Is It Necessary To Unplug Your Cable Modem For 10 Seconds For It To Work?


Short Bytes: Have you ever witnessed a tech support member request you to turn off the cable modem for at least 10 seconds before powering it back on? Well, you are not the first person to listen to this request, and it goes without saying that there is a reason behind this. If you still haven’t figured out why you’re supposed to do this, then let’s mix some physics and facts together and explain why is it ideal for you to carry this out.

Some tech support members might recommend that you turn off the cable modem for a minimum of 10 seconds before powering it on. Regardless or not they are aware of why this happens, there is a solid reasoning as to why you are recommended to do this, and it all has to do with the way the tiny components and electronics in a circuit behave.

During a discussion taking place at Superuser, one member explained in a very simple, yet very technical manner that modern technology features a lot of capacitors. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one universal purpose; to filter the current flowing through the entire circuit.

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In a way, they are little energy buckets that fill up when you put a current through them and discharge otherwise. Normally, 10 seconds is the minimum amount of time it takes for most capacitors to discharge enough for the electronics they’re powering to stop working. If you happen to own a PC that you’ve assembled yourself, take a look at the motherboard LED indicator if you are able to.

When you power off your PC completely (we actually mean powering it off from the main switch), that LED will take a few seconds before it finally stops illuminating. What is happening here is that the capacitors are discharging current, which if you’re observing correctly, takes a small amount of time to take place, but the LED eventually turns off.

Coming back to modems, fully powering down the device actually depends on how data is temporarily stored in it. Your standard modem or router will have two types of memory:

  • Non-volatile Memory (NVRAM)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)

The modem router boots off the code stored in the NVRAM and then uses the RAM just like your computer would to write temporary variables. When you power down the device and let the electrical charges dissipate, the RAM is wiped, and when you reboot the device, the micro-operating system in the device has clear RAM to use once more.

Does switching the modem On & Off instantly work just as well as using 10 seconds to restart it?

This method might work well for some users and if it does for you, then that is actually a good thing because you will be saving yourself a decent amount of time. However, one core reason this method works just as well as the ’10-second method’ is because the modem’s plug has been completely removed from the socket.

However, not many people pay heed to this step, so for those that want to save a fraction of their time, make sure that you have removed the plug of the modem from the switch completely.

Ideally, it is considered good practice if you follow the ’10-second rule’ to re-plug the cable modem since it helps to increase the lifespan of the capacitors and hence, the lifespan of the device itself. Since a regular user cannot tell if the cable modem uses high-quality capacitors or not (unless you disassemble it and take a peek inside), you should start practicing these steps from now on.

If you have something to add, drop your thoughts and feedback.

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