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Why Does Rebooting Your Router Solve So Many Issues? (and Why You Have to Wait 10 Seconds)


The internet is down, but you know what to do: unplug your router or modem, wait ten seconds, and then reconnect. It’s become second nature at this point, but why does it work? Is there any significance to the ten-second number?

And, perhaps more importantly, is there any way you can stop doing this?

Routers may appear to be mysterious, but they are not. And most problems can be solved if you know what’s wrong.

Related: How to Find the Best Place for your Wi-Fi Router

Your Router Is A Computer

You may not realize it, but your router is a computer. Inside the plastic box are a CPU, RAM, and local storage, all of which are powered by an operating system. And, like a computer, things may go awry at times. Perhaps a flaw is creating a memory leak, the CPU is overheating, or a full-fledged kernel panic has brought the entire system to a halt.

What is the most basic solution to these kinds of computer issues? Switching it on and off.

Every reason that restarting a computer might cure problems applies to your router. You’re not exactly addressing whatever is causing the router to crash, but you are allowing it to function normally again.

Sure, this does not solve long-term difficulties, but it does help in the near term.

Is it Really Necessary to Wait 10 Seconds?

That explains why unplugging is beneficial, but why is it necessary to unplug for 10 or 30 seconds? Have you ever disconnected a device only to watch the power indicator light illuminate for a few seconds? There’s a reason for this, and it’s related to our answer here.

Capacitors, which are simply miniature batteries, are widely used in most electronics. If you’ve ever taken apart a computer or a device, you’ve seen these before.

They don’t have a lot of energy to store, but they can sometimes keep a memory chip going for a few seconds. Waiting 10 seconds guarantees that every capacitor is entirely drained, and therefore every piece of memory is removed. This guarantees that all router settings, including those that may have caused the problem in the first place, are reset.

As previously said, there are several reasons why your router may need to be reset. Because not all of these problems require a 10-second discharge, some can be handled without the wait. However, if you’re debugging a new issue, the 10-second delay might be the difference between functioning and not working.

What Drives Router Failure?

As with any piece of gear, there are several potential causes for your router to fail and require a restart. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Commonplace crashes – As a computer, your router might crash due to defects in the firmware using too much memory or generating a kernel panic.
  • IP address clashes – Your router maintains both private and public IP numbers, and it occasionally fails. Your connection may fail if two devices on your network share the same IP address, or if your router does not have an up-to-date public IP address. Restarting the router clears these IP assignments, allowing things to resume normal operation.
  • Overheating – Your router, like any computer, can overheat and fail, especially if you keep it in an enclosed place to hide it from view.

There are other possible explanations, but these are the most typical. And there are a few straightforward answers for them.

One Option is to Update your Firmware

When your computer has recurring issues, a software solution is frequently the remedy. The same is true for your router: it needs updates as well.

We’ve already covered how to upgrade your router, so we won’t go over it again. However, the process isn’t as difficult as you would think: simply open your web browser, enter your router’s IP address, and click the Update button.

If your router is crashing for a known reason, a firmware upgrade should hopefully repair it. Give it a try.

If your router is no longer receiving updates, you should think about replacing it.

Another Option is to Check for Overheating

Overheating causes computers to crash, and your router is no exception. Consider attempting to solve for heat if unplugging feels hot.

Like your PC, your router probably has vents; make sure they aren’t covered up. If your router is clogged with dust, consider cleaning it with compressed air.

It’s also a good idea to have your router out in the open, rather than tucked away in a tiny cabinet surrounded by other devices. I know routers are unsightly, but they need to be out in the open—it helps with heat management and gives you greater signal range, so it’s a win-win situation.

Temporary Fixes: Reboot Your Router Automatically

Meanwhile, while you’re troubleshooting the issue, you may alleviate some of your rebooting difficulties by restarting your router on a schedule—this way, perhaps, you’ll need to do it manually less frequently.

You have a few alternatives here. You might connect your router to a standard outlet timer, which would cut power at a time you choose and then restore power at a time you designate. You may then configure the router to reboot once or twice a day to keep things running smoothly.

If you’re a bit more adventurous, you may set a script to run on your router that reboots it every now and again, achieving the same thing.

Again, this isn’t a genuine solution, but it’s a good stooge workaround that will save you from having to reset it manually all the time, at least until you discover a real answer.

If Everything Else Fails, Get a New Router

If none of this works, it might be time to swallow the bullet and replace your router. It’s time to move on, just like a computer that won’t quit having difficulties. You’ll get rid of a piece of hardware that is continually failing and gain access to a slew of new functionalities. Seriously, wireless technology has advanced significantly in recent years, so if you’re using an older model, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth by switching to something more current.

And you won’t have to perform the unplug-wait-replug cycle anymore.

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