Basic Modem Troubleshooting Guide

Basic Modem Troubleshooting:

Basic modem troubleshooting is preformed when you are unable to get onto the internet with your dial-up modem. It has become more and more common for people to switch over to “high speed internet” to avoid the hassles caused by using dial-up internet. If you are still using a standard modem or are unable to get high speed access in your area this guide will walk you through what you need to know to get your modem working.

You will need the following three items to ensure proper testing can be preformed. They are; a verified working phone cord that is about 6′ feet long, a working phone & phone line in the house, and an internet account with your local ISP. [Internet Service Provider] You NEED an ISP account to access the internet because if you do not have one you will be unable to dial in to a server.

Once you have the listed items, you can begin to work off the guide to resolve the problems you are having with your modem. The most common errors are getting a message that the computer does not recognize the modem or is not getting a dial tone.

Other common issues are getting a busy signal when you dial out to your ISP. Getting a dropped connection where you are constantly getting disconnected from your ISP. Or speed issues which result from using dial-up internet.

We DO NOT support those issues as they are a problem with your ISP. If you are experiencing busy signals, dropped connections or speed issues, you will need to contact your ISP’s tech support line for help. There are many issues with software configuration, initialization strings and external hardware on your phone lines that we cannot determine as the reseller of your hardware. Your ISP is best equipped to walk you through fixing those listed issues.

Now that you are ready to troubleshoot your hardware, please follow the steps below to ensure proper steps are taken to diagnose your problem.

01.  Check Your Connections

Make sure all your phone cords, and the phone line you are connected to is working properly. To do this connect a telephone to the phone line you are using for your internet connection. Use the phone to dial any outside number to verify that you can complete the call. If you are able to reach the number you are calling you can verify that the phone line is working so you can rule it out as a problem. The next step would be hooking up the phone cord you are using between your computer and phone jack to the telephone you tested the first step with. Perform the first step again with the phone “cord” that you use to connect to the internet and verify it is working. [Bad cables and cords are rare but are easy to overlook when they go bad, since most people assume a cord stays good forever. It can also be important to test them if you have recently had an electrical storm in your area.]

02.  Make Sure Your Modem is Recognized by Your PC:

This can be done in two different ways. The methods are slightly different on Windows XP and Windows 98 / ME.

For Windows XP Users:

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel” or “Control Panel”.
  2. In Control Panel select the “Phone and Modem Options” icon.
  3. Select the “Modems” tab in the top middle, of the new window that opens..
  4. Then on the next screen select the “Properties” button in the lower right.
  5. You should now select the “Diagnostic” tab in the top of the new window..
  6. Then click on the “Query Modem” button in the middle of the window.

At this point a dialog box will pop up and tell you “Please wait…” “Communicating with Modem”

Once this is complete you should now see a text readout in the “Command” “Response” window below the “Query Modem” button. If you see the text displayed there you have now verified that Windows sees your modem hardware.

If the modem fails this test you should try to uninstall and reinstall the modem software. [STEP #4]

For Windows 98 / ME Users:

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel”
  2. Double click on the “Modem” icon and then click the “Diagnostics” tab.
  3. Select the “COM Port” that lists the modem.
  4. Click “More Info” button.

At this point the computer will run a series of tests to ensure you hardware modem is working correctly and is recognized by Windows.

If the modem fails this test you should try to uninstall and reinstall the modem software. [STEP #4]

03.  Make Sure You can Connect to Your ISP:

Now we need to check to make sure the modem can communicate with the outside world. To do this follow the listed procedure to ensure you are testing your modem correctly.

  1. Click “Start” then “Run” and type HYPERTRM into the run line.
  2. Once you hit ENTER, and you will see a new window pop up with a world spinning around in it. Once this goes away it will take you to the “Connection Description” window. [If a default Telnet window opens click "No"]
  3. Click the “Cancel” button on the “Connection Description” window.
  4. Once that window is gone, click somewhere into the white space of the window behind it to move your cursor to this command field. [NOTE: Characters may not show up in the HYERTRM window as you are typing them.]
  5. Type ATZ and press ENTER [The word OK should appear and the Modem is now reset]
  6. Type ATX0 and hit ENTER. [The number zero not the letter "O". It should now say OK again, this disables dial-tone detection.]
  7. Type ATDT 123   [Do not press ENTER this time]
  8. Pick up the phone receiver that is on the same phone line as the modem / PC and listen carefully.
  9. Press the ENTER key now.
  10. The modem will now attempt to dial out and will dial the numbers 1, 2, 3.

If you can hear tones on the phone line at this point the modem is able to dial out. You have now completed Step #3 of the modem troubleshooting guide.

If you do not hear tones at this point it means the modem needs to be moved to a different PCI slot in the computer and retested. If it fails the test once it’s in a new PCI slot it is a sign that the modem may be defective and you should contact the store you purchased your hardware from to find out about an exchange

04.  Reset Your Modem and Com Ports:

For this next step you will be resetting ALL the modem properties by uninstalling and reinstalling your hardware modem. To uninstall your modem follow these steps:

  1. Right Click on “My Computer” and select “Properties”
  2. Click on the “Hardware” tab in the top middle of the new window, and then select the “Device Manager” button.
  3. Scroll down the list of hardware and click on the + sign that is next to the “Modems” sections in device manager.
  4. Select your modem and right click it and select the “Uninstall” option from the menu. [Or the "Delete" button in Windows 98']
  5. Once your modem has been removed from the list, click the “Start” button and then select the “Shutdown” option.
  6. Once you restart the computer you should see a window that says “Detecting new hardware” or something similar to that when you load back into Windows.
  7. At this point you will need to go back into “Device Manager” and you should see your modem back on the list.

If you can now see your hardware modem listed try reconnecting to the internet to retest your connection.

If you do not see your modem on the list shut down your PC and try moving the modem to a different PCI slot to test whether the modem itself may be bad. If it doesn’t show up in device manager after it has been moved to a new PCI slot you may have a bad modem, and will want to contact the company you purchased it from to find out about an exchange.

05.  Uninstall and Reinstall Your ISP Software:

The last step of the guide will walk you through how to remove your ISP software to rule out any possible problem with a bad installation. Since all ISPs can vary on how their software is installed out guide will walk you through how to remove your software only. If you need help reinstalling your software you will need to contact your ISP so they can give you the detailed settings you need to connect to their service.

Work off the following steps to ensure you are able to completely remove your ISP software from your computer to ensure problems are not occurring from corruption or a bad installation.

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel” or “Control Panel”.
  2. In control panel select the “Network and Dial up Connections” icon.
  3. In the new window find the connection that has the name of your ISP, and highlight it and then click the DELETE key. [or right click and select delete from the menu]
  4. Say “YES” to confirm that you want to delete this connection. If there is more than one dialup connection you may want to remove the others also.
  5. Once you have removed your dial up connections you will also want to remove the software provided by your ISP so you can do a clean reinstall of it.
  6. While still in control panel select the “Add Remove Programs” option.
  7. The new window will show you a list of all your installed software.
  8. Check for any software with the name of your ISP [for example: AOL, Chorus, AT&T, etc]
  9. Once you have found the software select the “Remove” option to uninstall the software.
  10. Now that you have removed your dial up connections and ISP software you can do a clean reinstall to ensure all the settings are configured back to default. If you run into any problems while reinstalling your software and dial up connection please contact your ISP’s tech department and they can walk you through the steps needed to setup your software again. In some cases you may need specific details from them for configuring your connection so it can be a good idea to work with them anyway to ensure the software gets reinstalled and configured correctly.


You have now completed the Basic Modem Troubleshooting guide. If you are still running into issues with your modem you may have a bad modem or you may be running into another issue that is not covered by this guide. If this is the case you will want to contact your ISP for further troubleshooting. Most any company that you purchase a modem from can only support the hardware troubleshooting for it, but won’t go more in depth than that because there can be so many variables with dial up modems.

As mentioned before, if you have access to “High Speed Internet” in your area, I would highly recommend getting it. The cost is hardly that much more over dial up now a days, and the return far surpasses the quality of dial up internet. I would compare it to paying $1000 dollars for a Gremlin [dial up internet] as vs. $1500 for BMW. [High speed internet]. It is also much easier to troubleshoot high speed internet because it usually consists of two steps.

01. Turn off your modem.

02. Turn your modem back on.

[You should now be back online.]

All in all, this guide took you through configuring and troubleshooting your hardware based dial up modem. If you have worked through the guide, you should now be comfortable in diagnosing the majority of problems that can occur with a dial up modem. This should help you for any possible problems you run into. Just remember to be patient when working with a dial up modem since it is an older technology that requires more patience and knowledge to keep working, into the future.

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