What to do about a router dropping connections

A former classmate and coworker contacted me with a question.

My router is about 5 years old. I have a cable modem and a router. The cable modem is fine. The router keeps connecting and disconnecting from the internet…used to happen occasionally, now happens all the time. I reset it and it works for a while, then disconnects. Is it time for a new router or do you think something else is going on?

I see two options.First choice: replace it with a $25 Asus RT-N10+, a basic wireless router that does all the right things and is made by a company that knows how to build stuff that lasts. I still have a decade-old computer in the basement running on an Asus motherboard. It’s not useful for a whole lot anymore, but I keep it now just to see how many things in my house it can outlast.

For quality for 25 bucks, I wouldn’t be all that inclined to mess around.

Not all that inclined, of course. Being a tinkerer and a miser, and not necessarily in that order, I thought about other options, too.

There’s a reasonably good chance it’s one of two things: The AC adapter is dead, or the router is overheating.

If you’re like me and have a stash of AC adapters laying around, look for an identical or close-enough replacement, plug it in, and give it a shot. This works if you keep a stash; but if you have to go to Radio Shack, you’ll spend $20 on a replacement. That doesn’t make a lot of sense when you can get a new AC adapter and a new router for $5 more.

That’s why I save AC adapters even when the device they originally powered is no longer good for anything. They’re more likely to fail than the device they power.

Overheating is a bit of a long shot to fix, but I would open it up and see how hot it’s getting inside. A fair number of consumer devices can be fixed just by removing the heat sinks on whatever chips have them, cleaning off whatever heat compound is left on them, properly applying a thin layer of some Arctic Silver, then replacing the heat sinks and reassembling. My 17-year-old nephew has been known to do that from time to time. I was impressed when I heard that.

If it were my router, sure, I’d give that a shot. I just happen to keep a tube of Arctic Silver (or something close enough, anyway) on hand, and I don’t mind taking old gadgets apart. Just ask the Commodore 64 on my workbench.

If you like to tinker, and especially if you have the materials laying around anyway, that’s what I’d try.

If you just want a rock-solid Internet connection again, the fastest and easiest way to get there is to buy the $25 Asus.

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