HomeTechnologyNewsHow often should you update your Wi-Fi router?

How often should you update your Wi-Fi router?

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Jason Fitzpatrick / Instructional Geek

You should update your router every 3-5 years to ensure access to new Wi-Fi technology, improved hardware, and ongoing security updates.

Nobody likes spending money, and it’s easy to ignore your home Wi-Fi router until you die of old age. But there are plenty of good reasons why you should upgrade your router before then. Let’s take a look at them and how often you should update.

Here’s why you should upgrade your Wi-Fi router

Before we discuss router replacement schedules, let’s first talk about why the humble Wi-Fi router is worth upgrading. In the world of technology, there are often clear and easy to understand pivotal moments where upgrading seems like the obvious thing to do with clear and tangible benefits.

For example, the jump from basic cell phones to smartphones had a clear benefit. Same with the jump from standard definition televisions to high definition models. Those changes were easy to understand and see with your own eyes.

Even upgrading from an older smartphone to a newer one is easy to justify when you look at the bigger, brighter screen, improved battery life, and fast app load times. It’s the things under the hood that are easy to miss, like the improved Wi-Fi radio on the phone.

This is exactly why poor Wi-Fi routers often collect dust for years and years while everything else in the house upgrades around them. But there are plenty of (often ignored) signs that you should upgrade your Wi-Fi router. Here are some compelling reasons why your old router is long overdue for an upgrade.

New Wi-Fi routers get years of security updates and support

Older routers do not receive security updates. Whatever security flaws are still there when the latest update is released, they will be there until the day the router is finally retired.

And it’s not just Wi-Fi security you should be concerned about, although an upgrade to WPA3, the best Wi-Fi security you can use right now, is always a good thing.

For most homes, the Wi-Fi router is an all-in-one network device that handles both the Wi-Fi access point and the security and routing of the entire network. So if your router is seriously outdated with unpatched vulnerabilities, you don’t just have to worry about the kid next door stealing your Wi-Fi and torrenting movies. It’s also the Internet side of the router, which is ultimately a bigger problem, since the potential attacker doesn’t even need to be within range of your Wi-Fi router to cause trouble.

People should be just as surprised and concerned about vulnerabilities in old Wi-Fi routers as they are about vulnerabilities in old Wi-Fi cameras.

New Wi-Fi routers can handle all your devices

Your home most likely has more devices than when you purchased the router. The days when the average household had a laptop and maybe A first smartphone that connects to Wi-Fi has passed for most people.

Now, it’s not unusual for each person in a home to have multiple Wi-Fi devices, and then for the home itself to have multiple devices (Wi-Fi smart thermostats, smart speakers, smart plugs, smart home devices, and more) all online all day. time. time.

Not all devices in the modern home are bandwidth hungry (although many are), but they all need a constant and stable connection. What good are smart Wi-Fi security cameras or smart locks if they are constantly disconnecting from the network?

New Wi-Fi routers offer wall-to-wall coverage

The limited range of older Wi-Fi routers wasn’t much of a problem when you probably weren’t using devices out of range. If your router only had enough range to cover part of the first floor of your house, then chances are you’d just take care of that and use your laptop in the kitchen or living room instead of upstairs in bed.

But now people have devices located throughout their homes that need reliable internet access (like smart TVs and smart speakers). And people want to use their devices throughout their house and even in their garden. I can’t speak for everyone, but wall-to-wall (and even property line to property line) Wi-Fi coverage is a must for me. If I’m in my house or yard, I want to be connected to my Wi-Fi.

Upgrading to a newer Wi-Fi router, especially a mesh system with multiple access points, is the only way to make that happen if you have an older, underpowered Wi-Fi router.

You should upgrade your Wi-Fi router every 3-5 years

It’s one thing to highlight the benefits of upgrading your router, but how often should you do it? Updating every year would be overkill and a hassle. Upgrading when you’ve had a router for so long that it doesn’t get security updates and keeps disconnecting your newer devices from the network is waiting too long.

We recommend that you upgrade your Wi-Fi router every 3-5 years. In the short term, three years is plenty of time for incremental improvements to existing Wi-Fi standards and hardware. If you have a home with demanding users and lots of devices, and you want the most up-to-date router hardware and software, then upgrading every three years is a good plan.

At the longer end, five years is roughly the length of each Wi-Fi generation. At a minimum, you should update your router every five years to ensure it still receives security and quality of life updates that fix performance bugs and improve features.

After about five years, hopefully your router won’t get frequent (if any) updates. Both the hardware and capabilities of the router will be lacking compared to newer equipment.

For the sake of discussion, let’s look at a theoretical Wi-Fi router upgrade path over the past few decades to highlight how even perfectly good routers take time and need to be replaced eventually.

It’s 2005. You recently bought a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and would like to play around with some early Wi-Fi products. You buy the venerable Linksys WRT54G router along with millions of others around the world. It’s a great little 802.11b/g (Wi-Fi 3) router and can handle the modest demands of your home.

Five years later, it’s 2010. You have more Wi-Fi devices in your home, and 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) launched in 2008. Wi-Fi 4 features a wide range of improvements, including speed increases, longer range and greater Wi-Fi channel width. Wi-Fi 4 was also the first generation of Wi-Fi to support MIMO (Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output) for more efficient connections. So upgrade to a Wi-Fi 4 router.

Five years later, it’s 2015. 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) has been available for a year now and includes support for faster and more numerous connections, improved MIMO, including initial support for Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) and beamforming. for improved coverage. Those are all pretty good updates, and you update your Wi-Fi router.

Five years later, it’s 2020. At this point, Wi-Fi 5 is six years old, Wi-Fi 6 came out in 2019, and Wi-Fi 6E was announced. Wi-Fi 6 is a significant advancement over Wi-Fi 5 and includes improvements to the way Wi-Fi 5 devices are handled on the Wi-Fi 6 network, along with improvements for native Wi-Fi 6 devices and a emphasis on superior experience in high-density Wi-Fi environments. It can easily be argued that Wi-Fi 6 is the first generation of Wi-Fi designed with the smart home and high-density “everyone has a tablet, phone, and laptop” home environment in mind. It also includes the first major upgrade to Wi-Fi encryption in 16 years: WPA3.

So at this point, in early 2023 when we wrote this article, if you’re using an old 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) or 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) router, you’re leaving about a decade of Wi-Fi improvements behind. -Fi is on the table, and chances are your home network and overall Wi-Fi experience is suffering for it. Now is the perfect time to upgrade your router to a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E model for a modern 2020-era Wi-Fi experience.


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