Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
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Troubleshooting Your Modem Disconnect Problems
Greg Gore


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Frequent modem disconnect problems while you are browsing the Internet are very annoying to experience and they are often frustrating to correct because they can be caused by a number of reasons.

Over the 2002 Thanksgiving Holiday season, I experienced frequent modem disconnects, which were exceptionally annoying when they occurred while I was in the middle of trying to place an Internet order or filling out a form to submit. Fortunately, I use CCIL (Chester County Interlink) as my Internet Service Provider ( and Eric Reischer, one of CCIL’s key technical volunteers, was able to diagnose and correct the problem.

Reischer enabled Link Quality Monitoring on CCIL so that my modem and CCIL’s modem could constantly check the line quality throughout the duration of the call, rather than just at the beginning. The logs revealed that my problem was a bad repeater card at my phone company’s office. Reischer added that “having a larger number of people making calls at busy holiday times doesn't necessarily make noise; it just lessens the quality slightly in a way that your modem can ‘hear’ but that you can't hear.”

If you experience frequent modem disconnects, Reischer suggests you “first check the quality of your phone’s connection to your phone company’s equipment by picking up a non-cordless phone and dialing a number, such as ‘5,’ and listening to the phone. You should hear dead silence. If there is a hum or other noise on the line, then that means your line quality is bad and will cause your modem to hang up while you are browsing the Internet. To fix the problem, call your phone company and tell them your phone is noisy.” Also, request that the line be checked from your location rather than having it checked at your phone company’s office.

Problems can also be caused by devices connected to your phone line or located close to your phone line. One way to determine if a device is causing a problem is to disconnect every device (other phones, cordless phones, fax machines, answering machines, etcetera) connected to your phone line other than your modem. Then begin to reconnect devices one at time, with a test after each reconnect, until you locate the problem device.

In addition, noise can be caused by cables and cords placed too close to the phone line. Try separating the phone line 3-6 inches from printer cables, monitor cables, extension cords, and the like. While you are doing this, also check for loose connections in your phone line, modem cable or internal modem card.

Other causes of line noise can be the use of jack splitters or jack multipliers on your phone line, Call Waiting, and even weather conditions (e.g., heavy rainfall has been known to cause line noise).

Disconnects can also be caused by communications problems between your modem and computer. If you have a disconnect problem you can’t isolate, you can make some changes in your modem settings to change the way your modem communicates with your computer. First, try lowering the modem settings for the FIFO buffers by following these steps in Windows 98: Start > Settings > Control Panel > Modems  > Properties > Connection > Port Settings. Move the buffers to the “Low” setting.

Another option is to adjust the modem hang-up time. The hang-up time allows the modem a brief wait to be sure the disconnect is a true hang-up and not a temporary disturbance. This setting is measured in tenths of a second. As an example, to set your modem to wait ten seconds before hanging up follow these steps in Windows 98: Start > Settings > Control Panel > Modems  > Properties > Connection > Advanced Connection Settings > Extra Settings. Enter S10=100 in the box.

Changing your modem settings will often correct communications problems between your modem and your computer.


The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on April 16, 2003. Greg Gore can be reached at

© 2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.