Tech Tip: Deciding When to Use Your Own Router

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Q. If my broadband provider gives me one of those modem-router combination boxes for my service, do I have to use it or can I use my own? What are the pros and cons?

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Using the wireless router provided by your internet service provider can make for an easier tech-support experience, but you may not get as many features as you would with hardware you buy yourself.

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The New York Times

A. In many cases, you are free to use the compatible router of your choice to share the broadband connection, but check with your internet provider first. Some companies may have specific hardware requirements for their service.

Your provider’s support site should have the information posted, as well as advice on the compatible routers (and even modems) you can purchase yourself, if you do not wish to rent equipment as part of your monthly fee. Using a router that is older, has less speed or weaker security than the ISP’s requirements may even invite a monthly surcharge, as some Verizon Fios customers found last year. Some companies have also been known to pelt your browser with pop-ups if you are using your own equipment and it differs from standard setup.

Saving money is one advantage in the column for using your own router. In addition to avoiding rental fees on networking gear, choosing and using your own router can give you more control over your home wireless network. For example, you might be able to get a router with faster transfer speeds or additional features than the standard-issue hardware offers (like the ability to set up a guest network for the people you don’t trust with the password to your main Wi-Fi network). The Wirecutter, a product-recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company, has suggestions for which wireless routers to get if you are shopping around.

If you want to skip the service provider’s modem-router combo unit, you may have to fiddle with its settings and set it to “bridge mode” so your own router can take over. However, if you do not consider yourself enthusiastic about configuring and tweaking networking hardware, using the combination unit supplied by the ISP may be less of a hassle. You may also have an easier time getting help from the customer service department, which may not offer support for third-party equipment.

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