Modem vs router: What’s the difference?

Internet    05/01/2022    5 minute read

The world of the internet has equipment and terminology that could confuse even the smartest of people. A common confusion amongst internet shoppers is the difference between a modem and a router.

And, while these devices may seem like they do the same thing, they actually perform very different functions in your home. In need of an explanation? Read on as HomeLinkd breaks it down and answers your questions about these essential internet devices.

What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

While these two pieces of hardware are essential to a great internet connection, they offer entirely different functions.

A modem acts as a middle-man between an internet service provider and your router. The modem brings the internet to your home —and the router distributes it to all of your devices like your smart TV, phone, tablet and more.

To put it simply, a modem and a router work hand-in-hand to bring the internet to your home or office.

Now, let’s get to the details.

What is a modem?

While there are all sorts of modems out there, like cable,DSL or dial-up —one thing remains the same, they’re all used to connect your home or office to the internet. They take the infrastructure available outside, from your internet service provider, and plug it into your space. You can think of this like a gateway, portal or door to connection. Easy, right?

You can either buy your own modem or your service provider will rent it to you at a small fee added to your monthly payments.

Read a detailed breakdown all about modems.

What is a router?

So, now that we know modems are the gateway connecting your home or office to the internet — what’s a router? A router distributes the internet to your individual devices. First, it receives the internet from a modem, and then it allows other devices to connect to it. It’s like a small transmitter connecting everything to the source.

Depending on how large your space is, you may want to think about getting more than one router because the signal only connects devices within a certain range. If you have a bigger home or office (or a double story space), you may need two or three routers, or even a wi-fi extender —especially if there are walls between your router and the devices you want to connect. You can have multiple routers in your home, especially if you have a large, double-story home or office where you’ll need more routers to reach all corners of the house.

In need of faster speed? Read our blog about how to get a better internet connection.

Modem or router: When to know which one you’ll need

If you have more than one device in your home or office that needs an internet connection (and most of us do), you’ll need both a modem and a router.

If you don’t want to get a separate modem and router, you can get a cable modem router that is a combination of the two. It’s sometimes called a gateway and its main benefit that it simplifies the process of connecting your home or office to the internet by using one device.

Three common FAQs about modems and routers, answered

• What are the different features of a modem and a router?
A modem has fewer Ethernet cable ports than a modem; it has a wide area network (WAN); and a public IP address. A router has a private IP address and a local area network (LAN).

• How do I troubleshoot my router?
There are a few simple tips to follow to troubleshoot common connection or network problems. You can reset the default password to something more private to protect your network; you can update the firmware, similarly to updating your operating system on your iPhone or Android; or you could do the age-old favourite of turning it off and on to reboot it.

• How do I connect my router to my modem?
Even if you have a wired or wireless router, you will still need to connect it with a cable to the modem. Simply take both ends of the Ethernet cable provided and connect it from the modem to the router.

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