What Do the Lights on My Modem Mean?

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The lights on your modem show information about its various functions, including when it is powered on, connected to the internet, or transmitting data.

Many modern modems light up like a small Christmas tree, but do you understand what the lights on your modem mean? 

While most modems are uniform in their colors, it could be difficult to discern what every color means. This is because a blinking modem light indicates something different from a steady one, and the combination of colors can also matter. 

It is important to note that there are many different modems out there. The lighting scheme can vary, but most modem brands try to keep the colors uniform. Therefore, the following guide will explain what the most common modem lights mean.

Modem Lights Meaning

The colors on modems typically correlate in a common way across most brands. While there are some minor variations, the following are generally good representations of specific indicators discerned by their lights.

OFFSOLIDBLINKING
PowerNot OperationalOperationalBooting Up
DownstreamNot receiving information from the internetReceiving information from the internetTransmitting data
UpstreamNot sending information to the internetSending information to the internetTransmitting data
Internet/WANNot connected to the internetConnected to the internetScanning for an internet connection
Ethernet/LANNo device connected via EthernetDevice connected via EthernetNA
LinkNo networking devices connectedTwo networking devices connectedConnection issued between networking devices
Wi-FiNo Wi-FiActive Wi-FiConnecting to Wi-Fi, high Wi-Fi traffic
WPSNo active WPSActive WPSPairing or connection error
USBNo USB connectionUSB connectionTransmitting data to USB device

White

  • This represents that the modem is successfully receiving power from its power source.
  • There is a pairing process in progress
  • A firmware update is actively ongoing
  • The modem is attempting to connect to the ISP provider to receive internet service.

Green

  • Indicates modem is powered up and is ready for operation
  • A connection to the internet has been established
  • The internet signal is strong
  • Another device has successfully been paired
  • Active phone line detected

Red

  • The unit is overheated
  • The internet connection is weak
  • PPP authentication has failed
  • Internet connection is not available
  • Modem setup failure has occurred
  • The phone service is currently down

Orange

Orange lights usually indicate a problem or error with your modem.

  • Indicative of a weak internet connection
  • When first powered on, indicative of an attempt to connect to the internet
  • General phone services are down, but emergency calls can still be made
  • A pairing process is in progress

Blue

  • Firmware update is ongoing
  • The modem is attempting to pair with another device
  • An ISP connection has been detected
  • The connection process was successfully completed
  • A phone call is actively in progress

Modem Symbol Meanings

Some modems and routers operate mainly by colors with the particular position of the light denoted with words or acronyms near that particular light’s position, many uses commonly understood symbols to represent particular aspects of a modem.

Modem lights meaning
Modem symbol meanings. Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Power

Typically shown as either a circle with a vertical line through it or an incomplete circle with a vertical line extending out of it. This is common across most electronics.

Wi-Fi / Internet

  • Some modems have these as the same symbol, others have them as two separate ones. They each look like varying forms of expanding waves casting outward. 
  • Sometimes one represents a 2.5 GHz Wi-Fi signal, while the other represents a 5 GHz.

Internet

  • Often appearing in the shape of a ring-orbited planet, the internet symbol represents WAN connections or internet connectivity.
  • Some modems have this icon be an @ symbol instead.

Ethernet

  • This symbol looks like a prong inserted into a slot or an incomplete computer monitor on a phantom stand.
  • Indicates that the modem has a hard-wired connection paired to it (LAN connection).
  • When it is an empty box, it indicates a WAN connection.

USB

A trident-looking symbol represents that there is a USB connection on the modem. While these tridents may vary, some variant of that shape is commonly associated with a USB.

WPS

A symbol typically depicted as two circling arrows represents WPS or Wi-Fi Protected Setup. This is activated by pushing a button on the back of the modem or router to connect devices to it. 

Light Frequency On a Modem

While lights have certain meanings, how they illuminate on a modem represents different things. 

Stable / Static Lights

  • A stable white, green or blue light typically indicates that the function associated with that light is working as intended or a function has been completed.
  • If the orange or red lights are steady, it indicates that something is wrong or a connection is not active.

Blinking Modem Lights

  • The blinking light depends on what color is blinking
  • Some blinking lights indicate ongoing internet activity
  • Can indicate that a phone is currently in use
  • Moderate blinking lights indicate the start of a process
  • Rapidly blinking lights could indicate the finishing phase

Lack of Lights

  • If none of the modem’s LED lights are on, there is likely no power flowing to the device.
  • Some lights that are typically not being illuminated mean that the services from the ISP and the internet connection are not active.
  • A particular feature has been disabled.
  • In some rare cases, however, lights on a modem indicate issues, and no light indicates that everything is in working order.

Understanding Modem Lights Meaning

This guide applies to many modem types, and while they can vary, many of the lights and symbols are common enough to be recognized to some degree.

To understand what each light means on your modem and what their display means (steady, blinking, off), consult your modem guide or contact your ISP for a reference guide.

How long have you had your modem? Maybe it’s time to buy a new modem if you’re experiencing slow speed or your internet keeps disconnecting.

If you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

Photo of author
Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work. He is responsible for the editorial direction, strategy, and growth of Gotechtor.

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