The Differences Between a Modem and a Router in Home WiFi

Updated on August 8, 2019
KCO profile image

Katy shares her tech knowledge and research with anyone who wants to learn the smartest way to use technology.

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

Setting up your home's Wifi starts with understanding the difference between a modem and a router.

A modem converts the signal coming into your house to a hard line data connection (so you can use an Ethernet cord to connect to the Internet).

Then a router will convert that hard line connection to 2.4 GHz or 4.8 GHz Wifi connection.

If that didn't make sense you can find more detail below. We'll go over each device so you can set up the best Wifi network for your home.

The difference between a router and a modem.
The difference between a router and a modem.

Modems

Modems work by taking the cable or phone line and converting it into an Internet connection.

Connections

Modems connect to the wall cable outlet with a coax cable. These are the cords that have an outside casing that screws into the wall. In addition to the data connection it will need to be plugging in to a normal wall outlet for power.

The outputs are Ethernet ports on the back. Ethernet cables carry data from one port to another, are often yellow and have the distinctive plastic clip that clicks into place when inserted.

If you're using a router you will connect one of those Ethernet ports to it. Read on about what routers do and how to set them up in the next section.

The remaining ports can be used for any wired Internet connection. Wired connections are hard lines that running directly to computers, laptops or gaming consoles. This connection will be faster than connecting over Wifi.

How to Pick A Modem

They will cost about $20-30 for the cheapest but can cost over $100 for the highest speeds.

You'll want to select a model that can handle the top speeds in your Internet plan. There's no need to pay any more to get a device that handles speed beyond what you will receive.

Ethernet cable that connects a modem to a router or wired Internet connection.
Ethernet cable that connects a modem to a router or wired Internet connection. | Source

Routers

Once your modem is set up, the router will take the Internet connection and broadcast it as Wifi. That means your mobile devices that don't have a wired connection like cell phones and laptops can connect to the internet.

Connections

Set up your router with an Ethernet cord to the back of your modem. It will also need to be plugged into the wall for power. Once the device is on and connected to your service provider you should be able to connect your devices to the Wifi.

Choosing a Router

Expect to pay $20 for the cheapest versions and up to $100 for a top of the line brand.

Modern routers output at both 2.4 GHz and 4.8 GHz. Most devices made after 2015 will use the slightly faster 4.8 GHz frequency. But if you have an older device with a wireless enabled you may need to make sure the router you're purchasing will output at 2.4 GHz.

If you have a large house try to position your router as close to the center as possible. You may need a more powerful version or multiple repeaters if you want stronger signals at the edges of the house.

What About A Modem/Router Combo?

You might be interested in a combination router and modem for your home network. This can definitely save on cost because you’re only buying one device.

Sometimes it’s still better to buy them individually. This is the case if you already have one and just need the other or you will want to upgrade one. For example, modems are all pretty standard but a high quality router can make a big difference for faster and further-reaching connections.

Also, it can be beneficial to have separate devices because then troubleshooting is a little easier. You can inspect and test each device individually instead of having no insight into what the combination box is doing.

Do I Need a Modem or Router for Xfinity?

As with any Internet service you will need at least a modem to access it. Xfinity rents out modems for the duration of your service but it’s usually much cheaper to buy one yourself. It will pay for itself in 3-6 months compared to renting from them.

Troubleshooting a Home Internet Connection

Understanding the difference between your home's router and modem can also help you when something goes wrong.

When your computer or phone can't to the Internet it could be either a problem with the device itself, the router, modem, or the Internet service. Let's start at the device and work backwards to the Internet provider to find the problem.

If other Wifi enabled devices on your network are having a problem that's a sign it's not with a specific device but could be the Internet service, the modem or the router.

The easiest way to test the router is to look at the lights on the front. The 2.4 GHz and/or 5 GHz lights will be illuminated if it's putting out a Wifi connection. If those are off, also check the power light and the "Internet" or "Network" light.

Most modems also have lights on the front to give you a status. Something else you can try to get an idea if your modem is working right is to test the Internet connection on something plugged directly into the modem. Most computers and game consoles have a wired Ethernet port you can use for this.

If both your router and modem are not connected to the Internet, the problem could be iwth your Internet service provider. Log in to your account on whatever provider you have (Comcast, AT&T, etc). From there you can see if there are any service outages in your area and check the connection to your modem.

© 2019 Katy Medium

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, turbofuture.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://turbofuture.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)