Troubleshoot modem problems

Here are solutions to some common problems with using a dial-up modem to establish an Internet connection.

For information about establishing an Internet connection with a broadband modem, see Set up a DSL or cable connection.

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I can’t get my modem to dial.

If your modem fails to dial, start by checking the most obvious possibilities:

  • Verify that the phone cable attached to the modem is plugged in, attached correctly, and in good condition.

  • Make sure that the phone jack is working. To test this, plug in a working phone and see if there is a dial tone.

  • Make sure you have the telephone line coming from the wall socket plugged into the line in jack on your modem, with the line out on your modem going to your telephone. If you've reversed these cables, the modem won't work. If you're unsure how to connect the lines to your modem, check the information that came with your modem.

  • If you are using an internal modem, verify that it is firmly seated in an expansion slot. If it isn't fully pushed in, the computer cannot recognize it.

  • If you are using an external modem, check the power cord and power switch, then check the serial cable and connection.

Note

  • Do not connect a modem cable to the network adapter port on your computer. Modem ports and network ports look similar, but you should only plug an Ethernet cable into your network port. Voltage from telephone communications can damage a network adapter.

I plugged my modem into a working phone line, but it’s not able to dial a number.

Verify that you are connected to an analog phone line, like the standard phone lines installed in most homes. Dial-up modems work only with analog phone lines. Large businesses and other organizations typically have digital phone systems. To use a dial-up modem from a business with a digital phone system, you will need to have a separate analog phone line installed.

Windows does not seem to recognize my computer's internal modem.

Check Device Manager to see if the modem is installed correctly.

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. If Modems does not appear in the list of categories in Device Manager, Windows does not recognize your modem. You will need to find a compatible driver for your modem and install it.

  3. Check if a driver for your modem is available through Windows Update. For more information, see Install Windows updates.

  4. If Windows Update did not automatically detect your modem and install a driver, you will have to find a driver and install it yourself. For more information, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

My computer has a software modem. Can I dial connections with a software modem the same way I would with a standard modem?

Yes, a software modem lets you dial connections just as you would with a standard hardware modem. Many computers now come with software modems, or softmodems. These low-cost products use software to perform the same functions as a dedicated hardware modem. Most software modems do contain some hardware, but have fewer parts than a hardware modem and offload most of their work to the computer’s processor.

My modem is connected to a working analog line, but it still can’t dial a number.

Check to make sure your dialing options are set up correctly. Windows needs this information to correctly dial a number from your location and phone system. For instructions, see Phone and Modem Options: setting up dialing locations.

After you set up your dialing options, try dialing the number again with your modem.

My modem is correctly installed, connected to a working analog phone line, and I’ve set up my dialing options, but it still can’t dial a number.

Check to make sure your modem has an up-to-date driver. Many modem issues relate to using an old or out-of-date modem driver. Verify that you are using the most current driver for your modem, and if not, update it.

  1. Check if a newer driver for your modem is available through Windows Update. For more information, see Install Windows updates.

  2. If Windows Update does not find a new driver for your modem, visit the website of the modem manufacturer to check if a newer driver is available there. Note the version of the latest driver available for your modem, and compare that to the version of the driver in Windows by using Device Manager.

  3. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  4. Double-click Modems, right-click your modem, and then click Properties. Compare the version number listed there to the version number of the latest driver from the manufacturer. If you already have the newest driver, then the driver is probably not causing the problem. If there is a newer driver available from the manufacturer, you should install it.

  5. For instructions on how to manually update the driver for your modem, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

I can’t hear if my modem is dialing.

To listen to your modem dial, you may want to adjust the speaker volume of your modem. For more information, see Change modem settings.

My modem appears to be getting a dial tone and dialing correctly, but it either can’t establish an Internet connection or keeps disconnecting.

The problem may not be with your modem, but with your Internet service provider (ISP), phone line, or another issue. Try the following:

  • Make sure that you are dialing the correct number, including any required access numbers (such as 9), and that the number is not busy.

  • If your connection was idle for a period of time, your ISP might have disconnected you. Try connecting again.

  • If someone picked up the phone while you were online, you might have been automatically disconnected. Try connecting again.

  • If you have call waiting, try disabling it, and then try the connection again.

  • Make sure that your modem is working properly. For more information, check the information that came with your modem or go to the manufacturer's website.

  • Contact your telephone company to verify the quality of your line.

For more information, see Troubleshoot Internet connection problems.

I'm having trouble installing my modem and wonder if it is compatible with Windows  Vista.

To find out if your hardware is compatible with Windows Vista, go to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor website. This website contains the information that used to be on the Windows Hardware Compatibility List.

Both my modem and my Internet service provider (ISP) support dial-up connections of 56 kilobits per second (Kbps), but I rarely connect at even half that speed.

Advertised modem speeds are rarely achieved under real-world conditions, so it's unlikely you'll ever connect at speeds close to 56 Kbps when using a 56 Kbps modem. But if your modem speed is slower than usual, you may have a problem with poor phone line conditions. Try hanging up and dialing again. You might also try dialing an alternate access number, if your ISP offers multiple numbers you can dial from your area. If your modem connects at a faster speed when you redial, then the modem did not cause the initial slowdown. It was probably due to a noisy line or other line problems. If the line problems continue, contact your phone company.

Also make sure that you and your ISP are using the same 56 Kbps protocols. A 56 Kbps connection requires the computers on both ends to have 56 Kbps modems, and they both must use the same kind of 56 Kbps technology (V.90, V.92, or another protocol).

I'm using the Add Hardware Wizard to install a modem, and the wizard is telling me that one of my COM ports in not in the list of available COM ports. What should I do?

This can happen if another program or service is holding that COM port open. Try quitting the program or service that is holding the COM port open, and then run the wizard again.