Do I need a new router?

FritzBox Modem Router

Routers don’t usually die all at once. It can be a long and painful end

There are lots of different indications that your internet experience might benefit from a new router.

These include:

  • The internet connection being lost regularly. You can always phone your internet provider and ask them to check your line. This will tell you if your problems are, in fact, outside your premises and, therefore, your ISP’s problem and not your own. If your ISP reports that there are no problems then your router could be failing. Most broadband connections are lost occasionally, so don’t worry if you only have to reboot your router once a month or less often.
  • A slow internet connection. If things slow to a crawl then it could be your router’s fault. All incoming and outgoing data is checked to make sure that it is sent and received accurately. If your router is failing then data may have to be sent/received several times. You will not be aware of this repetition: just the overall slowness. However, if there are several members of your household simultaneously streaming films then your router could be doing a splendid job and it’s just the presssure put on the connection that’s causing the problem. If your router is a few years old then it could well be performing within its designed parameters and the problem is caused by increased demand being placed on it. A slow internet connection can also be caused by a fault on the line, so do check for this with your ISP.
  • Netgear routerFailing wifi. If your internet connection via a wired, ethernet, connection is much better than the connection via wifi then the wifi could be failing either in the router or in the computer/device. I’m discounting a weak signal caused by stuctural problems here as I assume they were always present (eg trying to get a wifi signal through a concrete ceiling reinforced with steel mesh will always have been difficult or impossible). Having said that, if you suspect that it’s the wifi having the problem then it’s worth checking to make sure there’s no new obstacles to the signal. I once made a trip into deepest Surrey to check out a wifi problem only to spot immediately that someone had placed a metal filing cabinet directly between the router and the computer. If possible, trial and error with different computers/devices and comparing wired with wireless connections is advised, as is trying to move the router around. If you suspect that the wifi receiver on your computer is failing then a quick and inexpensive way to test this is with a USB wifi receiver such as this one.
  • Overheating. If your router is hot to the touch, and if it performs better after being allowed to cool down, then it’s probably on its last legs. I once extended the life of a router by a year or more simply by placing it on a laptop cooling pad such as the one illustrated (and found here)

USB wifi adaptor
USB wifi adaptor
Unfortunately, pretty well all the symptoms of a failing router can also be caused by different underlying problems and the trick is to work out which is which. Many times, I have looked at a client’s setup and not been able to come up with a defintive answer as to whether the router is clapped out or not. My own experience with my own hardware is borne out by what I find on the internet in this respect, and that is that routers can last anywhere from about 2-5 years.

That’s not really very helpful in deciding whether to replace one so my recommendations for coming to a conclusion on this are as follows:

  • Start with a phone call to your ISP. Ask them to check your line. This will eliminate extraneous factors from the equation. Then ask them if they would like to give you a new router. Quite often, the answer to that question depends on which side of the bed the person you are speaking to got up that morning, so you might get lucky. Another possibility is that your contract has expired and that you are now on a monthly “rolling contract”. If that’s the case, they might give you a free router if you agree to enter a new contract.
  • Next, try to eliminate other possibilities as outlined above.
  • Finally, if your router is older than about two years and you can not find any other explanation for the problem, then I would recommend replacing it. That has been my advice to clients in the past and I don’t actually recall anyone ever coming back to me and saying “I did as you suggested and replaced the router, but the internet’s still as bad”.

laptop cooling pad
Laptop cooling pad
It is necessary to be clear as to whether you have a separate modem and router or whether these are combined in a “modem/router”. Like most people, I have a tendency to use the terms “router” and “modem/router” interchangeably and that’s not accurate – especially if you need to replace one.

A modem is a box of tricks that allows a device/computer to connect to the internet. A router is a hardware device responsible for allowing other devices to share and pass information – eg several computers connected to a router can share an internet connection (via the modem). They can also share a printer thanks to the router.

You also need to ensure that the replacement is suitable for the connection type you have – ADSL, cable, or fibre broadband. Also, you need to ensure that the replacement router includes ethernet connectivity if you use ethernet cables to connect to it. Modems need replacing less often than routers.

Finally, if you’ve ploughed through all of this and decided that either this is too techie and daunting, or that life’s too short to try and get your head around it, then call me if you’re in my catchment area – see

Here are some other views on the subject of replacing your router:

If Your Wi-Fi Is Terrible, Check Your Router

How Long Do Routers Last?

How Long Do Modems Last? Do They Need to be Replaced?