If you are planning to buy a new dial-up modem, you may feel a little overwhelmed at the large variety of modems available. You could just have a technician install a modem for you, and while this would certainly be the easiest route, it’s definitely more expensive. These tips will help you buy a modem that best suits your Internet services and make you a little more knowledgeable about modems in general.
Don’t buy a used modem. First of all, there’s no way to know if its actually going to work, and secondly, it could be missing installation instructions or a necessary driver software CD. Also, if the modem doesn’t work or is not compatible, it would be too much trouble to return it. A new modem may be more expensive, but you have more assurance that it has the latest technology and is less likely to malfunction any time soon.
Be sure it’s actually a dial-up modem. Nearly all types of Internet services require that you have a modem, but there’s a big difference between them. If you buy anything that is not a dial-up modem, it’s not going to connect to dial-up. Most modems will have “Dial-up” “Cable” or “DSL” in their name, but if you don’t know for sure, check the description before you grab it off the shelf.
Be sure it’s compatible to your computer. What version of Windows do you have on your computer? Or do you have a Mac computer? Is it a desktop or a laptop? Make sure you will be able to install the modem on the computer. You can buy external modems that are compatible with nearly all computers. They may be more expensive, but very helpful if you need the modem for more than one computer.
Consider your installation procedure. Is it an external or internal modem? If you have a laptop, installing a modem inside it would be very difficult. Even on a desktop, installing an internal modem would not be recommended for novice computer users. An external modem is simple to install, and only requires you to plug in the modem to a USB port on the outside of the computer, and maybe run a CD. Even a beginner can install an external modem. Also, an external modem can easily be moved if you switch computers frequently or use dial-up while traveling (e.g., college students who make weekend and holiday trips home can take their modem with them).
Consider extra features. Some cheaper modems may not have the features you need for your dial-up plan. For example, if you want to add an Internet Call-waiting feature to your dial-up plan, you must first have a V.92 modem. You may want to have a V.92 modem anyway because it has the latest technology that could nearly double your Internet connection speed.
Consider the cost. There may still be some brands that offer the same features, but cost less than others. If they all have the features you need, save money and get the less expensive modem! You may also find that some stores have the same product for a cheaper price than others. Of course, the Internet is a very popular place to find the latest gadgets at a great price. If you decide to buy online, be sure to consider shipping time and costs, and check the company’s return policy.
Dial-up Internet services depend on a number of things to work properly: The Internet service provider, the access number, the phone company, the phone line to your house, the jack, splitter, surge protector, phone cord, and computer in the house, and of course, the dial-up modem. Unfortunately, the dial-up modem can often be the culprit and not be so easy to detect. Modems, like cars and other technology, can begin causing problems or cease working entirely without warning.
There are several possible reasons your modem would not work properly, or at all.
Your modem is not installed correctly or the software is malfunctioning.
Your modem needs to be updated with new driver software.
Your modem is out-of-date or its software is corrupted.
Here are some solutions to fixing or replacing your modem (and how to decide which is needed), should any of these scenarios be the cause dial-up connection errors or frequent disconnects.
Reinstalling your modem. You may simply need to reinstall your modem. If you have a newer version of Windows, i.e., XP or Vista, you can usually reinstall your modem quite easily. First, open your Control Panel, then “Phone and Modem Options”. Then click on the Modems tab and select your modem from the list, “The following modems are installed” and click Remove. Then restart your computer. Windows will detect your modem and either install it on its own, or a “Found New Hardware” Wizard will appear and guide you through the installation.
Some modems cannot be reinstalled without a driver CD, so this should only be done if you are sure that this is the original modem that came with the computer and that you were not provided with a modem driver CD upon purchasing your computer. If you bought your modem separately, you probably have the drivers CD. Keep this handy as you will need it again when you reinstall your modem.
Suppose you are not sure if you had a driver CD. You may decide to try a reinstall anyway because it does not cost you any money and could be the quickest way to fix your modem. Be forewarned that your modem may not reinstall correctly and you could worsen the situation during re-installation. On the other hand, if it wasn’t working anyway, you have little to lose as you can always buy another modem.
Updating your modem software. You may wish to update your modem software if you have an older computer or if you have successfully reinstalled your modem and you still have problems dialing up to the Internet.
You may have difficulty with this step if you are not familiar with computer technology. In order to update your modem software, you must first know what type of modem you have. Your modem name is listed in the same place where you remove your modem for a reinstall (see above). You may also have this information with your computer’s manual (providing the modem came with your computer) or your modem’s manual.
Once you know what make and model you have, you can browse online for your modem website to download any software updates for your modem. You may also need to download the original drivers for your modem if you tried previously to reinstall you modem and can’t get it to reinstall properly. You may need to see a local technician for help with this step.
Buying a new modem. Unfortunately, sometimes your modem cannot be repaired because it is too out of date to accept upgrades or the software is too corrupted to be repaired. This is typically the case if the above two steps don’t work or you have an older computer. This can be a good thing. Newer modems are more reliable, not too expensive (usually $20-50, as compared to $50-150 for broadband equipment), and may help you get faster speeds due to newer technology.
In any of these scenarios, you may be better off to buy a new modem anyway. It could even save you money if you have to take your computer to a technician. Why pay more to fix an old modem?
If you’re interested in getting dial-up Internet services, you may be in for a surprise. Many computers are now being sold without dial-up modems. You may want to be sure your modem is installed before you sign up for Internet service to avoid having problems once you’re paying for Internet services. There are two ways to check for a dial-up modem, and it will be helpful to check both areas.
First, check your tower for a modem. From the back of the computer, look for a port that looks just like the phone jack in the wall. You need to have a regular phone cord to test whether the ports are for dial-up or broadband. There are three possibilities:
You see a port, but it looks slightly bigger and your phone cord doesn’t fit tightly inside. This is your Ethernet port. It is for the cables you need for a broadband connection. This is not a modem. Look for another port.
You see two ports side by side. One should read “line” or show the outline of a phone port. The other reads “phone” or shows a picture of a telephone. This is your dial-up modem! For your dial-up connection, plug a phone cord from the jack in the wall into the “line” port. If you want a telephone beside your computer, plug its phone cord into the “phone” port in the back of the computer.
You see one telephone port and your phone cord fits in it. This is your dial-up modem! If you want to hook up a telephone as well, you will need a splitter in the phone jack in the wall and two phone cords: one going to the computer and the other to the telephone.
If you have no telephone ports, you will need to buy a dial-up modem that connects to a USB port. If you do have a modem, you must check whether your computer acknowledges that it is properly installed.
Open your control panel.
Open your modem options. Depending on your version of Windows, it may be called “Modems” or “Phone and Modem Options”. You may need to look under “Printers and Other Hardware” if you are using XP or Vista and you are currently in category view.
Click on the “Modems” tab.
You will see, “The following modems are installed:” and a white box listing whatever modems are or have been installed on your computer.
Under the heading “Attached to”, does it say “COM” and a number? This means your computer recognizes that you have a modem installed. Does it say “not present”? This means that your modem is corrupted or not installed correctly. This will need to be resolved before you can connect to the Internet.
If you detect that you have a modem both physically installed in the tower and registering as installed in your computer, you are ready to order dial-up Internet. Although you are not guaranteed that you have a working modem, as other minor issues can occur, these steps indicate that you will most likely have no problems connecting. Your dial-up service technicians should be able to help you if there are further problems.