The modem is the most important piece of networking hardware in your home because it connects you to the internet. If your modem fails, you will be unable to connect to the internet. So, how frequently should you replace your modem to avoid a disaster? The basic rule of thumb is every couple of years, however this is subject to a number of variables.

How Long Do Modems Typically Last?

There is a significant difference between basic and high-end modems, just as there is between any other networking hardware or technology in general. Lower-end modems typically have a two- to three-year lifespan, whereas higher-end modems typically have a lifespan of more than five years. A modem should last between two and five years before it needs to be replaced due to failure or obsolescence.

Note: If none of the parts fail, modems can last an incredibly long time before failing. It’s not uncommon to see a modem still in use after ten or more years if it’s well-maintained, but a modem that old will have been functionally obsolete for a while.

Higher-end modems typically use higher-quality components, such as better capacitors that last longer before failing. Some modems are better designed than others for heat dissipation, which can help them last longer. A well-ventilated modem that is cleaned on a regular basis and dusted internally, for example, will last much longer than a poorly ventilated modem that is never cleaned or maintained in any way.

Aside from build quality, case and heat sink design, and the level of maintenance provided over the life of a modem, features and capabilities must also be considered. Even if a modem technically works, it’s usually a good idea to upgrade if it’s not providing the fastest possible speeds, doesn’t support the most recent wireless network standards, or lacks essential features.

How Often Should Your Modem and Router Be Replaced?

A variety of factors influence how long you should wait before getting a new modem or updating your router. You must consider the importance of your internet connection, whether you rent or own your network hardware, and the networking technology used by your internet service provider.

You should think about replacing your modem if:

  • You’re dissatisfied with the speed and reliability of your internet connection.
  • There are new features available that you can’t live without.
  • Your internet service provider is able to accommodate new networking standards that your modem is unable to.

For example, a new DOCSIS standard for cable internet is usually introduced every four to seven years. That means you should replace your cable modem every four to seven years if you want the fastest and highest quality connection possible. Cable internet service providers, on the other hand, do not always adopt new standards right away. If you have the option of purchasing a new modem that supports the latest DOCSIS standard, but your internet service provider (ISP) does not yet support it, you can postpone replacing your modem.

Do I Need to Upgrade My Modem?

A few factors influence whether or not you should upgrade your modem. If your modem is more than ten years old, you will almost certainly benefit from upgrading. If you have a newer modem, it is a matter of the type of internet service plan you have, the alternative plans available from your internet service provider, and whether upgrading would result in an improvement in your service.

Another thing to consider is if you want to rent or buy a modem. While it’s usually a better idea to buy a modem if you plan to stay in the same place and with the same ISP for more than a couple of years, the main advantage of renting is that your ISP may provide regular free upgrades.

If you rent your modem and have had the same modem for more than a year or two, it’s worth looking into upgrading. If you’ve been renting a modem for a long time and are experiencing speed or connection troubles, it’s worth requesting a replacement or upgrade. Even if you haven’t had your rental modem for very long, it may have had outdated technology or worn-out internal components like capacitors because it wasn’t brand new when you received it.

If you own your modem, compare it to the list of modems that your ISP officially supports. If your Internet service provider (ISP) supports a newer networking standard that your modem does not, such as DOCSIS 3.1 versus 3.0, or if it supports a modem with features that you desire, it is worthwhile to consider an upgrade.

What are the Signs That Your Modem Is Failing?

In many cases, a modem will work perfectly one day and then stop working completely the next. It’s essentially the same as flipping a light switch if a critical internal component fails. If a less critical component fails, you may notice a few telltale signs that can help you determine if your modem is failing.

Here are some indications that your modem is failing or has already failed:

  • You must reset the modem on a regular basis.
  • Your internet connection frequently drops out.
  • Your internet speed is either too slow or unstable.
  • The modem is making a buzzing or humming noise.
  • The modem’s lights aren’t the expected colour.
  • The modem’s lights do not illuminate.
  • You can’t connect to the internet, and your internet service provider says there aren’t any outages.
  • Even if you unplug and re-plug the modem, it will not turn on.

Frequently Asked Question

Will purchasing a new modem improve my internet speed?

Your modem and internet bundle are the primary determinants of your internet speed. Purchasing a faster modem will not necessarily increase your connection speed. Inspect with your internet service provider to see what type of modem you need to get the internet speed you’re paying for.

How often should I replace the coaxial cable on my modem?

Coaxial cables can last for decades, so replacing the cable that connects your modem to the wall will be rare. However, if you suspect a connection problem, you should have a spare to try.

When should I change my Wi-Fi modem?

You don’t need to replace a standalone modem or a router-modem combination unit unless you notice a decrease in performance. You may need to upgrade your router-modem combo if you move to a faster internet package.


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