Signs your modem is going bad

Having a modem is your surest bet to uninterrupted internet access. However, after sometime modems do break down (like any other electronic device). The problem is a sudden breakdown could mean many things. Firstly, it could be a wire connection problem that you can solve or it could be that your modem has outlived its purpose and you may need a good one.

One of the surest signs that your modem is going bad is a sudden stoppage of all its functions. The lights do not turn on even when you properly re-connect your wiring. Complete unresponsiveness of a modem is a signal permanent damage to the modem.

Modems are not created to last a lifetime. After sometime the internal components do wear out and you start experiencing a drop in connections. Overheating can lead to premature deterioration of your existing modem. Age can also be a leading factor in modems going bad. It is recommended that you change your router/modem every four to five years. This enables you to take advantage of emerging technologies and firmware updates.

How to tell your modem is going bad

Indicator lights

Indicator lights

Modems and routers all come with indicator lights that show you the status of the device. You will have multiple lights representing Ethernet connections, power, LAN/WAN connections or firmware updates. One light you should be on the lookout for is the data transfer light. This should shine intermittently whenever you are surfing the net. If the lights stops showing but you are still able to surf the net comfortably then it means your modem is about to go bad.

At times the culprit for the electrical outrage may not be your modem but an existing power socket. You will need to confirm this by changing your power source. Power sockets have a habit of burning/blowing up. You will know your power socket is the problem if you notice any signs of burning or melting.

Sudden stoppage of modem functions

If you are using your modem comfortably then all of a sudden the modem goes off, this can be a telltale sign that your modem is about to go bad. Most of the time this can be a result of interruptions to the power cables, which you can reconnect. However, if all connections are okay but your modem is still not powering on then it is symptom that your modem has completely gone bad. When a router goes bad it makes more economic sense to replace it than repair it. Replacing it means you get a more modern modem and an issues that you had with your previous unit are completely solved.

Before replacing your existing your modem you need to completely rule out the possibility that other things maybe at fault. It does you no harm to change your Ethernet cables and try out some brand new ones. This kind of testing extends to your coaxial power cords. If your modem was supplied by a ISP company you may want to give them a call first before purchasing a new one. At times the problem could be on their end. If you have been using the same modem for four to five years then the risks of breakages is higher than in a newer modem. The risks of your modem going bad are also higher if the firmware is old and outdated. This is because your modem is at a higher risks of getting malware than one with the latest firmware.

Slow data transfers

Another sure sign that your modem is heading to the gutter is slow data transfers. If you have been downloading at high speeds then all of a sudden there is some slowdown in download transfer speeds then the issue could be the modem. However, do not come to an immediate conclusion that the modem is the one that has gone bad. Slow data transfers can be a symptom that your network is congested or your bandwidth allocation has gone down. To narrow down on the modem note whether the problem persists without any signs of improvement.

Varied connection speeds

If you are using a DSL modem you know that that it is going bad if you keep experiencing varied connection speeds. One time you are downloading at 100Mbps then the next moment you are receiving no internet at all. The problem will persist if you are trying to download videos or large files. If you are streaming movies on the net then endure constant buffering issues that were not there before then your modem could be going bad.

Software popups

If you are surfing the internet on your computer then constantly see a pop window announcing that your “network cable is unplugged” and then popup immediately disappears, you could be dealing with a modem that has gone bad. The popup will appear even though you have constantly rechecked your modem connections at a frequency of every 2 to 3 seconds.

Noisy modem

You know it is time to get a new modem when you notice it keeps making a loud humming sound that persists. The noise will continue even though you switch your modem off and turn it back on. You could also be experiencing modem problems if you notice some slight noise whenever you connect it to a telephone jack.

A good modem should perform as normal whenever it is rebooted. To do this you will need to remove the modem backup battery and unplug the device. Leave your modem unplugged for around 10 seconds before restating it. This should refresh it and eliminate any possible errors.

Here is a simple, comprehensive video showing you signs that your modem is going bad

When to replace modem

Indicator lights not showing
Lack of power

Faulty modem

Check your power connections. If they are working well then your modem is outdated and in need of replacement
Sudden stoppage
Power interruption,

Defective internal components

Check power supply. This is a sign modem is faulty and in need of replacement
Varied connection speeds
Problems with ISP provider
Check with ISP provider for possible issues
Noisy modem
Faulty internal components
Try rebooting. If not working replace modem


For most people the average lifespan for their modems/routers is four to five years. Replacement can come sooner if there is a complete shutdown of the modem. Sometimes, repairing an old modem is cost ineffective and you should just purchase a new one with new technologies.

In case you are looking to replace your worn out/outdated modem , here are some of our recommendations:

To upgrade without having to spend to much on multiple devices, check out the Best Modem-Router Combos

Best Netgear modems will give you insignt on some high quality, brand specific modems

Looking for a gaming modem? Check out these 7 Best Modems for Gaming

And finally, check out Best Cisco Cable Modems, Best CenturyLink-Compatible Modems, Best Cable Modems for Cox and Best Cable Modem for Time Warner for a variety of cable modems.


How often should I change my modem?

For most Ethernet, wireless and dual band modems the average lifespan is two to three years.

Does buying a new modem improve speeds?

It may or may not depending on the kind of package you get from your ISP

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