The Ultimate Guide to Modems and Routers

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Curious about buying a new modem or learning more about your current setup? Perhaps you're in the market for a router as well, but you're not sure if you need both a router and a modem. While we're at it, what's the difference between a modem and a router? Our guide to modems and routers will teach you everything you need to know about your Internet setup so you can make the most informed decisions.

What's the Difference Between a Modem and a Router?

Modems and routers are easy to mix up if you're new to learning about your Internet connection. In the passages below, we break down every difference between these two pieces of equipment and what they do for you.


The Internet is accessed through a cable modem. A cable modem is a hardware device that connects your computer devices to your Internet service provider over a coax cable (ISP). Analog modems (dial-up), digital subscriber line (DSL), and cable modems are the three types of modems available. In most cases, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) rents modems to their customers, which can come with additional perks. With that said, purchasing your modem can save you money on monthly rental fees (up to $150 per year* depending on your current rental prices). Your wired Internet connection will be provided via your modem. You can get away with merely having a modem if you only have one device that needs to connect to the Internet, such as a PC or laptop. However, if you have many devices or wish to use them wirelessly (WiFi), you'll need a router.


A router is a device that interacts between the Internet and the Internet-connected devices in your home. It all boils down to personal preference when setting up your home network. A cable modem router (also known as a gateway) is a device that connects to the Internet and distributes that connection to various devices (like a router does). You can get excellent use out of a combo cable modem router. If you want greater control over your home network, such as security settings, a separate cable modem and router may be the way to go. Instead of renting a cable modem, router, or cable modem router for a monthly cost, you can buy your cable modem and router or cable modem router. This can help save you money in the long run, but renting from your ISP does have the benefit of providing you with access to technicians and assistants.

Do I Need a Modem and a Router?

If you wish to use WiFi or connect numerous devices, you'll need both a modem and a router. You can only connect one computer at a time because most modems only have one LAN Ethernet connector, but a modem won't provide the same level of protection as a router. If you have multiple devices that need to connect to the Internet, you'll need a router. However, a router by itself will not allow you to connect to the Internet. A router must be connected to the modem to distribute the internet connection to your devices. Some devices combine the tasks of a modem and a router these days. As a result, you won't need to purchase a separate modem and router while setting up your home internet connection.

How Do I Know If I Need a Modem?

A modem is required to connect to the Internet from your home or office. Your Internet service provider (ISP) sends you analog Internet signals, which a modem converts to digital Internet signals. A router converts and sends these digital signals to your devices. Modems come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Unless you buy your own, such as the CODA Cable Modem, which employs DOCSIS 3.1 technology for better speeds, you'll usually acquire your modem through your ISP. You can get away with merely having a modem if you only have one device that needs to connect to the Internet, such as a PC or laptop. However, if you have several devices, you will also require a router.

How Long Do Modems Last?

Modems are known for causing annoying and difficult-to-resolve internet access issues. If your Internet suddenly becomes unstable, there's a reasonable probability it's your modem, regardless of how old it is. But how long do modems last? Most individuals find that their modem lasts between 2 and 5 years; however, this depends on the quality of the modem you buy, technological advancements over that time, and how well you maintain it. So, if your modem is more than three years old and you're having problems with it, it could be time for a replacement. Many people prefer to rent modems since their internet service provider will replace them if they break down.

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