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Our WiFi router has a button that turns it off.

We've just been unplugging it for months without any issues, but its presence makes me wonder if doing so could damage the hardware in the long run.

Should you first power off the router before unplugging it, or is it safe to just keep unplugging it directly when you want to turn it off?

EDIT: For those who were asking for the router details, it's a TP-Link Archer AX50.

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    Depending on your reasoning and connection type, it may be beneficial to leave it powered on at all times! xDSL for example will benefit from a stable / consistent connection.
    – Attie
    Aug 10, 2021 at 12:10
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    Please clarify - is it a little domestic-sized plastic box router-only, or something larger with a full OS, or file sharing, or similar?
    – Criggie
    Aug 10, 2021 at 19:33
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    @Criggie I added the specific model of the router. Not sure if it has its own OS though. Aug 11, 2021 at 1:41
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    Why do you need to turn off this router so frequently?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 11, 2021 at 13:11
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    Sunfish… why switch it off every night? I man, it won't really hurt, but… why? only time mine ever gets powered down is if we have a power-cut… every year or three. i might benefit a reboot every couple of weeks, especially with the teeny tiny brains domestic routers have, but you don't need to tuck it up in bed every night.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 12, 2021 at 15:30

6 Answers 6

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No, you will not damage the hardware by unplugging it. On most of these devices the button is little more than a way to toggle power.

Even if it is, the only thing that powering down really affects is the data not written to disk, and this is a non-issue on routers.

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    With the possible edge exception of routers with USB ports that also work as NAS servers. Aug 10, 2021 at 17:55
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    @Chris-cautiously-optimistic good thought but is there any evidence that the power buttons on routers are able to inform motherboards before they shut down? I suspect they typically can't (being that doing this on a Rasp Pi requires a relatively expensive add-on board). Id imagine most routers would rely on fole system journalling.
    – davidgo
    Aug 10, 2021 at 18:43
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    The power button certainly doesn't, but a Web UI might. Aug 10, 2021 at 19:14
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    Based on my experience as an electrical engineer. if I were designing a router, it would not add significantly to the cost of the design (like less than 25 cents) to make it so that the power switch just informed the CPU of a shutdown request rather than just cutting power. Weather or not its actually done is a different matter (since the user can just unplug things the router has to be tolerant of that anyways).
    – user4574
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:50
  • @davidgo It might cost a bit of money for a power block module but you can do the same thing with any old switch, a couple of leads to the header and a little shutdown script in your scripting language of of choice. I know very little about raspberry in general but found a tutorial and a 25 cent switch on Amazon and wired it up in an hour or two. I did it years ago but here is a tutorial I found when googling if it is interesting to you howchoo.com/g/mwnlytk3zmm/…
    – stoj
    Aug 12, 2021 at 13:25
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Is it absolutely ideal to power off directly at the mains?
No.

Is it really going to do any harm?
No.

The only difference in reality is if the switch on the router itself switches the low-voltage DC rather than the 110/240v AC, but practically, it's not going to hurt anything 999 out of 1,000 times. These things are designed to survive power cuts & moderate surges.

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    I have been switching my Netgear router off at the wall (UK sockets have switches) every night for 6 years, and turning it on again in the morning. It's fine. Aug 10, 2021 at 18:47
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    That router (and every router I’ve ever used) all have external power supplies, so there’s nothing more than 12V going into them anyway.
    – Tim
    Aug 11, 2021 at 6:36
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    @MichaelHarvey Be careful doing that. I am sure that I have heard that that might be seen as a fault on your line and your internet speeds may be throttled. This was certainly the case for an old friend of mine. They stopped doing that and their speeds shot up a week or two afterwards. YMMV.
    – James Hyde
    Aug 11, 2021 at 7:36
  • @JamesHyde It's a DOCSIS cable router, not ADSL via the phone wires. I have been turning them off every night and when away from home since Feb 2001 when I started using cable and always get the speeds I have been paying for. Aug 11, 2021 at 9:40
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    @Ashley - It has always been our habit to turn off things that are not being used. The cable modem/router, the PC, printer, monitor, powered USB hub, all, on a power strip. One switch to turn everything off. Also my wife worries about a fire in the night. Once a cable modem failed with a loud bang like a gun and there was smoke. Aug 18, 2021 at 17:04
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Wall switch-off is fine.

What can be not fine is switching it on at the wall, then unplugging it before the router finishes booting up.

This can (rarely) result in the router losing saved configuration.

It is not common at all, but with the rolling blackouts ("loadshedding") that we experience here occasionally, I am seeing a fair share of otherwise good home routers losing settings due to the power coming on, stuttering, going off again, then coming on as the power get badly restored. Also seeing tons of dead refrigerator compressors, of course, the same power problem is much more deadly to them. But it is generating maybe 10% of my business as IT support person, this issue of routers losing settings.

Usually seen on the low-mid level home routers. Dlink, Netgear, Tplink, etc. Never on the real routers like Cisco or even the more upmarket home stuff like Ubiquity

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Short answer

It depends.

Long answer

Enterprise grade kit

This includes high end hardware routers as well as servers that are running routing functions.

Absolutely never turn off hard, particularly servers. Many devices give the option for a shutdown in their management console, or at very least have a switch on the device. This must be used to protect the device

Consumer grade kit

This includes anything made by TP-Link.

You are probably fine to just unplug the thing. I agree with others that it could arguably be slightly safer to use the onboard power button first but its only a cheapy router and the risk is minimal. Consumer grade kit is designed to be more suitable for novice use in a domestic setting, so the manufacturers do not expect you to care about it too much.

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  • Irrelevant side note: If you are taking interest in your kit, I would suggest upgrading to enterprise kit so that you can learn more about it and potentially earn money with those skills. Aug 11, 2021 at 5:41
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I am using Eero router and there is no power on/off on it. I'd think that if powering on/off is required, such expensive and sensitive equipment would have included it in the first place. So, to answer your question, no, you don't need to. Just unplug from the mains. You will be fine. Hope it helps.

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We've just been unplugging it for months without any issues, but its presence makes me wonder if doing so could damage the hardware in the long run.

We typically only turn off the router once a day when we all go to bed, actually. And when we need to "refresh" it when the internet becomes too slow.

I don't recall where I read it but one of metal's enemies is temperature fluctuation. Starting it up in the morning and powering it down at night creates two daily stresses for the circuitry so you could see the router fail sooner than normal. This is regardless of whether you pull the plug or use the button.

A router generally has no moving mechanical parts so it's not like you're saving it from excessive wear-n-tear by powering it off.

If the Internet becomes slow then yes go ahead and power it off however you wish; hopefully this is not daily.

Unplugging the router from the outlet introduces the risk of arching which can affect the router's internals.

Unplugging the router from the outlet will also wear down your outlet much faster. Have you ever experienced an outlet which is barely able to hold on to the electric prongs? That outlet has been worn down from use over the years and should be replaced.

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