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People who only have a single desktop computer in their homes might choose to wire their machine directly into the ISP-provided modem. After all, why introduce unnecessary additional hardware and cables when less is more, right?

Wrong.

Plugging your device directly into your modem without using a router (CA/UK) is a terrible idea. In this article, I’m going to explain the dangers of going “router-less” as well as provide some extra thoughts on why routers are great to have regardless.

Modem vs. Router: What’s the Difference?

The two terms are often — incorrectly — used interchangeably. In practice, they have some important differences What's the Difference Between Routers, Hubs, and Switches? What's the Difference Between Routers, Hubs, and Switches? Are you confused about the differences between a hub, a switch, and a router? Don't worry. The answer is actually quite simple. In this article, we break it down for you. Read More .

A modem is a data transfer device. It picks up the Internet signal from your ISP and sends it to computer (ideally through a router). If you have cable internet service 4 Things to Seriously Consider When Purchasing a New Cable Modem 4 Things to Seriously Consider When Purchasing a New Cable Modem With just a bit of research, you can buy your own modem and save hundreds of dollars over a few years. Read More , the connection will be supplied through a coaxial cable. If you have DSL service, it’ll come from the phone line.

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A router’s main job is to share the internet signal between multiple devices (i.e. it creates a network). It operates using a single internet IP address and provides derivative addresses to the computers and gadgets connected to it.

Some ISPs provide two-in-one modem-router combos, thus leaving you with a single box. Others only supply a modem, forcing you to buy your own separate router. So, if a modem can connect to the Internet by itself, why is it still recommended to use a router?

Security Is the Main Concern

The biggest reason for using a router, even if you have a single-PC setup, is security.

A modem is not a security device. It exists solely to transfer data between you and your ISP. Therefore, it offers no protection between your computer and the endless sea of internet-connected devices in the world.

It also means that your public-facing IP address resolves directly to your PC. Think of it like leaving your door unlocked: anyone with the time and inclination can dig around your computer trying to find vulnerabilities.

An anti-virus suite won’t be enough to protect you here. “Vulnerabilities” can mean anything from erroneous open ports to well-known exploits on your operating system of choice.

And in case you think your vulnerable IP address will be safe among the estimated 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] More recently, there's been a lot of talk about switching to IPv6 and how it will bring a lot of benefits to the Internet. But, this "news" keeps repeating itself, as there's always an occasional... Read More in the world, think again. Millions of automated bots search for and discover weak IP addresses around the clock, 365 days a year.

It boils down to this: if you have an Internet > Modem > PC setup, you’re entirely reliant on your firewall and operating system to keep you safe. Given that tests have shown that in some cases Windows can be compromised before its built-in firewall can block an incoming connection, this is a foolhardy choice.

A router’s biggest advantage is that it comes with a built-in firewall that’s considerably more robust, stable, and advanced than anything provided by your operating system or third-party companies Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More .

This prevents anything else on the internet from initiating communication directly with your machine. The WAN port of the router is the only thing that’s open to the internet and your computer’s individual IP address is only available on your home network, so it’s less likely for a malicious user to take advantage of that.

Are There Any Other Benefits?

The benefits of deploying a router extend well beyond the realm of security. Here are a few more reasons why using a router is a logical decision even if you only have one computer.

1. Wireless Internet

Unless your modem has a router built into it, the only practical way to get wireless internet in your home is to install a wireless router.

On the one hand, an direct Ethernet connection to your modem (or router) provides the fastest and most reliable connection, but wireless access is incredibly useful if your single PC is a laptop — and even if you have a desktop PC, you can give it wireless capabilities with a Wi-Fi USB stick Is Your USB Wi-Fi Dongle Lagging? 3 Ways to Fix It Is Your USB Wi-Fi Dongle Lagging? 3 Ways to Fix It Got a wireless dongle that's misbehaving? Three different methods can solve the majority of dongle problems: USB extenders, changing router channels, and dual-band routers. Read More !

And if you’re going to go wireless, there are a lot of factors that could affect your internet speed — including the router that you choose to use.

Most modern devices are equipped with a new wireless protocol called 802.11ac. This is an improvement on the previously-available 801.11n, and vastly superior to the now ancient 802.11g. (Learn more about these Wi-Fi standards Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers While wireless standards lack a logical progression in terms of letters, the technology under the hood is notable, and with each new release we get one step closer to painless connectivity. Read More .)

2. Network Flexibility

Just because you have a single machine at the moment doesn’t mean you won’t want to add more gadgets in the future.

Devices such as smartphones and gaming consoles have been able to take advantage of Wi-Fi connections for quite a few years now, but as the internet-of-things continues to grow The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things is ramping up in 2016, but what does that mean exactly? How do you personally benefit from the Internet of Things? Here are a few useful products to illustrate. Read More , we can expect more and more stuff to come online. Fridges, televisions, security cameras How to Make Your Wireless Security Cameras Untouchable to Hackers How to Make Your Wireless Security Cameras Untouchable to Hackers Over the past few months, stories about security vulnerabilities abound. Clearly this is not an acceptable state of affairs. To combat this, you should secure your security cameras. Let's find out how. Read More , and even pet food dispensers can now connect to the internet to offer additional features.

smartfeeder

And what about when you have friends and family over? You really don’t want to be passing around one single Ethernet cable between everyone, do you? That just sounds like a nightmare.

3. File Sharing

Because a router puts all the connected devices onto a single local network, you can easily share things between those connected devices.

For example, if you don’t have a Wi-Fi enabled printer, you can still let other computers print to it How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet Windows 7’s Homegroup feature makes sharing printers on your local network easy, but what if you want to share a printer over the Internet? This has traditionally been very complicated, involving print drivers, firewall rules... Read More  by routing through you (provided your host computer remains on at all times).

homegroup

You can also share files between computers Easily Share Files Between Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X Easily Share Files Between Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X Cross platform file sharing sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Here's how to get a PC and and a Mac to share files with each other. Read More , which is perfect for letting other users access your photos, movies, and music.

On Windows the feature is called HomeGroup (Control Panel > Network and Sharing Centre > HomeGroup); on a Mac you have to set it up through the Sharing menu (Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing). There are also third-party tools available.

What Setup Do You Use?

If you’re one of those people who connects a single computer to a single modem, I hope I’ve convinced you to revisit your setup. You’ll be much better off for it.

And it’s not even expensive to make the switch. You can find perfectly acceptable routers on Amazon for as little as $25.

TP-Link N450 Wireless Wi-Fi Router, Up to 450Mbps (TL-WR940N) - V3 TP-Link N450 Wireless Wi-Fi Router, Up to 450Mbps (TL-WR940N) - V3 Wireless N speed up to 450Mbps, ideal for bandwidth-intensive tasks like HD video streaming, VoIP, and online gaming Buy Now At Amazon $25.87

Let me know about your setup – did you suffer any bad experiences after omitting router? Do you still have a router-less setup in your own home? Do you disagree with my argument?

Get in touch with your opinions and stories in the comments below.

  1. Phil Isard
    September 12, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Damn Dan if u werent 253.7% dead-bang-on!

    I have XFINITY - Comcast - at 25Mbps which is operating at 32Mbps - and they :"let" me buy a modem - TP-LINK - but "rushed past me" the TP-LINK Router, on which I got a VERY handsome rebate! I have, literally, agonized, whether to use the router with my ONE PC/Modem "network". I DID read, sumwhere else, I SHD keep the router in the loop. After MANY articles and ruminations, I removed the router. Everything was fine until 1 day...I started getting all this "weird stuff" ON my computer, eg, programs, pop-ups, etc. The MOST egregious was a program called Ads by Trezza; I kept getting ads-upon-ads. By sheer caprice of mother nature, I noticed an app named Trezza while I was UNinstalling other mischief.

    I emailed McAfee and they wanted 89 bucks to "fix" my computer; I simply uninstalled Trezza AND anything else I cdnt even pronounce!

    Dan, I am putting my router, stored in a drawer with old hard drives, and making it INTEGRAL to my system config!

    TNX for giving me that xtra nudge to do Internet properly. U shd hear how long it took me to get hi-speed internet!!!

    Phil Isard
    WF3W@JUNO.COM

  2. Gavin
    September 1, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    This article doesn't mention anything about the other ways of accessing the internet. For example, using a 3G or LTE modem or accessing the internet via a smartphone or tablet. Those are all modems and should have a router behind it.

    • Nyoman
      September 2, 2016 at 2:31 am

      Yes, you right how about someone accessing behind their smartphone?

  3. Elvis
    September 1, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Great article... I just had to comment: I love the site's new theme! It's more responsive on my phone, and now the comment section works reliably.

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