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Modem or Router: Which is Better to Connect to? (Speed, Security, Performance)

If you have one computer and you don’t need to connect to a network of devices or a printer, you might think you can skip having a router. While you can just plug your computer directly into the cable modem provided by your ISP, connecting directly to the modem comes with a huge security risk, depending on your network setup.

A modem provides raw Internet Connectivity but can only connect to one wired device at a time, unless it is a modem/router combo. A router with a built-in WiFi radio, Ethernet switch, routing, and firewall capabilities is the better choice for accessing the Internet from multiple wired and wireless devices, easily and securely.

Or maybe you have a modem and a router, and likely both are wireless. That means you could connect your phone, laptop, smart TV, security system, etc., to your network via either your modem or your router. But which one is better?

Modem Vs Router for Connectivity

Your modem provides a wired Internet connection, and if you only have one computer that needs to connect to the Internet, you may think you can get away with just having a modem.

A modem is a data transfer device; it provides connectivity to the Internet. Connecting directly to your modem leaves your computer susceptible to attacks from the world wide web. Without a router, your entire security is your operating system on your computer (let’s hope it isn’t a Windows OS). Any vulnerability on your computer (open port, software exploit, a known vulnerability in your unhardened OS) is completely accessible to anyone or any bot on the internet that pings your public IP.

A modem provides direct internet connectivity but no protection from threats on the web network.

A router is a network device that assigns IP addresses and routes data, but it also provides a cheap line of defense against unauthorized access of your private network.

Your router can be configured to block or filter certain data, and route traffic in a way that optimizes the performance of your devices. By connecting to your router, you immediately enjoy improved security plus are able to add other devices such as your phone, laptop, smart TV, security system, etc., to your network.

A router provides security and faster routing capabilities for your network.

Devices You Should Connect to Your Router

  • Switch
  • Laptop
  • Desktop
  • Guest network
  • Smart TV
  • Streaming box
  • Smart thermostat
  • Other IoT Devices
  • All the things

Devices You Should Connect to Your Modem

  • Just a router, essentially.

Ethernet: Does a Router Matter if You Use a Wired Internet Connection?

As illustrated by the video above, any home network benefits by the addition of home router, whether you connect over a wired connection or by wireless.

Connecting your computer via Ethernet directly to your modem leaves your computer wide open to attacks from the world wide web. Without a router or firewall, your only defense is whatever firewall capabilities your operating system has (let’s hope it isn’t a Windows OS). If you forget to close a port, download sketchy software or forget to patch a known vulnerability, your computer is completely accessible to any malicious entity that finds your public IP address.

Is a Modem Faster Than a Router?

Your Internet connection speed or modem speed are separate from your router’s WiFi network speed. Your Internet speed does not impact how fast the WiFi connection is between your device and your router. What your Internet speed or modem speed will impact is how fast your router can send & receive Internet data.

A router rated for at least the same speed as your internet connection will be well-equipped to route internet traffic for you at the same speed (but more efficiently) than your typical modem. Any ping latency will be minimal and the benefits of utilizing a router far outweigh and minuscule speed differentials caused by adding a middle network device.

Do You Need a Modem if You Have a Router?

The short answer is, if you want the Internet, you need a modem.

When You Don’t Need a Modem:

If you just want a home network but no Internet, a router is all your need. A router doesn’t need to connect to a modem to function; if your purpose is simply to create and connect to devices within a home network, a router is all you need to generate that network.

Can You Get Internet Access With a Router Only? Is WiFi the Same as the Internet?

To be clear: WiFi is your wireless connection to the network generated by your router. The modem is your router’s connection to the outside world — the Internet. You can have networks with routers and WiFi and yet have no modem / Internet connection.

  • The WiFi network created by your router does not equal the internet; WiFi and Internet are not interchangeable words.
  • WiFi is the wireless alternative to the physical Ethernet cable utilized to connect a computer to the router.

The router can connect your devices (laptops, smart TVs, printers, etc.) via either an Ethernet cable or WiFi signal within one local area network. If you want to connect to the Internet and outside world, however, a modem is required. A router connects your devices to each other and, in hard-wired setups, to the modem.

If you are within range of someone else’s WiFi internet connection or a hotspot, you can setup your router as an Access Point if you have admin access to the neighbouring network that is within your router’s range.

Connect Your Home Network To Your Cell Hot Spot

If you have unlimited data on your cell plan, connect your cell hot spot to a bridge and to your router. No modem needed.

Can You Get Internet Without a Modem or Router?

Yes, actually! If you live in a city near a WiFi hotspot, you can connect to the Internet without a modem, as long as your computer or device is wireless.

Some ISPs also provide wired internet connections, so all you need is a laptop with a network port to plug their Ethernet cord into. This isn’t as common, for obvious reasons.

You could also get creative and borrow a friendly neighbour’s WiFi by paying them for sharing their Internet access. Just be sure to use a VPN.

You could also head over to the local library, community center, or cafe for free WiFi.

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