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  PC-Net's PC News - February, 1999
Don Watkins

Eight Ways to Improve Your Modem

By Don Watkins



February 1999--It starts simple enough. You click on the icon to make a connection and things seem to go all right--until the connection doesn't work and you have no idea what's happening.

What to do next? Good question. This month, we'll look at some options to diagnose problems, as well as some fixes to common modem problems.

1. Install Dial-Up Networking
If you are running Windows 95, pay attention. If you're running Windows 98, you can skip this section because you already have this functionality. Make sure you have the latest version of Dial-Up Networking installed (Version 1.3 is the latest). Download and install the latest version. Download the file to a work folder and run MSDUN13.EXE--this is a self-extracting file that will install the necessary components.

2. Check connection speed
OK, Windows 98 users, you can rejoin the group. Once Dial-Up Networking is updated and configured, try the connection again. Working better? Good. The blinking icon in the corner of the System Tray should now indicate your connection speed. If it reports "Connected at 115200," or something similar, you have a different problem: Windows is not recognizing your modem properly. An old or incorrect .inf file was used when your modem was installed. After Windows 95 was released, many newer modems were not automatically recognized, or, if they were, were recognized incorrectly. The solution is to check with your modem vendor for a current .inf file.

3. Avoid driver/.inf confusion
There can be some confusion because many vendors mistakenly refer to the .inf file as a driver for the modem. The .inf file is a text file containing the proper initialization strings and return codes for your modem. If the modem returns a code that Windows doesn't recognize, Windows reports the port speed (the speed between the modem and the computer), not the connection speed (the speed between your modem and the modem you're connecting to).

4. Update the driver
Some modems do have drivers. These are usually software modems, most notably the USR Winmodem and Lucent Technologies LTWinmodem. It's important to make sure you have the proper driver for these modems. Otherwise, errors can occur (such as the dreaded "TAPI Error"), which is often quite confusing. Updating to the latest or correct driver will often resolve this error.

5. Troubleshoot with HyperTerminal
What if it appears that the modem isn't working? If you have installed the accessory called HyperTerminal (Control Panel Add/Remove Programs/Windows Setup), see if you can access the modem directly.

6. Diagnose with Modem Doctor
If things still don't look like they are working, you can try Modem Doctor. This shareware tool will check your modem for many problems and tell you what needs to be done. I used this a couple of weeks ago to confirm a modem was dead.

7. Analyze with Modem Monitor
If your modem is working, but you would like to see more information about what is going on (perhaps you have an internal modem and wish you could see the indicator lights an external modem has), take a look at the shareware program Modem Monitor. Modem Monitor is a program with a variety of options, including the ability to capture the data stream so you can see what's really happening. I found this useful when I needed to check a connection to another system. By looking at what was being sent back and forth, I was able to correct an error in what I was expecting the other computer to send.

8. Advance to iSpeed
If you have done all the above and you are an adventurous type, take a look at iSpeed. This program may boost your connection speed; however, there are pros and cons. Make sure to carefully read the suggested information first.

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