Routers and modems are critical components of any internet network to give you access to the world wide web.
If you’ve never bought a modem and router, you may not know how they work and fit into a home internet network.
For example, can these two devices replace each other?
More importantly, can one work without the other?
For example, if you have a router, do you need a modem to use it, or can it be used alone?
Does A Router Have To Be Connected To A Modem?
Yes, a router can’t work without a modem if you want to connect to the internet because a modem provides internet to the router.
A modem works like a translator that changes analog signals to digital and makes them readable by computers and smart devices.
Without a modem, the router can’t access the world wide web or WAN to communicate with the outside world.
On the other hand, a modem can work without a router because it can access the WAN and deliver internet to one device via an Ethernet cable.
The router distributes connections among devices, enabling them to connect to the internet wirelessly.
However, the router doesn’t need the modem if you don’t want to access the internet.
You can use the router to create a local area network (LAN), connecting several devices and sharing files inside the network.
Modem Vs. Router
To better clarify whether a router can work without a modem, we need to know the difference between these two devices.
Both are essential for establishing an internet connection but have different functions.
A modem is a device that brings internet from your ISP centers to your home.
However, the modem can give internet to only one device via a cabled connection.
You require a router if you have several devices that need an internet connection.
Here’s how each device works:
Before wireless technology took over our lives, the internet was only accessible via a wired connection made possible by modems.
As a result, the modem was the only device required for an internet connection.
Your ISP transfers data signals via telephone lines, DSL, optic fiber, or satellite from its centers to your home.
These signals are all analog and aren’t readable by computers and other smart devices.
Now, you need a device that turns these signals into digital to make them readable by your digital devices.
Enter the modem.
It also performs the reverse of this process.
It takes the digital signals from your end devices and turns them into analog, making them ready to be transferred via telephone lines.
On a more technical level, a modem modulates and demodulates data, hence the name.
The modem takes analog, radiofrequency waves as a carrier and puts the digital wave from your computer on the analog wave to transfer it via these waves.
This process is called modulating.
Demodulating is the opposite process that involves separating the digital data from the analog carrier waves and sending them to digital devices.
As you might guess, fiber internet doesn’t need a modem because it works differently from other types.
Fiber optic transfers data via pulses of light traveling through optical fiber cables.
As a result, modulation and demodulation aren’t required because the light signals need to turn into other forms of data.
That’s why an optical network terminal (ONT) replaces the modem in fiber internet.
The modem brings the ISP’s internet to your home, but you need a way to get it to your devices.
As mentioned, if you only have one computer, you can connect it to the modem via an Ethernet cable and enjoy your high-speed internet.
Today’s connected world has changed everything.
We have many devices inside our homes that need an internet connection, from laptops and smartphones to all IoT devices in our smart homes.
However, each modem only has one Ethernet port that can support one device.
Therefore, a single wired connection isn’t enough.
You need another device that takes the demodulated internet signals and delivers them to your devices.
This device is the router.
It creates a local network inside your home, acting as the head of the network and connecting all other devices to itself and each other.
It knows which devices are inside the network and where they’re located.
To identify the devices inside the network, the router uses the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to assign IP addresses to each device.
A router can determine the traffic each device requires if you enable the QoS feature in its panel.
This way, it controls the bandwidth needed for each device to optimize your internet speed.
Can Routers Work Without Modems?
As mentioned earlier, the modem can work without a router if you only have one device capable of receiving a wired connection.
The modem is the backbone of your internet connection that’s impossible to leave out.
Without a modem, there’s no internet from your ISP.
However, that’s not the case with a router.
Now that you know how a router works, the issue is easy to understand.
The router can’t work without a modem because the modem provides internet to your home.
If there’s no modem, there’s no internet from your ISP.
And note that Wi-Fi is different from the internet.
The router is the distributor of this internet connection via Wi-Fi signals.
These signals replace a wired connection via an Ethernet cable.
A router can’t establish a connection between the devices and the network outside your home without a modem.
The bottom line is that you need a service from an ISP and a modem to connect to the internet.
To access the internet wirelessly, you need to add a router to this mix.
This is what the connection looks like: Your Device > Router > Modem > ISP > Internet.
As you can see, all these components are essential in establishing a wireless internet connection.
If one component is absent, there’s no connection.
However, that’s not the only way you can use a router.
The primary job of a router is directing and distributing traffic among the connected devices, but this traffic doesn’t need to be from a WAN (Wide Area Network).
You can use a router to connect different devices inside a LAN (Local Area Network) without connecting to the internet.
For example, suppose you want to send a document stored on your laptop to your desktop PC.
Your laptop sends a request to the router, which redirects the request to the PC.
When the PC grants permission, the file goes from the laptop to the PC.
In addition to file sharing, you can use your router to connect different devices to the printer and print your documents wirelessly via the LAN.
You can also use a router to create a local area network to connect your security cameras inside the building.
They send their images over the network, and you can watch the live feeds.
Like with the internet connection, the router assigns IP addresses to each device to identify them.
The only thing you should do is add the devices to the router’s LAN by connecting them to its LAN ports.
Although a router isn’t necessary to create such a network between these devices, it’s the only way a router can work without a modem.
Here are some other things you can do with your router without connecting to the internet:
1. Play Games On Your LAN
You can use your router’s LAN to play several multiplayer games with your friends.
Many people prefer to play these multiplayer games online, but that’s not the only way you can play video games with your friends.
You can host a LAN party and adjust the in-game settings to connect to your friends.
The only problem is that you can’t play any games via the LAN because more and more games are removing this capability to encourage online gaming.
That said, many popular games still support LAN play, including Minecraft, League of Legends, and CS-Go.
2. Stream Media
Streaming media is similar to sharing files over your LAN.
Suppose you’ve downloaded a bulky TV show on your desktop computer and want to watch it on your laptop.
Instead of copying it onto your laptop, occupying huge space on your hard disk, you can stream it via your router’s LAN, allowing Wi-Fi sharing.
3. Create An Access Point
If you have a spare router in your home and don’t know what to do with it, you can use it to extend your current network’s coverage.
You can’t connect two routers to one modem, but you can connect two routers, making the second one work as an access point.
Although mesh networks offer a better way to improve your Wi-Fi coverage, you can still use this method to put your spare router to better use.
To use your spare router as an access point, you can simply connect it to your primary router, which is hooked up to the modem, via an Ethernet cable.
The only requirement for your second router is that it should support the Bridge Mode or Repeater Mode.
The process is easy to set up, and you can quickly configure both routers to increase your Wi-Fi coverage.
Creating A LAN Without A Modem
You can connect your devices to the router without accessing the internet and create a local network for file sharing and printing.
If all your devices are wireless, you don’t need a wired connection, and you can connect them by adding the devices to the router’s network.
You can also add your wired devices to the router’s LAN by connecting them to the router via its LAN port.
Setting up this network isn’t different from creating a Wi-Fi internet network.
To start the setup process, you first need to know the router’s SSID and password.
The SSID is the router’s identification number or a name that appears in the list of available Wi-Fi networks on your devices, and the password is the passkey you enter to connect to the router.
You can find these credentials on the back of the device.
Plug in the router and press the power button to turn it on.
Now, you should see the router’s SSID among the available devices on your computer or smartphone.
Click Connect and enter your password to establish the connection between the router and your laptop.
Now, you can go to the router’s web interface and change its settings depending on your purpose.
If you don’t know the router’s IP address, type “command prompt” in Cortana’s search box.
Type in ipconfig and press Enter.
Here, you can find the router’s IP address under Default Gateway.
Copy the IP address and paste it into a browser’s address bar to access the router’s web interface.
Now, you should enter its username and password, which are both “admin” by default.
Activate Windows File Sharing
Windows has a native feature that allows you to start file sharing and connect your printers to the same LAN.
This way, everyone connected to your router’s LAN can access the files on different devices.
All you need to do is grant permission for the file to be accessed by other devices.
You can activate the file-sharing feature via the Control Panel.
Here’s how to do it:
Type Control Panel in the toolbar’s search box and click on the first result.
Go to Networks and Sharing Center and select Change advanced sharing setting on the left panel.
Go to the Files and printer sharing section and turn on the option.
Click Save Changes.
Note. Make sure to turn on the Network Discovery option on the same page.
This feature makes your device visible to other devices inside the network.
As mentioned earlier, modems belong to a time when the only possible way to connect a device to the internet was through cables and a wired connection.
With the advancements in wireless technology, the router came along, allowing multiple devices to connect to the same LAN simultaneously.
Neither of these devices is enough without the other for a Wi-Fi connection.
Thus, the modem/router combo, also known as the gateway, was offered.
It’s a great solution that eliminates the need for two separate devices.
The device connects you to the internet offered by your ISP and routes it to your devices, offering wireless and wired connections simultaneously.
You don’t need to worry about compatibility between the two devices and manually connecting them.
Since the router and modem can affect your internet speed if they can’t handle the speed provided by your ISP, deciding on the best separate device can be overwhelming.
In addition, it’s a great space and budget saver because you get one device instead of two.
However, convenience always comes at a cost.
You may not have to consider many factors when buying a gateway, but you’ll also miss out on many customization features.
Standalone routers allow you to set up parental control features, QoS, beamforming, MU-MIMO, and many other features to give you more control over your connections.
In addition, like any other dual- or multi-purpose device, a gateway is easy to set up and maintain, but it may have lower performance than a dedicated router or modem.
That’s because the space is more limited, and the manufacturer has to focus on accommodating two devices in one.
However, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a high-quality gateway since most modern devices can deliver decent performance for most home users.
The choice between a standalone modem/router or a gateway depends on your preferences and conditions.
In addition, you should first consult with your ISP’s support team to see what devices they support.
If you get a gateway that the ISP doesn’t support, you can’t use it.
Plus, some ISPs require you to use a specific modem, which limits your choices of modem and router.
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