Difference Between Router and Switch

In today’s fast-moving technology environment, the most important aspects which form the backbone of electronic communication is the connection of devices or system networks.

The most common networking devices used are a Router and a Switch.

Though both terms are used synonymously and may look similar, there is a strong difference between these two concepts as they perform different activities in the networking world.

Router vs Switch

The main difference between Router and Switch is that Router enables the computer or system to get connected with multiple networks simultaneously, while Switch enables connections to various devices simultaneously.

Router vs Switch

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between Router and Switch (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonRouterSwitch
Basic PurposeConnects different networksConnects devices such as hardware (printers, copiers)
Type of DevicePurely a networking deviceNetworking device plus software
How is the data sent or transmitted?Form of the packet in full-duplex modeForm of packet plus frame in full or half-duplex mode
Is WAN Port available?YesNo
Whether it can be used for WAN Networks?YesNo. It can only be used for LAN networks.
Whether compatible with NAT (Network Address Translation) or PAT (Port Address Translation)?YesNo
In which layer it works?Works in the network layerWorks in the data link layer
What is the address used for transmission?IP Address is usedMAC (Media access control) address is used
Availability of PortsTwo ports by default with the flexibility to add more portsIt comes with different port types such as 8, 16, 24, 48 and 64.
Which is the Table used?Routing Table usedCAM (Content addressable Memory) table
Type of broadcast domainEvery port will have its domainWill usually have one broadcast domain
Time is taken for routingLess timeMore time especially in case of complex scenarios
ManufacturersThere are more manufacturers for RouterFewer manufacturers
Common TypesAdaptive, Non-adaptiveCircuit, message and packet switch
ExamplesWireless or wifi router, virtual router, core router (which distributes internet data within a network)Managed switch, LAN switch, unmanaged switch


What is Router?

A router is a device that connects multiple networks. A router can also identify the IP address of the network devices so connected.

In simple terms, the Router enables the connection of local networks to other networks or ‘routes’ the traffic between the network devices and the internet.

A router forwards data packets between networks which helps in the connection.

The router also assigns local IP addresses to the network devices which enables data packets to move appropriately.

A router helps in providing quick internet availability. A router enables directing the traffic in the network and also finding and efficiently delivering the same.

Also, in certain cases such as MAN or WAN, a Router is an important component and preferred choice.

The router comes in multiple variants such as wireless routers (which will receive and transmit information to/from the internet) or wired routers which will be connected to the system through wires. Also, there are virtual routers, core routers, edge routers.

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What is Switch?

A switch is a device that enables the connection of multiple devices such as computers, servers, scanners, printers, within the same network. The switch enables the sharing of information among the connected devices.

The switch also helps in resource sharing. In simple words, a Switch can be considered as hardware that filters and takes forward the system bundles or maybe even the data from one communication equipment to another.

A switch is a key component of any network system. The switch will allow different connection points of a network to communicate with each other smoothly and efficiently.

The switch can create multiple sequences of instantaneous network connections.

The switch can come in various types such as unmanaged switches (which require no configuration, only plugin required), managed switches (which require configuration but which also provide the added benefit of security features and other flexibility).

Also, there could be different types of switching such as circuit switching, message switching, packet switching, virtual packet switch, datagram switching.

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Main Differences Between Router and Switch

  1. The router is utilized to connect multiple communication systems (one local network to another local network). The switch is utilized to connect multiple devices on a network.
  2. The router uses IP (internet protocol) address for the transmission of data. The switch uses the MAC address for the transmission of data.
  3. The router can contain 2 ports by default, though serial ports can be added later. The switch will come in ports such as 8, 16, 24, 48 and 64.
  4. Router by default is in full-duplex mode though can be changed to half-duplex. The switch can be used in half plus full-duplex mode.
  5. The router works in a network layer and can be used under LAN or MAN. The switch will work in the data link layer and can only be used under LAN.
  6. The router makes use of routing tables for getting destination IP and transmits data in packets form. The switch will use CAM (Content addressable Memory) table for getting MAC addresses and transmits data in frames.
Difference Between Router and Switch



Router and Switch are very much in vogue today. Also, there is a tendency to equate both these terms as the same and as a result, one may buy a Router instead of a Switch and vice versa.

Therefore, it would be a prudent idea if the assessment of their subtle differences is undertaken before deciding on the purchase as both of them differ from each other in practicality as well as in utilization.

A Switch may be used as a Router but again the configuration options may be limited. Some years back, the Switch was a faster choice compared to the Router but with the advancement of technology even now the Router can generate the equivalent action.

A thorough practical understanding and advice, especially from networking specialists, is suggested to reap the full benefits of either the Router or Switch deployment.

Key Differences Between Router and Switch (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Router and Switch



  1. https://kilthub.cmu.edu/ndownloader/files/12074552
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/1268581/
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Last update on 2022-10-07 / Amazon Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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