Should a Router Be Left On All the Time?


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For most people, a router is a “set it and forget it” piece of technology. The device that brings Wi-Fi to your home is probably not a gadget you fiddle with frequently. But sometimes you might wonder, “should this thing really be running all the time?” 

Can you leave your router on all the time? Yes, but you will want to reboot your router regularly to prevent internet connectivity issues. There are also people that recommend turning off your router at night or when not in use to conserve power and increase security. 

There isn’t widespread agreement on how much you should turn off your router or if you should at all. While it’s certainly more common to just leave a router running all the time, there are those who adamantly hold that it’s better to switch it off when not in use. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might approach it either way.

Leaving a Router on All the Time is Perfectly Normal

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Almost everyone you know most likely leaves their router turned on the vast majority of the time. We live in a world that is increasingly connected to and dependent on the internet. It’s normal to want to maintain that connection. These are the reasons why you shouldn’t worry about leaving your router running. 

Routers Are Designed to Be Left On

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The manufacturer that designed your router intended for it to be left on. Routers can be left on round the clock without it significantly decreasing their longevity or affecting their performance. It is a good idea to turn your router off and back on again every few months. This can clear up internet connectivity or connection speed issues. Shoot to power cycle four times a year and you should be running at peak performance. 

If you ever run into issues with your Wi-Fi, your first troubleshooting step should be to turn the router on and off again. This may clear up the issue for the same reason that it’s a good part of regular maintenance. Even if you leave your router running day and night, don’t be afraid to switch it off every now and again, especially if it’s acting up.

Turning Off the Router May Switch Off Other Things

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It’s unlikely that your laptop and phone are the only things you have that are using the Wi-Fi in the house. In the age of the Internet of Things, you’ve probably got all kinds of things that are Wi-Fi connected. This means that when the router is shut off, you could struggle to use things as basic as your light bulbs or your shutters, depending on how you’ve got things connected. 

Most of the time, simply turning the router back on will allow these things to instantly reconnect. However, sometimes you may have to go back and manually re-set up equipment that has disconnected from the internet. This can get to be a real chore, especially if you’re switching your router off nightly. Keep in mind that even the things that reconnect automatically will take time to boot back up after you switch the router back on.

Frequently Turning Off Your Router Can Shorten Its Lifespan

Power cycling computers and network devices, like routers, too frequently can shorten the overall life of the equipment. This may not have a huge effect on routers because they don’t use hard drives, which can sustain damage from spinning up and back down too frequently. However, there is some evidence that powering routers on and off can affect lifespan. Don’t worry about it overly much, but it may be worth keeping in mind if you’re considering switching your router off nightly. 

The Case for Shutting Your Router Off

There are advantages to switching off your router more frequently than a few times a year and for a longer period of time than immediately switching it back on. There’s a group of people who swear by turning your router off at night or when it’s not in use. What are the reasons for this viewpoint when it’s so typical for people to allow routers to run round the clock?

Security

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Turning your router off for large periods of the day could help your home internet be more secure. After all, nobody can hack into your Wi-Fi or internet-connected devices if the internet isn’t connected. While your router is unplugged, your home will be immune to internet security threats.

However, experts warn that switching your router off at night is not an excuse for poor network security. Any motivated hacker can be patient and simply wait for you to turn the router back on. You need to make sure that your home Wi-Fi is protected with a strong password and that your equipment is using the most up to date security software. 

Conserve Energy

Your router needs power in order to function. When plugged in all the time, your router will eat up more juice than if it were switched off regularly. Be aware that routers tend to not use up a tremendous amount of energy, so if you’re hoping to significantly slash your power bill, you’ll have to look elsewhere. 

However, energy usage does differ from router to router, so don’t be afraid to monitor the usage on your router to get a sense for how much it’s using. You can get outlet or power strip monitoring gadgets for a reasonable price.

Again, don’t expect massive power savings from switching your router off at night. But, if you’re pinching your pennies or environmentally conscious, this could have an impact. 

Overheating

If you’ve got an older router, you may find that leaving it on for long periods of time causes it to overheat. Overheat may then translate into slower internet speeds or other connectivity problems. While periodically shutting off the router may prevent overheating issues in the short term, this is not a good solution for the long haul. Odds are that you really just need a new router.

Surge Protection

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Another advantage to having the router turned off is that it will be immune to damage from power surges. If the router is off, then power surges won’t affect it. While you may be concerned about an electrical storm damaging your equipment, these things can happen in the middle of the day. It’s likely much easier to simply buy a surge protector and plug your equipment into that. 

Wrap-Up

So, is it really ok to leave your router switched on all the time? Absolutely it is. Routers are specifically designed to run all the time. In fact, you could reduce the lifespan of the router if you’re switching it on and off too frequently. Turning the router on and off can be a pain, and you may have to re-do some of the setup steps on other devices in your home after switching it on again. 

For those that argue in favor of switching routers off at night, security, energy conservation, and the health of the router are primary concerns. There are other ways to address these concerns, which may be more effective. Be sure to use secure password protection, use a surge protector, and if your router is malfunctioning or overheating, just get it replaced. 

In the end, do what makes you feel most comfortable. If you hate being unplugged from the web, then leave it on and don’t worry about it. If you hate seeing dollars and cents go to waste on power for a device that no one is using, then unplug and switch it back on in the morning.

John Hammer

I'm John Hammer. Ever since growing up I've purchased and tinkered with all kinds of tech, gaming gadgets and software applications. To this day my curiosity has never left, and I continue to experience and dive in to the latest excitements of the consumer electronics industry.

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