Find out what your router does, how to choose the right one for you and how to replace it if yours starts to malfunction.
A router is a hardware device that manages the connection between your home network and the internet. It allows your devices, such as laptops and mobile phones, to access the web.
Your router also helps to protect your data as it’s transmitted from your home network to the online world, preventing hackers and viruses from stealing private information. Though there are many other online security measures you can take, a router is your first line of defence.
You should be aware that when connecting to the internet via a router, you’ll be assigned an IP address, which could be used to reveal your location. If you’re concerned about your privacy, consider connecting to the internet through a VPN.
While these two devices work together, the main difference is that a modem provides the internet connection, while the router distributes it to the various connected devices.
Most broadband providers send their customers a combined modem/router when they take out a contract.
You might instead choose to buy them separately if you want to upgrade your router for faster speeds or greater security.
There are many different types of routers you could install in your home, each with their own benefits.
A wired broadband router accesses the internet by using a modem connected to a phone line or cable. It then connects with cables to your computers, known as a wired local area network (LAN). This allows for high-speed usage on multiple devices in your home.
These types of connections are typically more secure than wireless routers.
A Wi-Fi router, is a wireless alternative to broadband routers. Wi-Fi routers use radio waves to broadcast broadband to your private network.
Most broadband providers will send you a wireless router when you sign up, which can also be used as a wired router for a LAN.
4G Wi-Fi routers are used to create portable hotspots that don't require any cables to connect devices to the internet. This type of router can be used to generate temporary Wi-Fi in a location without broadband.
Hotspots are common methods of using mobile data to connect your devices to the internet when home Wi-Fi isn’t available, but they usually come with a data cap, whereas home Wi-Fi often doesn’t have a limit.
4G can be cheaper for those who don’t use the internet often, because you can get deals where you only pay for the data you use.
The most important part of setting up your router is redesigning its security.
To keep your data safe, your router needs to be secure, so a strong password is vital. Use something long, complicated, and unrelated to your name or address.
It’s also helpful to select a type of encryption from your router settings - WPA2 is currently the most secure, due to the way it scrambles information.
You can also install a firewall to guard against viruses and you should keep your router’s firmware updated by downloading the latest version from the manufacturer’s website.
Ofcom has these tips on how to approach your broadband provider with any issues. Know your rights when it comes to broadband services, so you’re aware of what providers are expected to do for you as a consumer.
But in most cases, unless stated clearly on a contract at the point of purchase, your provider is responsible for fixing any faults. If your router needs replacing, you won’t have to pay as long as it’s still under warranty.
Companies should keep you updated on its progress, from ordering to dispatching, but you should typically expect to wait three-five working days as with any delivery. Contact your provider if you’ve been waiting longer.
In the meantime, ask your provider for other ways of accessing the internet while you wait.
This depends on the provider, but they might send you a postage paid returns label.