Internet, Networking, & Security Home Networking 75 75 people found this article helpful The Differences Between Routers, Switches, and Hubs by Bradley Mitchell Writer An MIT graduate who brings years of technical experience to articles on SEO, computers, and wireless networking. our editorial process LinkedIn Bradley Mitchell Updated on November 04, 2019 The Ultimate Router Buying Guide The Ultimate Router Buying Guide Introduction Router Basics What Is a Router and How Does It Work? How to Pick the Right Wireless Router Router Standards Explained Modem vs Router Can You Use Two Routers Same Network? Do I Need a Modem and a Router? Routers, Switches and Hubs Explained How to Find Your Router's IP Addresses What Is MIMO Technology? Best Names for Routers & Home Networks Best Placement for Wireless Routers How to Set up a Home Network Router Best Overall Routers Best Wireless Routers Best Cable Modem/Router Combos Best Long-Range Routers Best Secure Routers Best Parental Control Routers Best Routers for Under $100 Best Routers for Under $50 Best 802.11ac Wi-Fi Wireless Routers Best VPN Routers Best Gaming Routers Best By Brand Best Linksys Routers Best Netgear Routers Top Routers Reviewed Google Wifi Review Netgear Orbi Review Netgear C3700 Review Netgear C3000 Review Linksys EA8300 Review Linksys EA9500 Review Linksys WRT3200ACM Review Samsung SmartThings Router Review Asus RT-AC88U Gaming Router Review Linksys AC1900 Review Best Router Essentials Best Wi-Fi Extenders Best Wi-Fi USB Adapters Best Cable Modems Best Powerline Network Adapters Maskot / Getty Images Tweet Share Email Network routers, switches, and hubs are all standard components of wired Ethernet networks. They may appear identical at first. Each is a small plastic or metal box-shaped electronic deviceallows computers to connect to it for the purpose of enabling communication among them via Internet Protocolfeatures a number of physical ports on the front or back of the unit that provide the connection points for these computers, a connection for electric power, and LED lights to display device status Other key characteristics of these devices are what sets them apart. Routers Forward Network Data More Intelligently While hubs, switches, and routers all share similar physical appearance, routers differ substantially in their inner workings and contain significantly more logic. Traditional routers are designed to join together multiple local area networks (LANs) with a wide area network (WAN). Routers serve as intermediate destinations for network traffic. They receive incoming network packets, look inside each packet to identify the source and target network addresses, then forward these packets where needed to ensure the data reaches its final destination. Neither switches nor hubs can do these things. Routers Help Connect Home Networks to the Internet Routers for home networks (often called broadband routers) are designed specifically to join the home network to the Internet for the purpose of Internet connection sharing. In contrast, switches (and hubs) are not capable of joining multiple networks or sharing an Internet connection. A network with only switches and hubs must instead designate one computer as the gateway to the Internet, and that device must possess two network adapters for sharing, one for the home facing connection and one for the Internet-facing connection. With a router, all home computers connect to the router as peers, and the router handles all such Internet gateway functions. Routers Are Smarter in Other Ways, Too Additionally, broadband routers contain several features beyond those of traditional routers such as integrated DHCP server and network firewall support. Wireless broadband routers even incorporate a built-in Ethernet switch for supporting wired computer connections (and enabling network expansion via connecting additional switches if needed). Switches vs. Hubs Switches are higher-performance alternatives to hubs. Both pass data between devices connected to them. Hubs do so by broadcasting the data to all other connected devices, while switches first determine which device is the intended recipient of the data and then send it to that one device directly via a so-called "virtual circuit." When four computers are connected to a hub, for example, and two of those computers communicate with each other, hubs simply pass through all network traffic to each of the four computers. Switches, on the other hand, are capable of determining the destination of each individual traffic element (such as an Ethernet frame) and selectively forwarding data to the one computer that actually needs it. This behavior allows switches to generate less overall network traffic compared to hubs - a big advantage on busy networks. What About Wi-Fi Switches and Hubs? Home Wi-Fi networks utilize routers but technically do not have the concept of a wireless switch or hub. A wireless access point functions similarly (but not identically) to a wired switch.