Router vs Modem – What’s the Difference? [2020]

If you’re trying to get the internet connection sorted in your house, then you’ve likely come across a lot of different devices. Two of the most important devices for giving you internet connectivity are the router and the modem. You’ll likely see people saying you need to connect the router to your laptop and your modem etc etc. However, this can be a little confusing if you aren’t aware of what they are, and what the difference between them is.

So, what exactly is a router and what is a modem, and how do they differ? Lets look at the differences between these two important devices.

Router vs Modem

The difference between a modem and a router is that a modem is directly connected to the internet. The modem converts signals between the internet and your router so that they understand each other. The router however, is where you connect your devices to directly – it then sends your data and information to the modem, which sends it to the internet.

This is only a brief explanation of what a router and a modem is. Let’s look at them both in a greater detail to learn a little more about both of these devices.

What is a Modem?

A modem is the device that receives all of the information from the internet and converts it into a language that we understand (ethernet). It then sends this data onto the router, which gives us access to it, be it via a wired or wireless connection.

If you see someone say that don’t need a modem to connect to the internet, this is likely because their router has a built in modem. This means that you don’t need a separate modem, and you can have everything done in one device.

What is a router?

A router is often described as the gateway for you to connect your home devices – like your phone, laptop or tablet – to the internet. However, it is only one gateway, as when your data passes through your router, it then goes through to the modem – this is where your home network is truly connected to the internet.

So the router lies between your computer, laptop and whatever device you’ve connected to it with. It then delivers the information from your computer to them modem, which is then delivered through to the internet. Simple, right?

Wireless vs Wired Router

If you’re trying to decide between a wireless and a wired router, to us the difference is simply the way that we connect to the internet. However, they do work slightly different to each other.

A wireless router will use antennae that are built into the device to communicate with your devices at home. You just plug the router into the modem with a cable, and find your router using your device. So, you can easily connect to the router without any sort of cable. However, with a wired router the connection between the router and your device will be using a cable, so you’ll always need to keep the device plugged in.

Many wireless routers also have the ability for you to connect to it with a cable too, so they’re typically the better choice of the two. So, opting for a good wireless router is probably a better idea.

What Should I Look for when Purchasing a Router?

When you’re going to purchase a new router, there are several different things that you’ll need to look out for.

  • Performance – When you’re looking to get yourself a router, you need to check how well this router can perform. Most newer routers will have the capabilities to support fast internet connections, but check the mbps beforehand just in case. You’ll also want to check the wifi coverage, as many routers will include a section about this too.
  • Dual band – Choosing a dual band router means that the router will be able to transmit data at both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz channels. This helps to reduce any interference you may get on only one band.
  • Security – Another thing that you need to think about when you’re purchasing a router is it’s security settings. Does this router allow you comprehensive control over it’s parental settings so you can block children from accessing certain websites? Or does it have in-built security features which enable the router to block out those trying to access your personal details? A good router should have this, so check this before you buy one.


Hopefully, this has helped you to understand the difference between a modem and a router, and how they’re used in your connectivity to the internet. Whilst they’re both an integral part of this, it’s often misunderstood what the job of each device actually is. So, ensuring you have the right router and modem in place can be a good way to make sure that you maintain a good connection to the internet.

About Nathan

Hello! I'm Nate. I work for an internet company during the week, so you'll probably see me on here jabbering about the internet and building websites, which is my main side hobby.

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