October 2000--Based on the reports
posted in the message boards, many of you who use Conexant/Rockwell-based
WinModems have had great success with the techniques to improve the
stability of Internet connections presented in last month's
This month, we'll look at how to apply these
techniques to other modems.
Solutions for other modem brands
Normally, I use a high-speed connection, and have for some time, as
my phone lines can't support 56K. However, I started doing some
testing for a client and became increasingly frustrated when I found
modems that would try to connect at 56K but experienced errors and
dropped connections. I started investigating if there was a way to
resolve this problem and I kept coming back to "slower, but more
Further testing with different brands of modems
revealed a very surprising result. If your modem is trying to
establish a 56K connection, the USR line test stops testing because
it figures you are already using a 56K connection. Since I know my
phone line can't possibly handle 56K, I was confused by these
results until I figured out how to work around this. The solution is
to disable 56K first and then perform the test. If your line can
really handle 56K, you will get a positive response. However, if
your line cannot, you will get a true evaluation. We'll look at how
to perform the test using HyperTerminal, the tool built into Windows
and available as a free download from the developers, Hilgraeve,
Setting up the test
If you haven't installed HyperTerminal, download it from
run Htpe5.exe. Follow the prompts to install the program. Locate the
port your Modem is installed on by opening up Control Panel, Modems,
Diagnostics. This screen shows what communications port your modem
is configured for. You will use this info in the next step so go
ahead and close the Diagnostics window after noting the port
Click on Start, Programs, HyperTerminal Private
Edition, HyperTerminal Private Edition to start the program. You
will see a screen labeled "Connection Description." Give your
connection a name and choose an icon. It doesn't matter what you
call the connection or what icon you use, but I recommend "Direct to
Comx," where "x" is the number of your communications port. This
name makes things easier to track.
Click OK and you will see another screen, labeled
"Connect To." At the bottom is a drop-down box labeled "Connect
Using." Click on the arrow at the right and choose "Direct to Comx,"
choosing the port number your modem is using. See why I suggested
the name before? It really does make things simpler. Then click OK.
The next dialog is where you set the properties.
The only one to deal with is the topmost one: "Bits per second." I
usually set this to 115200, as that's the fastest most modems can
handle. Click OK, and you will see a blank white screen with a
blinking cursor. Relax--the hard part of the process is over.
Type AT&F and press Enter. You will see an OK,
meaning the modem accepted the command and processed it (AT&F resets
the modem to its default configuration).
Set up the command
Next, type the command needed to turn off 56K on your modem. The
command is different for different modems. I have listed the most
popular modems below. If your modem doesn't respond to any of these
commands with "OK," but instead returns "ERROR," check the typing.
If you are sure you have entered the command correct, but continue
to get the error message, post a mesage in the message boards,
listing what kind of modem you have installed and we'll try to help.
See Control Panel, Modems, Diagnostics, select your modem, and then
More Info to see what kind of modem you have installed.
Lucent LT WinModem: atn0s38=0
USR WinModem: ats32=96
Take the plunge and take the test
Dial the USR Line Test computer by entering the command:
When prompted for graphics, hit enter.
When prompted for a user name, enter: Line Test
This test will take about a minute and will tell
you if your phone line supports 56K. If it does,
congratulations--you're done and are in great shape. Close
HyperTerminal, save the configuration and enjoy the performance.
If the test fails, you have a little more work to
do. Close HyperTerminal, save the configuration, then open Control
Panel, Modems, click on your Modem, Properties, Connection,
Advanced. In the box marked "Extra Settings," put the command you
used in HyperTerminal to turn off 56K access. It only gets in the
way, since your phone line can't handle the process and it's a
source of many problems.
Click OK three times to save the settings and
you're done. What you should find is a connection that may seem
slower, but will be faster overall because it will be more reliable.
Until next month, stay connected!