We are running very fast towards the digital world or in fact, we can say we are dwelling in it right now.
To stay updated we need to stay connected to the internet continuously and for that, we highly depend on WiFi services.
But what if your WiFi router shrinks the performance quality. Do you really think WiFi routers degrade over time? Let’s find out.
Do WiFi Routers Degrade Over Time?
In short, yes WiFi routers degrade over time. By routers degradation, we mean poor quality performance.
If you are using your WiFi router for many years you may encounter a slow WiFi network in your home or office.
Your router may not cover as much area as it was covering previously. Or it may lose connection with your ISP at irregular intervals.
So, What Are The Reasons Behind WiFi Router Degradation?
There are many possible reasons as to why your router delivers slow and inconsistent performance.
But in our understanding, two possible reasons are the heat and the age of the router.
Internal Component Failure Due To Heat
As time passes, routers get aged and they gradually tend to slow down their overall performance.
Routers are small computers that forward traffic and in this, an amount of processing is involved.
These consumer-grade routers are small and cheap that don’t have proper cooling or they don’t have the facility of holding a fan like a regular computer.
During the functioning of the routers, components tolerate a good amount of thermal stress.
Due to poor air circulation and lack of adequate cooling features, their components like transmitters and capacitors wear out or fail over time and this results in loss of connectivity and degraded performance.
But carrier-grade routers come with good heat sinks and fans, they are stored in balanced spaces in rooms where everything is controlled carefully.
So, that increases their lifetime by 10 years. Whereas you can take some measures to slow down the degradation process of small and cheap routers.
You can store or install them away from the window to avoid direct sunlight, don’t store them in a closet with poor ventilation, and avoid putting them on the floor to save from dust.
No Firmware Update
Firmware update is one of the important things that you need to see first before anything.
Firmware runs the router. The whole thing is the operating system of the router. It is very important that your router’s firmware should be updated on a regular basis.
An updated firmware boosts router performance and security. Routers like every other device will eventually reach its life’s end phase.
And at that time the router will have fewer updates and eventually no update from the manufacturer at all. That will lower the router performance and security.
Hackers are always looking for a hole in your operating software and algorithms used to secure your networks.
Software update patches these holes to block hackers entry and if it is not then there is a high risk of attack.
If your router is very old and very close to its end life then there is very little chance of software updates from the manufacturer side. They must not be releasing any update for that particular router model now.
Generally, nearly all routers automatically pop up the latest software version update as soon as it is released.
If you didn’t get any kind of pop up then, it will be better to contact your router manufacturer and ask him for the latest software version they have.
If they give you the latest software version then your router is still good to go for now but if they deny and there is no software update then it might be the correct time to replace your old router with the new one.
Outdated Wireless Encryption Standards
Wireless encryption standards like WEP, WPA, WPA2 or WPA3 are required for securing the network when you’re setting up the wireless network.
There are four types of wireless security protocols:
WEP is Wired Equivalent Privacy, the oldest and the first one to put in a practice designed in 1997. But it is now out of date and no longer used except in older devices.
WEP is the combination of user and system-generated key values and it is popular as the least secure network type. Hackers are already experts in cracking the encryption system.
WPA is Wi-Fi Protected Access is the advanced level of WEP. It is developed to treat the weakness which was found in the WEP system.
WPA introduced Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) with a dynamic 128-bit key which is hard to break.
WPA2 is Wi-Fi Protected Access2 introduced in 2004 and it comes with some great changes. It is packed with more features to take the security to the advanced level.
One of the major changes that it has done is to replace TKIP with CCMP Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol. A much better encryption tool.
WPA3 is a Wi-Fi Protected Access3. It brings some major changes in wireless security in 14 years.
Some major addition is:
- Greater protection for passwords
- Individualized encryption for personal and open networks
- More security for enterprise networks.
So, now if you are using an older router version there are maximum chances that it only supports WPA. And in modern times using WPA is not a very good idea.
It can put your network at risk and it will not only affect your security but also lowers your device performance.
Outdated Wi-Fi Standards
The routers must have the latest WiFi standards that are very important for your gaining range and speed. If your router doesn’t support then you are not getting that performance which you should.
There are various types of WiFi standards and these are set by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
If your router supports the latest WiFi standard then it will have more speed that means it can transmit more data.
A Quick Overview Of Each WiFi Standards
|STANDARDS||RELEASED YEAR||FREQUENCY||DATA RATE|
|802.11n||2009||2.4GHz & 5GHz||600Mbps|
|802.11ac||2014||2.4GHz & 5GHz||1.3Gbps|
|802.11ax||2019||2.4GHz & 5GHz||10-12Gbps|
802.11: It is the original that was created in 1997. It is a non-functional standard supported lightning-fast connection speed of Mbps.
But the devices using this standard have been decommissioned over a decade and are not supported with the latest equipment.
802.11a: This standard was created in 1999 and works on 5 GHz bands. It was created to encounter less interference as many devices use a 2.4 GHz band.
802.11a is quick with a maximum data rate to bounce out at 54Mbps. However, 5GHz frequency often has poor range due to more difficulty with objects that come in signal paths.
802.11b: This standard was created in 1999 with the goal to match those devices that support previous 802.11 standards.
This standard typically uses a 2.4 GHz band and has the power to reach up to 11 Mbps speed. This standard is the reason for getting WiFi popular.
802.11g: This most popular standard was created in 2003. This standard has done a great thing by combining speed and backward compatibility.
It also uses a typical 2.4 GHz band and can cover up to 54 Mbps maximum speed.
802.11n: The version was introduced in 2009 it operates on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz and supports multi-channel usage.
It can reach a maximum data rate of 600Mbps; each channel delivers a maximum speed of 150Mbps.
802.11ac: This is the supercharging WiFi standard introduced in 2014. This standard is mostly used in recent times.
This standard is more advanced that supports MU-MIMO, supports more antennas on a router, and more broadcast channels.
The WiFi speed meter can be 433 Mbps to 1,300 Mbps but it needs a 5GHz band to hit that speed.
802.11ax: You have to wait for this standard to get rollout fully. This standard will give you at least 40 to 50 per cent more speed and performance than 802.11ac.
It is assumed that it will hit the mark of 10Gbps maximum speed and improvement in capacity by adding more broadcast channels, upgrading MU-MIMO, and more.
Below I am providing you a relation between WiFi name and WiFi standards:
- Wi-Fi 6: 11ax (2019)
- Wi-Fi 5: 11ac (2014)
- Wi-Fi 4: 11n (2009)
- Wi-Fi 3: 11g (2003)
- Wi-Fi 2: 11b (1999)
- Wi-Fi 1: 11a (1999)
- Legacy: 11 (1997)
So, it was a short and quick overview of WiFi standards and from that, you can understand which year router supports which WiFi standard.
If your router supports WiFi 3 (802.11g) standard but was manufactured before 2003 then it is probably outdated.
Old routers not only have problems with speed but are also difficult to connect with modern devices.
WiFi 1 and 2 are already dead and WiFi 3 and 4 are in their life’s end phase as WiFi 6 is in the field from 2019.
That’s why if you have an old router then it is now time to replace it with the new one.
Modern routers with WiFi 6 standard (you can click here to see best WiFi 6 router) come with multiple antennas that can handle many devices at a time. They provide outstanding coverage and awesome speed.
Outdated Network Cables
Your network cabling also affects the rate of data transfer. It is very much possible that if your router is old then their cables also. So, it is better to check them.
Ethernet cables are very important for performance quality. Different types of cable deliver different levels of performance.
So, it is very important that the cable should match the system requirements.
We are providing a table below according to their performance:
|CATEGORY||SHIELDING||MAX TRANSMISSION SPEED (AT 100 METERS)||MAX BANDWIDTH|
|Cat 5||Unshielded||10/100 Mbps||100 MHz|
|Cat 5e||Unshielded||1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps||100 MHz|
|Cat 6||Shielded or Unshielded||1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps||>250 MHz|
|Cat 6a||Shielded||10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps||500 MHz|
|Cat 7||Shielded||10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps||600 MHz|
|Cat 8||Shielded||25 Gbps or 40Gbps*||2000 MHz|
As you can see in the table the Cat 5 network cable is the oldest and slowest. If it is still connected with your router then it is better to replace it now.
One of the positive sides of these ethernet cables is that they are interchangeable.
Latest ethernet cables can be used in old routers and old ethernet cables can work with the latest routers.
But it has one major issue: data transfer rates also depends on ethernet cables.
If you plug a Cat 5 Ethernet cable in a WiFi 6 router that has a 10G Ethernet interface then the cable will not transfer that much data as much as the router releases. It will slow down the speed.
And if you connect the Cat 7 cable to the old router then it will definitely not match the data transfer rate.
It is correct that ethernet cables provide flexibility in usage but it is good to match their compatibility with the device to get the maximum.
1. How long do WiFi routers last?
Ans. Generally, it is good and also recommended that an old router should be upgraded with a new one every four to five years but it will be good to limit it to four years.
But yes if the manufacturer provides the latest update for your device then you can still carry on.
2. Do routers get slow other than ageing?
Ans. Ageing is not the only reason for your router’s slow performance, there are few other factors other than that.
- If the router is positioned in an unsuitable position.
- Connection overloads too many connected devices.
- Other WiFi routers interference.
- Virus and other malware.
- Too many WiFi users.
3. Does rebooting the router make it faster?
Ans. Rebooting the router can give some good speed for some time as it cools down and starts over again. But it does not guarantee you better bandwidth.
4. How do you know if your router is out of date?
Ans. There are few signs by which you can assume that your router is out of date.
- The router will not support most modern devices.
- The router may overheat.
- Router indicator light not blinking properly.
- The router stops functioning completely.
- Experiencing irregular or broken connectivity.
- Slow internet speed.
Definitely WiFi routers degrade over time there is no doubt. A software update can solve the issue but if you are using your router for more than three or five years it is better to replace it with a new one.
Tanmoy Misra found his love for tech early in life when he got his first Nintendo (NES) console. He spent many hours blowing into cartridges to no avail until inspiration struck and he started taking apart and rebuilding anything that didn’t work. After dropping console gaming at the end of high school, Tanmoy entered the world of PC online gaming. His love of gaming and problem-solving soon led him to build his computers. As per expertise, he is an ISF-certified video calibrator and covering AV for a number of publications since 2018.