How Long Do Modems Last? – When Should You Upgrade or Replace

Modems like smartphones will need software updates over time. With the implementation of faster internet protocol connections, we will realize that our system is getting behind. Helpfully this device is reliable and strong on the hardware side but a new faster processor and more compact component sooner than later will force us to replace it. 

I’ve been noticing my modem has been slowing down my connection speed, and wondered when a good time would be to upgrade or replace it. So, I did some research, and here’s what I found.

So, how long do modems last? Modems from the top manufacturers have a one-year warranty, and they expect that a modem will last at least 1 year without malfunctioning. However, most people find a modem will last around 3 to 5 years before you need to upgrade or replace it.

Whether you’re interested in when the best time is to upgrade your modem, when you need to replace it, or whether a new modem will make your internet faster, this article will cover everything you need to know about how long a modem lasts.

How Often Should You Replace Your Modem?

You may have noticed you’ve had your modem for a while, and want to know when you should replace it. Here’s what you need to know about how often you should replace your modem.

You should replace your modem when:

  • You start having consistent problems with your modem, for example, it keeps disconnecting from the internet
  • New technology comes out – for example, recently fiber internet became available
  • It stops working altogether
  • When you get a new internet connection for example when you move house.

I’ll explain each of these issues in more detail below…

1. You start having consistent problems with your modem

If your internet connection drops off every so often – around once a month – then you can typically just turn your modem on and off to get it working again. 

But, if it happens more often, for example, once a week, or every day then it’s a sure sign your modem is faulty and you should get a new one.

2. New technology comes out

In some countries and cities, fiber internet has become available, which dramatically increases the internet speed. If you want to upgrade from standard broadband you need to get a new modem. It’s a good idea to check what internet you’re currently using, and whether fiber is available in your area. You can do that by contacting your internet company.

The good news is, most internet companies provide a compatible modem for free if you signed up for a yearly contract.

But, you might be in a part of a country that doesn’t have fiber yet, or has recently had it installed. 

The website ARS Technica has stated that around 30% of homes in the USA can access fiber internet, and it’s becoming more and more widely available as the cables are being installed. 

If fiber has become available in your area, it can be worthwhile to replace your modem to get the MUCH faster speeds. 

Most people can expect to have internet speeds that are 10 times faster when they upgrade to fiber. And internet companies charge around the same price for fiber, as they do for standard internet.

Also, as a side note there doesn’t appear to be any new internet technology that’s faster than fiber coming out. 

3. It stops working all together

If your modem just stops working altogether then you’ll definitely need a new modem. You can’t use the internet without a modem unless you use mobile data. 

However, mobile data is separate from your fixed-line internet. And mobile data is generally much more expensive than fixed-line internet. If you’re unsure what kind of internet you have it’s best to contact your internet company.

Mobile data goes through the cellular network, and you don’t need a modem to use it.

4. When you get a new internet connection – for example, you move house

When you sign up for the internet you can get either a one-year internet plan or an open-ended contract. If you signed up for a contract and it expires, your internet company will usually incentivize you to sign up for another year by giving you a free modem. This is a great time to replace your modem even if there’s nothing wrong with your current one.

Also, if you move house and get a new internet connection it’s a great time to get a replacement modem. Because the internet provider will provide you a modem for free if you choose to get a fixed-term internet plan.

However, some providers will rent you a modem, and when they do it’s best to upgrade your modem only when: 1) It breaks, or starts having consistent issues and 2) new technology such as fiber becomes available.

The most popular internet companies that are available in most US cities which are:

  • HughesNet
  • Viasat Internet (formerly Exede)
  • AT&T Wireless
  • Verizon Wireless
  • T-Mobile
  • Frontier
  • Charter 

Do Modem Routers Wear Out?

Electronic devices like smartphones and laptops typically last quite a while before something malfunctions. But, do modems wear out? Here’s what I found:

Modems do eventually wear out, however, because they don’t have any moving parts they don’t wear out the same way that a mechanical device like a motor does. Interestingly electronic devices such as modems will either fail very soon after your first start using them or will last a very long time. 

The fact that electronic devices break soon after they’re first used, or last for a very long time is known as the ‘bathtub effect’, according to Wikipedia.

But, there are a few ways that a modem can be damaged which can cause it to stop working these are:
1. A power surge
2. If it’s dropped, you stand on it, or something falls on top of it
3. The modem gets too hot
4. It gets in contact with water

How Can You Tell If Your Modem Is Going Bad?

Although a modem doesn’t wear out, you may wonder what the early signs are that your modem is going to break. This is what they are:

D-Link is one of the biggest modem manufacturers, and they say the warning signs that your modem will break soon are the internet connection disconnects often, the lights on your modem aren’t displaying correctly, or all of a sudden your internet is disconnected.

I’ll explain each of these issues and what they mean below.

1. The internet disconnects often

When this happens it means that a component in your modem is loose. The wires connect and disconnect because they’re only just touching. And certain parts of the modem will turn on and off.

When this happens you should call your internet service provider and ask them to troubleshoot the issue. Also, the first thing they will ask you to do when they are trying to fix it is to turn your modem on and off again. 

So, you can try this first to see if that fixes the issue. Almost all modems have a warranty, so you should check if the issue is covered by the warranty. If it is you can get a replacement free of charge. 

However, if you damaged it with water, dropped it, or banged it that will void your warranty.

2. All of a sudden your internet is disconnected

If your internet all of a sudden disconnects it means there’s an issue with your modem, and you’ll likely need to replace it soon. A modem that isn’t faulty can stay on and stay connected to the internet 24/7 without any issues. 

So, this indicates your modem is faulty, and even if you can reconnect it to the internet, it’s a sign that it’s near the end of its life.

3. The lights on your modem aren’t displaying correctly

There are lights on your modem that stay on all the time or flicker. If the lights aren’t working, it means that there’s likely an issue with your modem. And even if you can connect to the internet, it likely won’t be long before you’ll need to replace your modem.


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