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Agree that external modem is king
I heartily agree that external modem is the way to go for all possibilities. Unfortunately all current laptops contain an internal modem, but its worth using a PCMCIA modem card instead if you can find a laptop without built-in modem. I have a terrific LinkSys modem/network combo card that achieves the highest connect speed I've been able to get on the same phone line attempted with other approaches. I always use external modem on my desktops, too. The other reason why external modems are superior is the ability to interpret the row of status lights on the front to quickly diagnose comm problems, and allows you to re-set the modem without rebooting or powering down your PC itself. Plus, since its external, even if you get a lightning strike (as mentioned elsewhere) its less likely to zap your PC even if the modem itself gets fried. If you unplug the modem's power supply when not in use it saves a little electricity drain. That drain is constant for an internal modem.