Your living room has been feeling particularly toasting lately and you’ve traced the heat’s source to the Wi-Fi router. While your internet connection is still stable, you have a feeling that this is a symptom of a bigger problem.
Routers overheating is a common problem, but there’s usually a simple solution. However, if you notice that your router is smoking, immediately unplug it before contacting an electrician and the manufacturer’s customer service.
Why is your router overheating and what happens when it does? How can you fix an overheating router?
Keep reading to find out!
- Router Overheating Symptoms
- What Causes a Router to Overheat?
- What Happens When a Router Overheats?
- How To Fix an Overheating Router
- Wrapping Things Up
Router Overheating Symptoms
There are a few physical symptoms of an overheating router to look out for.
A Burnt Plastic Odor
The first thing you’ll notice if your router is overheating is a burnt plastic smell. This is the smell of your router melting from the heat. If you notice a burnt odor in your home emanating from your router, unplug all cables from it as it could cause an electrical fire if left unattended.
There’s Heat Radiating from the Router
You will also notice heat radiating off of your router. This will make the router feel hot to the touch and cause the surrounding areas to feel uncharacteristically warm.
You may also hear a low humming noise coming from your router. This could be the sound of its cooling fans working overtime to prevent the router from overheating and then getting malfunctioned.
The Router’s Hardware Is Failing
Finally, your router’s hardware is continuously breaking down, causing your internet connection to become unstable. This is due to the router’s heat-damaged components being unable to perform their normal tasks, making it impossible to establish a Wi-Fi connection.
What Causes a Router to Overheat?
Let’s go over the top reasons your router is overheating.
Your router may be overheating for a variety of reasons, from its high workload to hardware issues.
The Hardware Is Overworked
If there are frequently several devices connected to your router at one time or download heavy files, your router may be overworked. While most casual Wi-Fi users will not face this problem, people who download large files or stream 4K content may find that their router cannot handle the workload.
So, if your router is overheating after a long day of playing 4K games online, it’s a good idea to disconnect all devices from it for a few hours.
Routers require sufficient ventilation to work properly. So, if your router is poorly ventilated it won’t be able to circulate the heat it creates properly.
Observe your router’s vents (which may look like pinholes or slots) and check if they’re clogged with dust or debris. If you do notice that your router is dusty, unplug it and allow it to cool before carefully cleaning the vents.
Many routers have built-in cooling fans to circulate the hot air. However, these fans can malfunction, causing the router to overheat. If you notice or suspect that your router’s cooling fans are broken, contact the manufacturer’s customer care.
Your router may also be overheating because its environment is too warm. Always avoid placing any technology next to or beneath a heater. The heater’s warmth can quicken the overheating process and even melt the router’s plastic exterior, damaging its delicate internal components.
Like your computer, smart TV, and smartphone, routers also have firmware that must be regularly updated. Some firmware updates feature bugs in the software that can have negative effects on the hardware, such as overheating.
New firmware updates often seek to resolve these problems, so it’s a good idea to keep your eye out for them if your router is hot, slow, or malfunctioning.
Excess Heat from Wireless Devices
Other wireless devices in your home, like your phone, release radio waves or radiation that can contribute to your router overheating. While these wireless devices may not be the primary cause of your router’s overheating problem, they can certainly contribute to it.
So, it’s best to verify which devices in your home release trace amounts of radiation and put them in a different room.
After several years of service, it may be time for your router to retire. In addition to overheating, older routers tend to be incompatible with new firmware, making it impossible to install the latest updates.
Their internet connection also tends to be inconsistent and it becomes easier for hackers and malware to gain access to your devices.
Additionally, old routers struggle to deliver a constant, strong internet connection, causing users to frequently experience buffering and internet outages.
You may also find that the router’s provider no longer makes or supports your router model. This will make it nearly impossible to keep it up to date or have it fixed.
What Happens When a Router Overheats?
Overheated routers’ internet connection is often inconsistent.
Your router’s Wi-Fi signal may frequently drop, especially when performing high bandwidth tasks, such as streaming or downloading.
When the internet is working, the connection may be extremely slow and unstable. While one webpage could load instantly, another could take several minutes to appear.
Webpages may also freeze or become unresponsive, making simple tasks such as sending an email take twice as long as they should.
How To Fix an Overheating Router
Follow our tips and tricks to fix your overheated router.
We’ve compiled a list of the best solutions to try if your router is overheating, all of which can be done at home with minimal technical skills.
Remember, if your router has overheated to the point of smoking or melting, skip the following solutions and simply unplug it from power before seeking professional help.
Let’s get started!
Your router may have overheated from its high workload, so allow it to cool off by restarting it.
To do this, press its Power button (if applicable) before unplugging the power cord. Leave it unplugged until the router is cool to the touch.
Then, plug the power cord back into a wall outlet and allow it to reboot.
Alternatively, you can restart your router by only leaving it unplugged for 30 seconds before turning it back on. However, if your router is excessively hot, we recommend leaving it unplugged until completely cool.
It’s also a good practice to turn your router off whenever you’re not using it. This will also help extend its lifespan.
Ensure It’s Ventilated
Place your router somewhere air with good ventilation, rather than a crowded shelf or closed cabinet. Allow a few inches of free space around each side of the router and ensure nothing is laying on top of it.
If your router is dusty, clean it with a compressed air duster and soft brush, ensuring you blow/brush the dust out of the vents, rather than deeper into the hardware. Also, turn off and unplug your router before doing so, as compressed air is flammable and may react to the device’s heat.
Once you’ve tried moving and cleaning your router, turn it on to see if it continues to overheat. If it does, then bring it to a professional to have its fans checked.
Broken cooling fans can be replaced or supplemented by an external fan, placed on the outside of the device near its vents.
Watch the video below demonstrating how to make your own router cooling fan at home.
Update the Firmware
As discussed, pending firmware updates can cause your router to overheat. So, it’s a good idea to manually check for new updates to install.
This can be done by accessing your router’s IP address in a web browser.
Please note that firmware updates may be unavailable for older routers.
Let’s learn how to update any router’s firmware!
Step 1: Find your router’s IP address, usually located on the back of the router. Then, type this address into a web browser on your computer.
Step 2: If you’ve entered the IP address correctly, you will be brought to a login page. Enter your router’s login credentials, also found on the back of the device.
Step 3: Head to Firmware Update or Router Updates and allow your router to install the necessary updates, which could take a few minutes. This is a delicate process, so do not unplug or turn off your router until this process is complete.
If none of the above solutions have fixed your router’s overheating problem, it may be time to purchase a replacement.
Most routers only last about five years, with lower-quality models expiring sooner.
If your router is fairly new and in need of replacement, contact the provider’s customer care to inquire about the warranty policy. In some cases, the provider will fix or replace your old router for free.
Wrapping Things Up
Routers tend to overheat from high workloads, poor ventilation, pending firmware updates, additional heat sources, and age.
If your router is regularly overheating, restart it, allow it to cool, and check that its vents are grime free. It’s also a good idea to place your router somewhere with sufficient air circulation.
You may also need to fix or replace its cooling fans. In some cases, external cooling fans may be added.
Check for firmware updates every few weeks and replace your router when needed.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to replace your router every three to five years, though this timeline will vary depending on the device’s workload and general quality.
Has your router ever overheated? What did you do to fix it?
Let us know in the comments below!
Yesenia Achlim is a technical copywriter and editor with a focus on AV equipment. She aims to break down complicated topics and make technology accessible, no matter your technical expertise. When she’s not teaching you how to replace a projector lamp, you can find her reading and baking.