How Long Do Modems Last? A Complete Guide

How Long Modems Last title page

Many sites will tell you that your modem should be replaced every three to five years.

Honestly, I don’t agree.

From my experience, modems should last much longer before being replaced.

So how long should modems last?

The truth is, it depends.

There are a lot of variables that go into how long a modem will last. One thing I will say with certainty: if you do your homework when selecting your modem and take good care of it, it can last you up to 10 years or longer before being replaced.

You shouldn’t need to replace your modem as long as:

  • Your internet needs don’t drastically change
  • You’re taking care of your modem to prevent it from overheating
  • Your modem manufacturer is providing firmware updates for it
  • You don’t need to change your internet provider

In this post, I’ll break down the reasons why you might need to replace your modem. I’ll also detail what you can do to ensure your modem lasts as long as possible.

When you will need to replace your modem

Before we get into what you can do to make sure your modem lasts a long time, let’s talk about the situations when you’ll need to replace your modem.

By identifying the reasons why you might need to replace your modem, we can determine what steps you can take to avoid these situations.

How to prolong the life of your modem

Your internet needs change

One of the most common reasons that people get a new modem is because their internet needs change. In other words, people need modems that can support faster internet plans.

Why would your internet needs change?

Most of the time, your internet needs will change if the number of people using the internet in your home changes. For example, imagine a new roommate moves in with you or you have a child that will be using the internet (or streaming kid’s TV shows).

This might also come into play if you start online gaming or livestreaming from your house. Your current internet plan may not be able to support this additional internet activity.

So what do you do?

You get a new internet plan that offers more bandwidth. If your current modem can’t support the bandwidth of this new internet plan, you’ll need to get a new modem.

This is a logical reason to replace your modem because if you’re not careful, your modem can limit your home’s internet speeds.

Later on, I’ll explain what you can do to make sure you don’t need to replace your modem if your internet needs change.

Your modem breaks or overheats

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. If your modem breaks, you’ll have to get a new one.

At this point, modems are pretty reliable devices. Your modem won’t usually stop working on a whim (unless it’s really old).

That’s not to say that modems aren’t made with defects here and there. Sometimes there’ll be nothing you can do and you just have to replace your modem because it malfunctions.

Your modem overheating is a different story.

If your modem overheats, it’s possible it may stop working entirely. You’ll have to replace it.

The good news is, you should be able to prevent this from happening. We’ll touch on this later as well.

Your modem manufacturer stops supporting our modem

It may sound strange, but you want this to be the reason you replace your modem. To put it simply, you want your modem to last so long that the modem’s manufacturer stops supporting it.

When I refer to your modem’s manufacturer supporting your modem, I’m talking about firmware updates.

Your modem’s firmware

The software that’s responsible for running your modem is called firmware. This firmware is encoded onto your modem and it can’t be changed unless a new version of firmware is installed. Firmware controls:

  • How your modem handles its connection with your internet provider
  • The startup process it follows when you reboot it
  • What the modem settings page looks like when you access it
  • All other aspects of how your modem functions

Any time bugs are found in the firmware of your modem, your modem’s manufacturer will issue firmware updates to correct them. These updates help to keep your modem firing on all cylinders.

In addition, updates will be released when security flaws are found in your modem’s firmware. This is of utmost importance, as you don’t want to be using a modem that’s vulnerable to hackers.

Manufacturer support

Generally, manufacturers will only stop releasing updates for a modem if it’s really old.

When a modem’s manufacturer stops supporting a modem, it means they won’t fix any more issues that are found in that modem’s code.

This is like an auto shop refusing to fix your car if it’s a certain age.

If any security flaws are found in your modem, you’ll be left to fend for yourself. As a result, you need to avoid this situation entirely. If your modem’s manufacturer stops updating the firmware for your modem, you should get a new one.

If you don’t, your modem’s performance can suffer. More importantly, it may be subject to cyber attacks because its security holes will remain unpatched.

It’s important to mention here that manufacturers usually support their modems for a long time. If you have a newer modem, you have nothing to worry about.

For example, I have a Netgear CM600 modem. On the cover of my modem’s user manual, it displays the year that Netgear started selling this model.

Netgear CM600 User Manual Cover

As you can see, Netgear first released this modem in 2015. As of this writing, they’ve been providing updates for it for the last 7 years with no signs of stopping.

If you take care of your modem as described in the next section, you should expect your modem to last as long as the manufacturer will keep supporting it.

Your internet provider does not support your modem

This one goes hand-in-hand with ensuring your modem gets updated.

If your modem isn’t compatible with your internet service provider (ISP), you should get a modem that is.

Your modem will only receive updates if your modem’s model is supported by your internet provider. Not to mention, if your modem isn’t supported by your ISP, you won’t even get an internet connection. If you’re unsure if your modem is supported by your internet provider, it’s pretty easy to check.

A modem that doesn’t receive updates is a huge cybersecurity risk. Any security flaws in your modem will go unfixed, leaving doors to your home network wide open.

On top of that, a modem that doesn’t receive updates won’t function as well as it should. There’s no way your modem will last a long time if it isn’t running properly.

The same applies if you move or change internet providers.

If your ISP is going to change, you need to make sure your modem is compatible with the new ISP. If not, your modem won’t receive the critical updates it needs.

Take a few minutes to find out if your current modem will be supported by your new ISP. If it won’t, make sure you get a supported modem by the time you start your new internet plan.

How to ensure your modem will last a long time

So you want you modem to last a long time.

Don’t we all.

You increase your chances of your modem lasting a long time if you do your homework when deciding which one to get. If you take care of your modem once you have it, that’ll go a long way as well.

Let’s break down each step you can take to prolong the life of your modem.

Future-proof your modem

The modem you pick for your home internet can have a large impact on your internet experience.

Sure, picking the right modem can ensure you get fast internet, but there’s more to it than that.

If you pick a modem that meets your current and future internet needs, you increase the chances of your modem lasting a long time.

This is also known as future-proofing.

If you buy a modem that just fits your current needs, you may have to get a new one if your internet needs change. A good strategy here is to think about how your internet needs might change.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the number of internet users in my household change?
  • Do I anticipate having greater bandwidth needs in the future (e.g. streaming, gaming, etc.)?
  • What will my upload requirements be in the coming years?
  • Will I be working from home more often in the future?
  • Do I plan on moving far away at some point?

Thinking about these questions in advance will help in your decision-making process when picking out a modem. If you get a modem that will support your internet needs for a long time, you increase the probability that you will have it for a long time.

Also keep in mind that your modem needs to be compatible with your internet provider in order for it to work. This should be the first thing to check when looking at a modem. It doesn’t matter how fast it is if it won’t work with your internet provider.

When it comes to your modem, the upfront planning you do can have a large impact on how long it’ll last.

Ensure good modem placement

Let’s say you’ve done your homework and picked out a modem that’ll fit your internet needs for years to come.

Now what? What else can you do to make sure your modem lasts a long time?

Another factor in extending the life of your modem is all about placement. You might not think it’s a big deal, but where you put your modem is very important.

So what does this mean, exactly?

You’ll want to make sure your modem is in an open area of your house. It should also be free from obstructions. In other words, don’t stack anything on top of your modem or put it near any other heat-generating items (like heaters).

Not only that, you’ll want to make sure it’s off the floor if possible.

Here’s how my modem is set up.

As you can see, it’s off the ground and there’s nothing too close to it.

The importance of airflow

Taking these steps will ensure that your modem gets proper airflow.

Why is this important?

Your modem is an electronic device that is powered on almost 100% of the time. As a result, it will generate a lot of heat. In order to remove the hot air and cool your modem down, it needs air circulating through it.

If it doesn’t get proper airflow, your modem will get hot. If it gets too hot, there’s a chance it could overheat.

In addition, make sure your modem is out of direct sunlight if you can. Sunlight will only make your modem hotter.

If your modem is in a temperature controlled room this is less of an issue. Regardless, this is something you should be aware of.

If you modem overheats, you’ll get slow internet. Even worse, your modem might stop working altogether.

So do your modem a favor. Put it on a table or shelf in an open room where it’ll get plenty of airflow. I promise it’ll pay off in the long run.

Modem maintenance

If you want your modem to last a long time, you need to be maintaining it on a regular basis.

Before you get overwhelmed, let me say that I’m not talking about anything crazy here.

In fact, modem maintenance can be done in a few minutes. Even better news is that if your modem is placed in a good location of your house (as we’ve discussed), you may not need to do any maintenance on it at all.

Ok let’s get on with it. What exactly do I mean by modem maintenance?

The problem with dust

To put it simply, I’m talking about keeping your modem free from dust.

Why is dust such a big deal?

This is directly related to making sure your modem is placed in an open location with proper airflow. If your modem is in a location with bad airflow or it’s on the floor, dust may collect on the inside of the device.

Dust can get inside your modem through the vents that are designed to keep it cool. For reference, here’s a picture of the vents on my modem:

Netgear CM600 modem side vents

All those little holes on the modem serve to promote airflow through the device. If you look closely, you can see through the other side of my modem in some spots.

If those vents get clogged with dust, your modem won’t cool down like it should. As you might have guessed, this can lead to your modem overheating.

What’s promising about this is that there’s an easy fix. This is the maintenance I’m talking about.

How to remove dust from your modem

All you need to do is monitor the buildup of dust on your modem. Every few months or so, free your modem of any dust that has built up inside it.

I know what you’re thinking. How do I do that?

It’s actually really easy. All you need is a can of compressed air like this one.

Just use some short bursts of compressed air to spray air through the vents of your modem. This will help free up and remove any of the larger dust particles.

You may not physically see any dust particles fly out of your modem, but it’s a good practice just to make sure your modem vents aren’t restricted.

Do this every few months or if you can see dust buildup on your modem. It’s a two minute task that will help ensure your modem lasts as long as it should.

It’s well worth the effort.

Ensure your modem’s firmware is updated

There’s one last thing you’ll need to do to ensure your modem will last a long time. You need to make sure your modem gets updated when new versions of software come out for it.

Updating your modem’s firmware will ensure it operates at maximum efficiency. In addition, firmware updates will address any security weaknesses that have been discovered about your modem.

It’s obvious why you would want to keep your modem’s firmware updated. Not only will an updated modem keep your internet connection as fast as possible, but it’ll also ensure it can’t be easily attacked by hackers.

So how do you update your modem? It’s kind of a trick question.

Updating your modem

Keeping your modem updated should be really easy for you. In fact, you shouldn’t have to do anything at all.

That’s because your modem’s manufacturer is responsible for updating it for you.

When your modem’s manufacturer has an update for your modem, they’ll submit the update to your internet service provider. Your ISP will then push the modem update over your internet connection to your modem.

All of this should happen automatically. You won’t even know when your modem is updated.

In this sense, making sure your modem is updated is probably the easiest thing you have to do to ensure it lasts a long time.

How long will a rented modem last?

What if you rent your modem from your internet provider? Will that change anything when it comes to how long it lasts?

If you rent your modem from your ISP, the game changes a little bit. That’s because you don’t have to worry as much about making your modem last a long time.

Confused about this? Hear me out.

When you rent your modem, your ISP will give you a new modem if your rented modem fails. They’ll also provide you with an upgraded modem if the one you’re renting becomes obsolete. This is all included in the monthly fee that you pay for renting your modem.

With that said, you should still take care of your rented modem by following the steps I outlined in this article. If your rented modem is frequently breaking, your internet provider may charge you for a replacement.

If you take good care of your rented modem, it should last just as long as a personal modem. With that said, you probably won’t need it to. You can count on your ISP replacing your rented modem more often than every 10 years.

Wrap up

Here’s the bottom line: if you take good care of your modem, it can last way longer than three to five years. Now you have everything you need to make that happen.

I’d love to hear about your personal experiences with your modems and how long they’ve lasted. Drop a comment below if you’d like to share, or if you have any questions about the above information.

If you found this information useful, check out some related posts I’ve previously written:

Can a Modem Overheat? What to Look For

Does Your Modem Affect Your Internet Speed?

How to Update Modem Firmware: A Complete Guide

Can I Take My Internet Modem to Another House?

Why Do Modems Need to Be Rebooted?

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.

Recent Posts