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When should you replace your Wi-Fi router?

Mar 1, 2018 5:11PM PST

When should someone consider replacing their Wi-Fi router? Is it around the 4- or 5-year mark or only if it is starting to act up? What do you all do? And are there any added security benefits to having newer hardware? Thanks.

--Submitted by Dan P.

Discussion is locked

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Well typically is it's 4 or 5 years old
Mar 2, 2018 5:18AM PST

a new standard will be out there. Example 802.11 G to 802.11 N to 802.11 AC. If that standard hasn't changed the price will be way lower than when purchased in the beginning. I decided a few years ago that I was going to purchase a modem to replace my monthly rent of my ISP's modem. I purchased a Motorola Modem/ Router that is 802.11 AC and have been using it since. Now I'm thinking of switching to AT&T fiber that is 1000 GB for $30.00 a month cheaper. I will have to use the AT&T router after that.

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When it was misbehaving or I needed more speed
Mar 2, 2018 3:42PM PST

A few years ago, routers had dropped in price to the point they were almost giving them away in cereal boxes. So, when one started giving me issues (YouTube got *very* choppy, and rebooting the router fixed it multiple times) I just replaced it. When I upgraded my notebook and it had G built in, I went ahead and got another one.

More recently, I upgraded my cable to 300 Mbps, and so I needed a router with 1 Gbps Ethernet. The current AC-capable routers are back to being pretty expensive. I'm not sure if N routers are significantly less expensive. I went ahead and spent the money, to future-proof myself. I plan on keeping it until something comes up that it can't handle. And, my current laptop has AC built in.

I have most of my stuff around the house hard-wired. Only my laptop (light surfing) and phone are routinely on Wi-Fi. I do have a coupla older phones around the house that I'm using as digital clocks.

So, I guess most of my routers have lasted 3-5 years, on average. Just checked, and my current router is 2.5 years old.

Drake Christensen

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When you start dropping wi-fi connections to devices!
Mar 2, 2018 5:00PM PST

I was gradually adding home automation devices to my network, like WEMO switches, cameras, alarms and 3 Amazon Echo devices. Over time, as I added more devices, I found that I was dropping connections, and having a hard time configuring them. I took a look at my network and realized that counting computers, printers and home automation devices, I had over 20 devices using Wi-Fi and I had overwhelmed my old "pre-automation router". A quick trip to the store for a new, more powerful router eliminated the dropped connections and "missing" devices when I tried to configure them.

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Mar 2, 2018 10:19PM PST

I would say start looking for a new router when the firmware updates from the manufacturer dry up.

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I Don'T See Any Particular Timeframe
Mar 2, 2018 11:17PM PST

If your current router is doing a good job for you (speed and reliability), I'd continue to use it.

HOWEVER... if there is significant change in your services, I'd definitely take a look. For example, my old router broke and I replaced it with a new one. I did NOT get the fastest out there because the limiting factor for speed was NOT the router, but the cable company. If your cable company only supplies 50 mbps, there is no need to buy anything much faster unless you are doing local area network data transfers (computer to computer, for example). You can always use SpeedTest or other apps to measure your speed, to confirm.
So, if the cable company gives you 100 mbps or higher suddenly, you may want to start newer models. Also, if your router is old, you may want to look at newer models to see if there are new features that you may be interested in. Some allow you to hook a hard drive to the router and use it as a file server.

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First of all it depends ...
Mar 3, 2018 12:21AM PST

... on what it is there for.

In my world there are various versions of "WiFi Routers" with a number of functions, some of which overlap.

Until a few years ago my one and only "WiFi Router" was there to connect my computers to the internet via ADSL. The laptops and phones - which all understood WiFi - and my printer would connnect directly to the router's SSID, my network switch - and through it all computers connected via Ethernet - would be connected to one of the Ethernet ports on the WiFi router. Thus they all gained connectivity to the world, but the WiFi devices also gained connectivity to the machines on the wired network.

Here is where an important distinction comes in: A wired home network today would typically run at 100Mbit/s or even 1Gbit/s. An ADSL line in my neighbourhood can do 4Mbits/s - that's all my Telco can sell me. Fiber is not arund the corner, LTE (at up to 150 Mbits/s if you are lucky) is still quite q bit more expensive if you need volume.

The reason I am explaining this is that for internet connectivity it doesn't matter too much if my ADSL and WiFi router supports all the highest WiFi speeds - the ADSL can't keep up anyway. For connectivity between my computers, however, it does make quite a difference.

The next consideration for how often to replace my router is very compelling: Whenever it is destroyed by lightning - in this neck of the woods that was about every three months recently. Needless to say, I now don't by the most advanced model but rather a cheapie on which I can get a good discount if I buy a sixpack.

In the mid term I am hoping for fiber or I may bite the bullet and go LTE (and some day 5G) for all my connectivity. At the moment I have a little router (or use the one built into my smartphone) as a backup solution when needed. Disadvantage: It is either impossible or complicated to connect the wired machines to the internet with these or the WiFi enabled devices can get to the internet but can't see each other. These solutions also support a smaller number of connections than the "real" router. And reconfiguring the WiFi based printer is a drag ...

But in general, there are two things you can do to stretch the lifespan of your current investment "in the router space." - One is to upgrade the firmware from time to time - especially useful if you are sensitive to security issues and want related bugs fixed. The other is the occasional reboot. Many of us probably get the odd reboot here or there for free - power outages just happen from time to time or, like me, you need to unbox the next router after a lightning strike and then you start at square 1 anyway. Why rebooting helps many an issue? Memory leaks and garbage collection. Back when I learned programming (on "mainframes" with 128 KB of memory and half a MIP) you debugged the memory behaviour of your programs. Nowadays you are encouraged to rely on garbage collection in your environment - which may run smoothly or not, depending on implementation. The software may also collect memory segments it doesn't really need anymore, so as a result you will eventually run out, which makes garbage collection more frequent and your system (in this case your router) still runs, nominally speaking, but it actually just limps along. A reboot will free all the spare memory and your router will appear like new. (Works with PCs on Windows, too - older versions would get their reboots automatically; so does version 10, but in between you had to watch the task manager to see how memory was "wasting away" - Wink

So, in order to have some semblance of "business continuity" people here run things on batteries and inverters, which deprive all these systems of their periodic power failures and corresponding reboots. So do yourself a favour - like MS has a "patch day" treat yourself to a "reboot day" about every four weeks and include all your devices.

Lastly, if you hear about a technology upgrade that you find useful you may want to take that as an incentive to upgrade the router - but then also check, which of your WiFi capable devices can and should be upgraded as well.

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Mar 3, 2018 11:50AM PST

If you are losing the router to lightning that often, you may want to consider using a GOOD surge protector or, better yet, a small UPS battery system (APC, Triplite, Cyberpower, etc.). Don't go TOO overboard on the UPS systems because they raise your electricity usage a LOT. Also, many of them will let you run the telephone lines through them for protection. We have a few of them because we were both doing government work and losing anything at home was not a good option even though we don't live in a lightning-prone area (maybe one storm per year).

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UPS and electric bill?
Mar 3, 2018 3:57PM PST

Do you have any citations that a UPS raises electrical use a lot? There is nothing inherent in the system that should have a substantial effect. My Scientific Wild *** Guess is a few percent difference. And, that's only on the components actually connected to it. A few computers will eat only a few hundred watts the vast majority of the time. That should be a trivial percentage of the electric bill, compared to the a/c, fridge, and oven. And the size of the UPS shouldn't change the electrical usage much, if at all. It just costs more to purchase.

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Trickle Charge
Mar 3, 2018 9:40PM PST

Mine charge 24 x 7. They don't stop charging once the battery is full. Do you have one that has that feature?

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It's in the name
Mar 3, 2018 11:42PM PST

Trickle charge means, yes, drawing electricity all the time. But, very, very little electricity. Keeping an idle battery charged prolly costs single-digit pennies per month. Unless there is something very broken in the circuitry or the battery is old and can't hold a charge.

The UPS designs that run the load directly off the battery will require a bit more power. There are losses in charging and discharging a battery. On the order of 10-20% of the power being drawn, I believe. So, for most computers, that would be the equivalent extra cost below that of an incandescent light bulb. We're still talking costs lost in the noise, in most homes. But, I believe most UPS' use a bypass/quick-switch-over design for that reason. I think that also extends the lifespan of the battery.

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Not quite trickle ...
Mar 3, 2018 11:59PM PST

... but an inverter/battery combo is installed between a power point and the consumer(s). It then passes power through to the consumers, adding a degree of surge protection. It also monitors the incoming power and substitutes from the battery the very moment the incoming power drops or fails completely. This continues until incoming power is restored or until the battery also fails. When the battery is less than full incoming power is used to recharge it, later most models will provide a trickle charge to maintain battery status.

The overall power consumption should be just slightly above what would be used without the inverter and with no power outage. Obviously, if I had a four hour outage without protection I would use less power, but I would also not be able to compute Sad

This sort of thing became extremely popular here when the local electricity provider ran into capacity problems (lack of planning, presumably corruption) and switched everybody's power off for four hours at a time in a rolling blackout scheme. It is much less costly than petrol or diesel generators. It is now also very popular in camping environments.

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I think we just said the same thing
Mar 4, 2018 12:34AM PST

Sure, after a power outage, extra power is needed to recharge the battery. During that portion of time, until the battery reaches full, the effect on cost pretty much exactly mirrors the "power from battery" design I described. The cost to get the battery back to full is on the order of time-the-device-was-running-on-battery + 20%. Example: If it costs $1.00/hour to run the device, and you lose power for one hour, you're not charged for that hour. But, when the power comes back on, to get the battery back full will cost $1.20 over the cost of just running the device normally.

So, if you're in a location that loses power for a substantial amount of time, on a regular basis, and you put lots of your load (more than just a few computers) onto battery, then it is going to cost substantially more for every hour you go without power. Whether it ends up raising your electricity bill depends on what you *don't* put on battery, and thus doesn't run up any power usage during those hours.

But, for most people in the US, the amount of time running on battery is minuscule. Thus, for most people, a UPS trickle charge will not increase electricity costs by a LOT.

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Yes, I go with your numbers
Mar 4, 2018 1:12AM PST

You may have guessed that I am not in the US. Here, when people and organisations needed to adjust to electricty changing to a "now you see it, now you don't" model, quite a few went to fossil fuel generators, which at the prevailing pice of fuel then (including road taxes etc.) was about ten times that of electricity "from the wall." So, using batteries was much more economical - for reasonably small loads. But it failed to produce much of the desired savings, since you picked up what you didn't use during the outage right afterwards. In the meantime the price of electricity has surged up quite impressively. So, the less you use the more you pay for it ...

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Kill O Watt meter
Mar 9, 2018 6:30PM PST

Grab your self a Kill O Watt meter. and you can see the exact usage of every device you need to check.
It is rather surprising how little power many things actually use. I would not concern myself over battery backup/UPS power units usage at all though. The cost/benefit is worth while

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Energy consumption
Mar 9, 2018 7:43PM PST

I have an APC UPS that draws a minimum of 8 watts all the time. It costs me about $1.57 each month to run it.

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Electricity cost per KwH?
Mar 10, 2018 7:19AM PST

What do you pay per kilowatt hour for your electricity? 8 watts for a month is about 5.76 kilowatt hours. I'd pay less than $0.50 for that.

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I consider that a trivial cost
Mar 10, 2018 4:22PM PST

Did you get that 8 watts from running the UPS on its own? Or, did you run the computer without and then plugged in the UPS and ran with? The battery was fully charged when you started the experiment? And it maintained that delta over an extended time? IOW, getting the battery fully topped up and then maintaining that with the trickle charge.

That's obviously a lot higher than my gut estimate. But, it's still a tiny incremental cost to running a computer. In my minuscule opinion.

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UPS could be my culprit
Mar 10, 2018 1:56PM PST

Interesting sub-topic...I have significantly higher electric bills amongst my neighbors in a string of identical condo's and comparable usage habits and can't figure out why. I have always suspected backup batteries but have been told they don't draw much. I have two UPS's -- a large one for PC/Monitor/HDs and a smaller one for router/modem. I'm going to look into a Kill O Watt meter. Thanks for the tip!

And my modem & router is going strong at about 8 yrs old. At the time, I bought the best recommended ones and no issues yet. (when I decided it was a waste to pay the ISP rental)

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If You Don't Want to Find a Meter
Mar 10, 2018 9:28PM PST

Unplug the UPS from the wall (make sure you turn it off properly first) and leave it for a couple of months. See what effect it has on your bill. My UPSes use 1250 to 1350 Watts (different models).

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good idea to unplug
Mar 11, 2018 7:38AM PDT

good idea. I've had that thought before in passing but just never bothered. I just ordered 2 good surge protectors before I unplug. My electric billing cycle starts the 20th of the month. And the heating season is winding down and the a/c season hasn't started. Can't wait to see how low I can go!

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Kilowatt meter
Mar 10, 2018 3:16PM PST

When we installed a new quad-core server at work I was concerned that a 600 watt UPS might not be enough, so we had the maintenance folks hook up an ammeter (which measures the current. We already know the line voltage.)

I was very surprised to find out that under heavy load the server drew less than 200 watts.

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I Really Didn't Want to Drag Everyone Off-Topic
Mar 10, 2018 8:38PM PST

But the one question on UPSes that everyone is missing is, WHAT SIZE AND TYPE OF UPS?

Example: I have three UPS systems in my house that are 1500 VA and draw 1200-1350 watts continuously. They are on 24 x 7. Each one contains 2 "car" batteries (each 12 volt). Why so big? Was the nature of the remote work we did and had to have at least an hour or so of run-time when working from home. Loss of power? You get in the car and go to the office at 2:00 AM as quickly as you can.

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How did you come up with those numbers?
Mar 10, 2018 9:58PM PST

How do you know they draw that much? What did you use to measure that? Is that 1200 for each one? Is that over and above the computer(s) plugged into it?

If it really is 1200 watts then it sounds to me like something is broken in them. Because that implies that the battery is losing somewhere around 900+ watts of storage, continuously. Or, most of the 1200 is being drained off somewhere else. Where is all that energy going?

Because that's an enormous number for just the UPS to keep the battery charged. That's 150 times what Patrick Greenlee has measured with his. It sounds like you're measuring two different things.

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This makes no sense at all
Mar 11, 2018 6:27AM PDT

To maintain a trickle charge on a car battery that is not in use should require less than 1 amp at 13.5 volts or about 13.5 watts. If you have 3 UPS units with 2 car batteries each that is about 80 watts total. Add a little overhead and you are looking at about 100 Watts to maintain the batteries. And even that is high unless you have the batteries sitting on a concrete floor. You must be measuring the total draw through the UPS units which would include everything that you have plugged into them?

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I Think You Guys Are Right
Mar 11, 2018 11:53AM PDT

I got those numbers from the APC and the Tripplite websites for the 1500 VA units that I have.

But I think we can quit using the term "trickle charge" as they don't use that. The term I read was "float charge". All I know is is that one of my units is under constant load (always running) and another one is under reduced load when the PC is not in use. The third is under no load part of the day. (Oh, and one is a Cyber power unit). All three are 1500 va units.

My bad. I may have quoted the wrong figures from the website. I guess I should get a watt-o-meter and confirm real world. Sorry.

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UPS Sytems
Mar 11, 2018 12:27PM PDT

In the end it really depends on the exact type of UPS you have? There are half a dozen different types of UPS systems. If you are interested in learning more go to
All of mine are the standard "Standby" type rated between 1150VA and 1500VA. I use to have a large Tripplite unit that had car batteries but it kept failing on me so I decided to just settle for simply installing more of the smaller units.

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Sealed Batteries
Mar 11, 2018 5:39PM PDT

They ARE 12 Volt batteries and they ARE Lead Acid (sealed). Not Lithium or NiCad (which was my point).

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UPS Batteries
Mar 12, 2018 6:11AM PDT

My Original LARGE UPS was using Standard Deep Discharge Lead Acid batteries like those you would find in marine and golf cart usage.

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I Think you're misunderstanding something.
Mar 11, 2018 10:52AM PDT

As a qualified electrician with 45 yrs. in the trade and a background in electronics I believe you;re misunderstanding something re your UPS units . I've worked with and installed extremely LARGE UPS systems that will keep an entire giant room of servers running..
Most home, small office and even slightly larger ones with car batteries shouldn't draw more than a trickle charge if nothing is plugged into them and if they are working properly.
They will draw a bit more in recharge mode after running on battery however.
UPS units do not Draw 1200-1350 watts in standby mode (even the larger ones).
If you're reading those numbers on the UPS unit somewhere it means that the UPS is capable of handling a LOAD of 1200-1350 watts NOT that it uses that much power.

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I Agree
Mar 11, 2018 11:55AM PDT

I probably read the websites incorrectly. But they use the term "float charge"; not 'trickle'. I'll need to get a meter to check these 1500 va units out. I apologize.