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Generally, every three or four years, we suggest you switch to a new router. This reflects how much people usually update devices such as smartphones (every 2 years) and computers (every 3 to 4 years). There is a range of different factors that influence a router’s operational lifespan though. The question in your mind, in short, is how long does a router last?
The short response will be – for several years at least. But in this situation, “several years” can mean five years. It can mean more than ten as well. In principle, given that there are almost zero moving parts in the device, a wireless router might last you for decades. Factors such as cost, maintenance, and technology growth, however, all play a part in a WiFi router’s lifespan.
So let’s take a closer look at a WiFi router’s lifespan, what determines its durability, and what the warning signs are that it’s time to replace your old one.
How Long Does a Router Last?
We’ve already said that it will technically last you a long long time because of the next-to-zero amount of moving components in a router. The general span of a router, however, is assumed to be around five years, give or take. Although, depending on each individual situation, this can vary.
The key factors affecting a router’s lifetime have something to do with how it is maintained, how much it is used and whether its hardware becomes outdated or not. This last aspect is really important, and in a moment we’ll get more into specifics, but you might have a perfectly working 90’s router that just isn’t compliant with the new Wi-Fi standards anymore.
Most internet users today use the Wi-Fi 802.11n of 2009, or the new version, 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) that was introduced in 2014. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the latest release, so there will be a need for router upgrades for those who want to upgrade to higher speeds of transmission of internet data since Wi-Fi 6 is supposedly as fast as 9.6 Gbps!
What are the Things that Affect WiFi Router’s Lifespan?
- A router that has been overused will start to heat up frequently and break earlier than you would like.
- If several users are concurrently hooked to your router, or you frequently use a hard-wired link for heavy data transfers, you need to give your router a break and allow it to cool down.
- A well maintained router can last for several years and will only become obsolete with the emerging technological enhancements. To improve the longevity of your router, you should keep it out of direct sunlight in a dry environment. In addition, avoid taking the cables in and out of the router regularly, as it can lead to premature wear and tear.
- Over the years, wireless network requirements and internet data transmission frequencies have changed. The frequencies used by Wi-Fi protocols have changed to boost performance of users. Routers that came before the 802.11n wireless standard of 2009 don’t deliver the same Internet speed efficiency. So, 802.11n and 802.11ac are the most widely used protocols today.
- Both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies are used by the 802.11n standard, while 802.11ac utilizes only the 5GHz frequency, which is far less congested than 2.4GHz. Also, 802.11ac fares better than 802.11n for simultaneous streaming MU-MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) technologies and uses beamforming, allowing more effective transmission.
- As you can see, the 802.11ac has several benefits over the 802.11n that might enable users to upgrade their wireless router to support the 802.11ac wireless standard, or Wi-Fi 5.
How do you know if you need a New WiFi Router?
Well, when the device is physically broken – that’s the best time to replace it. But all routers do not necessarily break down all at once. Slow performance, weakened range, and other malfunctions are all hints that your beloved router will not last any more.
Another strong indicator when it might be appropriate to replace a router is age. Based on a number, you can’t tell when it’s time, but age has an impact on variables such as general wear and tear, heat damage, and obsolete technology. It’s time to upgrade if your router has gotten to a tipping point in any one of those categories.
If your router lacks a number of the most critical features found in modern routers, then it becomes necessary to upgrade. If you have a lot of room to cover in your house, features such as longer range and mesh functionality is critical.
While the number of USB ports and the connecting NAS devices are also becoming important. Over the years, wireless specifications have also changed, so if your router uses an outdated protocol, it is time for an upgrade.
If you have been using your smartphones, computers, and laptops for more than one, two, or five years, now is a perfect time to buy a new router if you haven’t in the last three years.
The 802.11ac standard is typically used for newer devices, but with an 802.11ac router, you can get the best speeds over long distances. When you remain on a 5 GHz Wi-Fi network for as long as you can, these advantages will be particularly obvious.
Hi, I’m Ian. I’m a Cisco Certified Network Professional and I’m in love with networking. On this blog, I write how-to guides and review Wireless Routers and other network devices. You can check out my website below.