This week in the Technical Q&A, I am highlighting an encounter with a nonresponsive modem. TechRepublic member crikb turned to the Support community for assistance. And our members came through with plenty of helpful advice on how to solve this modem SOS. As you will see from the responses, IT support requires patience and determination, but with the right help, even the toughest problem can be tamed.

Error 630: A modem distress signal
In his Q&A question, crikb faced the following problem: Error 630—The Computer Is Not Receiving A Response From The Modem. See If The Modem Is Plugged In; If Necessary, Turn The Modem Off And Then Turn It Back On. He writes that he has “tried everything…to solve this problem.” He says he’s used several different modems that he knows work and disabled win.ini load commands. He even “switched, removed, and changed COM ports and serial ports. Windows sees the modem in the Control Panel, but it will not dial out.”

After attempted upgrades to both a 56-Kbps internal and a 56-Kbps external modem, this user still receives the same error message. He writes, “At the DOS C\:, the AT commands echo back, but there is no dial tone. The original modem was working, and then [it] stopped.”

So many possibilities
And this is when things get sticky. After crikb’s post, member responses and possible solutions came in droves. Here is a list of some of the useful advice members contributed:

  • “Check for conflicts in Device Manager. If there are any yellow question marks (?) or exclamation points (!), correct them first. Go to Control Panel | Modems. If you see modems other than the one currently installed, select and remove them one at a time. You may need to reboot before proceeding to the next step. Click on the Diagnostics tab, select your modem, and then click More Information. If you find errors listed here, you have a driver problem—likely from remnants of an old driver. Check with the manufacturer of any old modems that were used on the machine for driver removal instructions.” (Submitted by TheChas)
  • “Check for updated drivers for the modem. This has cured a number of modem problems for me.” (Submitted by TheChas)
  • “If the modem passes the diagnostics, you may have a phone-line problem. Some modems are sensitive to phone-line polarity. You can get a phone-line checker at Radio Shack for under $10 to check for this. Also, many modem problems [can be] traced to a bad phone cord elsewhere in the system. Try disconnecting all phones from the line. If possible, plug in only the modem at the point where the phone line enters the house, with the rest of the house disconnected.” (Offered by TheChas)
  • “This error message can occur if the modem is using a new serial-port assignment due to new devices installed by Windows 98 hardware detection. In these cases, change the properties of the Dial-Up Networking connection to use the new modem settings. [Also] Programs in the Startup folder can cause this error message. You may need to disable or remove programs from the Startup folder. See Error 630 section of Microsoft Knowledge Base Article Q190554, ‘How to Troubleshoot Modem Problems in Windows 98/98 Second Edition.’” (Offered by Maxwell Edison)
  • “This error may indicate the modem is damaged, not connected, or installed improperly. If you have an external modem, make sure the cable is connected and the modem is powered on. If there have been electrical disturbances (including thunderstorms or power failure/surges) since the last time the modem worked, that may be the cause. If the modem has never worked, check the installation and, if possible, try the modem in another system.” (Offered by Maxwell Edison)
  • “This error may also occur if your modem is being given a bad init string with a command that it does not support. Remove any extra settings/init strings. Make sure the modem is installed with and using the correct .inf file. [Then] examine the Modem log to see if there is any modem response.” (Offered by Maxwell Edison)
  • “This error may occur if you have special telephone company provided features, like distinctive dial tone [or] dial tone stuttering, signaling voice-mail services, etc. Several methods can be used to fix this, including the use of commas in the dialed number or changing the Wait For Dial Tone Before Dialing time. See Microsoft Knowledge Base Article Q184086, ‘Phone Company Services May Disrupt Modem Functionality.'” (Offered by Maxwell Edison)

No help yet
Unfortunately, all of the great advice didn’t pertain to crikb’s modem problem. He writes, “I tried everything you said already. [Additionally, I] tried five different new modems.” But this story is not without a happy ending. As with any IT quandary, a solution was just around the corner.

Leave no rock unturned
Member Jesselou suggests checking the port I/O address settings in the BIOS. “Go to your BIOS in peripheral device settings and examine your ports. Make sure they are not disabled, or set to Auto. Instead, set the first port to 3f8h and the second port to 2f8h. (This is your COM 1 and COM 2.) Save and exit the BIOS.”

Continuing, jesselou writes, “When Windows is restarting, press [F8] to go to the Start menu and select Safe Mode. Uninstall your modems through Add/Remove Programs, in your Device Manager, or in your modems applet in Control Panel. Restart your PC and let it boot normally. Windows will [find] a PCI communications device.” Then, all that is left to do is install the proper modem drivers, but jesselou warns, “Before using [the modem], check its diagnostics in the modem applet in Control Panel. If your modem responds, the commands it supports will pop up immediately.”

“That worked. I forgot about the BIOS,” responded our troubled user.

Troubleshooters needed

Did you think to check the BIOS settings in this case? What problems have you faced with modems and dial-up networking? Post a comment to this article or visit the Technical Q&A here at TechRepublic. Happy troubleshooting!