What is a modem?

  • A modem takes the signal sent by your provider, usually via a cable, and converts it into an internet connection
  • You can save money by buying your own modem, rather than renting it
  • Often resetting your modem can solve connection issues

A modem is a critical part of how you get online. It connects directly to the cable coming into your home from your provider (such as Spectrum, AT&T etc) and turns it into an internet connection you can use to go online. It’s usually a fairly bland black plastic box with just a couple of lights on the front.

However, in almost all cases, your modem will also need to be connected to a second box, called a router. The router actually takes this ‘raw’ internet signal and turns it into your home Wi-Fi network so all your various devices can connect.

In simple terms, the modem is rather like the raw power supply coming into your home from your electricity company. The router is akin to the breaker box that gives the various power sockets in your home power.

How to reset your modem

If you’ve got a problem with your internet connection, one of the first things you should do is reset your modem. Although this differs from model to model, it usually involves either pressing a small reset button on the back of the box, or simply unplugging it, waiting a few seconds and plugging it back in.

Should you rent or buy a modem?

Most internet firms will try and rent you a modem when you sign up for service. However, often you can save money by buying your own, so it’s well worth investigating this.

Modems tend to be very straightforward devices you’ll simply plug in once then forget about, so it’s not always essential to upgrade them as often as your router, for instance.

However, not all modems work with all providers, so you’ll need to check with your provider to see what modem you can buy. Your provider will usually have a page listing all the compatible modems. Here are the pages for Spectrum

One box to rule them all

Many providers offer a combined modem and router, which can make life easier. However, they usually offer this at a monthly fee. Some providers, such as Xfinity, will even force you to use their box.

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