An Unstable Internet Connection May Be From Low Ram Or A Slow CPU In Your Modem Or Router

More CPU and RAM can mean less data hiccups on heavily used devices, quicker response times, less 'loading' messages, and less buffering

An Unstable Internet Connection May Be From Low Ram Or A Slow CPU In Your Modem Or Router
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November 9, 2018

Your first instinct might be to call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) whenever you have an unstable Internet connection, but the problem might be on your end if you have a router or modem that can't keep up with your needs.

consumer grade modems and routers aren't necessarily the best

You might not think that your brand new router or modem can be the cause of your problems, but it's possible. Most consumer grade routers and modems are designed to handle your basic traffic on the cheaper side. As you go up in price you'll typically, but not always, get better products. You might want the router that costs $50 as opposed to the one that costs $250, but you're probably going to notice some lag or what can appear to be an unstable Internet connection if you cheap out. Better modems and routers have faster Central Processing Units (CPUs) and more Random Access Memory (RAM) than the cheapest products. The more you use your )nternet, the more you'll have a need for better hardware.

a business ISP typically hands out better routers and modems

Consumer ISPs try to keep prices low to attract customers, so if you use their devices you might get stuck with a router or modem on the very basic end, but one that is still capable of most ordinary tasks. A business ISP, on the other hand, gives out business grade equipment, and usually without any rental fees. Business ISPs know that their customers usually have a lot of traffic flowing through their equipment and want that equipment to have the appearance of a stable Internet connection for their customers. So they build or provide devices with faster CPUs that have more cores and more and faster RAM that can handle the various threads and processes going through it with minimal bottlenecks. But you don't have to run a business to get your service from a business ISP.

what's the deal with CPU and RAM in routers and modems?

A router is a router and a modem is a modem, right? Not exactly. Do you remember how slow your computer was ten years ago compared to the faster computer you have now? Computers have CPUs with more cores and faster frequencies than before. RAM is also faster and more of it can be crammed into a single chip, meaning better performance for all the data that gets sent back and forth. It works the same way for routers and modems. Faster CPUs are generally better and may be able to increase your performance. But RAM is typically where most routers fail. More and faster RAM can handle more threads, which is especially important is you have a lot of network traffic going back and forth, such as a lot of devices or even torrenting.

slow response times and lag can give appearance of unstable Internet connection

If you do over-utilize your network, slow CPU and RAM can cause bottlenecks in your network. When you have a bottleneck, something has to slow down. It's just like a lot of traffic on the highway having to slow down when the lanes are reduced for construction. Even though you are still moving, you feel like you're getting nowhere. When your data going back and forth through the modem and router have to slow does or even wait, it can give the appearance of an unstable Internet connection even if the Internet connection is perfectly fine. Everything needs to process through the router and modem before it gets to the final destination, after all. So your frequent buffering might be caused by cheap hardware.

basic Internet users are probably fine with low end routers and modems

If you use your router and modem for check the sports scores or sending an email or two, a basic consumer grade router or modem is probably just fine for you. Several manufacturers still make versions of their old workhorse products, like the old Linksys WRT54G Series routers. These products were great back in the day and still have a cult following. Linksys has revived this old style router with several newer models that feature range and speed improvements and some upgrades CPU and RAM. One of these might be just what you need. You might not even notice any difference if you upgrade your old hardware to one of these devices if you don't over-utilize your network.

power users should consider upgraded routers and modems, and possibly a business ISP

Power users that send large amounts of data back and forth or that have a lot of users and devices accessing data at the same time can benefit from upgraded routers and modems that feature faster CPUs and more RAM. If you don't want to buy new equipment, you can even consider transitioning to a business ISP, which usually has better equipment. Not only is the equipment typically better, but you'll get priority over the non-business traffic in your area during peak demand. So if a bottleneck is happening on your ISP's equipment down the road during peak times, your traffic will get routed first while all the other homes in the neighborhood will have to wait!

rental fees are a good excuse to upgrade

Some consumer ISPs charge rental fees to use their modems and other equipment. If you buy upgraded equipment yourself, you can get better responsiveness and avoid the rental charges. Then the equipment will pay for itself over time!

the final verdict on upgraded CPU and ram in routers and modems

Unless you are a power user placing heavy demands on your network, you probably won't notice much of a difference in upgrading your router or modem. If you have a few kids who are constantly streaming, downloading, texting, snapchatting, etc, you might benefit from upgrading your devices. Or you could use the bottleneck as an excuse to demand they do these things less! Hosting your own email server or web server in addition to doing your home networking? You should probably have something a little better than a basic consumer grade router and modem.