Does a Router Have to Be Connected to a Computer to Work?

Does a Router Have to Be Connected to a Computer to Work

Routers can be confusing devices, especially if you’re not a technical person. One frequently asked question about routers relates to what they need to function properly. In particular, there is often confusion about whether a router needs to be connected to a computer in order for it to function.

Thankfully, the answer here may be less complicated than you think:

A router does not need to be connected to a computer in order for it to work. Routers are standalone devices that come with everything they need to operate normally. In fact, the only time a computer and router need to be connected is when changes are being made to the router’s settings.

In this post, I’ll detail what routers need to work properly. I’ll also explain the situations when a computer needs to be connected to a router.

Why a Router Doesn’t Need to Be Connected to a Computer to Work

Routers may not look like the most powerful devices in the world, but they actually bring more to the table than you might think.

For comparison, here is my TP-Link Archer A7 router next to my laptop.

Laptop and router

Although they’re smaller devices, routers come with everything they need inside them.

So what does this include mean, exactly?

Inside a router’s housing, you’ll find:

  • A processor (i.e. CPU)
  • Memory (i.e. RAM)
  • Storage

Do these components sound familiar?

They should, because these are the same components you’ll find inside a computer.

Here’s what the inside of a router looks like:

Router internal components

Routers are basically just small computers that coordinate the traffic on your network. This is why they don’t need to be connected to a computer in order to work properly.

They can do everything they need to without being connected to a computer!

As a result, you can think of routers as standalone devices within a network. During everyday operations, they perform their desired functions without needing to be connected to a computer.

With that said, the first time you set up your router, you may want to have a computer connected to it to help configure it. We’ll discuss this more in depth later on.

What Does a Router Need to Work?

Ok, so if a router doesn’t need to be connected to a computer to work properly, what exactly does it need?

As we discussed earlier, a router’s needs are minimal.

Regardless of the situation, a router needs to be plugged into a power source. Without electricity, it wouldn’t be able to carry out its expected functions of routing traffic throughout your network.

If you’re using a router to allow devices on a home network to communicate without the need of an internet connection, this will be all your router needs.

For most people, however, routers are relied upon to provide wireless internet connections to their devices.

In these cases, a router needs a little more. To be specific, in order to provide a wireless internet connection to your devices, a router also needs:

  • To be connected to a modem
  • An active internet plan with an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

To put it simply, your router needs to be given a working internet connection if it’s going to be passing the internet connection on to your devices.

This is the basis of how wireless internet connections work. A modem provides a router with an active connection to the internet, and the router shares that internet connection with the devices that connect to its network.

This is why you’ll always find a modem connected to a router in a home network with an internet connection. The router accesses the internet through the modem, which is connected to the internet.

Here’s a picture of my home network where my modem is connected to my router with an ethernet cable.

Modem and router connected with ethernet cable

The only time you won’t see a modem and router connected with an ethernet cable is if a modem and router are combined into one device. In this case, the modem and router are already connected, and an ethernet cable isn’t needed.

As long as your router has a power source, is connected to a modem, and has access to an active internet connection, it has everything it needs to work properly.

When Does a Router Need a Computer Connected to It?

If a router doesn’t need to be connected to a computer to function properly, why would it need to be connected to a computer at all?

A computer (or other connected device) only needs to be connected to a router when changes are being made to the router’s settings.

These changes include:

  • Changing the name and/or password of the wireless network
  • Updating the router
  • Setting the router to automatically reboot on a recurring schedule
  • Making changes to any other settings (e.g. quality of service, parental settings, etc.)

The bottom line is, any time a change is made to a router, a computer (or other connected device) needs to log in to it. That’s because the router needs to be told by another device what changes need to be made to its settings.

Connecting to a router can be done with either a direct connection via ethernet cable, or by wirelessly connecting to it. Once connected to the router’s network, a user can use the connected device to access the router’s settings through its web interface.

After the desired changes have been made to the router’s settings, the device used to log in to the router no longer needs to be connected to it. The router will save its new settings and continue operating on its own.

Wrap Up

Hopefully you now understand why routers don’t need computers connected to them in order to carry out their normal functions. Although a connected device is needed to make changes to a router’s settings, that will make up a small fraction of the time that the router is in operation.

If you have any questions about this information, please feel free to post a comment below. If you found this information helpful, check out some of the other posts I’ve written on similar topics:

What Router Do I Have? How to Find Out

Should Your Router and Modem Be Close Together?

Does Any Router Work With Any Internet Provider?

How to Update Your Router: The Ultimate Guide

Can I Use a Router Without a Modem?

Ross Ricky

Ross Ricky is an engineer and cybersecurity professional who wants nothing more than for you to get the most out of your home network.

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