Call us: 0800 1 444 100



Call us: 0800 1 444 100

Sad buffering icon

TL;DR: A router creates a network between all the devices in your home. A modem is what connects that network to the internet.

Routers, modems – you might think it’s all network nonsense, but knowing the difference could save you time, energy and pennies. Most people are generally content as long as their black box hooks them up to the internet without sounding like it’s going to overheat and take off. But even though it’s all pretty simple, there are key things to keep in mind.


What’s the Difference Between Modems and Routers?

In short, your router is what makes that blissful network between all the devices in your home. The modem, on the other hand, is what connects that network to the internet. You see, when you connect to the Wi-Fi (link to Wi-Fi blog post), what you’re actually doing is connecting to your router in order for it to forward traffic between your computer and the internet. So, for you to get access to the internet, your modem and your router have to work together in happy harmony. It’s why there’s a good chance you have a combined modem/router system, to cut both the clutter and the confusion. Because whatever you have, if you want internet, a modem needs a router, and a router needs a modem. It’s a modern love story. So, if you’ve already got both then why does it matter? Well, because by better understanding the differences and what they do, you can start to take things into your own hands and save yourself some serious spending.




magical modem

What Is a Router?

So, we’ve got it. A router creates a wireless network between your devices. But what does that really mean? Well, let’s start with the name. A router is called that because it routes data between the networking devices in your home. It also keeps that network functioning soundly by routing between it and the wider internet. That super system of interconnected wireless devices, along with the actual router device itself, is what we’re talking about when we talk about a home network.

You can think of it pretty simply like this: Your router is what sits in between your internet connection and your local network of home devices. By sitting soundly there, it allows you to connect multiple devices to the internet through one router device. It also means that those connected devices can communicate with each other over that local network, assisted by the wireless router. The router, in a way, is like a faucet, with the network of pipes (or devices) all flowing through one valve. To the internet, all the traffic coming from your separate home devices, seems like it’s coming from just one single device.

But the router isn’t what connects you to the internet. It’s what facilitates the flow of traffic from your home network into a device that can then transmit that traffic through to an internet connection. That’s where the modem comes in. 


What is a Modem?

Just like the router, the modem’s name is also a good indicator of what it does. Modem is shorthand for modulator-demodulator, because it modulates and demodulates – but certainly does not discombobulate. What that basically means is that it transforms digital information from your computer into analogue signals that transmit over whatever type of infrastructure you have, whether that be cable, telephone, satellite or fibre. It can then translate incoming analogue signals back into digital data via an ethernet cable, so that your home devices can connect to the internet.

That’s why the majority of standalone modems have just the two ports: one connecting to the outside world (where the internet just kind of hangs out), and the ethernet jack connecting to your computer or, more likely, to the ethernet port in your router.

In super simple terms, the modem connects to the internet and translates those signals through and into the router, which then helps the internet find its way to your home network.




How Does a Combined Modem/Router Work?

That brings us to the combined router/modem device. The combined device has the electronic and software capability to provide the technical functions of both the router and the modem. The combined unit of course has its many benefits. For starters, it’s a single device, automatically clearing clutter and cutting down on cable clot. It also makes it easier and more discreet to stow away wherever you choose (higher up equals better signal!) And of course, having upped your understanding on the difference between routers and modems, this might not apply so much to you, but it saves on any potential confusion on which device does what, or how they should be connected, or why you even need both!

But there are also a number of negatives to an integrated router/modem unit. For example, using separate devices offers a lot more flexibility in what you can do with your network. And here’s where the money-saving and quality-ensuring element comes into play. Separate units also assure that you’re using the best quality products possible for you. This is because separate units allow you to use your own modem device rather than the one your ISP (Internet Service Provider) provides you with.

So, if clutter reduction and straightforward minimalism is for you, then the integrated unit might be the better option. But if you care for quality and you’re somewhat more particular about your wireless connection tech, then separate devices might make more sense for your needs.






You can find out more about the benefits and negatives of integrated router/modem units here if you still want some more advice on what’s best for you. To learn more about all the things causing you tech trouble, like broadband connection, Wi-Fi devices, wireless signal, and how to achieve faster speeds, be sure to check out our other awesome articles on our website.


If you’re looking for more great articles and super helpful tips and tricks to up your tech game, then simply plop your email address in the newsletter sign up form here for free and helpful guides sent straight to you every single week.