Modem vs. Router: Troubleshooting The Difference

modem and router; blue filter

Quick summary

A modem is a device that directly connects a home or business to an internet provider. A router is a device that connects the modem to other devices, such as computers and tablets. Sometimes, a modem and router are combined into a single device.

In order to use the internet, you’ll typically need help from a modem and a router. These two boxes have similar jobs, so it can be easy to get them confused. 

In this article, we will give a simple explanation of what a modem and router are and how they are used to connect to the internet. 

router vs. modem

In the simplest terms, a modem is an electronic device that connects your house or business to an internet provider. When you purchase internet services from an internet provider, the modem is the device that allows the company to provide the internet to you. The company also receives data from the modem about how you use the internet. Typically, a signal is sent back and forth between the modem and internet provider through telephone, coaxial, or fiberoptic cables.

A router, generally speaking, is an electronic device that connects the modem to other devices in the house or business that need to use the internet, such as desktop computers and tablets. A router allows multiple devices in the same location to use the same internet connection. The router connects to the modem, either through wires or wirelesslythat is, through an electronic signal. Other devices then connect to the router, also through wires or wirelessly.

Typically, the router is the device that has security features, such as a password or a firewall, and assigns unique identifiers (IP addresses) to all the devices in the location that are using the internet.

Sometimes, one device can do the job of both the modem and the router. This modem-router combination is often referred to as a gateway or similar name.

You can remember the difference between a modem and a router by remembering that the router routes the internet service to various devices in your home.

Now that you know about how you access the internet, learn slang terms that have taken it over.

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