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•   Starting Over
   How to clean, reformat
   and reload your
   computer's hard drive.
•   Modem Problems
   How to detect and
   repair some of your
   modem problems.
•   Computer Faxing
   How to send and
   receive faxes with
   your computer.
•   Make A Boot Disk
   How to make an
   emergency boot disk.
•   Virus Protection
   How to keep your
   computer bug free.
•   Removing Files
   How to safely remove
   files & programs from
   your hard drive.
•   Installing Software
   How to install new
   programs in
   your computer.
•   Don't Install This
   A few things that
   probably shouldn't be
   installed in your
   computer.
•   Re-Formating
   How to properly reformat
   your hard drive.
•   Under The Hood
   How to safely work inside
   your computer.
•   Re-Associate Files
   Re-associate an
   "Open-With" to a
   file type.
•   Using A Scanner
   How to make your
   scanner do
   what you want.
•   Computer Crashes
   Why some computers
   crash, hang or freeze.
•   How To Save Files
   Saving & retrieving
   files to and from
   your hard drive.
•   Copy & Paste
   How to use the
   most powerful tool
   in Windows.

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Modem Problems

Having problems getting connected or staying connected to the Internet?

The following may be of some help:

What is a Modem? Modem is shorthand for Modulator Demodulator. In the old days, about twenty years ago or so, computers communicated over the phone lines by modulating a tone (from 1200Hz. to 2400Hz.) on the phone lines for each one and zero it sent to another computer. The receiving computer Demodulated the tones back into ones and zeros. Thus the name Modem. These early modems were limited to well less than ten-thousand bits (ones & zeros) per second. Modern modems (in the last few years) no longer use a simple two-tone modulation scheme. To achieve the 28 thousand to over 50 thousand bits per second, that our current modems communicate at, requires a much more elaborate encoding scheme, but we still call them modems.

Using modems and the Plain Old Telephone Service "POTS", the upper limit in communications speed is just under 56 thousand bits per second. For many in the cities an all new, and much faster, system is becoming available: Cable modems that work over the TV cable system, and DSL "Digital Subscriber Lines" supplied through the phone company, are rapidly replacing modems running over POTS with a system that's over 100 times faster. These newer systems are still not available in all cities, and will never be available for many of us out in the country. Living in the country, in my humble opinion, has it all over living in that big dirty, crowded, noisy machine that's called a city, but I digress. I suppose us country folks will have to wait for high-speed bi-directional, and affordable satellite Internet connections. But until then there are some things we can do to improve our slow old modem connections.

Modems come in two styles and each style can be one of two types. The styles are:

  • External: Like the left-hand picture above. These modems set outside your computer and are connected to it via cables.

  • Internal: Like the Right-hand picture. These boards are mounted inside your computer. (Most computers have internal modems) Whither your modem is internal or external is of little consequence, the real deference is it's type.
  • Modem Types: Modems come in two types; Soft-Modems (Sometimes called Win-Modems) and Full-Modems (sometimes called Hardware-Modems).

    Soft-Modems or Win-Modems are a minimal design, which uses much of your computer's CPU power to receive and send data. These minimally designed modems are much cheaper to build than a Hardware-modem. Not only are they 4 to 8 times cheaper than a Full-modem, the soft-modems usually are much poorer at receiving signals, especially over the longer, older, phone lines commonly found in rural America. The vast majority of modems in the mail-order or department store computers, big name or not, are Soft-Modems.

    Full-Modems or Hardware-Modems are usually much better at "hearing" data over less than optimal phone lines. But even these better types of modems come in lesser and better models. Buying a modem by price (the higher the better) is about the only way many have of making a selection. All computers built by J.R. Whipple & Associates have only the best quality Full-Modems.

    Before you run out and buy a new modem, there is much than can be done to improve the performance of your existing modem. The following will cover some of the more common problems, and what can done about them. But in some cases, the best modem in the world may be no help. We'll cover those too, so you won't waste your money on cures for problems over which you have no control.



    My Internet connection worked yesterday but not today!
    Don't make any changes to the setups in your computer and before you call your ISP "Internet Service Provider" think for a moment; Was there a storm last night? Has the weather recently changed? (hot to cold or cold to hot). Weather changes can adversely effect your phone lines. Pick up a phone, on the same line as your computer, and push a button to clear the dial tone, whistle into the mouthpiece and listen for any pops, snaps or other odd noises. If you hear noise it's the phone lines fault. Contact your phone company.


    My computer worked just fine until I tried one of those free AOL (or other free) CD-ROMs, now it no longer connects to my regular ISP!
    Those free CDs we seem to receive through the mail on a weekly basis can be very enticing, But please try to refrain from putting them in your computer. Use them as drink coasters instead.

    Once installed these free trial offers for AOL, MSN, and others can be very difficult to remove from your computer. If you got bitten by one of these sucker-offers try the following:

    Double click your "My Computer" icon, then double click "Control Panel" then double click "Add Remove Programs". Locate the offending program and click once on it then click the "Add/Remove" button.
    Once it has been removed, do a power-down restart of your computer. After your computer fully re-boots, retry your Internet connection. If it still won't work you will have to reenter all your old ISP info. You may need to contact your ISP for help.


    When I try to connect I receive a message like "Busy, try again later" more often than not!
    This could indicate that your ISP "Internet Service Provider" is not keeping up with his growing customer base. No ISP can afford to have a separate phone line and modem for each one of his customers. Most good ISPs try to keep a ratio of about 5 or 8 to 1, that is; for every five or eight customers, he has one modem. Check with one or two other customers of this same ISP and see if they are having the same kind of problems. If so contact your ISP and ask them what their "Modem Ratio" is. If it's more than about 8 to 1, and they don't improve it within a week or two, you might want to consider finding another ISP. Please note: It is common for even the best ISPs to have a few busy signals during the heavy usage times, (Usually weekend or holiday after noon's).


    My computer's modem beeps, honks, and hisses for a long time, then says it can't connect!
    This can indicate that your 56K modem is having major problems with the quality of the phone lines and is unable to negotiate its way into the ISPs modem. If the quality of your phone lines can't be improved, many cannot, you may be able to correct the problem by limiting your modems top speed to 33.6 Kb. Do this by Double clicking on your My Computer icon, then double clicking on the Control Panel icon, then double clicking on the Modems icon. Now click the Properties button, then click the Connection tab. Now click the Advanced button. In the Extra Settings field, type S32=98
    OK out of all windows. This setting will work on most modems.


    I have a 56K modem but it NEVER connects at better than 28.8, why is that?
    In some areas, especially rural areas, the phone company does not have enough wires strung to give everybody their own pair of wires from the home to the phone company's Central Office. The phone company will commonalty use a device called a Pair-Gain to spilt one pair of wires into two. This allows the phone company to have twice as many customers as they have wires, but it limits your modem to half-speed. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you may be able to contact your phone company and ask them to remove the Pair-Gain from your line. If they have a few extra pairs in your area, and you talk to someone that gives a darn, you may be able to get full bandwidth over your connection. Most state's laws that govern phone companies were written long before the advent of digital communications, and only promise to deliver a Voice Grade circuit to the customer. That means you may have no legal recourse, if the phone company refuses to improve your lines. In this case you might want to start a petition or letter writing campaign to your state's PUC Public Utilities Commission, and get the laws changed.



    Other Helpful Hints

    Many people just have too many things connected to their phone line. If you are using your primary voice line for your Internet connection, you may have too many devices from telephones, fax machines, answering machines, and the like connected to the phone line. Unplug everything but your computer from the phone lines and retry your Internet connection. If this fixes the problem, disconnect from the Internet and, one at a time, plug one device back into the line and retry your Internet connection until it fails to work right. This should tell you if you have a bad telephone or answering machine, or how many devices you could safely connect to the line.


    Speed Test

    Click Here to visit Microsoft's online modem speed test site. Be patient, this test requires that the test page be loaded twice. Remember to hit your browser's Back Button TWICE, to return here, when you are done with the speed test.



    Use the above procedure(s)
    at your own risk!
    J.R. has been building and repairing computers for over 25 years, and has personally used the above procedure(s) on thousands of computers. Each computer is different and the competence of the user can vary.   J.R. Whipple, in no way warrants the above procedure(s), nor can he be held responsible for any problems, loss of data, loss of business, or any other damages caused by the application of the above procedure(s). If you are not comfortable with the above procedure(s), DON'T DO THEM. If you need help please Contact Us before attempting the above procedure(s).



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