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confused about Routers

This is a discussion on confused about Routers within the Other Hardware Support forums, part of the Tech Support Forum category. Hi. Can someone please explain the difference between a digital cable modem and a router? Thanks.


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Old 08-12-2007, 07:00 PM   #1
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Hi. Can someone please explain the difference between a digital cable modem and a router? Thanks.

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Old 08-12-2007, 09:39 PM   #2
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Hi,

Short Answer

A modem gets you connected to the internet. It translates signals sent over the phone line into data that your computer can use.
A router can take that connection that a modem creates, and share it with (or route it to) more than one computer.

You need a modem to get on the internet. You need a router to use that connection on more than one computer at the same time.

The only exception to this is if you are using dialup. A dialup modem sits right in your computer, and uses your phone line while you're online. It's much, much trickier to share a phone line connection, and a router will not be able to split this connection. The easiest way to get a second computer in your house on dialup is to have a second phone line installed in your house.

Long Answer

Hubs, switches, and routers are all devices which let you connect one or more computers to other computers, networked devices, or to other networks. Each has two or more connectors called ports into which you plug in the cables to make the connection. Varying degrees of magic happen inside the device, and therein lies the difference. I often see the terms misused so let's clarify what each one really means.

A hub is typically the least expensive, least intelligent, and least complicated of the three. Its job is very simple: anything that comes in one port is sent out to the others. That's it. Every computer connected to the hub "sees" everything that every other computer on the hub sees. The hub itself is blissfully ignorant of the data being transmitted. For years, simple hubs have been quick and easy ways to connect computers in small networks.

A switch does essentially what a hub does but more efficiently. By paying attention to the traffic that comes across it, it can "learn" where particular addresses are. For example, if it sees traffic from machine A coming in on port 2, it now knows that machine A is connected to that port and that traffic to machine A needs to only be sent to that port and not any of the others. The net result of using a switch over a hub is that most of the network traffic only goes where it needs to rather than to every port. On busy networks this can make the network significantly faster.

A router is the smartest and most complicated of the bunch. Routers come in all shapes and sizes from the small four-port broadband routers that are very popular right now to the large industrial strength devices that drive the internet itself. A simple way to think of a router is as a computer that can be programmed to understand, possibly manipulate, and route the data its being asked to handle. For example, broadband routers include the ability to "hide" computers behind a type of firewall which involves slightly modifying the packets of network traffic as they traverse the device. All routers include some kind of user interface for configuring how the router will treat traffic. The really large routers include the equivalent of a full-blown programming language to describe how they should operate as well as the ability to communicate with other routers to describe or determine the best way to get network traffic from point A to point B.

A quick note on one other thing that you'll often see mentioned with these devices and that's network speed. Most devices now are capable of both 10mps (10 mega-bits, or million bits, per second) as well as 100mbs and will automatically detect the speed. If the device is labeled with only one speed then it will only be able to communicate with devices that also support that speed. 1000mbs or "gigabit" devices are starting to slowly become more common as well. Similarly many devices now also include 802.11b or 802.11g wireless transmitters that simply act like additional ports to the device.


I tryed to explain it as best as i can. If you are confused or have anymore questions just ask.


Hope it helps

Jay

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Old 08-13-2007, 06:12 AM   #3
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Thanks for the short and detailed answers Jaymie.

"You need a router to use that connection on more than one computer at the same time."

Would the same also be true in attempting to run a computer and a voip phone? (assuming that you want to use a real phone and not earphones and a mike)
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Old 08-13-2007, 10:20 AM   #4
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Quote:
"You need a router to use that connection on more than one computer at the same time."
Unless you have the broadband on a modem to 1 computer and you can run a wired cable from there to a hub and to other computer but only wired not wireless.

Quote:
Would the same also be true in attempting to run a computer and a voip phone? (assuming that you want to use a real phone and not earphones and a mike)
Not to sure about that one as i do not use one.
Sorry

Jay
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Old 08-14-2007, 08:27 PM   #5
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also, some newer modems (hughesnet primarily) are supposedly putting 5 port routers built into their satelite modems.
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:11 PM   #6
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If you will notice that many of your telco's modems offer ethernet and usb connections, working as a 2 port router of sorts. IE Speedstream 4200's have this capability and will stand up to use in this manner for a long time, on the other hand the 5200's tend to burn out faster using both ports at the same time with a lot of heavy use.
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Old 03-08-2008, 01:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wannaKnow View Post
Thanks for the short and detailed answers Jaymie.

"You need a router to use that connection on more than one computer at the same time."

Would the same also be true in attempting to run a computer and a voip phone? (assuming that you want to use a real phone and not earphones and a mike)
Did you ever get a good response on this??? This is exactly the question I came here to answer. So far, all my surfing and searching has been in vain. :-(

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