The Difference Between a Modem and a Router

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Modem vs router, what’s the difference? The main difference between a modem and a router is that a modem connects you to the Internet and a router distributes the Internet connection to your devices. A router does not connect you to the Internet by itself. It’s important to know the difference between a modem and a router when setting up your Internet and home network. This will help you properly set up but also can help with troubleshooting. So, how does a modem and a router work together? We will explain the differences to remove the confusion between these two devices.

Modem

A hardware device that connects your computer devices with your Internet service provider (ISP). ​A modem is your gateway to the Internet.

There are a few different types of modems: analog modems (dial-up), digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modems.   Typically, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) rent modems to their subscribers, that can come with some added benefits.  The option to buy or purchase your own modem can save you from paying monthly rental fees (sometimes up to $150 per year* depending on your current rental fees).  Your modem will give you a reliable, wired Internet connection.  If you only have one device that needs to connect to the Internet, like a PC or laptop, you can get away with just having a modem. But if you have multiple devices, or want to use your devices wirelessly (WiFi), then you will need a router, too.

Router

A router is a hardware device that translates the data from your modem and distributes it as a WiFi (wireless) signal/Internet connection to multiple devices. Your router is a central hub of your home network and helps to prevent congestion on your home network by routing your device traffic through the best path using WiFi and Ethernet.

Modem vs Router

While these devices do different things, they can physically look similar and act similarly. For example, both devices:

  • Have indicator lights
  • Have Ethernet ports on the back
  • Transmit data from one source to another destination (i.e. ISP to the modem to the router)

These similarities can make it easy to get modems and routers confused if you are not familiar with them. Here are a few things to look for so that you can tell your modem and router apart:

Modem features:

  • Has fewer Ethernet ports than a router
  • Has a public IP address
  • Use a wide area network (WAN)

Router features:

  • Has a private IP address
  • Distribute on a local area network (LAN)

Why You Want a Modem

If you want Internet in your home or office, you need a modem. A modem takes analog Internet signals from your Internet service provider (ISP) and turns them into digital Internet signals. These digital signals are what a router translates and distributes to your devices.

There are a few types of modems. Usually, you will get your modem from your ISP unless you buy your own, like the CODA Cable Modem which uses DOCSIS 3.1 technology for faster speeds.

If you only have one device that needs to connect to the Internet, like a PC or laptop, you can get away with just having a modem. But if you have multiple devices, then you need a router, too.

Why You Want a Router

A router is a networking device. It takes the Internet connection from your modem and sends it to your wireless devices. A router also allows all of these devices to connect at the same time.

There are different types of routers, but the most popular are wired or wireless. Regardless of if your router is hard-wired or wireless, it still needs to physically connect to your modem with a cable. Again, if two separate devices connected via cable isn’t what you want, a modem/router combo might be a better solution for you.

Make Your WiFi Better

There’s no doubt that using WiFi is great. It is super convenient however, WiFi can have shortcomings. WiFi networks can experience varying speeds and signal strengths, no matter how good your router is. It’s the nature of the technology because your WiFi signal is vulnerable to obstacles in your home and interferences from surrounding devices. However, when you team your WiFi connection with a wired solution like HT-EM4 MoCA adapters, your Internet connection becomes more direct and therefore is instantly faster and more reliable.  MoCA technology, or Ethernet over Coax, is designed to strengthen your WiFi signal reach and overall performance. MoCA uses your existing coaxial cable wiring in your home to create a larger “pipe” for your Internet connection. It offers super-fast speeds up to 1 Gbps, a solid connection, and low latency and low lag. You can get MoCA in your home by using MoCA adapters connected to your WiFi router. They do not require addition wiring, expensive installation or holes in walls. They are a plug-and-play solution that can be set up in minutes.

Hitron has been a provider of Cable Modems for Cable Internet Providers for over 30 years. Please see our CODA Cable Modem is available on Amazon. For more information on this topic, check our complete guide on cable modems and routers.

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