Modem vs. Router: What is the difference between Modem vs. Router?

Modem vs. Router: discover their Differences, Similarities, as well as their Pros & Cons. We also will answer some of your frequently asked questions and find which is better.
Modem vs. Router: Differences, Pros & Cons, and which is better?

Modem vs. Router: if you have thought that a modem and a router perform the same function all these years, you were mistaken. A modem provides a connection to your household devices by connecting them to the wider internet coming from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). A router, on the other hand, creates a network between your household devices.

Key Differences between Modem and Router

PurposeBring The Internet / Connect Devices
SecuritySecurity Threats are Higher / Lower
FunctionInformation Transmission
ConnectionsOne Device / Multiple Devices

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Considering Modem vs. Router definitions for understanding

What is a modem?

A modem is a hardware component that relays internet signals from your ISP to your office or home. It modulates and demodulates the data simultaneously to convert analog signals to digital data and vice-versa for information exchange.

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What is a router?

A router is a hardware device that communicates between different computer networks by routing data between the authorized machines. 

How do routers and modems work?

The functioning of a router

A router is connected to a modem on one side and your household devices on the other. It transmits information among these devices that is stored in the form of IP data packets. A router is capable of reading the destination address of a data packet for accurate delivery of information to the correct device on the network. 

The functioning of a modem

A modem transmits information between your home internet and the wider internet available with your ISP via phone line. It modulates/converts the digital signals created by your computer systems into analog signals so that the information can travel through the phone line. At the same time, it demodulates/converts the analog signals sent via the phone line into digital data so that your computer devices can read the information. 

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Looking at the similarities between a modem and a router

  • Both a router and a modem are hardware components.
  • Both these devices play an essential role in connecting you to the internet.
  • These devices are responsible for the transportation of data to serve your internet needs.

Even if you have a modem, do you need a router?

Yes, you will need a router even if you have a modem since the latter can connect only a single device to the internet. So, if you want to connect multiple devices, like your laptop and phone, to your home internet, you’ll need a router for the same.

Is it better to have a separate modem and router?

Modem router vs. router: Yes, using separate devices instead of a modem-router combo will bring in a lot of flexibility for you. You can have more features and customization capabilities when using a separate modem and router. It is also easier to replace these devices as and when the need arises. In case you shift your ISP, you can change the modem while keeping the router. If, however, you wish to have better coverage or utilize the power of the latest improvements in WiFi technology, you can consider upgrading your router. 

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What creates a WiFi network: a modem or a router?

In the modem versus router difference, it is important to know the ‘modem router and WiFi’ relationship. Since a router creates a network between your devices, a router creates a WiFi network for your household devices.

Does a router increase Internet speed?

A router might increase your internet speed in some cases:

  • If your previous router has worn out and you are experiencing slower speed than usual.
  • If your current router isn’t able to transmit enough information in the form of BPS (Bit Per Second), a new router carrying the data faster will increase your internet speed.
  • If you recently added more household devices to your network and experiencing slower speeds, a new router with better functionality might help increase the speed.

However, in any case, you shall not expect to receive internet speed faster than you paid for since your ISP limits it.

When should I replace my modem and router?

Both modem and router shall be replaced between 3 to 5 years for deriving efficient performance from these devices. Apart from the normal wear and tear, constant technology improvement is the major consideration for replacing your modem and router. You might not be getting the speed that the latest technology can deliver if you do not upgrade these devices.

What is the purpose of a router? 

In the most straightforward words, a router’s purpose is to collect information from your modem and deliver it to your computer or any other household device that you connect to your home internet.

Looking at the modem router difference at a glance

FunctionIt transmits information between your home internet and the wider internet available with your ISP via the telephone line.It transmits information between your modem and household devices.
Number of connectionsIt can only connect a single device to the broader internet. This device can either be a router or any of your computing devices.It can connect to multiple devices simultaneously either via ethernet cable or WiFi.
PurposeIt is used to bring the internet to your home.It is used to connect multiple household devices to the home internet.
DependencyIt can function without a router and connect a single device to the internet. It is dependent on a modem for connecting to the internet and cannot perform this function individually.
Type of deviceIt is an internet-providing device that brings internet services to your home.It is a networking device that creates a home internet network for multiple devices.
NecessityIt is necessary for connecting to the internet.It is not necessary to connect to the internet.
SecuritySince data packets are not examined, the chances of security threats are higher.Since data packets are examined, the chances of security threats are lower.

Comparison Chart

Modem vs. Router: discover their Differences, Similarities, as well as their Pros & Cons. We also will answer some of your frequently asked questions and find which is better.

Comparison Video

Computer Fundamentals – Routers VS. Modems – What is the Difference Between a Router and a Modem? PC

Which is better – a modem or a router?

A modem and a router perform too different functions to serve your needs. Both devices will be required to work in conjunction to complement each other’s jobs. You cannot choose one over the other for your internet needs. However, it is always better to use two separate devices over a modem-router combo device for greater flexibility.

Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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