Are you wondering if it may be time to upgrade your WiFi router? If so, you surely came to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn all about how long does a router lasts. We will cover all the aspects and factors that determine the life-span and functionality-span of an average router.
Moreover, we will take a closer look at the ever-evolving WiFi technology; what are some of the most common signs that your router might be ready for an upgrade, and what (if anything) you can do to prolong your WiFi router’s life span.
Are you ready to dig in and learn all the details? Let’s do this.
What is a WiFi Router?
Since we cover a wide range of readers, we feel obligated to start with complete basics to ensure that we are all on the same page. If you already have the basics covered, feel free to jump to the next section.
The simplest way to view the WiFi router is to see it as an electronic device that acts as a middle man between the internet cable and devices connected to the internet via a wireless network. The WiFi router uses radio waves to receive and emit signals that enable data transfer in both directions, thus enabling downloading and uploading the information.
Also, keep in mind that there are 2-in-1 modems available these days, which already have built-in WiFi routers, which means that a single device serves as a modem and a WiFi router at the same time.
So, now that we all know what WiFi routers are, let’s get to the point.
How Long Does A Router Last Normally?
The simplest answer to the question above would be 3 to 4 years. That seems to be the industry average life-span for routers. However, you need to know that the ‘average’, though it can give you a rough estimate, normally tells you very little.
Some routers stop working after 2 years, and some routers can last you a full decade. There is also an important aspect to be considered – do you want to hold on to your router until it dies, or do you want to upgrade it to get the best out of your current internet connection?
With that in mind, we decided to dig a lot deeper to provide you with helpful insight, which will enable you to consider several aspects and factors more precisely. The following content will also enable you to determine if your router is ready to be replaced and what (if anything) you can do to prolong your router’s life span.
Main Factors That Determine How Long Does A Router Last
The three main factors that will determine a router’s life-span are maintenance, usage, and the evolution of WiFi technology. We will devote a separate subsection for each of these aspects below, which will enable us to provide you with all of the details you may need.
WiFi router is meant to be a stationary device (set in a single place and rarely moved), which means it is by default well-protected against external forces. Moreover, the device itself has no moving parts, which additionally decreases the chance of some components failure.
However, there is so-called heat stress that can play a vital part when determining a WiFi router’s lifespan. A WiFi router uses electricity to be powered, which automatically results in certain components being heated up. The heavier the use, the greater the chance of overheating. If a WiFi router is constantly overheated, it can and normally shorten its lifespan noticeably as it will increase the chance of some of the device’s components failing.
You also need to know that overheating is not the same for all routers. If a router is built for heavy loads (a great number of devices and huge data to be transferred), it normally comes with a better ventilation system.
Another factor that contributes to overheating is the positioning of the device. If you corner it in a tight spot with several other devices that heat up around it, the heat removal will be further limited, thus overheating potentially greater.
With that said, it is important that you consider the type of usage you plan to have. Consider the amount of data you plan on downloading/uploading, the number of devices you plan to connect to the router, and whether or not you plan on using it non-stop or only at certain hours of the day or occasionally. Then choose the best router according to that input information.
If you are using your WiFi router heavily, make sure to offer it a break from time to time and let it properly cool down. Simply turn it off (unplug it) when not in use. This can prolong the life span of your WiFI router.
Having a functioning device and the one that is meeting your needs can be two completely different things. What do we mean by that? Well, the device can actually work exactly as it did at the time of purchase. Still, if the technology evolved, the device may not provide you with the results you seek, or in some cases, it may even become obsolete (not compatible).
Wi-Fi technology is evolving and thus changing rather fast. Most users prefer to have access to the internet without wireless, which means that a lot of focus is devoted to improving this technology to achieve faster speeds, support many devices, and offer a wider signal span.
For instance, the routers that were produced before 2009 (before the 802.11n wireless standard, namely 802.11b, 802.11a, and 802.11g) don’t offer nearly the same quality as do the newer 802.11n (aka WiFi 4), 802.11ac (aka WiFi 5) or the latest 802.11ax (aka WiFi 6). To give you a clearer picture: 802.11b supports up to 11 Mbps of throughput, while 802.11ax supports up to 10 Gbps, which is almost 1000-times faster. That speed increase was achieved in just over 22 years. Amazing, right?
Note: Keep in mind that your WiFi router cannot provide actual speeds that are faster than what your internet provider is offering you.
Aside from faster speeds, the 802.11n standard also introduced an additional frequency; as such, all three newer standards (WiFi 4, 5, and 6) operate on both 2.4GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.
Moreover, the 802.11ac standard introduced the improved MU-MIMO (t.i. Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output), which is way better and more efficient for multi-device use.
With all that in mind, you can see that if you want to have the latest standard and thus be able to make the most of your fiber internet connection, you may want to upgrade your WiFi router way before it actually stops working.
As explained above, routers have no moving parts and are, as such, not all that difficult to maintain. Placing them in a dry and properly vented place, regularly wiping or vacuuming the dust is all that is needed.
If you add in an occasional ‘rest’ (turn the WiFi router off and unplug it to cool down properly), you have done basically all you can to prolong its life span.
Additionally, you may want to avoid regular Ethernet cable plugging/unplugging to prevent premature wear and tear.
Extra tip: Dust is like a poison for technology, as such, you may consider taking your WiFi router to a local computer maintenance store, where they will use a compressor to blow the accumulated dust out. Unless you have a deeper comprehension of this process, we advise you against doing this yourself even if you own an air compressor.
Do I Need A New Router?
If you have read the above section, you may be able to answer this question yourself. You now know that either wear and tear (mainly due to heat stress) will cause damage to the hardware of the WiFi router to cause it to no longer work properly or to die completely or you may have an obsolete router on your hands that no longer meets your internet needs or is perhaps incompatible with your wireless devices. Moreover, you may just need an upgrade to accommodate your new, faster internet or accommodate your larger home or office.
To help you even further, we decided to present you with some of the most common indicators that may suggest it is time to purchase a new WiFi router.
If you notice any of the following, it may be a sign that your WiFi router is dying:
- Poor Connectivity : routers that are closing to their expiration date are often dropping in and out. Not only is this extremely frustrating, but it also enables you to get things done properly, or it ruins your entertainment. If you are dealing with regular connection breakage, try moving the router and the connected device closer together. That way, you rule out potential obstructions or interferences. If the dropouts persist, then it is time to go for a new WiFi router.
- A loss of power : This is a rather obvious sign. If your router constantly loses power or struggles to turn on, it is likely dying. This issue is often related to a power supply, which may mean that the supply cable came loose. With that in mind, it may be something that could be easily fixed (it makes sense if your router is less than 3 years old).
- Repeating Random Reboots : You may look at your WiFi router as a small computer. If it is constantly rebooting, it is a clear indication that it struggles with some issues. It means that it is doing its best to overcome an internal hardware issue. Service may be in order; however, if the router is older than 3 or 4 years, it may be faster, cheaper, and more productive to get a new one.
Common Router Issues and How To Solve Them
Solution: Turn off the router (unplug it) and let it cool down properly. Then try to find a better spot for it. Look for a well-ventilated room. It is recommended for the room to have a window or proper ventilation system ducts.
Problem: Slow (slower than usual) data speed
Solution: Reboot the router. This simple step often solves the speed issue. If the problem persists, the router is likely ready for replacement. However, before you buy a needed router, check with your internet supplier if there are any maintenance operations on their end causing the slower speeds.
Problem: Losing power
Solution: If the router continues to switch off on its own, you need to check the power lines. Look for any potential visible damage. If you notice anything, the power cable can usually be easily replaced.
Can I Prolong My WiFi Router’s Lifespan?
Yes, you definitely can. Of course, many factors determine the lifespan of a router that is way beyond your control; however, by applying the suggestions provided below, you can increase the chances of your router serving you better (more efficiently) and longer.
Switching The Router Off
As mentioned in the ‘Main Factors That Determine How Long Does A Router Last,’ the router’s constant (24/7) use is not optimal for its performance. By switching it off occasionally, it will not only cool down properly but also clear its data cache. As such, it will be able to perform at its best.
Aim to switch off your router about two times per week. You can simply do so during the night.
Keeping The Dust Away
Dust can lead to all sorts of problems with electronic devices. It can clog up the vent holes and thus increase the overheating; it can cause short circuits and more. With that in mind, it is important to place the WiFi router in a place where dust doesn’t accumulate easily.
Do Not Overwork Your Router
We all agree that your router is here to serve you; however, you need to know your device’s limitations. Suppose you are pushing your device’s limits regularly (too many users, too large of data). You may need to consider upgrading instead of straining your current router constantly.
By properly placing your router, you will ensure that the signal is distributed according to your needs. Moreover, you will ensure that the ventilation is sufficient, that dust is not accumulating too fast, and that you can easily access it and clean it regularly.
Wrapping Things Up
We’ve covered a lot. By this point, you are a real semi-expert regarding the whole ‘how long does a router last’ topic. You now know the three main aspects of determining whether or not a router needs to be replaced. You also know the most common issues and how to try and overcome them. Moreover, you’ve learned how to recognize potential indicators that your router may be coming to an end.
More importantly, you also know how to prolong your router’s lifespan and provide it with optimal performance.
Use the information provided herein wisely, and don’t forget to enjoy your wireless internet connection.