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In just a few decades, the Internet has revolutionized our lives. Thanks to the Internet, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, can conveniently enjoy various services from our couches, and use devices in ways that were unthinkable a few short years ago.
Helping us connect to the Internet from our homes are miraculous little devices like the modem and router. But what do these devices do, and what’s the difference between them? And which one do you need? Read more to find out.
What is a modem?
The word modem is short for modulator-demodulator. It’s called a modulator-demodulator because it modulates and demodulates signals. In a nutshell, a modem converts data from a cable or a phone line for your computer to understand. It also converts signals from a computer to pass through phone lines and cables.
To receive Internet at home through a wired connection, you need a modem. Not only does the modem provide your computer with an Internet connection, but it also does that for other devices like a video game console or a router. Typically, your ISP can provide a modem for rent though you can also buy one to reduce long-term costs.
What is a router?
A router is a device that helps devices communicate in a network. It works like an air traffic controller by directing network packets to their destination IP addresses. When a router connects to a modem with an Internet connection, it can help any device in the network go online. But, of course, a router is useful even without the Internet. For example, a router can help a laptop tell a wireless printer to print your documents.
Do I need a router or a modem?
You’ll need a plain router if you don’t have any wireless devices and just plan to connect a computer to the Internet through an ethernet cable. An ethernet cable is usually the fastest way to connect to the Internet. But you probably have wireless devices at home like a smartphone, tablet, or smart appliance and need a router for those.
One of the best options is to get a modem/router combo. But what is a modem and router combo, and is it beneficial? As you may have guessed, a modem/router combo is a 2-in-1 device with both devices in one box. In fact, these combos are so popular that many people have started believing that modems and routers are the same things.
A 2-in-1 unit has several advantages. For starters, you save space by having just one device instead of two. The software is also easier to manage, and you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. The only downside is that you have to replace the entire box even if you need to upgrade just one device.
Whether you have a modem, router, or modem/router combo, remember to update the software to stop threat actors from hacking your router. In addition, set a complex password for your router and your WiFi connection to shield your privacy. Finally, restart both devices periodically to clear errant memory processes and improve performance.