How to Properly Restart a Router & Modem

Rebooting your network devices in the right order makes all the difference

Rear view of a D-Link AC3200 (DIR-890L/R) wireless router


You can restart your router and modem if you suspect that the network isn't working like it should. Maybe web pages aren't loading, or Netflix gets stuck halfway through watching, or your smart speaker suddenly stops playing music.

Whatever the case may be, you can reboot the router to give it some time to cool off and flush away whatever is lingering in the memory. Sometimes, especially with older hardware, just having the router on and working in overdrive for too long is enough to demand a restart.

When to Restart Your Router

Restarting is actually one of most simple troubleshooting steps of all to attempt to fix whatever thing isn't working properly. Does Windows seem a little buggy today? Reboot your computer. Is your iPhone not connecting to anyone's Wi-Fi anymore? Restart your phone and try again.

It borders on annoying when you're describing a problem to your IT department or a tech support agent and they suggest a restart or reboot right away, but the fact is, restarting actually does fix a lot of problems.

So it is with your network hardware, like your digital modem (be it cable, DSL, satellite, or fiber), as well as your router. Did your smartphone and laptop both lose connection to the internet? Is your NAS no longer showing up on your desktop? Are all of your connected devices sluggish when it comes to streaming and browsing online?

If so, it's probably time to reboot your router and modem! In our experience, rebooting network hardware corrects widespread network and internet issues 75 percent of the time or more. Seriously.

Here's the small print, though: you have to restart your router and modem in the right order if you expect it to help! In fact, do it incorrectly, and you could lose connectivity completely, potentially a worse problem than you're dealing with right now.

Follow the short process below, in order, for the best possible chance of having this work. Rebooting in this way should work with pretty much all makes and models of routers and modems:

Steps to Reboot a Router & Modem

Illustration of a modem with the steps to reboot a router on the left-hand side of the image
Miguel Co @Lifewire 

The following process is not the same as a resetting a router or modem. See Resetting vs Rebooting at the bottom of this page for more information.

  1. Unplug both your router and your modem.

    Don't use a button labeled reset, or even restart, since these likely start the factory reset/restore process we just warned you about above. A clearly labeled power button is probably fine to use, but unplugging removes any doubt.

    Advanced: If you have other managed network hardware, like many kinds of network switches, be sure to unplug them, too. Unmanaged devices are probably fine left powered on but use your judgment if you think these might in some way be involved in your issue.

  2. Wait at least 30 seconds. Make a cup of coffee or go pet the dog...just don't skip this step.

    Why Wait? This step might not be necessary if we knew exactly what the problem with your connection was, but restarting your router and modem is the sort of thing you often do when you have no idea what's wrong. This time lets the devices cool down a bit and clearly indicates to your ISP and your computers and devices that you're offline.

  3. Plug the modem back in. Yes, just the modem. If it doesn't power on in the first few seconds, there may be a power button that needs pressing.

    Is This My Modem? Your modem is the device that your physical connection to the internet attaches to. For example, if you have cable-based internet service, your modem is the device that the coax cable from outside your home comes in and attaches to.

  4. Wait at least 60 seconds.

    This wait is very important and one that's often skipped in other "reboot your network stuff" tutorials out there. Your modem needs ample time to authenticate with your ISP and get a public IP address assigned.

    Every modem is different but on most, there are four lights: a power light, a received light, a send light, and an activity light. Better than an arbitrary wait time would be making sure the first three lights are stable, indicating that the modem is fully powered on. If there's also an internet light, you can wait for that to turn on to confirm that the modem is getting internet from your ISP.

  5. Plug the router back in. Like with the modem back in Step 3, some may require that you press a power button.

    If you have a combination modem-router, just skip this step, as well as the next. The software in that device will initiate things in the proper order.

    Is This My Router? The router is always physically connected to the modem, so the other device next to your modem is probably it. Not all routers have an antenna, but many do, so if you see one or more of those, that's probably the router.

  6. Wait at least 2 minutes.

    This gives your router time to boot back up, and your computers, smartphones, and other "downstream" devices that use your network, ample time to get new private IP addresses assigned by the DHCP service in your router.

    Advanced: If you removed the power from any switches or other network hardware, now is the time to power those back on. Be sure to give them a minute or so as well. If you have several devices, be sure to power them on from the outside-in, based on your network map.

  7. Now that your router and modem have been properly restarted, it's time to test to see if the problem went away.

    While it shouldn't be necessary to restart your computers and other wireless devices, you may need to at this point, especially if some of your devices have come online and others haven't. Like with your router and modem, be sure to restart your computer the right way as well. If restarting isn't an option, renew your IP address (execute ipconfig /renew from the Command Prompt).

  8. Your modem or router should be rebooted and working properly.

If rebooting your router and modem didn't fix the problem, you'll need to follow some more specific troubleshooting for whatever your network or internet issue is.

In general, if it appears that your modem is having trouble getting a signal from your ISP (e.g., those first three lights aren't lit solid), contact your ISP for more help. Otherwise, it's time to look closer at your network setup inside your home.

Resetting vs Rebooting

Should you reset or reboot your router or modem? Is there a difference?

There is a fundamental difference between resetting a router or modem and rebooting one. One is much more temporary than the other and both are used for unique purposes.

The directions on this page are for rebooting your modem or router to simply shut them down and then start them back up again without removing any settings or making any changes to the software.

To reset a router or modem is the short version of saying to factory reset the device, which means removing all the wireless settings and other configurations. It basically puts the router or modem back into its original default state before any changes were made to it, which includes reinstating the default router password, clearing the Wi-Fi password, deleting custom DNS servers, and more.

You can reset a modem or router by using the Reset button that's usually located on the back or side of the device. See How to Reset a Router if you can't log in with the default password or if there's a bigger problem with your network hardware that rebooting will not fix.