Electronic devices tend to have a limited lifespan.
Their performance usually degrades after two to four years, and they almost always become obsolete before reaching 10 years.
Modems are usually no exception to this rule.
You have to replace them every few years.
How can you tell if it’s time to get a new modem?
We will cover ten reasons you should consider replacing your modem.
Do I Need A New Modem?
You only need a new modem if your current is at least seven years old or doesn’t turn on or connect to the internet.
However, if your modem is only a few years old and still works, only replace it if a new one will give you substantial benefits, including better speed, range, and security.
When you buy a new modem, you’ll probably get newer features, such as advanced user management and the ability to connect more devices to your home network.
Before replacing your older modem, make sure it’s the root cause of your connection problems by eliminating other causes.
Also, make sure your ISP supports the modem’s DOCSIS version by contacting their customer support.
If you want better performance, run an internet speed test on multiple devices connected to your modem.
Finally, compare your current device’s specs with newer ones on the market to make sure you stand to benefit from a new modem.
With that brief explanation, let’s go more in-depth and discuss the reasons you may need to buy a new modem.
Note: Home modems are almost always three devices packed into one: modem, router, and access point. Each device has different responsibilities and specs. However, in this article, we’ll call the device a “modem” to keep things simple.
10 Reasons To Buy A New Modem
1. Modem Won’t Turn On
It’s impossible to connect to the internet using a modem that won’t turn on.
However, a modem that won’t turn on isn’t necessarily dead.
Before concluding that you need a new modem, make sure the current one’s power cord and adapter are in good condition.
An adapter malfunction is the main reason a modem won’t turn on.
Find a modem that uses the same plug type with the same voltage adapter if you can.
Then connect that modem’s adapter to yours to see if it turns on.
If the issue disappears, you can buy a replacement adapter for under $20 and get your modem working again.
Ensure the new adapter works with the same voltage indicated on the previous adapter.
Otherwise, you may fry your device’s internal as soon as you plug it in.
On the other hand, if replacing the adapter doesn’t get your modem working, consult a technician.
In some cases, they can reset the board or do a quick fix, but the chances are slim, and you probably need to buy a new modem.
2. No Internet Connection
The easiest solution when you get disconnected from the internet is to unplug your modem, wait a few seconds, and plug it back in.
This process forces your modem to purge its cache and read its settings from permanent memory.
What if you can’t connect to the internet no matter how many times you restart your modem?
Well, you probably have a more serious problem.
To ensure your modem is at fault, though, you must rule out other common software and hardware causes.
Here are a few solutions to try:
A. Check The Connection On Multiple Devices
If at least one of them has internet, your modem is working, and you should look into the settings to see if there’s a limit.
Check the firewall settings on your devices and the modem.
Maybe a rule is blocking your packets.
A VPN or custom DNS settings could also kill your connectivity.
If you’re using them, temporarily revert to the default settings and check your connection.
B. Check The Lights On Your Modem
Most modems have at least two indicators: one for internet connectivity and another for line connectivity.
If the line indicator is green, but the internet light is off or red, you probably have settings issues.
Reconfiguring the modem should fix the problem.
If the line indicator isn’t on, call your ISP.
There might be a wider coverage issue, or the line coming to your home may have been damaged.
C. Connect With An Ethernet Cable
Your modem lets you connect to the internet via WiFi and Ethernet.
Sometimes the WiFi settings get corrupted, and the modem refuses to connect.
Alternatively, there may be signal interference, or the channel may be too crowded, especially if you’re on the popular 2.4 GHz channel.
Many devices, from baby monitors to smart TVs, communicate over that frequency.
All the chatter over the channel can make it difficult for your modem’s signal to reach your devices.
That doesn’t mean your modem is dead.
You can connect your PC or laptop to the modem using an Ethernet cable, which usually comes in the modem’s box.
If you can access the internet via Ethernet, log in to your modem’s dashboard and reset your WiFi settings.
Also, switch to the 5.0 GHz band on the same dashboard if your modem and other devices support it.
The frequency is less likely to receive interference from other devices.
If not, switch to a slightly higher frequency on the same 2.4 GHz band.
You can also get a signal booster to amplify the waves from your modem so that different devices can communicate with it without any trouble.
A WiFi analyzer app can help you decide whether investing in a signal booster improves your connection quality.
3. Frequent Connection Drops
Intermittent connection drops are much more frequent than long periods of no internet access.
They’re also much more frustrating.
If your internet keeps dropping for a few minutes, you must take the same approach as the previous section: ruling out other causes before concluding that your modem needs to be replaced.
Since we’ve already covered other solutions to consider, we’ll focus on the cases where your modem might be at fault.
A. Lack Of Physical Resources
Modems are small computers built for a specific purpose.
Like a full-blown PC, a modem has a CPU, RAM, and I/O.
They even have an operating system responsible for packet management and routing.
Just like opening too many applications and browser tabs can slow your PC, connecting too many devices to a modem can overload its components and cause system crashes.
Depending on their design, older modems can support up to four or eight simultaneous connections.
Counting your PC, smartphones, tablet, and TV, it’s easy to overwhelm a resource-strapped modem and bring it to a halt.
To make sure, run a speed test on your PC and phone.
Then disconnect all but one of your devices and run the speed test again.
If you see a significant difference (and a noticeable improvement in browsing quality), your modem probably doesn’t have the power to handle your requirements.
Some devices have diagnostic tools in their dashboard that let you run health tests and identify bottlenecks.
It’s worth checking the diagnostic tool and consulting an experienced technician before buying a new modem.
All electric devices generate some amount of heat.
It’s natural for your modem to be warm to the touch, but if the heat burns your skin, you have a larger problem.
Make sure your modem isn’t cooped up in a closet with no ventilation.
Also, check to see if dust or cables are blocking the ventilation holes.
If the heat can’t dissipate, it builds up and may affect your internet speed and quality.
Moving your modem to a well-ventilated area often eliminates the problem.
If the overheating persists, one of the capacitors in your device may have reached its end of life.
Ask a technician to look at your modem.
They can tell you whether the dying capacitor(s) is worth replacing.
If it’s not, you should look for a replacement modem.
C. DHCP Misconfiguration
The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) allows ISPs to assign IP addresses to modems for a limited period—usually 24 hours.
This way, they can manage a large pool of users with a limited number of IP addresses because not everyone is online all the time.
Once an IP assignment expires, the ISP automatically renews it or assigns a different IP to your modem.
However, if your device can’t obtain the new IP address for some reason, it can’t maintain your internet connection.
Usually, unplugging the modem and plugging it back in after a few seconds fixes the problem because your modem will request a new IP address.
If the problem occurs frequently, though, your modem may be overwhelmed by too many connections consuming all its resources and preventing it from obtaining a new IP address.
If that’s not the case, a firmware update usually fixes the problem.
A hardware-level malfunction could also be the cause, in which case, you most likely have to replace your modem.
D. Out-Of-Date Firmware
If none of the solutions have worked, log on to your manufacturer’s website and look for a firmware update.
Sometimes, buggy software may be causing your problem.
A networking protocol may have received an update not supported by the current operating system on your modem.
Depending on your device, updating the firmware is usually as easy as downloading the files and uploading them to the modem’s dashboard.
Refer to your modem’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for specific instructions for your model.
For example, the process may force you to connect using an Ethernet cable to increase reliability since WiFi signals are more likely to get disconnected during the update.
Also, allocate enough time to the process as unexpected issues can arise, and rushing through a firmware update could cause more problems than it fixes.
4. Buzzing Or Humming Sounds
Electronic devices tend to make a buzzing or screaming noise when one or more of their capacitors start to die.
The primary job of a capacitor is to store energy and supply it to the circuit later.
Every time a capacitor goes through a charge/discharge cycle, it loses a tiny fraction of its capacity.
As it reaches its end of life, the air inside the capacitor starts to escape from the microscopic holes on its surface, which generates a screaming or buzzing noise.
The situation is so common that it has a name: capacitor squeal.
Capacitor squeal indicates your modem will likely fail in a few days or weeks, depending on which capacitors are about to fail.
It’s best to take the modem to a technician to see if they can identify the malfunctioning capacitors and replace them.
Make sure you find a spare modem to use while your main one is in the shop.
If the modem can’t be repaired, you’ll have to buy a new one because the noise will get increasingly annoying.
Devices with higher-quality parts tend to suffer less from this sort of problem.
Make sure to invest in a modem with superior components.
5. More Speed
Sometimes, there isn’t anything wrong with your current modem.
It just isn’t built to meet your requirements.
For example, you may need a gigabit connection to stream a 4K video and simultaneously play games on multiple devices.
In this case, a modem with a maximum speed of 300 Mbps won’t be enough.
If your requirements have changed and your current device doesn’t meet them, it’s time to upgrade to a more capable modem.
Do thorough research to find a device that exceeds your current expectations.
Check your manufacturer’s supported devices, technologies, and maximum speeds.
You don’t want to spend a ton of money on a high-end modem that your ISP can’t keep up with.
6. Advanced Security
Many users complain about their neighbors stealing their WiFi despite their “strong” passwords.
Having a strong password is only part of the equation.
The more important part is the encryption protocol that protects your password from brute force attacks.
If your modem doesn’t support WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2), you need a new one because WPA and WEP are simply too weak for modern standards.
The third version of WPA was released in mid-2020 but still lacks widespread adoption.
If you buy a new modem that supports WPA3, ensure your smartphones, TV, and other devices can also use this encryption protocol.
As an advanced security measure, some modern modems come with zone management features that allow you to divide your network into multiple separate zones.
For example, you can set all your IP cameras to belong to the same zone while your TV and game console are in another zone.
This way, if a hacker gains access to your game console, they won’t be able to compromise your camera security.
7. New Features
Sometimes you may need features that your current device doesn’t offer.
For instance, you may throw parties frequently, and you don’t want your guests to use all your bandwidth or have your WiFi password.
A newer device with advanced user management capabilities lets you set a guest password and limit how much data guest users can download.
Alternatively, you may want advanced routing and security features to connect multiple cameras, TVs, phones, and computers with specific requirements.
You may want to prioritize packets from a specific application or game to avoid interruptions.
These features aren’t available on budget modems.
Therefore, you may need to invest in a high-end device with advanced functionalities.
8. Switching Service Providers
When you migrate to a new internet service provider, you may also need a new modem.
The first reason is if you were renting your current device from your ISP.
When you end your contract with them, you must return their modem.
However, you may still have to get a new modem even if you own your current one.
That’s because different companies use different technologies.
For example, if your current ISP uses DSL, your modem connects to a phone line.
If you want to switch to cable internet, you’ll need a modem with a coaxial interface.
You’ll have to buy a compatible modem or rent one from your internet company.
9. New Networking Standards
Engineers constantly improve their networking standards and protocols to increase reliability, speed, and security.
A new version of major networking protocols comes out roughly every two to three years.
Usually, these updates are backward compatible, meaning the new technology doesn’t break the old one.
You can keep using your old device, but you won’t get the benefits of the new protocols.
One example is the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), which allows cable companies to offer high-speed internet over their existing coaxial lines.
The current version is 4.0, released in 2019, but modem manufacturers haven’t adopted it yet.
The 3.1 version is currently the most popular one, offering up to 10 Gbps speeds.
If your modem was manufactured before 2013, it’s built on DOCSIS 3.0, which can only go up to 1 Gbps.
Older modems from 2006 or earlier only support 40 Mbps of download.
WiFi has become so ubiquitous that we barely realize how much we rely on it.
Like all networking protocols, WiFi has gone through multiple iterations.
The current version is dubbed WiFi 6 (indicated by its technical standard 802.11ax), which was adopted in 2020.
Depending on the setup, distance, and presence of obstacles, WiFi 6’s bandwidth can go up to 9.6 Gbps.
In contrast, the previous versions only go up to 600 Mbps, especially WiFi 4 (802.11n), which came out in 2008 and it’s still the most prevalent version.
If you need high bandwidth for multiple devices, a simple modem manufactured before 2020 probably won’t have enough bandwidth even if it supports the number of simultaneous connections.
Instead, you’ll need a more sophisticated setup with multiple access points.
As WiFi 6 becomes more popular, hopefully, some of the complexity will disappear.
10. Better Aesthetics
Finally, your current modem might be completely fine, functioning at high speed and providing all the necessary features, but maybe you’re tired of your current setup.
Maybe you want a cooler modem that isn’t as bulky or bland as your current one.
If that’s the case, a modern crab-shaped modem with multiple antennas can spice up your setup and create a futuristic aesthetic.
You can keep your old modem as a spare to make sure you can go online if the new one suddenly goes out of commission.
Alternatively, you can turn it into a passive access point to expand your WiFi coverage at home.
You could also sell it on eBay, but you probably won’t get much money.