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Why you should reboot your router regularly (and how to do it)
January 25, 2021
By Jennifer Fossenbell
Did you know that your router is a computer? Just like your smartphone, tablet or laptop, your router has a central processor, memory, and an operating system. But with routers typically on and running 24/7, we tend to place more demand on them than on most other personal electronics — except for maybe our overworked mobile phones.
The importance of router care
Treating your wireless router as the computing workhorse it is may help you understand the importance of maintaining it to keep your WiFi running as smoothly as possible. Like any computer, routers can get flaky or buggy if they are left on for too long, if they overheat, or if the operating system or firmware gets out of date. To keep your router healthy, it’s important to:
We’re used to rebooting our phones and computers. When those devices are not working right, what’s the first thing you do? That’s right — restart it. You should do the same with your router to give it the opportunity to reset and start fresh. Depending on the age and health of your router, this should be done anywhere from monthly to daily.
Is it a modem or a router? Many people use these two terms somewhat interchangeably. A wireless router is the equipment that transmits your internet connection to a WiFi signal that you can use throughout your home. However, these days the router is often combined with the modem,which delivers the internet connection from the provider’s network into your home. With CenturyLink, our modem/router combo is officially called a residential gateway. But you’ll notice we frequently refer to it as a router and occasionally as a modem, the terms preferred by most users.
How to reboot your router on a schedule
Rebooting your router cleans out the device’s short-term memory to keep it running more smoothly. No matter what kind of router you have, it can benefit your WiFi performance to set up a regularly recurring reboot. With newer units, you may only need to reboot it monthly, or whenever it gets bogged down or performance is spotty. For dated routers or ones that seem to be suffering from a system problem, consider rebooting weekly or even daily.
Option 1: Reboot manually
To reboot your router, unplug it (you can remove the power cord from the wall outlet OR from the power port on the back of the router). Wait one minute, and plug it back in. After plugging the router back in, it will usually take another minute or two to reconnect to the network and get fully booted up and ready to go.
Whatever style of modem/router you have, you can do a manual reboot by unplugging the power cable (typically black) from the power port on the back of the router. Shown below are two of CenturyLink's most popular modems, the Greenwave C4000LG (left) and the Actiontec C3000A (right).
Note that it is important to wait long enough. Electrical current can still travel through the circuits (the capacitors, to be exact) for several seconds after the power is disconnected, so to be on the safe side, wait a minimum of 30 seconds to allow the router to fully cycle down and clear its memory. Many sources say to wait one full minute, just to be sure. If you restart the router too soon, you may end up right back where you started.
To do this on a regular basis, simply set an alarm or put it in your calendar to do it every two weeks, every month, or whatever interval works. The manual reboot method works just fine and is manageable as long as you’re not having to do it all the time. One perk of doing it this way is that it might motivate you to move your router to a more central spot and out in the open for easy access, which also tends to boost WiFi performance.
Option 2: Use your modem’s companion app
In the case of a CenturyLink router, once you get connected to the My CenturyLink app, you can use the app to reboot your modem from the other side of the house or even the other side of the country, if needed. You can also schedule it to reboot at a future time. To do this on a recurring basis, you can perform the initial reboot from the app and schedule the next one as soon as it’s finished. Each time it reboots, schedule the next one so you don’t forget.
The My CenturyLink app allows you to reboot your modem from anywhere.
Option 3: Use an outlet timer
A simple plug timer is another way to reboot your router on a schedule. Older, nondigital timers, like the kind used for Christmas lights, tend to have a lower wattage rating. If you only need to manage the router, however, then a lower-wattage option could work just fine. Just make sure you get the grounded kind with a 3-prong plug for maximum safety.
Most plug timers these days are digital and come in the range of 850 to 1800 watts, or enough to handle a major appliance. This is more than you need for a single internet router, but has the benefit of allowing you to plug in a whole power strip so you can reboot your router, smart home hub, and more, all at the same time.
Option 4: Use a smart plug
A smart plug that connects to your wireless network will give you the ultimate flexibility and convenience. These often come with a remote control and/or a paired smartphone app, so you can activate the plug from anywhere in the house and set it up on a custom schedule — biweekly, weekly, every three days, or whatever you find works best for you. And with an app, you can easily modify the schedule if something comes up. Plan to be doing a late-night binge-watching party when your router is normally set to reboot? With a companion app, you can typically just skip or reschedule that occurrence.
If you’re having frequent issues with your WiFi network dropping or giving inconsistent coverage, rebooting your router regularly should help. If, however, you restart your router regularly and are still having problems, or if you get to a point where you’re restarting it multiple times every day — well, then it’s time to consider other solutions. Deeper problems (like faulty hardware or firmware, or a router that can’t keep up with current internet technology) won’t be fixed by turning it off and back on.
The next thing to try is a full reset to see if returning your router to its out-of-the-box settings will help it perform better. You may also consider using one or more WiFi range extenders, if the issue seems to be that your wireless signal is weaker in areas of your home that are farther away from the router.
Otherwise, it might be time to upgrade your router. Like your smartphone and other workhorse devices, this is one that needs to be replaced as technology ages and evolves. So it’s a good idea to think about upgrading every three to five years, or if you’re having consistent WiFi problems and your modem/router is more than a few years old. A new router can make a huge difference in your internet speed and performance, so if you’ve tried everything else, consider updating to a newer model.