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

A modem is a device that connects your home network to the internet. A router connects your computers, phones, tablets, etc. to the internet and to each other. While a router and a modem may sound fairly similar to each other, they’re actually performing different functions when it comes to your internet access.

What does a modem do?

A modem connects your internet service provider to your home. Technically, you don’t need a router to access the internet and you can plug your computer directly into the modem. A modem acts as a translator between your computer and the internet since your computer reads digital signals, while the internet reads analog signals. A modem interprets these signals giving your computer access to the internet.

netgear nighthawk x10 smart wifi router on a white backdrop

What does a router do?

A router converts the internet connection from a modem to a Wi-Fi signal so that your computers, phones, and tablets can access the internet. A router won’t connect you to the internet directly, so you still need a modem.

What are the benefits of using a router?

Routers also add firewall protection to your home connectivity. This gives you an added layer of security every time you use the internet with one of your devices. All routers come with this security feature, but you can upgrade to a router that offers even more security options, like antivirus protection and VPN connectivity.

If you are looking to buy your own router, check what internet speeds your router is compatible with—if you don’t pay for gigabit internet, you might not need a costly router with the highest speed capacity. On the other hand, most internet service providers offer plans with super-fast speeds so you’ll want to choose a router with Wi-Fi 6 that supports multi-gig internet speeds. A Wi-Fi 6 router doesn’t just give you a faster Wi-Fi connection, it also allows your internet connection to reach further throughout your home.

What is a gateway?

Most internet service providers have made people’s lives easier (and media centers neater) by providing you with a modem/router combination, called a wireless gateway. Gateways work the same way as a separate modem and router, but instead they give you the same device connectivity all from one central hub.


Are routers and modems the same thing?

No, routers and modems have different functions when it comes to connecting you to the internet. A modem is what connects your home to your internet service provider. A router directs the connection from a modem to all of your computers, phones, and tablets so that those devices can access the internet. You can have just a modem and connect to the internet, but you can’t have just a router.

Where should I set up my router?

Your router should go in a central location in your home in order to evenly spread out your Wi-Fi coverage. If you need to stretch your Wi-Fi range, consider upgrading your router or buying a Wi-Fi mesh-networking kit. You can also read our guide on Where Is the Best Place to Set Up Your Router for more information.

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