Technical Support Blog

Modem or Router: What's the Difference?

Learning how computers communicate can be an intimidating experience. However, by learning a few key pieces of information, you can quickly understand some of the basics. One important piece of information to start with is knowing the difference between a modem and a router. A modem and a router can look alike. They both are about the same size and shape, have status lights to indicate they are working, and have plugs and jacks on the back that look similar. The difference is how they function.  

A modem connects your computer or network to your internet service provider (ISP) so you can get online. If you look on the back of a modem you will find a place for a power cord, a telephone jack to receive DSL internet service from a telephone company and/or a coaxial cable input to receive internet service from your cable or satellite company. You will also find a port to connect the modem to your computer or network router.

A router connects between the modem and your computer or network and acts like a traffic cop at an intersection, directing the flow of traffic to and from the correct destination. Routers will also have a power cord and several ports on the back to connect directly to computers. Most routers today will also allow you to connect your computer wirelessly.

A third and more recent addition is called a gateway. Gateways are popular with many ISP's and combine both modem and router functions into one device.