A fax modem is an internal or external device that gives your computer the ability to communicate with a phone line – which is something you’ll need to do when setting up dial-up internet or faxing.
What is a fax modem? Where do you buy them? And how much should you be paying for your fax modem? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about fax modems:
If you need to send out a fax immediately, I would just sign up for an online fax service like RingCentral Fax.
RingCentral Fax is a computer service that offers a 30 day free trial and then its $17.99/mo. If you want to cancel, Ringcentral also provides a risk-free 30 day money-back guarantee.
What is a Fax Modem?
A fax modem is a computer peripheral that comes in the form of an internal or external fax modem.
An internal fax modem plugs directly into your motherboard – just like your video card, RAM, and other accessories.
An external fax modem, on the other hand, typically plugs into your USB port or a similar external port.
Both modems play the same role: they provide a telephone jack while also giving your computer the tools it needs to send and receive data through the phone line.
Where Can You Buy a Fax Modem?
Fax modems are nowhere near as common, necessary, or popular as they were a decade ago. Thus, it’s becoming increasingly hard to buy a fax modem from your local Best Buy or other electronics retail store.
Buying a fax modem online is usually your best option.
Do I Need Any Other Equipment to Send and Receive Faxes Over My Computer?
But what other equipment do you need? You’ll need both of the following:
- An active phone landline (a VoIP line won’t work)
- Fax software (a utility called Windows Fax and Scan is already installed on Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10)
Should I Use an External or Internal Fax Modem?
External fax modems are ideal when you’re upgrading your laptop to communicate with phone lines or fax machines. They typically plug into a USB port and can easily be carried with you on-the-go. Of course, you can also use external modems on your laptop.
Internal fax modems, on the other hand, are typically already installed in your computer. If your laptop or desktop has a phone jack, then you likely already have an internal fax modem. You can also buy internal fax modems yourself. You just have to open up your desktop and slot the modem into a PCI or PCI-e port. Unless your laptop already has an internal fax modem, it’s not feasible for the average user to install an internal fax modem on their laptop.
In general, external fax modems are preferred because they’re easy to install, remove, and carry around with you.
How Do Fax Modems Work?
Fax modems act like a “translator” for data passed along phone lines. They use an audio signal to communicate with other devices at the other end of the phone like – like a modem or fax machine.
To a human being, those audio signals are just a series of high pitched computer beeps. The modem translates these beeps and turns them into usable communication between multiple devices.
Do People Still Use Fax Modems?
Fax modems are certainly less popular than they were a decade ago. Today, they’re typically used by users who want to replace a fax machine in their office. In rare cases, they’re used to access dial-up internet connections.
Do I Already Have a Fax Modem?
Most computers sold today do not have fax modems.
However, almost all computers sold since the year 2000 that have a phone jack (it looks like a smaller version of the Ethernet port) should have a fax modem.
How Much Should I Pay for My Fax Modem?
A fax modem should cost between $15 and $40. Internal fax modems typically cost less, while external fax modems cost more (the internal fax modems are uncovered chipboards, while the external ones have plastic protection and casing).
Certain fax modems also have a more advanced range of features, which makes them more expensive than others.
Will My Fax Modem Be Compatible With My Computer?
Fax modems typically work fine on older operating systems. Users of newer operating systems, however, might encounter some compatibility issues. Fax modems are simply an old technology and there aren’t as many modem manufacturers as there used to be.
The one major computer system that is not compatible with fax modems is Apple’s Mac OS. Ever since the Mac OS X 10.7 update, Apple computers are no longer able to send or receive faxes.
There’s a big question mark around Linux operating system compatibility. Yes, there are Linux fax modems available, although you shouldn’t expect to receive OS upgrades as quickly for your Linux distro as you would for operating systems like windows.
What Are Some Additional Fax Modem Features?
Up above, we talked about how the price for fax modems will vary according to features. Some fax modems are surprisingly advanced. Features could include:
- Identify incoming calls while online
- Faster connection speeds
- Faxing support to and from the computer
- Make and receive calls while online
- Hold functions
- Powered by the USB port (requires no external power supply)
- Call waiting and caller ID (although these features typically require you to pay for the service from your local phone company).
If there’s anything else you want to know about fax modems, let us know in the comments!