The common question of “have you tried turning off and on again” may well help quickly solve any issues you may be having with some pieces of networking equipment and other technology, but does the same apply to your router?
Routers should be left on all the time. They are designed to be left powered on and rebooting them or turning them off regularly can be seen as a connection instability that may affect your Internet speeds. They also don’t cost much to keep powered on due to their minimal power usage.
Let’s look at some of the reasons as to why you shouldn’t be rebooting your router or turn it off completely on a regular basis, like each night when you go to sleep. There may be some benefits to rebooting your router, but I don’t feel they outweigh the convenience that comes with leaving it powered on all the time.
Should You Reboot Your Router?
Some people will say it is worthwhile to reboot your router on occasion or even power it down completely when you head to bed for the night or are leaving your home.
I personally never power down my router unless I am leaving home for an extended period of time, however will reboot it on rare occasions but only if it is absolutely necessary.
If I am experiencing an issue with the router, I will always attempt to find another way to solve it and only reboot it as a last resort.
Here are several reasons as to why I do this and why you shouldn’t need to be rebooting or powering down your own router.
1. They are designed to be left powered on
Just like with network switches and several other pieces of networking hardware for that matter, routers have been designed to be left powered on and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Some will say that frequently switching on and off your router could shorten its lifespan, but to be honest, I am a bit dubious as to whether this really has any long-lasting consequences.
In this modern age, the simple act of powering an electronic device off and back should not reduce its lifespan.
Now if it had a mechanical switch, this would be slightly different as the switch itself could wear out quicker.
Some routers may use a switch as the method of powering it on and off, but being realistic, mechanical switches are designed for hundreds of thousands of uses before it gets anywhere close to reaching the end of its usable life.
At the end of the day, routers are designed in such a way to not require powering down.
Manufacturers will, of course, still offer us the opportunity to reboot them and power them down as there may come a time where you have no choice but to.
However, just because the option is there doesn’t mean you need to take it. This isn’t a justified reason to reboot or power down your router, in my opinion.
2. It can be seen as connection instability
The simple act of switching on and off your router may seem harmless, but this can actually be seen as a connection instability.
What is the consequence of this?
You could well find that your download and upload speeds drop as a way to try and stabilize the connection.
I have noticed this myself in the past when I didn’t have the same knowledge that I have now.
When I was experiencing any issue on my network, no matter how big or small it was, I would always go and reboot the router as the first course of action.
You could probably imagine my surprise when I found my connection speeds to be slower, even just after the reboot had finished.
It didn’t happen all the time, but there were certainly times where my ISP must have dropped my speeds as they saw it as being an unstable line rather than me manually powering it off and back on.
Based on the research I have done since, the odd reboot every now and then probably won’t affect much if anything at all, but when it happens a lot, this is when the alarm bells ring with the ISP and your speeds get dropped to compensate for what they believe to be an unstable connection.
3. Other things can be affected
It is inevitable that turning off your router will prevent your computers and smartphones from accessing the Internet.
At the end of the day, you are removing access to the router which sits between all of your devices and your modem, which ultimately is what gives you access to the wider Internet.
But what about those devices that you may not use on a daily basis but still rely on a Wi-Fi connection to function? What happens to those when the router gets powered down?
The number of Wi-Fi connected devices in our homes has increased ten-fold in the last few years.
Depending on how you have these smart devices setup will determine whether switching off your router will affect your ability to use these basic utilities.
Some particular models of these devices will use what is known as Z-Wave or Zigbee as their method of communication, and these will continue to work even without the router being powered on and a Wi-Fi connection present.
But for most of us, myself included, we will have our smart devices connected over Wi-Fi as it is simply a convenient way of getting everything setup, and not to mention that those devices that use Z-Wave and Zigbee in addition to Wi-Fi are usually reserved for the higher end models which inevitably cost more to buy.
This means that all of these devices that we take for granted and are meant to make our lives easier will actually become more of a hindrance when the router is powered down.
We’ll be left having to resort to the manual method of switching our lights and power outlets on, which really does defeat the object of having these smart devices in the first place.
Certainly in my experience with the devices that I have in my own home, powering the router back on should sort everything out.
Yes, it can take several minutes for everything to get back up and running, but any manual intervention isn’t usually needed.
That being said, there may come a time where your devices lose connection with the router for whatever reason and you have to go back and set them up again.
As you can imagine, this is probably not something you want to be doing, especially if you decide to power down your router every night before you go to bed.
I personally wouldn’t want the hassle of potentially having to spend time setting up my devices again, especially with the number that I have dotted around my home.
What About the Electricity Savings?
A valid argument to power down your router when it is not in use, like when the whole family has gone to bed for the night or there is no one at home to make use of the home network anyway, is around the money you would save on your electricity bill.
In reality, though, routers don’t consume a huge amount of power and are therefore affordable to run, even when left on 24/7.
Wireless routers are usually solid state devices, which means they don’t have any moving parts.
So what does this mean in turns of running costs?
As there is moving that needs powering in order to move, the energy consumption is very low. You can expect your typical router to use, on average, around 6 watts of power.
In the United States, the average cost of electricity is around 13.31 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
A router that uses 6 watts of power and is left on for 24 hours a day will cost around $0.0192 per day and just $7 for the entire year.
Of course the cost of electricity will vary depending on where you live, but at least you have a ballpark figure on how much your router would cost you to run if you never powered it down.
For me, $7 for the entire year to keep my router powered on and available is a very small price to pay for the convenience that comes with it always being accessible.
Is There Any Reason to Switch off Your Router?
Speaking of accessibility, this leads us on to what many people will consider the number reason to power off your router when it is not being used.
There are no doubt security benefits that come with turning your router off, but being honest, if you have a decent router that is kept up-to-date, is configured with security in mind, and you have taken the necessary steps to best protect your home network, this isn’t really something you should be too worried about, in my opinion.
I would recommend checking out my article on 13 Easy Ways to Secure Your Router for some tips on protecting your network if security is something you are concerned about.
The safest, most secure router will always be the one that is never powered on, but this of course also renders it useless.
When it comes to security, it is key to strike a good balance between both security and usability. Generally speaking, the easier something is to use, the less secure it is.
To wrap up this piece on security, if you do what is necessary to protect your home network and make it as secure as you can whilst also keeping it usable and not irritating the family too much, powering down your router in fear that someone may try and access it shouldn’t be much of a concern.
Another reason for powering down your router whenever you reasonably can is due to consumer routers having a tendency to overheat, particularly those cheap ones that your Internet Service Provider will supply you when you sign up with them.
Overheating, and other issues, can occur when they are left on for extended periods of time.
A brand new router shouldn’t have these issues, but it is something you should expect to experience as they age.
If it does come a time where you find yourself having to power down your router due to overheating, rather than continue using this temporary workaround as it will undoubtedly happen again in the future, it may be time to purchase a new one.
Routers are designed to be left on and so there really shouldn’t be any reason for you to power it down.
Regularly restarting or turning off your router can actually cause more problems than it solves, so in my opinion, should only be done when it is absolutely necessary or when you are leaving home for an extended period of time and you know no one will be wanting to make use of it.
It’s not like you’ll even be saving that much money on your electricity bill by powering your router down as they require very little power in the first place.
Network security can be seen as a valid reason to turn off your router when it is not in use when you consider that whilst it is on, there is the potential for others to access it.
Powering it down all the time in fear of someone hacking will seriously affect your usability of the router, so it comes down to balancing both security and usability.
Take the steps necessary to secure your router, like changing the SSID and the default password, and keeping it up to date, and router security shouldn’t be too much to worry about.
Personally, I will only turn my router off when it is necessary to do so, or I know I am not going to be at home for a longer period of time, like if I were to go on vacation.