What’s the difference between router and modem?

Friday, March 02, 2018

Dear PC Doctor:

What’s the difference between a router and a modem? I thought they were the same thing but when I called tech support for something recently, the way the person on the other end of the line ways talking, it seemed like maybe they aren’t. I was too embarrassed to ask.


“Dan” (not my real name)

Dear “Dan” (not your real name):

Please don’t be embarrassed. More than likely, most people, even those of us who use the internet every day, don’t know exactly what a router or a modem are, or what separates one from the other.

According to PC Magazine (www.pcmag.com) the router and the modem together make up the major components of a small computer network. The router is wired to the modem, and the modem is wired to the cable company’s coaxial cable or the telephone company’s DSL phone line.

The modem establishes and maintains the connection with the Internet provider’s service and converts the signals from and to the router. The modem cannot provide you with an internet connection without a router. You need to have a router to create your home wifi network that all your devices will use. The modem can only connect to one device, your computer or a router. The router forwards traffic destined for the Internet to the modem, while keeping internal traffic (computer to computer, computer to printer, etc.) from leaving the network. The router keeps track of which computer made a request to the Internet and sends responses back to that computer only. The router allows several devices to use the Internet connection.

Until next time,

Happy Computing!

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