If you have an old router lying around that you no longer need, you might be tempted to sell it or give it away. Fortunately, your old router is unlikely to give away any revealing information about you, but it’s a good idea to reset it before you ship it off.
Here’s what you need to know.
Routers Store Very Little Information
There are many different types of routers that vary in complexity and capability. These include simple network hubs that connect to an external modem, routers with combined ADSL or cable modems, and routers that include built-in 4G or 5G connectivity in case your home internet connection goes down.
Even though the router is designed to route internet traffic to your devices, this data doesn’t remain on the router for long. These devices have very little storage, and their main job is to take data from point A to point B in as little time as possible. Internet traffic isn’t stored or recoverable, and much of it is encrypted anyway.
A router is designed to store only the settings that you can change, including ISP login information, wireless network names and passwords, and rules that you have set up, like which DNS server to use or which ports to open. If you sell your router without resetting it, it’s unlikely that any of this information will be of use to whoever ends up with it.
There could be some identifying information in the settings, like an email address and the SSID (access point name) of your previous wireless network. Services like Wigle are used to create a map of known SSIDs so that a buyer could potentially find out where you lived by looking up the name, assuming that it’s unique.
Since the buyer or receiver of your old modem is going to need to reset it to make use of it, it makes sense for you to do this before you send it off just to cover your bases.
Sell Your Router or Modem After Resetting It
Your router should have a button that you can press and hold to reset it to its factory settings. Some routers even print their factory default settings on the side, including the SSID and the password that you need to set them up.
Take the router and plug it in, and then wait a minute or two for it to start up. Next, you’ll need to use a small, thin object like a paperclip to hit the reset switch located somewhere on the router. The exact steps might differ depending on the brand, but here are some examples:
- Netgear: Press and hold the reset button for around 7 seconds.
- Linksys: Press and hold the reset button for 10-15 seconds.
- D-Link: Press and hold the reset button for 10 seconds.
- TP-Link: Hold the WPS/RESET button until the SYS LED flashes quickly (over 10 seconds).
- Cisco: Press and hold the reset button while powering on the router, and then release after 10 seconds.
If you’re unsure whether the router has been reset, you can test it for yourself by connecting to it and checking the admin panel for any changes you’ve made to the settings.
Old Routers Aren’t Worth Much
Routers are ten a penny, with ISPs often giving them away to new subscribers free of charge. Unless you have something desirable like an old AirPort Express or Mesh wireless system, your old network equipment probably isn’t worth that much.
Rather than turning it into e-waste, consider using your old router as a network switch to improve Ethernet coverage in your house.