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What Is the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?

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Both routers and modems are essential for internet connectivity. They are often confused because they have the same blinking lights at the front and Ethernet ports at the back. Modems and routers serve different purposes. This article will explain the differences between routers and modems, how each works, and whether you actually need both.

Modem vs. Router: What’s The Difference?

A modem connects to the internet or a wide-area network (WAN). A router, on the other hand, connects your devices with your local area network (LAN), or WiFi network. It also allows your devices to communicate wirelessly.

A modem is basically your gateway to the Internet, and a router is your central hub for all your devices.

What is a Modem?

A modem is a device that receives an analog signal (from your internet service provider) and converts it into digital signals that your devices can understand. This allows you to send and receive data via the internet.

Modulation and demodulation are the two words that give rise to the term modem. When the internet was created, modems were used for modulating (or converting) the analog signal from telephone lines into a digital signal that computers can understand. A modem would then demodulate the signal received from your devices into an analog signal that could be transmitted over a telephone line. Although there are more advanced technologies available, modems have remained the same.

Modems typically only have three ports. One connects directly to the internet, another connects via a router and one connects to power. Modems older than this connect via telephone lines to the internet, while modems that are newer use fiber optic or cable connections. Each modem will have at least one Ethernet port for connecting to a router or computer.

You can read our article to learn more about the differences between analog, DSL, and cable modems.

Your ISP will typically provide you with a modem when you sign up for an Internet plan. Your internet provider may charge you a monthly fee, but buying your own modem can usually save you money within six months.

What is a Router?

A router is a network device that routes your internet connection from your modem to other devices within your network. This allows you to connect to the internet via your computer, smart TV, or mobile phone.

A router’s primary function is to route your internet traffic to the right device within your network. The router assigns an IP address to all devices so that when you open a website from your computer it doesn’t go to your phone.

A router is a device that creates your network and allows you to manage it. You can set up security settings and prioritize traffic to specific devices with a router. Your devices can also communicate over the internet with each other using a router. A router allows you to change the settings for your smart home devices using an app on your phone.

There are many types of routers. The most popular are wireless and wired. The routers must be connected to computers and other devices via a wired Ethernet connection. WiFi routers transmit the internet signal wirelessly using built-in antennas.

Many routers include several Ethernet ports that enable you to connect to other devices using an Ethernet cable. One Ethernet port is also available that must be connected to a modem to send and receive internet information.

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Are you looking for a modem or router?

If you wish to connect multiple devices or use WiFi, both a modem AND a router are required. Modems typically only have one Ethernet port so you can only connect one computer at a given time. However, a router provides the same level of security.

If you have multiple devices that require internet access, a router is necessary. A router is not enough to connect to the internet. To distribute internet connectivity to your devices, a router must be connected to the modem.

When setting up your home internet connection, you don’t need to buy a separate router and modem. There are many devices available that can serve both the role of a modem and a router. To learn more, check out our top modem router combinations.

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