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In order for your home network to function properly, you need to make sure all your devices work with each other.
Your modem and router are no exception.
With that said, do you have to worry about your router and modem being incompatible, or are all routers and modems compatible with each other?
In general, all modems and routers that are made for home networks are compatible with each other. As long as the router has an ethernet cable port to connect to a modem, and the modem has an ethernet cable port to connect to the router, the two devices will be compatible.
In this post, I’ll explain why your modem and router are compatible with each other. I’ll also detail how to confirm that your router will work with your modem. Lastly, I’ll discuss if your modem and router need to be from the same manufacturer in order to work together.
Is Every Router Compatible With Every Modem?
Any router and modem you buy for your home network will work with each other. In fact, your router and modem will only be incompatible in a few specific situations, which we’ll get to later.
The reason why your router and modem are compatible is because these two devices can’t function without each other. Just like in a romance story, they complete each other.
In this case, I mean it quite literally.
A modem can’t provide a home with an internet connection on its own. The same can be said for a router.
They need to work together in complete harmony to provide a home with wireless internet connections. In this relationship, the modem establishes an internet connection with the internet service provider (ISP). The router works with the modem to take that internet connection and broadcast it over a wireless network to the devices in your home network.
This is what enables wireless internet in your home.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
In order for a modem and router to work so well together, communication between the two is key.
Thankfully, the way that modems and routers communicate has been standardized. They communicate with each other over ethernet cables.
This is how you know your router will be compatible with any modem you have. No matter what model router or modem you have, they’ll be speaking the same language (over ethernet cable).
Ok, I’ll stop with the analogies now.
How Do I Know if My Modem and Router Are Compatible?
Let’s walk through a test you can follow to verify that your modem and router are compatible with each other.
As I mentioned in the previous section, modems and routers communicate with each over an ethernet cable.
Ok, but how does an ethernet cable connect these two devices?
We’ll start with the router first.
All routers have what’s called a WAN port. This is an ethernet port that’s specifically designed for the ethernet cable that connects the router to a modem.
Here’s an example on my TP-Link Archer A7 router:
As you can see, this ethernet port on my router is labeled “Internet”. On other routers, this ethernet port will be labeled “WAN”, identifying that it’s for the router’s connection to the wide area network (aka the internet). This is accomplished through a modem.
Ok, let’s take a look at a modem now.
It’s easy to find the ethernet port that’s designed to connect the modem to the router. That’s because there should only be one ethernet port on a modem.
Here’s what the back of my modem looks like:
As you can see, the ethernet port labeled “Ethernet” is the only ethernet port on the device.
With the designated ethernet ports identified on both devices, all that’s needed is an ethernet cable to connect them.
Here’s a reference of how my router and modem are connected through the ethernet ports identified above:
So what does this all mean for you?
This is an invitation to inspect your router and modem.
Both of your devices should have ethernet ports similar to the ones I have on my devices. If both your router and modem have these ethernet ports, they’ll be compatible with each other.
This’ll be the case in almost all situations.
The only way your router and modem won’t be compatible with each other is if one of the devices doesn’t use ethernet cables to communicate. This is possible with some commercial-grade modems made for datacenters (like this one), but I’ve never seen devices like this used in home networks.
As a result, you can rest assured that your router and modem will get along just fine.
Does Your Modem and Router Have to Be the Same Brand?
At this point we’ve established that any router will be compatible with any modem in a home network.
The question is, does this only apply to modems and routers made by the same company? Or will routers and modems from different companies be compatible with each other as well?
The good news here is that the manufacturer of the device has nothing to do with how it communicates.
In other words, whether a router is made by Netgear or TP-Link, it’ll communicate with a modem over an ethernet cable.
This means that you can mix and match your router and modem, regardless of the brand of the device.
Take my home network for example.
I have a Netgear modem and a TP-Link router and they work extremely well together.
This is just another case where you don’t have to worry.
If you’re in the process of buying a modem and router for your home network, you shouldn’t think twice about buying both devices from the same manufacturer. They’ll be compatible with each other regardless.
Hopefully you can breath a sigh of relief in learning about the compatibility of routers and modems. If you have any questions about this information, or you’d like to share you personal experiences about the topic, please leave a comment below.
If you’re interested in learning more about similar topics, check out some of my previous posts: