Do More with Less: Reuse an old fax modem with Windows XP's Fax Services

Use an old fax machine to create an advanced fax system

You may think that old fax modem in the storage closet is a worthless piece of junk. However, that's not really the case. The modem may not be any good for surfing the Internet or downloading data due to its slow speed, but the fax portion of the unit can be used to create an advanced fax system when paired with Windows XP's Fax Services. The resulting fax system will not only allow you to send and receive faxes, but will also track and monitor them. Here's how to turn an old fax system, such as the old Hayes Accura 288 v.34 + FAX modem I found, into a viable resource with Windows XP's Fax Services.

How fast is a fax machine anyway?
A typical office fax machine uses what is called the Group 3 data communications standard. Among other things, this means that a fax machine transmits data at a maximum rate of 14,400 bps. However, if there is a lot of noise on the line, a fax machine will usually fall back to 12,000 bps, 9,600 bps, 7,200 bps, 4,800 bps or 2,400 bps. Considering the maximum rate of a fax transmission, it easy to see why an older fax modem is still a valuable tool for setting up a computer-based fax system in Windows XP.

Installing Windows XP's Fax Services
Installing Windows XP's Fax Services is actually a pretty simple procedure. To do so, access Control Panel and launch the Add Or Remove Programs tool. Then, select Add/Remove Windows Components. When you see the Windows Component Wizard, select the Fax Services check box and then follow the onscreen instructions. At some point, you may have to insert your Windows XP CD into the drive, so you should have it on hand as you begin the installation procedure.

Once the installation procedure is complete, you'll find Fax Services on the All Programs | Accessories | Communications menu. When you open the new Fax menu you'll see three items: Fax Console, Fax Cover Page Editor, and Send a Fax. (We'll cover those elements below.)

Installing the modem
If your old fax modem is as ancient as mine is—this external Hayes Accura 288 v.34 + FAX modem dates back to the 1994-95 time period and has a top speed of 28.8 Kbps—chances are good that it isn't plug and play, nor will you be able to find a Windows XP driver for it. Fortunately, Windows XP comes with a complete set of generic modem drivers, ranging in speed from 300 bps to 56,000 bps, that will allow the operating system to communicate with almost any brand of modem.

Once you have the modem (which can be either internal or external) connected to your system, getting Windows XP to recognize it is easy. Access Control Panel and launch the Phone And Modem Options tool. Once it's up and running, select the Modems tab and click the Add button. When you see the Install New Modem page of the Add Hardware Wizard, select the option Don't Detect My Modem; I Will Select It From A List Check Box, as shown in Figure A, and click Next.

Figure A
In most cases, asking the Add Hardware Wizard to detect an older modem is an exercise in futility.

The Add Hardware Wizard then will display a page that lists standard modem types. You'll then need to select the standard model that corresponds to your fax modem, as shown in Figure B, and click Next. On the next page you'll be prompted to choose the port to which your fax modem is connected. Once you do so, click Next and Windows XP will set up your fax modem.

Figure B
You'll select the standard model that represents your fax modem from the Install New Modem page.

Configuring Fax Console
After you've installed the modem, you're ready to configure the Fax Console. To begin, access the Fax menu and select the Fax Console item. When you do, you'll see the Fax Configuration Wizard's introduction page and will need to click the Next button. When you see the Sender Information page, you'll need to type your name or the business name and the fax number in the first two fields, as shown in Figure C. All the other fields on the page are optional and can be filled in if you think that the information would be helpful to the recipient.

Figure C
You only really need to fill in the first two fields on the Sender Information page.

When you click Next, you'll see the Select Device For Sending Or Receiving Faxes page. You should find that the fax modem is selected and will then need to specify your send and receive options. When you choose the Enable Receive check box, you'll choose whether the Fax Console will automatically answer and accept incoming faxes or you will answer them manually, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
You'll have the option of choosing whether you want Fax Console to automatically accept incoming faxes or you want to do so manually.

On the next two pages, you'll be prompted to enter the Transmitting Subscriber Identification (TSID) and the Called Subscriber Identification (CSID), both of which usually consist of your business name and fax number, as shown in Figure E. The TSID information normally appears in the header area of a received fax and serves to identify the sending fax machine. This CSID is transmitted back to the sending fax machine by the receiving fax machine and is displayed on the sending fax machine's LED panel during the transmission period. This is designed to provide confirmation to the sender that the fax is being sent to the correct recipient. Keep in mind that both the TSID and CSID fields can hold a maximum of 20 characters.

Figure E
The TSID and CSID information is designed to identify the sending and receiving fax machines, respectively.

The last step in the procedure involves configuring what the Fax Console is to do once it receives an incoming fax. As you might have guessed, the Fax Console will automatically save received faxes in it's Inbox. However, the Routing Option page, shown in Figure F, allows you to specify a hard copy as well as an additional folder for backups.

Figure F
You can configure Fax Console to print a fax when it arrives, as well as to make a backup copy.

When you click Next, you'll see the configuration summary page. To complete the Fax Configuration Wizard, just click Finish.

Faxing an electronic document
Since Fax Console looks like an e-mail application, you might think that sending a fax from the Fax Console is like sending an e-mail message. However, that's really not the case. Of course, if all you want to do is fax someone a simple text-based message, you can indeed use Fax Console like an e-mail client. But, why do that when you can just as easily send an e-mail message?

Chances are that you'll want to fax someone a document. Unfortunately, Fax Console won't allow you to attach a document to a fax.

When it comes to faxing a document, the process in very much like printing a document and is, in fact, done through the application in which you created the document. To begin, pull down the File menu and select the Print command. When you see the Print dialog box, you'll need to select Fax, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G
You'll fax a document from within the application's Print dialog box.

As soon as you click the Print button, you'll see the opening page of the Send Fax Wizard and will simply click Next. On the next page, you'll enter the name and fax number of the person to whom you want to send a fax, as shown in Figure H. You can manually enter this information in the To and Fax number text boxes and click the Add button, or you can click the Address Book button to select a name from Outlook Express or Outlook.

Figure H
You can manually fill in the recipient information or you can get it from your address book.

When you click Next, you'll be prompted to add information to the cover sheet. As you can see in Figure I, you can choose a cover sheet template, as well as add a subject and a short note.

Figure I
In addition to choosing a cover sheet template, you can add a subject and a short note.

When you click Next, you'll be prompted to choose when you want to send the fax. Of course, the default setting is to send the fax immediately, as shown in Figure J.

Figure J
You can opt to send the fax right away or schedule it to be sent at a later time.

When you click Next, you'll see the confirmation page. Once you're satisfied with the information and are ready to send the fax, just click Finish.

When you do, you'll see the Fax Monitor, which will keep you apprised of the entire procedure, as shown in Figure K. Keep in mind that if the line is busy, Fax Console will wait a few moments and then try again.

Figure K
The Fax Monitor keeps you apprised of the entire send procedure.

Faxing a paper document
As you can see, faxing an electronic document appears to be a pretty straightforward operation, once you see how it's done. But how do you go about faxing a paper document? For example, suppose that you received a paper contract via the mail and now need to fax the signed copy back to the company before you can start a particular project. Well, all you need is a scanner and a couple of Windows XP's built-in wizards—the Scanner And Camera Wizard and the Photo Printing Wizard.

To get started, place the paper document in your scanner. Then, open My Computer and click on the scanner's icon to launch the Scanner And Camera Wizard. When you see the opening page, just click Next. On the Choose Scanning Preferences page, select the Grayscale picture option, and then click Preview to initiate the scan operation. Once the document appears in the Scanner And Camera Wizard's preview pane, as shown in Figure L, simply follow through with the rest of the wizard to name the file, choose a file format, and specify the folder in which you want to save the file.

Figure L
Once you click the Preview button, the Scanner And Camera Wizard will scan the document.

I suggest using the TIFF format and the My Pictures folder. Keep in mind that the Scanner And Camera Wizard will automatically create a folder with the same name as you assign to your document and then place the document in that folder. For example, if you name your file Contract and specify the My Pictures folder, you'll actually find the file in the Contract folder inside the My Pictures folder.

When the Scanner And Camera Wizard finishes, it will automatically assist you in proceeding to the next step by opening the folder in which it saved the file. To continue, you'll need to right-click on the file and select Open With | Windows Picture And Fax Viewer. Next, click the Print button on the toolbar to launch the Photo Printing Wizard. Then, click Next to advance past the opening page.

When you see the Printing Options page, select Fax from the What Printer Do You Want To Use dropdown list, as shown in Figure M, and click Next. Don't worry about clicking the Printer Preferences buttons, as the default settings—letter size at 200x200 dpi—will work fine for most faxes.

Figure M
In most situations, you don't need to be concerned with the Printer Preferences settings.

You'll then see the Layout Selection page. Again the default—full page fax print—should be fine, so just click Next. When you do, the Send Fax Wizard will launch and you'll follow the same steps I discussed earlier.

Receiving a fax
Receiving a fax in Windows XP is a snap. When Fax Services, which runs in the background, detects an incoming fax, it loads the Fax Console. Then, depending on how you've configured it to answer incoming calls, Fax Console will either automatically answer the call or prompt you to answer the call.

If you've chosen to answer incoming calls manually, Fax Console displays its icon, accompanied by a popup balloon, in the system tray, as shown in Figure N. As it does, you'll hear the phone ringing sound event.

Figure N
To manually answer and incoming call, you just click the balloon.

When you click the balloon, you'll see the Fax Monitor. If Fax Console is configured to automatically answer calls, you'll see the Fax Monitor as soon as it picks up the line. As the fax is being received, Fax Monitor will keep you apprised of the entire procedure from start to finish, as shown in Figure O.

Figure O
The Fax Monitor keeps you informed of the entire receive procedure.

Once the fax is received, you'll see the Fax console windows and the fax you just received in the Inbox, as shown in Figure P. Of course, if you've configured the Fax Console to automatically print received faxes, you'll see a hard copy coming out of the printer.

Figure P
The Fax Console allows you to manage your received and sent faxes.

Problems with Windows XP's Fax Services?
If you encounter any problems with Windows XP's Fax Services, be sure to investigate Microsoft Knowledge Base article 321639. You might also want to look for firsthand troubleshooting information within the Windows XP Printing & Faxing newsgroup on the Web.