The difference between a router and an access point

Access Point or Router?

I don’t know how many times I have been asked that question, but it is many times. It is really difficult for many people to understand the difference between an access point and a router. Many people go out and buy a router, when it actually was an access point they needed to get the job done.  In this post I will try to explain the difference between a router and an access point and when you need which.

router

Access Point:

You can look at an Access Point as a wireless switch. That is pretty much all it is. It extend an existing network so wireless devices can connect to the network. An Access Point normally doesn’t have any firewall or switch build in. You connect it to a switch and configure the Wi-Fi settings you want. Clients get IP address from the same DHCP server as your wired clients does. It can be a server or your broadband router, doesn’t really matter. If you have a big building/house you want to provide with wireless access you can put up more access points.

Router:

A router is far more complex than an access point. A router is not always a wireless device, but can be. A routers primary task is to route traffic between two networks. For home users, this would normally be you Internet provider and your local area network (LAN). This makes you able to connect to the Internet from multiple devices such at PC’s, PlayStation, NAS, TV and other Internet devices at the same time. If you have a wireless router that not is able to cover the whole building/house and you want to resolve that don’t buy an additional wireless router. Buy an access point instead. Connect the access point to a switch with a long Ethernet cable and configure it for Wi-Fi access. If you buy an additional Wi-Fi router you will have to create an extra IP segment and route all traffic between your two IP segments. That is just extra complexity that doesn’t give you anything good.

Wi-Fi

Conclusion:

I hope this little article helped you to understand the difference between a router and an access point and when you need which one. If you have questions please drop me a comment below.

Thomas
About the author:
I am an IT Professional that has this blog as a hobby project in my spare time. I have been in the IT business since 1996 and want to share some of the thing I have picked up over the years with people who visit this blog...

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5 Responses to The difference between a router and an access point

  1. Aaron says:

    I didn’t think there was much of a difference between them, but now I understand it a bit.

  2. Christa Joe says:

    It is quite a nice and simple explanation provided. It will helps people understand that in order to access router in a large building or area, an access point is the solution and not an additional router.

  3. Akshat says:

    Very clear explanation between access point and router. Do we still have access point in 2016.

  4. Fajar Kurniawan says:

    Thanks for the explaination thomas, I used to think that there is no difference between router and access point … 😀

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