Difference Between Modem And Router

Just about everyone is online these days. Heck, you have to be online reading this right now, and that is exactly what most people use the Internet for. Sure, there is a lot of communication and keeping in touch, billing paying, schoolwork, but it mostly comes down to research. Maybe you are research information about a product that you are considering buying. Maybe you are trying to figure out the difference between a modem and a router.

difference between a modem and a router

Whatever the situation is, most people these days are using the Internet as a sole source of knowledge. There is nothing wrong with this because the Internet can be a wealth of information. The only problem is that sometimes this information is skewed or misleading.

All that aside, being that you’ve likely been online for a number of years now, you’ve no doubt heard the terms modems and routers. Maybe you’ve heard modem/router combos.

Maybe you’ve only heard talk of modems or routers. Well, a modem, router, or a combination of the two are how you are able to get online right now and get this information. Even if you are utilizing a Wi-Fi connection to get this information, there is a good chance that connection is stemming from a router or modem.

That aside, there is a distinctive difference between the way these devices operate. First, a router is pretty much a device that creates a network between the computers in your home, while a modem is what connects that network of computers to the Internet.

So, if you are currently connected via Wi-Fi it means that you are connected via the router side, which is the device that actually forwards traffic between the Internet and your computer.

There are also modem/router combos, which is what is offered by most Internet providers these days. In fact, if you are connected using a Comcast or Internet provider provided device, it is probably a combo of the two.

Kind of confusing stuff, right? It is, but it also pays to know and understand what you are dealing with because knowing such information could lead to better decision making in the future. For instance, you could currently be paying anywhere from $8 to $15 a month to rent a device from your ISP that you might not even need.

Understanding What A Router Does

What A Router Does

Okay, going back to the above information. A router is pretty simple. It is the device that connects multiple networks and routes network traffic between them. That really is pretty simple and anyone should be able to understand that.

Take your home network, for instance. If you are using a router at home, that router would have one connection to the Internet and one connection to your private local network.

However, most routers also contain what is known as a built-in switch or two that allows them to connect multiple wired devices. Some might even contain what are known as wireless radios that allow them to connect wireless devices via Wi-Fi.

Okay, so things probably got confusing again. The best way to think about it by referring to your home network. Think about it like this – the router sits in between your Internet connection and your local network.

It is the device that allows you to connect multiple devices to the internet through one physical Internet connection. Not only does it do this, but it also allows those devices to communicate with one another over the local network.

All the while doing this it is offering some protection in return to help shield these connections from being exposed directly to the Internet. When the Internet looks at all the traffic coming from your home it looks like it is coming for a single device. And, that single device would be your router.

Your router is solely responsible for keeping track of what traffic does to which actual device on your network, but it has one major downside. And, that downside is that it cannot directly connect to the Internet.

In order for a router to directly connect to the Internet, it must be plugged into a device that can transmit your digital traffic over whatever type of Internet connection you are utilizing. This is the device that is known as a modem.

Understanding What A Modem Does

What A Modem Does

Given the above information, you probably now understand that your modem serves as a bridge between your local network and the Internet connection itself. Just as a side note, the term modem actually comes from the longer-term modulator-demodulator.

And, this is because modems used to modulate the signals on telephone lines. They did this so that the digital information could be encoded and transmitted over them and the demodulated and decoded on the other end.

While people still refer to today’s devices as modems, they don’t really work like this anymore. People just keep referring to them as modems because it is what everyone is familiar with. That being said, depending on the way that the modem attaches to your network really depends on the type of Internet connection you have.

The modem will plug into whatever type of infrastructure you have. This could be cable, telephone, satellite, or fiber. This is the device that gives you your standard Ethernet cable output so that you can plug it into any router or a single computer and get an Internet connection.

Simply put, the modem is your home’s gateway to the Internet, depending on the type of Internet that you have. This box is oftentimes skinny and features a row of LED lights on the front that tell you the status of the modem.

These light can tell you if you are connected to the Internet, they can tell you if you are not connected, and they can tell you if there is a current problem with your network. Knowing these light and how to interrupt them will be imperative to keeping your network up and running.

Difference Between Modem And Router

difference between router and modem

  • Why Knowing The Difference between a router and a modem is Important.

Most people don’t even think of the difference between their modems and routers. This is completely understandable given that both of them sit in the same spot in the home for years.

And, many homes might even have one single box that acts as a modem and router, so they might not even understand or know that there is a difference between the two. Simply put, it is easy to think of your modem and router as the same thing.

However, it is greatly worth it to know the difference. This is especially true if you are concern with improving your Internet connection. Given the information above, you now know that your router is what directs the Wi-Fi connection in your home.

Are there some areas of the home where your Wi-Fi is spotty? Maybe you experience a lot of dropped connections in the far end of the home or master bedroom? Well, it could be because your router isn’t able to fully direct the signal there.

While there are enhancers and boosters available, you might be able to enhance your Wi-Fi connection by simply relocating your router. Moving it to a central location away from other electronic interference could be just what you need to boost your signals to even the furthest reaches of your home.

And as long as it doesn’t interfere with the router, you can feel free to hide the mode behind a houseplant or other device to conceal it.

The Pros Of A Combo Box

Now that you know all about routers, modems, and combos, you are probably thinking that it makes the most sense to invest in a combo. And, yes there are a lot of benefits that come along with owning a combo.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is your best option. First, we’ll take a look at the benefits of owning a combo, and then we’ll take a look at some of the advantages of owning a separate both.

To start out, it is probably obvious that a combo is going to help eliminate the cutter. A single box not only takes up less room, but it also means that you are going to be dealing with fewer cables. On top of this, you only need access to one power outlet.

Another big advantage is that a combo is usually easier to setup. Since you are only dealing with one device, you only have to worry about setting up one device. This will be especially true if the device comes directly from the Internet service provider, as they pretty much do all the work for you.

Keep in mind that some Internet providers will include additional features with their combo boxes that you won’t be able to take advantage of if you replace the box.

Advantages Of Separate Boxes

There is simply no denying that a combo box is neater and cleaner, but that doesn’t mean that separate boxes can’t come with their own benefits. In fact, standalone routers usually have more features and more customizations possible in the settings that what you’d normally get with a combo box.

In addition to this, these boxes are easier to replace. If something goes wrong with the box, you only have to worry about solely replacing this box, which will be cheaper in the long run.

If something goes wrong with your combo, you are going to end replacing both pieces even though both pieces might not be bad. That won’t be the case with a standalone box.

The same can apply for upgrading the router. If you have to upgrade the router, you can do so freely without worrying about messing with the modem.

What Is Combo Modem/Router?

To help cut costs and the need for a lot of space, some consumers opt for a combo modem/router? What is a combo modem/router? Well, it is the modem and router combined into a single unit.

All of the necessary components and technologies are combined together to create a unit that delivers cable, Internet, and Wi-Fi signals. These are very popular units because everything is neatly and conveniently packed together.

Why do some consumers prefer the modem/router combo to individual units? As mentioned above, the Wi-Fi, Internet, and cable are stored inside of a single plastic case. Otherwise, you would have two separate units – a router and modem.

With this said, there are some downsides to the combo modem/router. The biggest downside is a weaker signal, at least that is what some consumers have to say about the combo unit.

If your budget is limited, the combo router/modem will probably be your best option. But, again, you should not expect to receive a better signal than if you opted to go the other route.

The case utilized for the modem/router combo is only so big. So, you shouldn’t expect to get all the bells and whistles that come with the two separate units. In most cases, you will get exactly what you pay for, a 2-in-1 device with both the router and modem.

If you opt for this unit, you will be stuck with it. If you opted to purchase the modem and combo as separate units, you would have a lot more options. The separate units would give you more LAN, coaxial, Ethernet, and WAN ports to work with if you opt for the separate units.

Buy Or Rent

Most cable/Internet providers offer rental modem/router combos. Of course, you will be charged a monthly fee for these units. But, it will save you the trouble of having to go buy one.

There are many perks to renting a cable modem. If you opt to rent the unit from your provider, you will not have to go through the hassle of shopping for one. Believe it or not, it can be a hassle to find a model that will integrate with your existing home Internet system.

Compatibility issues are almost always an issue, especially for those who fail to do their homeowner. Not all cable modems are designed to offer compatibility across the board. In fact, there probably isn’t one cable modem on the market that offers universal compatibility.

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