Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

A router will not improve an internet connection speed, but it could be a necessary addition to your computer safety.

Hi, Leo. I have a very bad internet connection especially during peak or business hours. My work requires me to be on my PC 6 to 8 hours a day and I'm using a modem. Someone advised me to use a router. Will it be useful or what advantage does it make and will it require me to change my modem?

In this excerpt from Answercast #91 I look at the extra security that can be added to a computer system with a router, but don't go looking for speed.

Router improving internet connection

Well, first of all, I want to be very clear; using a router is not going to improve your internet connection. Period. It just isn't.

Your internet connection, especially if it's during peak or business hours, is probably more a function of the quality of your ISP than it is anything that you have in your control. So, the short answer is: don't look for a router to solve this particular problem.

A router for protection

Now, why might you want to use a router?

Now, first of all, you shouldn't need a new modem. Since the modem is already producing an internet output for you, what you would end up doing is connecting the router into the modem and then your computer into the router.

Since you have only one computer that is still a scenario where I recommend a router. A router usually is used as a way to share a single internet connection among multiple computers. If you had two computers, or more, then the answer would be get a router; connect it up to your modem and you can use those two computers on that single internet connection.

Router as firewall

Now the reason I say that you may still want a router if you've got a single computer is because a router also acts as a firewall.

A firewall is an important security prevention measure to prevent threats that are internet based. In other words, threats that are literally out on the internet poking around trying to infiltrate or get access to your machine - just because it's connected to the internet. A router stops those cold.

Software firewalls can do that too, but a router doesn't impact your machine at all. All of that "badness" that might be trying to get at your machine from the internet, never even reaches your machine; never even bothers your software firewall (if the software firewall is even enabled.)

I typically do recommend a router as a safety precaution, as a security tool, even for a single computer. It's not something that should require you to replace your modem.

Modem may be a router

And... by the way. Make sure that your modem is not, itself, already acting as a router. Because at that point the router might be redundant.

It should not require that you replace your modem - and it's not going to improve the quality of your internet connection.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6283 - January 28, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Todd
January 29, 2013 9:57 AM

By "modem," does this person mean a dial-up modem? There are still areas of the United States where someone in January 2013 can only access the net by using a 56kbs dial-up modem?

I'm surprised the answer didn't clarify this -- and recommend that this individual explore better and faster ways of connecting to the Internet.

If it's true that their location has no high-speed Internet, I'd recommend they contact the FCC to see why not.

sunny
January 29, 2013 8:33 PM

Hi,
I have some problem with software firewall that block my access to some forum. As a result, I have to disable the software firewall in windows. If a router already enough o defend for me?

Billy Bob
February 2, 2013 9:51 AM

A modem? Seriously? Ok, I guess it's true that modems are still necessary in a lot of the U.S., and a lot of the world.

I'm assuming we are talking about an external modem here. A lot of older computers have an internal modem. If it is internal, hooking up a router will be a challenge.

Kevin
February 5, 2013 5:51 PM

Not 56K modem...not even for January 2003!!

The author meant ISDN modem (or ATM modem for that matter) for non-office or residential blocks connection.

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