How Long Do Modems Last?

No piece of technology lasts forever, and at the breakneck rate at which technology is changing, you often feel the need to upgrade your devices after a while, even if there is nothing technically the matter with them. Modems are no different. 

How long do modems last? On average, they last about 4 years. This depends on many factors including the manufacturer (high-quality brands can easily last you 5-6 years), its physical condition, how well you care for it, and installation of proper updates. 

Don’t be surprised, however, if your modem starts acting out after a couple of years – it’s very much possible. In this article we’ll tell you everything about how long modems last, what are the reasons they need to be replaced, how you can tell if yours needs to be switched, and tips for getting the most out of your money. 

So, read on! 

How long do modems last? 

Modems usually last for 2 – 5 years. Sometimes a modem may be in good physical condition, but it won’t work if it hasn’t received necessary updates. Other times, older modems may no longer be compatible with new devices and will require replacement. And thirdly, it is equally likely that the device itself goes bad. 

If your internet connection is suddenly having problems for no other apparent reason, your modem may very well be the culprit. The downside is that it’s hard to troubleshoot these devices on your own and identify what the issue may be. 

If your internet connectivity is degrading, it’s time to call your Internet Service Provider and let them check if your modem needs replacement. 

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) typically provides you a modem on lease, as part of your internet package. It is then their responsibility to configure it and provide 24/7 doorstep customer support to troubleshoot and fix any issues. 

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If it stops functioning, your ISP will replace it. But even if it seems to be functioning fine for the past 2-5 years, it is well worth to get a replacement anyway. 

This is because with the dizzying speed of advancements these days, technology often changes before it stops working. A new modem will have the latest technological upgrades and will let you enjoy a faster and more reliable internet. 

Also note that you have the option of buying a modem outright from an electronics store instead of using the one your ISP provides. If this is the case, these devices have warranties. If the modem malfunctions while it is still covered by the warranty, you can get the modem fixed or replaced entirely by the manufacturer without it costing you anything. 

If the warranty has expired, you’ll have to pay to buy a new modem. 

Why do modems break down? 

You’d be right to ask, of course: why do modems stop working anyway? It doesn’t look like they have to do much work, and they just sit somewhere aloof, aren’t handled much, and are usually kept somewhere that is out of reach for small kids. 

So, what are the reasons a modem’s performance degrades? 

Here are some of them: 

  • All electronic equipment (and any type of equipment for that matter) wears down with time. That’s just the way of the world. Any equipment you use will go through wear and tear and age with use. 
  • Modems can heat up. Any electronic device can heat up, and although your modem is not a device that would produce as much heat as other heavy devices, it does run continuously. 

Imagine leaving your blender, microwave, A.C., or computer running forever. It would heat up, especially if you’re putting a lot of load on it. And heat causes equipment to degrade over time. 

  • Physical wear and dust build up is also a cause of shortening the lifespan of any device. If the device is handled frequently, knocked over by kids, or if it accumulates dust a lot and isn’t cleaned regularly, all this will cause performance to decrease with time. 

Even if you do clean your modem regularly, that only prolongs its life and doesn’t mean it will run forever. Environmental effects will still cause slow aging, and dust can still build up inside (in places which aren’t even possible to clean). 

  • Surges in electricity supply can also damage all sorts of electronic devices like your modem. Fluctuations cause rapid wear and tear, and too high of a surge can burn out your device completely. 
  • Your modem can become outdated. Upgrades in internet technology or new devices coming out might mean that your modem has become obsolete. 

Although by making sure you install upgrades to your modem you can make it last longer, at some point a simple upgrade might not be possible and a complete change of hardware is needed. 

Additionally, even if your old modem is functioning perfectly well for its ability, a newer model that came out might be offering faster internet speeds. So, if you’re excited about even faster internet speeds than what you’re using, it will cost you a new modem. 

How to tell your modem needs replacement 

To replace your modem, you first must be able to identify the signs of a failing modem. Here are some of the problems you will typically encounter if your modem is not functioning properly: 

  • The modem does not turn on at all. That obviously shows it’s busted. 
  • It turns on but is not connecting to the internet. 
  • Internet upload and download speeds are very slow. 
  • Buffering is slow while watching videos in HD. 
  • Stoppage: Your internet frequently keeps disconnecting. 
  • Fluctuations: Your internet speed keeps fluctuating. 
  • Increased ping rate when streaming video games. 
  • You frequently have to reset your modem to get it working. 

Other reasons to replace your modem can be: 

  • The type of modem required to obtain a new service. Your modem may not have that functionality (obsolete). 
  • Your modem is unserviceable, so you have to replace it completely. 
  • You just want even higher internet speeds that come with upgrading to a new modem. 
  • It’s been about 4-5 years to that old modem, and even if it’s still functioning, an upgrade is worth it. (Experts recommend an upgrade every 2 years!) 

What to do when your modem isn’t working 

Before you even call your ISP for help, you should first try to check all the plugs and connections to your modem and take them out and reconnect them. Try plugging the modem into a different power outlet too. 

You should also try turning off the modem and then back on after a couple of minutes to see if this resolves the issue (of course this is only okay if it’s a once in a blue moon thing; if you have to do this frequently, then there’s a problem with your modem.) 

Check other devices (phones, laptops, tablets etc.) in your house. If the internet issue is everywhere then your modem has a problem, but if only one device isn’t functioning properly, then the issue is probably with that device and not the modem. 

If none of this first aid helps, then call your ISP and they will be able to pinpoint the issue for sure. If it isn’t something that is a minor fix, they will tell you if your modem needs replacement and replace it for you. 

What to do if your modem is your own and isn’t leased by your ISP 

In this case, you’ll have to buy a new modem yourself, but your modem must be compatible with your ISP. It’s best to ring up your internet provider and ask them for their recommendations. 

It is also best to check out the features and full reviews of any device online before you actually buy it. That will help you make a better decision. 

Tips to prolong your modem’s lifespan 

Finally, how long your modem lasts also depends on how you care for it. Here are some general tips that can help your modem last longer in the future: 

  • Buy a modem from a high-quality brand/manufacturer. It would cost a bit more, but the performance and life it gives you will be worth the money. 
  • Protect your modem from electrical surges by connecting it with a surge protector, AV regulator, or UPS. 
  • Switch your modem off if you’re not using it for long durations. Although this isn’t really a requirement and modems are built to run constantly, this will let the device cool and can improve its lifespan and performance. 
  • Regularly update your modem. If your modem is rented by your ISP, they should do this for you. Make sure your modem receives updates because it may not function otherwise, even if it’s physically fit. 
  • Keep the modem in a cool, dry place. The modem should not be kept somewhere where high humidity and moisture can affect it, nor should it be placed outdoors under direct sunlight because that will only make it heat up incredibly fast. 
  • Clean it regularly. DO NOT clean it with water, because it is an electrical device. Wipe it carefully with a cloth, making sure to include small and hidden surfaces. You can use a cloth which is only slightly damp but not wet.  
  • Place the modem somewhere it can’t be knocked over frequently or mishandled by children or pets. 

Take care of these little things and your modem should not break down any sooner than its average life expectancy! 

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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