routers are relatively cheap and can be easily replaced by someone without a great deal of technological knowledge.
If all these steps have failed, you may have a deeper problem relating to the connection to your Internet Service Provider and this can lead to longer downtimes that can cause issues for businesses. Hopefully, an apparently broken router won’t be a sign of a more nefarious problem.
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Yes, routers go bad and there are many reasons that routers go bad. However, good maintenance and replacing the device when appropriate can mean that you avoid lengthy downtimes and allow you to return to using the internet at your leisure. Being able to identify these issues will help your long term plans and how best to troubleshoot your problems.