Router & Internet Questions

Ethernet Router vs Bridge: What Are The Differences?

ethernet router vs bridge

Many internet users don’t understand the differences between an ethernet router vs bridge. By the end of this article, you will be able to differentiate between the two comfortably, no matter how inexperienced you are about computer hardware.

First of all, you have to know what a router is and its various uses before we move on to bridges and the uses of bridges.

What is an ethernet router and what is it used for?

An ethernet router can be described as a piece of hardware that connects various other pieces of equipment on a network. What this means in detail is that a router is responsible for determining the next network point which a packet should be sent to.

What is a packet? A packet is a unit of data compressed into a single package that is sent along a network path to distribute information and data. Packets make it possible for your computer to be connected to the internet and download files between two computers.

A router’s work is to receive these packets, verify that they’re complete, and determine the next network point or location to send the packet to.

Some routers can also act as a hardware firewall to prevent unauthorized packets and/or data from being transmitted along a particular network point. This is essential to prevent some types of malware or information snoopers from being transmitted along your connection.

One of the advantages of routers as firewalls over software firewalls is that they do not expose your computer IP address to the internet. This renders some techniques used by hackers (e.g. port scans) useless against you.

Now that we have gone through what a router is and what they’re used for, we can now go on to explain what a bridge is, what it is used for, and how it differs from a router.

What is a bridge and what is it used for?

A bridge can be described as a piece of hardware that makes it possible for multiple communication networks to be connected as a single aggregate network. The act of doing this is called bridging and it is very distinct from routing.

Bridging is mostly used by companies and IT engineers to extend the physical reach of their LANs (Local Area Networks) to cover larger areas.

How does it work? At a high level, a network bridge has one job, which is to inspect incoming network traffic and determine if it should be forwarded or discarded according to its destination.

There are actually two different types of bridging techniques. We will not go into detail right now (perhaps in a future post) but I will outline what the two are.

They are wireless bridging and Wi-Fi ethernet bridging. Wireless bridges support only Wi-Fi wireless access points and are not used to bridge wired connections like Ethernet and usb modems.

Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges, on the other hand, are capable of interfacing wireless connections and wired connections into a single network. It is mostly used in workplaces where there are older computers which lack Wi-Fi capability (or support only outdated Wi-Fi technology).

Now that we know what both routers and bridges are, it is time to explain how they differ from each other.

Ethernet router vs bridge: How do they differ?

The differences between a router and a bridge are very technical but I will try to explain them in the simplest manner possible.

Basically, a router helps transfer network packets (or data) to the next network point through the shortest and most efficient route possible while a bridge only connects multiple communication networks together as a single communication network to otherwise increase the reach or the signal quality of the communication network.

To summarize, I’ll list out the differences between the two network hardware devices so that you can easily absorb it.

  • Routers perform more jobs than bridges (e.g. a router can act as a firewall while a bridge lacks that functionality).
  • Routers can connect computers that are not on the same network to allow them communicate with each other while bridges are strictly limited to connecting computers that are logically on the same network.
  • Routing is, in short, more efficient than bridging.

Conclusion

This article does not really exhaust all the technical differences between a router and a bridge but I’m sure that by now, you have an idea of how they differ. If you have any questions regarding this subject, please ask us using the comment section below.

Ethernet Router vs Bridge: What Are The Differences?

3 Comments

  1. Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing this post, I learned a lot about routers and bridges. I never used a bridge before and I think most people are in the same boat. Bridges seem more for network professionals. But now, I know the difference, cheers.

    Reply
    1. Author

      Thanks for reading. Bridges are not really a consumer product, but some people have heard the term and want to know the difference. So this post should help explain it.

      Reply

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