What Is a Fax Modem?

fax modems

Fax modems are computer accessories that allow you to connect to a physical phone line, so you can send and receive faxes without the need of a traditional fax machine.

They work the same as data modems (those used to access Internet), but are in charge of transmitting fax transmissions, whether it is from another fax modem or a machine. Even though the use of these modems has been in decline, they helped move forward computer fax technology, popularizing it when the use of machines was still the norm.

Nowadays fax modems are mostly used along certain fax applications that require you to connect to a physical line.

Types of Fax Modems

There are two types of fax modems:

  • ​Internal (connected to a PCI port)
  • ​External (connected to a USB port)

External fax modems are connected to a computer via USB, and are used mostly for computers and laptops that don’t come with an internal one. If you don’t own a fax modem, these are the most convenient to get because you don’t need computer hardware knowledge to start using them. You just connect them to your computer and then the are ready to be used.

Internal modems usually come already installed in your computer, alternatively, you can install one in a free PCI port. The advantage of using an internal fax modem is that it doesn’t need additional space to be used, but you may need extra help installing it because it involves opening up your computer.

How Do You Know if You Already Have One?

The easiest way to know if you a fax modem in your computer is through the Device Manager, located in the System Properties window. Modern computers don’t come with one included given the decline in its use.

Another way to check if you have one is by taking a look at your computer’s connection ports. You should look for a port where you can plug in the phone jack. Some computers have internal data modems that also act as fax modems.

How Do Fax Modems Work?

Fax modems grab and interpret the sound signal they receive through a conventional phone line. The information is transmitted through a series of high-pitched notes that sound like screeching. Those of you that used the Internet during the dial-up era may recognize the sound, similar to the sound the modem made when it started connecting to the Web.

Once the modems gets the transmission, this is translated and then forwarded to your computer, where you can read your fax as a PDF.

Is a Fax Modem Necessary to Fax These Days?

No. Thanks to online fax services you can receive and send fax from your computer without the need of a modem, Instead, they provide you with a ​virtual fax number that works over a standard Internet connection.

Nevertheless, if you are going to use some type of fax software you may need a modem, especially if the program is old and hasn’t been updated in a while.

Can I Get One for My Computer?

Although it’s not easy to find a fax modem in computer stores, there are still some providers that sell them online. A new modem will cost you between $20 and $40, no matter if it is internal or external. The price varies according to the brand you choose.

But there is other aspect you need to keep in mind. Even if you want a fax modem, you need to check that it is compatible with your computer. The World has changed and having a fax modem-compatible equipment is more complicated than it looks.

For instance, if you use Apple products you no longer have compatibility with old fax modems, be it through software or hardware (drivers). This is a change that took place since the introduction of the OS X 10.7.

Windows users can still enjoy compatibility, Windows 7 and Windows 8 officially support fax modems.

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Additional Resources

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