Modem vs router: What’s the difference?

Getty Images/Javier Zayas Photography

Unless you want to be off the grid, in modern homes and work, you need an internet connection. To make the connection work, you need two different devices: A modem and a router.

Also: How to convert your home’s old TV cable into powerful Ethernet lines

Although they both serve the common purpose of connecting your devices to the internet, they have distinct and complementary functions. A modem connects your home network to your internet service provider (ISP), while a router allows all your wired and wireless devices to use that connection simultaneously and communicate with each other. 

Getty Images/TimArbaev

The first modems were “modulator-demodulator,” hence the name, which connected your ISP through an analog phone link to the digital internet and back again. It translated your internet data into a format your home network devices can use. These devices, such as the Hayes SmartModem, which used the Hayes command set, are now largely obsolete. 

Starting with Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), your “modem” no longer needed to translate between analog and digital signals. We still used, however, the name modem for the device that connects the ISP’s internet connection with your home or work devices and networks. 

Also: Why is my internet so slow? 11 ways to speed up your connection

This is also true of the cable modem you probably use for your internet connection today. When you use a

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