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I've been having problems with my internet connection over the past weeks (intermittent disconnections, slow transfers, etc), and my provider keeps telling me that the problem is not on their end.

I have cablemodem with a wifi router (this router was not provided by them).

The router is quite old (DIR-300), so I'm starting to wonder if it could be the issue and if I should replace it.

Is it possible that it is the cause? Can they become so outdated that they cause intermittent interruptions of service?

If I reset the modem and the router, they work fine for a few hours, but the problems starts again after a while.

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  • Yeah, I've had them fail. It was a "hard" failure, though. And these days old routers are apt to have trouble with the new IPv6 addresses -- even if theoretically designed to handle them some bugs are likely. But note that if the problem is only with wireless then it could be some sort of interference problem. Oct 2, 2012 at 2:48
  • 4
    I usually get a new router every 2-3 years, due to random failures. Oct 2, 2012 at 6:50

9 Answers 9

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Yes.

In general, routers can and do fail. The primary cause of failure for consumer grade equipment is heat stress. Most consumer grade hardware runs far too hot and have respectively poor air cirulation compared to their ventilation needs.

Long-term exposure to heat causes various components to degrade/fail and manifests itself as "intermittent" problems. In general, consumer grade hardware is not as robustly made as commercial or enterprise hardware. But all physical devices are subject to physical effects.

It's not uncommon for consumer grade devices to fail within a few years due to heat or vibration issues. Routers stuck near windows (argh! the sun!), placed on the floor (dust!), or jammed into a bookcase (no air flow) are especially prone to failures. Contrast that with commercial grade devices which are often still working for 10 or more years after their first deployment.

Most cable modems have either an ethernet port or WiFi ability. To isolate the cause of your network problems, you should consider bypassing your router and plugging your PC/laptop directly into the cable modem to see if whether or not you experience the same problems.

Of course, bypassing the router means you bypass the router's firewall protection and NAT abilities so take due precautions on your computer.

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  • I have constated the same failures/overheating among all the consumer-grade routers i have ever bought, be them low-end Netgear or high-end Linksys.
    – mveroone
    Oct 1, 2013 at 7:09
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A (possibly) a good example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

«Any transformation of a thermodynamic system is carried out with increase in entropy including overall entropy of the system and the external environment.»

You wrote:

If I reset the modem and the router, they work fine for a few hours, but the problems start again after a while.

This may be an overheat problem or the overheat is the symptom...

The easiest way to check if the router is Out of Service or near to this inevitable state, you may try with another one temporary (from a friend for example). If this solved the Internet connection problems, you have the answer...

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Entry level D-Link Routers, and older d-link routers are not known to be very stable. They were marginal devices years ago, and they are certainly not appropriate for today's general use with many computers and smartphones connected to fast (>15mbps) broadband.

To answer your question specifically, I worked for an ISP that had D-Link products. While some were decent, if unspectacular, they began failing in large bunches 3-5 years after they were put in use.

As a general rule, if a router needs to be restarted more than once a month, junk it.

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I am in agreement with all comments that I read about heat - poor ventilation design, or poor ventilation on the end-user's part. However, what usually leads to many of what Joan complains about, is simply the newer and higher speeds now capable and whether your router can handle them. I had to 'put down' a perfectly good Netgear wired-only router that was like yours about 3 years old - my provider was trying to offer me 15MBs download speeds and I could only manage 7.5MBs max - Dated hardware - Up until recently, my new Netgear dual frequency wired/wireless router just flies and again so do I.

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I had a similar issue with a DIR-300. From my experiments I assume, that it has issues with portscanners even with the latest firmware.

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Try replacing the power supply before you get a new router. In my experience they fail about 3-4 times as often as the routers themselves.

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  • It has all its lights turned on and works for a while, if there was a problem with the power supply, would this happen?
    – juan
    Oct 2, 2012 at 4:50
  • Replacing the power supply may be more expensive than a new router. Consumer grade electronics are cheap nowadays. Oct 2, 2012 at 6:49
  • JQAn, Yes. I think is has to do with overheating, but I'm not sure. If you have a wall wart with the same specifications it's easy to verify.
    – Chris Nava
    Oct 3, 2012 at 1:33
  • Mike, True. I've spared myself buying a few routers because I save wall warts when I dispose of old hardware and have ready spares when one dies. If your options are buy a new power supply or buy a router for about the same amount, that math is easy. ;-)
    – Chris Nava
    Oct 3, 2012 at 1:35
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TLDR: You should get a modern dual band wireless AC router.

Anything electrical can fail over time. That is probably not what is happening in your case. The router you have currently is two generations behind. 802.11g was followed by 802.11n which was followed by relatively current 802.11ac.

More than that though, the router you have is a single band router. meaning it uses the 2.4ghz spectrum. The 2.4ghz spectrum has 11 channels that are shared by you and everyone else using the same band, which is most routers and modems. The 2.4ghz spectrum has channels that overlap in range, so people on adjacent channels cause interference with each other:

2.4ghz wifi channels overlap

That interference results in your router or device having to drop packets and resend them which slows down your connection and wireless G is already pretty slow. Drop enough packets and you get disconnected from the network, however your device doesn't necessarily know that it was disconnected yet.

Too Long Read Anyway: Get a new router and use the 5ghz wireless band for all your communications. You may need adapters on computers but most mobile devices should support 5ghz at this point.

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Semiconductors are made by adding doping substances to a slice of single crystal silicon. Dopants are atoms with 3 or 5 electrons in the outermost electron shell. This creates, in some regions, extra electron and, in others, extra "hole" (the lack of an electron - a positive charge carrier). The semiconductor effect is obtained by controlling when - and how many - these charge carriers can move freely. The C-MOS technology uses an electric field to allow the charge carrier to move freely - a capacitor with one plate being the metal contact and the other the region called "channel" where the electrons will move from the "source" to the "drain". The numbers in nano-meters mentioned for CPUs are the width of the channel.

The above paragraph seems complicated but is needed to explain something called "electron migration". So, how do we add boron or phosphor to a silicon crystal? Originally they used ovens to heat the crystal and that allowed the dopants penetrate the crystal. Controlling the temperature and time it is possible to create layers with different dopants. These dopants will continue to move inside the crystal but very slowly. The problem is that the speed that they move increases exponentially with temperature.

All this is to explain why semiconductors will always fail eventually and why keeping things cool is important. "Electron Migration" is the name given to the movement of these dopants. Chips can have billions of transistors (though router chips have very fewer) and, therefore, the failure is not sudden - some of the transistors will start to operate out of spec and then some will start to fail. Chips can be so complex that they will continue, in some cases, to function eve with some non-working transistors.

I Don't know the specifics relative to routers but, in general, this mechanism of failure applies to them, also. There are other causes for failure like @John mentioned.

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Of course if you have to reset your router more oftenly, just consider getting a new one. Mine was a Linksys wireless router and my town has temperatures above 40 degrees so it failed so many times.

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