When setting up your home network, one of the questions you should ask is this: Do I need a router with my modem?
With recent technological changes, many households are opting for one or the other rather than both.
There is a significant benefit to having a router paired with your modem, even if your ISP has given you a combo unit.
- What Is a Modem?
- What Is a Router?
- Can You Combine a Modem and Router?
- Do I Need a Router With My Modem?
- When to Buy a Separate Router
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Modem?
“Modem” is the short-form of modulator-demodulator and is often referred to as your internet’s translator.
Each of your household devices speaks a digital language, which your modem is responsible for translating.
It will take the ISP signals (Internet Service Provider) and translate them to an internet connection.
The modem will then take the connections and push them to your WiFi router to begin broadcasting.
More simply, your modem is the device that allows you to connect to your internet through multiple means.
Some households use optical fiber cables, while others receive internet through their phone lines or coaxial cables.
Without a modem, your router wouldn’t be able to communicate with your ISP.
This disconnect will then prevent you from being able to connect devices, like wireless printers, to your internet.
How Do I Find a Modem?
There are two options for getting a modem, with one being more popular than the other.
Most households will receive a router from their internet service provider, although it won’t be free.
Typically, you will rent the device, depending on your ISP’s rates, which adds charges to your bill.
Alternatively, you can decide to buy your modem, which is more expensive upfront but cheaper overall.
Instead of being charged a monthly added fee for the device, you’ll have your standalone unit.
Another advantage of buying your own is bringing your modem with you if you decide to switch ISPs.
What Is a Router?
If you’re wondering whether do you need a router and a modem combo, it’s essential to consider the jobs routers do.
Routers are responsible for transferring and spreading data throughout your network. These devices manage an array of data channels and wired and wireless internet.
Users can opt to connect directly to their router (and modem) using Ethernet cables. Alternatively, you can connect wirelessly through 5Ghz or 2.4Ghz WiFi.
Another impressive job of your router is that it provides several WiFi channels for all of your devices to use.
What Do Routers Do?
Interestingly, routers have many jobs apart from boosting and transferring signals from your modem to devices.
1. Assigns and Manages IP Addresses
Every device you connect to your internet is assigned an IP address.
These are a unique string of numbers that allow your components to connect to your network.
Also, devices require IP addresses to connect to other networks worldwide.
For example, an IP address will need to be assigned to get access to your smartphone.
On your end, you can use this address to prioritize devices on your internet, block specific devices from your network, and more.
Hackers can also use IP addresses for more nefarious uses, which is why it’s vital to keep yours private.
2. Sends Requests
As mentioned, your router is responsible for connecting your devices to your modem and the internet.
When connected, your devices will continually send requests to the network for data.
A router allows wirelessly connected devices to get the data needed to access the internet.
3. Blocks Incoming Requests
One of the more unique features of a router is that it can also protect your network.
You’ll be able to set up and manage firewalls as well as establish a password-protected network.
The security of these devices is essential to prevent people in your area from using your internet.
It is also imperative when you are connected to the world wide web.
By blocking incoming requests, you can prevent nefarious characters from negatively impacting your connection.
Also, it prevents your online data from being compromised and stolen.
4. Connects Several Devices
If you have multiple items in your household that require wired connections, a router is essential.
The majority of modems only allow for one Ethernet connection at a time.
On the other hand, routers have a multitude of Ethernet ports for all of your gaming consoles and PCs.
Can You Combine a Modem and Router?
So, do you need a router and a modem? This is a common question when signing up with an ISP for the first time.
It’s more common for homeowners to be assigned a combo unit, which has both built into one device.
The box you’ll receive will allow you to connect to your internet and broadcast a signal throughout your home.
This feature can be convenient for small spaces, such as condos and apartments, as you don’t need an extra router.
It can also be more cost-effective, as some of the higher-end routers can cost upwards of $200.
Many homeowners prefer combo routers and modems because they are easier to maintain and set up on your desk.
Still, the model your ISP provides could be lacking essential features.
For example, your unit may not have dynamic DNS, QoS features, and the option to download custom firmware.
Do I Need a Router With My Modem?
Do I need a router if I have a modem? More likely, you don’t need an extra device.
Yet, there’s a significant difference between whether you need one or if you should want one.
There are significant benefits to investing in a router, even if you have one built into your modem.
Again, you might not require a router, depending on how you intend to use the internet.
Before you invest in a modem and router, you must think about how you typically use your internet.
If you don’t own any wireless devices and a single wired device, a single modem can be beneficial.
In this instance, you won’t need a wireless network and can instead plug directly into your modem.
As modems traditionally have only one Ethernet port, you can quickly connect your device with minimal setup.
However, it’s important to note that this means your smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or even guests can’t use your internet.
Most households won’t need to invest in a separate router if they have a modem and router combo.
The majority of settings your ISP provides will be enough to secure your network adequately.
You’ll also have access to wireless internet and the functionality of wired connections.
If you’re able to have your modem-router device set up in a central location, you’ll have even more benefits.
You won’t have to worry about extending your signal throughout your home, and the wireless connection should be adequate.
Using the standard equipment provided by your ISP can also be beneficial regarding cost.
You won’t need to research different routers, spend money on an extra unit, and set it up.
Inexperienced users who haven’t noticed any significant detriments to their internet can benefit significantly from combined devices.
When to Buy a Separate Router
Do I need a router if I have a modem? To answer this question, you have to analyze your internet’s performance.
There are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself before settling on a separate router.
1. Is My Wireless Slow?
If you’re connected to the internet with a modem and router combo, you might notice your wireless is slow.
This issue can be apparent if your devices take a while to load internet-capable apps or download webpages.
You’ll also find that it is noticeable when streaming content, such as when watching YouTube videos.
If your wireless is slow, it could mean that not enough internet is being pushed through your modem.
In this instance, investing in a router can make significant improvements.
2. Does My Internet Cover My Entire House?
One of the primary responsibilities of routers is to transmit throughout your network.
Most devices will advertise specific square footage, which means it will cover that entire area with the internet.
If you’re on the other side of your house from your modem, investing in a router is essential. Your new device will pick up the data and send it to your location with ease.
If you’ve begun to notice your devices have three out of five bars or less, it’s time for a signal boost.
3. Do I Need QoS Features?
Quality of Service features is recommended for homeowners who want to manage their network.
This unique set of technologies is designed to allow you to prioritize specific devices on your network.
After prioritizing, your selected devices will have access to the smoothest connection possible.
If you have multiple devices connected to your internet, QoS features are essential for managing the traffic.
You’ll find your most essential devices, such as your computer, will have a better signal than less important items.
4. Are There Children in My Home?
Protecting children from the hazards of the internet is the responsibility of every parent.
Routers come with substantial parental controls, allowing you to block traffic to specific websites.
You can also access features such as internet traffic monitoring, blocking the internet between specific hours, and more.
5. Do We Entertain Guests Often?
One significant difference between a modem and a router is that you can access useful guest network tools.
Instead of having visitors connect to your primary WiFi connection, they can have their own.
You’ll typically be able to set up a unique SSID as well as a guest-only password that people can use.
This process ensures that your private network is used only by your household while visitors can still have access.
There’s also the option to turn your guest network off if no one is in your home to protect it.
6. Am I Interested in Using Third-Party Firmware?
This question likely doesn’t apply to most homeowners, but it’s essential to consider.
Third-party firmware lets you access more network options than standard firmware.
Using these features, you can fine-tune your router’s performance, so you’re using it to your advantage.
Buying a separate router means you’ll be able to upgrade your firmware to any third-party options.
Unfortunately, ISP-provided routers do not allow you to download alternative firmware.
Do I need a router with my modem? Knowing the difference between a modem and a router can help you answer this question.
There are considerable advantages to purchasing your own, ranging from better internet to fuller coverage.
Also, you’ll have complete control over your network settings so that you can access peak performance.