Old Wi-Fi routers are vulnerable to security vulnerabilities and lack the quality of life updates found in modern routers. Even if you don’t need the bandwidth improvement, upgrading is beneficial.
If your home internet is pretty slow, you may think it doesn’t matter if you have a dusty old router without the latest bells and whistles. Here’s why you should seriously consider upgrading.
First, let’s define old and slow
Talking about a router being old or new, or an Internet connection being slow or fast requires us to define how we are using those terms in the context of this article.
Most routers are usually at least one generation of Wi-Fi technology out of date about five years after their release date. If you bought your router five years ago and it was already an older model at the time of purchase, you’re even further removed from today’s Wi-Fi technology. New, in the context of routers, refers to router models released in recent years; three years from now it’s even better.
And when it comes to “fast” and “slow” internet, that’s pretty subjective with regards to opinions on broadband adoption and personal preference. However, we are looking at fast and slow here as a relationship between the Wi-Fi router hardware and the speed of the Internet connection.
People have asked us, does it matter if I have an old router if I have slow internet? And that’s a perfectly valid question. What does it matter if you have an 802.11n router from the early 2010s with only a 50Mbps or 100Mbps broadband connection that will never completely overwhelm the router? It matters more than you think because the Wi-Fi experience is about more than just speed test results, it’s about a host of router features. Let’s see why.
Old Wi-Fi routers don’t get security updates
Talking about security is not sexy, but security is important. Even if you don’t feel like you care about any of the speed or quality of life improvements we’ll talk about in a moment, the security of your home network should still matter.
The days of turning on the family computer from time to time to send the occasional email or play an offline game are long gone for most of us. Our homes are online all the time in some way, our televisions are connected to the Internet, and people use their home Internet connection and devices for things like banking, securely logging into medical records, and other things. important.
With that in mind, it’s less than ideal to have a super old router that no longer receives security updates. Whatever vulnerabilities are discovered after the last round of updates your router received, you won’t be in trouble. And you won’t be able to use the most advanced Wi-Fi encryption with your devices.
You don’t need a state-of-the-art router to ensure you get security updates, but you do want a newer model that still gets updates (and will for at least a few more years). Router security updates are such a concern to us that we recommend that you dispose of your router when you no longer receive them.
Older Wi-Fi routers have weaker hardware
You may not think much about how much processing power your Wi-Fi router has or what kind of hardware is inside, so before we talk specifically about routers, let’s talk about the problem by comparing it to computers.
Almost everyone has had the experience of upgrading their computer and then been blown away by how pleasant the experience of using the computer was after the upgrade. We’re not even talking about gamers who enjoy enhanced performance in AAA gaming titles or other demanding activities. We are talking about basic day-to-day things like opening files, browsing the web, etc.
Not that writing emails or watching a YouTube video on a 2013-era laptop versus a 2023-era laptop is a fundamentally different activity. It’s just that a decade of hardware improvements and optimizations makes doing it feel faster and more enjoyable.
Your old router likely has a much weaker CPU. It also has less powerful radios that use older Wi-Fi technology. Even the physical ports on older routers can be anemic. Gigabit Ethernet is standard now, but even in the mid-2010s many cheap routers still had basic 10/100 Ethernet ports. Combine that kind of router with faster broadband and you’ll be limping right off the bat.
Sure, you can connect your new iPhone to a ten-year-old router just fine, but that old router won’t be optimized for Wi-Fi improvements that didn’t even exist when it was created.
When you jump from an old router to a new one, you’ll be surprised to see things you didn’t know were router-related, like how fast a web page loads after you send the request or how well social media posts. charging on your phone, have improved a lot. Turns out you didn’t need a new smart TV, you needed a Wi-Fi router that could form a more reliable connection with it.
Old Wi-Fi routers weren’t made for high-density environments
When I installed my first Wi-Fi router back in the 802.11b/g days, I had a handful of Wi-Fi devices in my home, most of which were never on simultaneously, let alone doing demanding things together.
Now, however, I have around 100 devices connected to my Wi-Fi network at any given time. While many of those devices are things like smart plugs, some are high-demand items like smart TVs, phones, and other devices that require reliable, high-bandwidth connections.
The home network landscape has changed, and newer routers are designed with that landscape in mind. Whether you have a basic 100 Mbps connection through your local cable company or a 2 Gbps fiber connection, your router’s ability to juggle dozens and dozens of connections on the Wi-Fi network is crucial.
It’s not just about providing any device with the maximum amount of bandwidth possible, it’s about connection stability and management. Take video streaming bandwidth demands, for example. You only need around 5 Mbps speed for HD video and around 15 Mbps for 4K video.
It’s more important to have a reliable router that can reach the location of your smart TV or phone with a stable signal than anything else, and newer hardware is better suited to bringing that stability to multiple devices simultaneously.
Old Wi-Fi routers lack quality of life improvements
We like to encourage people to think of their router purchases as if they were buying a car. When you’re shopping for a car, you rarely look for the fastest possible car you can buy. Other than buying a performance car for racing, the top speed a car can go is almost completely irrelevant, and most people never drive their car as fast as possible.
What matters is comfort and ease of use. Most of us don’t want a car that can go 200 MPH. We want a car with comfortable seats, semi-autonomous driving with lane assist, room for the things we want to haul, etc.
In that sense, most people don’t need to buy a cutting-edge performance router with a theoretical throughput capacity 20 times greater than their broadband connection. But they should buy a newer router that includes all the quality-of-life improvements we’ve seen in Wi-Fi and router technology over the years.
Newer routers include automatic security updates, so you never have to worry about manually downloading and applying a firmware fix again. Speaking of automation, many older Wi-Fi routers don’t even have Quality of Service (QoS) rules. Or, if they do, you must manually configure them. Newer Wi-Fi routers include automatic QoS settings that can intelligently identify and adapt network allocation based on activities without you even knowing what a QoS rule is.
Wi-Fi optimizations in newer generations of Wi-Fi benefit not only newer devices that can take advantage of specific features like fast roaming, but also older devices on the same network.
If you want to upgrade and aren’t sure where to start, you might want to consider buying a cheap Wi-Fi router. But we also recommend buying a single mesh router. You get a perfectly good modern Wi-Fi router on its own (with great automated features) for about the same price as a budget standalone router. And if you need more coverage, extending your network with mesh nodes is very simple.
Regardless of how you approach the problem, however, it’s worth replacing that old router with an awesome router with modern features and up-to-date security updates.