Modems are our gateways to the internet, connecting us to the online world.
However, like any other electronic device, it has an optimal lifespan.
You may decide to change your modem when that optimal lifespan is over, or you can choose to keep it as long as it still works.
What if you need to change it before the average lifespan is over?
There are a few signs that tell you it’s time to get a new modem.
Keep reading to see what these signs are and when you should invest in a new modem.
When to Replace a Modem
Before making up your mind, you need to make sure the problem is a faulty modem rather than some other factor such as area coverage or a hardware or software malfunction.
The following are the signs that show your modem is clocking out.
1. Your Modem Suddenly Stops Working
A sudden stoppage of your modem’s functions is a telling sign that it’s time to change your modem.
This is particularly serious when all power cable connections are working correctly, but the modem goes off.
If you need to make sure the modem has gone bad, check all the power cables to see if the stoppage is due to the interruptions in cables.
You could replace the cables with new ones to rule out any possibility of faulty cables.
2. Data Takes Too Long to Transfer
If you feel a sudden change in your download and upload speeds, your modem could be heading to the gutter.
However, you need to make sure this slow data transfer isn’t due to a network problem such as congestion or reduced bandwidth allocation.
Track all the changes in the speed and see if the problem persists.
Then contact your network provider.
You can do a speed test at different spots in your home to make sure you have the same speed everywhere.
Then compare the speed with the plan you purchased.
To ensure you have the most reliable results, run the test with a wired connection to a single device.
If you use a router, disconnect it from the device and connect your modem directly to the device using an ethernet cable.
3. The Connection Keeps Getting Interrupted
Consider this scenario: you’re surfing the net enjoying the high speed like always, when suddenly, your internet drops, prompting the message, “No Internet Connection.”
It doesn’t stop here as your connection goes through a frustrating cycle of going on and off without you understanding why this happens.
After ruling out the possibility of poor coverage, the next culprit is a faulty modem.
Another telltale sign is the pop-ups that tell you your network cables are disconnected.
Such a pop-up window quickly disappears and reappears, although you’ve made sure there’s no unplugged cable.
This may indicate there are some faulty components inside the modem that make it disconnect constantly.
5. Modem Makes an Unusual Noise
A loud persistent humming sound indicates it’s time to change your modem.
It doesn’t go away by turning the modem on and off.
As a general rule of thumb, a good modem should go back to normal whenever you restart it.
Any problem that persists after rebooting indicates there is a serious problem.
6. The Device Overheats
If your modem is made from high-quality materials, it can withstand heat during its average lifespan, which is up to five years.
However, a modem that’s older than five years may not be able to withstand heat, and it will get damaged.
If you see that your device overheats and doesn’t work properly, its internal components may be faulty.
Point a fan at the modem to see if it gets better.
If not, you should consider replacing the device.
To prevent this problem, try to put your modem in a spot with proper airflow.
7. The Technology is Old
With the fast-paced changes in technology, it’s no wonder that your modem becomes obsolete in three to five years.
For example, the current standard is Wi-Fi5, with some new modems being Wi-Fi6.
A modem that handles 2.4 GHz is far different from one that has 5 GHz.
Plus, the new modems developed by ISPs have high-end components that are compatible with new devices.
If your modem doesn’t connect to new gadgets and devices, it might be outdated.
When you replace your modem with a new one, you’ll see the difference in connection quality.
If you care about new features other than Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity, you may also consider upgrading your modem.
New routers come with USB storage or more than one antenna to improve coverage.
Another sign that shows the technology is outdated is the firmware update.
Your modem’s firmware is the software program that makes it run.
These updates are essential to get the latest essential bug fixes and security improvements.
If your modem hasn’t been updated for years, or the company has discontinued it, it is time to consider upgrading.
8. Indicator Lights Act Funny
The indicator lights on your modem show you how healthy your modem is.
They indicate that your connection to the ISP is working, your Wi-Fi network is up, and data is being transferred from and to your modem.
A good modem has all the front lights solid and illuminated.
Nothing flickers or blinks.
The only light that flashes is the data transfer light which always flickers when you’re using the internet (labeled “PC Link,” “Data,” or “Activity”).
If these turn off while you’re using the net, it could indicate that your modem is going bad.
Again, you need to make sure the culprit isn’t a faulty cable or socket.
9. The Modem Keeps Resetting
When your modem frequently resets on its own, you can be pretty sure the modem isn’t in good shape.
This could happen for different reasons, including faulty wiring or software issues.
Check the modem for signs of overheating.
If the modem is hot when you touch it, then it has trouble cooling down.
Therefore, it will reset frequently to cool down.
It could also be due to the modem being overworked because too many different devices are hooked up.
These devices put the modem at its functional limit, forcing it to restart.
Make sure the modem isn’t being overworked by turning it off and disconnecting all the connected devices.
Then turn the modem back on and connect the devices one at a time.
If the modem shuts down and restarts after you have connected a certain number of devices, you may need to upgrade your modem.
10. Critical Errors in the Error Log
You can use your modem’s administrative troubleshooting tools, which come with every modem.
These tools feature an error log that shows how healthy your modem is.
Log into your modem and locate the advanced administrative section.
Browse the navigation menu to find the error log or event log.
If the log shows a long list of errors every day, you need to check for software or hardware failures.
11. You Experience Cyberattacks
Your modem is the entry point for any internet network.
That’s why they’re an important target for cyberthreats.
Since the internet signals travel through radio waves, intruders can easily intercept them.
If you have an old modem, you are more likely to be vulnerable to these threats because they’re less secure than new ones and probably not supported by the service provider.
Hence, if your modem gets hacked, you may want to upgrade it to a more secure one.
Before you change your modem, you may want to update its firmware.
This way, you make sure it’s working optimally.
Why Do Modems Go Bad?
As we said, modems have an average lifespan of three to five years, but it depends on the manufacturer and build quality.
That said, you’d think an expensive device like a modem should last longer.
Different factors can make the modem wear out so quickly:
- Constant usage. Modems run 24/7 because we always need to be connected to the internet with all the appliances running on IoT. Even if we only used the internet for our PCs, laptops, and smartphones, we wouldn’t turn on the modem only when we needed it. How would your TV or hair dryer last if it were on all the time?
- Heat affects lifespan. Although modems of all kinds produce heat, not all of them come with a cooling system. Heat can make the modem malfunction over time. Also, we can’t crack the modem open and remove the dust. That’s why dust builds up over time in the modem and works like an insulator that leads to more heat.
- It’s inevitable. You can’t stop your electronics from going bad. Every electronic device experiences wear and tear due to electricity running through it and goes dead eventually. Plus, if you want to enjoy the latest technology and the new internet speeds, you’re left with no choice but to change your modem even if it is working properly.
- Electricity fluctuations. Since electricity doesn’t flow at a fixed rate, these power surges strain our electronics, including the modem. You can minimize this adverse wear and tear by using a surge protector.
How to Extend Your Modem’s Life
Although you can’t prevent your modem from failing, you can take steps to improve its life expectancy.
In addition to using a surge protector, which is a must in protecting your modem against voltage spikes, here’s what you can do.
1. Protect the Modem from Physical Damage
The modem’s location is an important factor in protecting it, although there are limitations regarding its position.
For example, it should be near a power outlet and the phone.
However, make sure you put it in a place where nobody bumps into it or knocks it down.
Put it far from heat sources and water.
Make sure it has enough room to allow for free airflow and that it’s not hard to access to allow for cleaning and inspecting.
2. Turn the Modem Off
You don’t have to turn off your modem when you’re not online or when you go out.
However, it is a good idea to turn it off at night although some people argue against it.
They say regularly turning electronics on and off can increase wear and tear.
However, it helps you reduce your energy consumption and also your screen time before going to bed in the least.
3. Restart It Once in a While
Regular reboots extend your modem’s life by giving it a chance to clear any possible errors and reconnect.
Almost all modems have a recessed button at the back which resets the device.
Press the reset button for one second using a needle.
You can reset other types of modems by unplugging the power cord and plugging it again.
How to Make Sure the Modem is Faulty
When you lose your internet connection, it’s easy to get disturbed because it’s like having a power outage.
However, before you decide it’s time to change your modem or to call your service provider, check the following things:
- Turn off and unplug the modem, wait a minute, plug it back in, and turn it back on.
- Check all the cables and sockets to ensure proper connections.
- Check if all of the connected devices have problems. If only one device has trouble connecting, the problem isn’t with the modem.
- Plug the modem into different outlets to make sure the problem isn’t with internal wires and sockets.
- Factory reset the modem by pressing the reset button for 10 seconds. Then set the configurations again. You should have the settings. If you don’t know the basic settings, contact your service provider.
- Try connecting your modem to your neighbor’s connection. If it works, the culprit isn’t your modem.
Modem or Router: What’s the Difference?
You may have heard the techs talk about modems or routers.
While both of them work to connect you to the internet, they’re different.
A modem is a device that brings all the internet goodness into your office or home.
It connects to the ISP (Internet Service Provider) via a cable, fiber, or phone line from outside of your house and plugs into the modem.
There are different modem types, including a DSL modem for phone lines and a cable modem for cable internet.
If your internet provider offers fiber internet, you need an ONT (Optical Network Terminal) that converts fiber optic signals to electric signals.
If you want to connect to the internet via different devices and go wireless, you need a router.
That’s because modems provide wired connections for only one device.
A router works as a networking device to share the internet connection across all deceives.
You should connect the modem to the router via an ethernet cable, and the router connects the devices to the internet wirelessly.
Routers come in two types: single unit routers and whole-home mesh networks.
Single-unit routers are generally better for smaller homes and provide a decent connection that reaches all spots in your home.
For larger homes with different devices hooked up to the internet, you can use a whole-home mesh router.
It features multiple Wi-Fi nodes placed strategically in different spots to provide seamless coverage.