Router vs Switch - What is the Difference?

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Router vs Switch - What is the Difference?

Srijani Ghosh
Last updated on May 22, 2024

    When it comes to creating a small office network, routers and switches are the two most needed components. Also, both routers and switches come under network devices. Many people often get confused between the function of a router and a switch. Well, let us tell you that they are two different networking devices and function differently within a network. During this post you will get to know a deep comparison between router vs switch. A switch connects multiple devices in a network through its ports, whereas a router connects two or more networks. Well, if you want to know how these two networking devices differ from each other, you have landed at the right place. This article intends to make you familiar with the major differences between a router and a switch. Also, it provides you with a brief overview of a router and a switch, along with their features, benefits, and drawbacks.

    Difference between Router and Switch

    So, let us start by discussing the Router!

    What is a Router?

    A router is a networking device intended for receiving, analyzing, and forwarding data packets between computer networks. It acts as an interface between the internet and the devices that connect to the internet. It is responsible for routing the data between the internet and the devices. Alternatively, we can say that a router is a networking device that connects two or more packet-switched networks or subnetworks. A router is responsible for performing two primary functions that are as follows:

    • Creating and maintaining a local area network.
    • Managing the entry and exit of data.

    A router allows multiple devices to connect to the same internet connection. Moreover, it manages traffic between the networks connected to it by forwarding data packets to their corresponding IP addresses .

    Types of Router

    There are two types of routers, namely wireless routers and wired routers or broadband routers. Let us have a brief overview of these two types of routers below.

    1. Wired Router/Broadband Router

    As its name indicates, a wired router is a networking device that creates a wired local area network (LAN), i.e., it uses a cable to connect to the network devices and shares data between them over cable.

    2. Wireless Router

    Unlike wired routers, a wireless router is a networking device that does not use the cable to connect to the different networking devices. Instead, it uses antennas to share data and create a wireless local area network (LAN).

    Features of Router

    The following are the salient features of the router:

    • A router works on the third layer, i.e., the network layer, of the OSI model.
    • It creates various paths to forward data between computer networks.
    • Routers provide high-speed internet to the connected devices with different types of ports, such as fast-Ethernet port, gigabit, and STM link port. Also, users can configure any ports as per their requirements in the network.
    • A router filters out unwanted interference and also performs data encapsulation and decapsulation.
    • The packet handled by routers includes packet priority level, destination address, minimum route delay, least-cost route, minimum route distance, and router congestion level.
    • Routers provide some level of redundancy, and hence, they are less susceptible to catastrophic failure.

    Advantages of Router

    The following are the advantages offered by routers:

    • A router enables multiple devices to connect to the same internet connection.
    • Using a router is the very first step to having a secure network connection. Connecting devices directly to the internet via modem can result in security threats. But it is important to note that a router is not a replacement for an antivirus or firewall.
    • It can reduce the overall network traffic by creating collision domains and broadcast domains.
    • A router provides sophisticated routing, traffic isolation, and flow control.
    • It delivers data packets in an organized way in order to reduce the data load.

    Disadvantages of Router

    Here are some disadvantages of routers:

    • Routers are more expensive than other networking devices.
    • Since multiple devices are connected to the same internet connection, it may lower the speed.
    • Routers use dynamic routing techniques for communication, which may result in network overheads.

    When to Choose a Router?

    You can use a router when you want to connect two or more networks and allow multiple devices connected within those networks to access the internet and share a single IP address.

    What is a Switch?

    In networking , a switch is a device that connects several devices in a network. It receives and forwards data to the destination device using packet switching. In other words, a switch is a networking device that connects multiple devices, such as computers, servers, and printers, and enables these devices to communicate or share resources with each other. A switch has multiple ports that enable multiple devices to connect to it. As soon as a data frame arrives at any port of the switch, it examines the data frame's IP address, performs necessary checks, and sends it to the corresponding device(s).

    Types of Switch

    There are two different types of switches, namely managed switches and unmanaged switches. Let us discuss each of them in detail below.

    1. Unmanaged Switch

    An unmanaged switch is a simple switch used for basic connectivity. It allows you to simply plug and play devices into the network without the need for configuration. Unmanaged switches are ideal to use in small networks or where you require a few ports, e.g., in a lab, conference room, or at home.

    2. Managed Switch

    A managed switch is a more secure switch than an unmanaged switch. It provides greater flexibility than an unmanaged switch because we can configure it to custom-fit our network. Therefore, with a managed switch, we can have better control and security of our network.

    Features of Switch

    The following are the significant features of a switch:

    • A switch runs on the data link layer, i.e., layer 2, of the OSI model.
    • It is considered a multiport network bridge that uses MAC addresses to transmit packets to the destined ports.
    • It forwards and receives data packets from the source to the destination device using packet switching.
    • A switch supports one-to-one (unicast), one-to-many (multicast), and one-to-all (broadcast) communications.
    • It uses the full-duplex transmission mode, i.e., communication takes place in both directions simultaneously.

    Advantages of Switch

    Here are some remarkable advantages of a switch:

    • A switch increases the bandwidth of the network.
    • Since a switch transmits the packet to the destined port only, it reduces the workload on individual host PCs.
    • As a switch reduces the network traffic, it enhances the overall performance.
    • A switch creates a domain collision for each connection, and hence, there will be fewer frame collisions.
    • You can directly connect a switch to workstations or devices.
    • Using a switch for your network will have less casing impact.

    Disadvantages of Switch

    The following are the downsides of a switch:

    • A switch is a more expensive networking device than a network bridge.
    • To handle multicast packets, a switch needs to be designed and configured properly.
    • It cannot determine the network connectivity issues easily and quickly.
    • The mechanical components of a switch can wear out with time.

    When to Choose a Switch?

    You can use a switch when you want to connect multiple devices within a network.

    Router vs. Switch: A Head-to-Head Comparison

    The following table presents the key differences between a router and a switch:

    Router Switch
    The primary goal of a router is to connect multiple switches and their corresponding networks. The primary objective of a switch is to connect multiple devices in a network.
    A router runs on layer 3, i.e., the network layer, of the OSI model. A switch runs on layer 2, i.e., the data link layer, of the OSI model.
    You can use a router in LAN and MAN. You can use a switch in only LAN.
    A router transmits data in the form of packets. A switch transmits data in the form of packets and frames.
    It can perform Network Address Translation (NAT). It cannot perform Network Address Translation (NAT).
    A router works in full-duplex transmission mode. However, we can manually change this transmission mode to half-duplex. A switch works in both full-duplex and half-duplex transmission modes.
    It provides security measures to protect the entire network from security threats. It only provides port security.
    A router can work with both wired and wireless networks. A switch can work with only wired networks.
    By default, a router has two fast Ethernet ports. However, we can add serial ports to a router explicitly. A switch can have multiple ports, such as 8, 16, 24, 48, and 64.
    To find the best route for the destination IP, a router uses the routing table. It uses the Content Addressable Memory (CAM) table for the source and destination MAC addresses.
    Adaptive and non-adaptive routing are the two types of routing. Circuit, packet, and message switching are three types of switching.

    Router vs Switch: Which is Better?

    The primary difference between a router and a switch is that a switch connects multiple devices and networks to expand the LAN, whereas a router enables us to share a single IP address among multiple network devices. In simple terms, a switch creates networks and a router enables the connection between those networks. Most routers have a single LAN or WAN port, whereas a switch has multiple ports, allowing multiple devices to connect and communicate within a LAN. A router allows those devices to access the internet and other networks. Therefore, you can create a network by connecting multiple devices using a switch via its ports. On the flip side, you can use a router to connect two or more computer networks.


    Here we reach the end of the comparison between router vs switch. We have drawn a detailed comparison above so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs. If you want to set up a network at home and connect multiple devices, a switch is a better option. On the flip side, if you want to connect two or more networks, you can go with a router. Hopefully, this article has helped you in picking the right networking device that meets your requirements. You can post your queries or suggestions in the comments section below if any.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Can a switch go before a router?

    There are two ways to install a switch in a network. The first way is to place the switch after a modem and before a router. The second configuration requires placing the switch after a router that is already connected to a modem. Therefore, a switch can go before and after a router.

    2. How many switches can be connected to a router?

    The number of switches connected to a router can be infinite. There is a concept called daisy-chaining which allows you to connect as many switches to a router as you wish.

    3. Do you still need a router if you have a switch?

    Yes, you need a router even if you have a switch. Switches come with no routing facilities. Also, you need a router to mediate between your modem and a switch.

    4. How to increase the number of ports of a router?

    You can increase the number of ports of a router by connecting a switch to it, which consists of multiple ports.

    5. Which is the fastest Ethernet port on a router?

    10 Gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3ae) is the fastest and latest Ethernet port on a router with 10 Gbps or 10,000 Mbps of transfer rate. It is 10 times faster than Gigabit Ethernet.

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