Modem vs Router – what’s the difference?

Here's everything you need to know about the difference between a modem and a router

Modem vs Router - what's the difference? Image shows the next "Modem vs Router - what's the difference?", next to a graphic of a router with signal signs and a question mark, on a purple green gradient background.

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A long while back, the only way to explore the world was to travel on foot. But today, you can explore the world from your home with just a click. This is thanks to technological advancements that presented us with a home network setup. This article will discuss the difference between some of the most commonly used home network devices: a modem and a router. If you’ve found yourself needing to know the difference between a modem vs a router, we’ve got you covered right here. Let’s get into it.

A Modem: your gateway to the world

A modem or a “modulator-demodulator” is a device that establishes a connection between your home network and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) through a physical link. This device decodes the data your ISP receives into a format other devices on your home network can understand and process.

A router mediates between your internet connection and your local area network (LAN). It allows you to connect multiple devices like PCs, laptops, smartphones, and laptops to the internet with a single physical connection. Additionally, a router keeps track of incoming traffic on your network.

Difference Between A Modem And A Router

Here are some of the key differentiating aspects that will help you understand the difference between a modem vs a router:

Differentiating AspectsModemRouter
OperationIt operates only at the Data Link Layer.It operates at the Data Link, Physical, and Network Layers.
FunctioningIt gathers desired information from the internet to your network.It distributes the information necessary to your PC, laptop, or any other device.
ExaminationIt does not examine the data packet before sending it ahead. Hence the risk of security threats is high.It examines the data packet before sending it ahead. Hence, identifying a security threat is easy.

Although they are different devices, you will need both a modem and a router in your home to be able to connect to the internet on all your devices. Luckily, most modems are compatible with most routers, but if you want to really get the best result you can check out some of the best modem router combos in 2023. Furthermore, you might not even have to worry about getting both a router and a modem, as a lot of routers now have modem functions built-in and act as “modem-routers”.


It is difficult to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced world without a reliable home network setup. Hopefully, you are now able to differentiate between a modem and a router, and can start making informed choices on both modem and router selection.


How do I decide which router and modem configuration is right for me?

The best router and modem configuration for you depends on the size and structure of your home, the number of networked devices, and your budget. If you’re on a budget, you could consider some of these excellent routers we’ve found that are under $100.

Do I Need a Modem and a Router, or One of Them Is Sufficient?

A modem and a router are essential for seamless, stable, and dependable internet connectivity. It also secures your home network from security threats. Hence, it is advisable to invest in both. However, you can get modem-routers that combine both functions into one device.