Pushing a 56K modem to its limits

  Mad Boy 20:21 03 Oct 03

Hi there!

I know you can only make something do or go as far or as fast as it can. I cant afford to run broadband or higher. Anyway im fed up of my Conexant V90 56K Modem. It is slow and i feel it isnt reaching its full potential (if it has any!). Anyway can anyway honestly say if it can be optimized for a higher performance. There are tools such as Ashampoo! Win optimizer that allow you to do this (but guess what, it doesnt work.).


If you know what i mean.

Thanks in advance

  GANDALF <|:-)> 20:31 03 Oct 03

There is NO way of increasing your connection speed to a noticeable degree. You could try asking BT to check the gain on your line but that is all. The so-called speed up programmes are as much use a snow at harvest.


  Simsy 20:37 03 Oct 03

to have the right driver...

When I was experimenting in a similar way a couple of years ago I did get one driver to make a very very noticable differnce in download speed. However, with this one I was unable to get the speaker to mute after connection. It had to go!

Good luck in your quest,



(A fellow Conexant V90 56K Modem user!)

  Mad Boy 20:37 03 Oct 03

Yeah, thanks. Put a name into a app and you think hey presto! unfortunately it doesnt work like that. Could buying a new 56K modem make a difference (its a bout 4 year old). Im trying to find any cheap possibilities to do something about this.

Otherwise what is the CHEAPEST broadband service (a month). Aol is far to dear (£28 or something, so is BT).

Well thanks for your help

  Mad Boy 20:38 03 Oct 03

Wooahhhhh! i though i was the only one running dial up in the universe. Everyone has suddenly discovered Broadband

  Ironman556 20:45 03 Oct 03

I have a new PC with a new £19.99 PCW modem, max I've had is about 38 kbps with a min of 26 kbps, often disconnects too.

Also got a 4 yr old PC with 56K, 38 kbps min and 44kbps max.

My point, newer isn't always better... stick with what's working ok until BB prices drop again.

  woodchip 20:47 03 Oct 03

Most Current Drivers

First and foremost, my advice is that you should always have the most current
drivers for your modem. These are most often available free of charge from
your modem's manufacturer's web site. If you don't know the correct website
for your modem manufacturer, check your documentation that came with your

[email protected]

Factory Settings/Default Modem String

If you cannot get your modem to initialize, try using AT&F1 or ATZ as your
initialization strings. AT&F1 usually will return a modem to factory settings.
ATZ should reset your modem to default settings.

No Dial Tone and Modem Speaker Volume

If you cannot get a dial tone, be sure that your modem is properly plugged in
and connected to your system as well as the telephone jack.
If applicable, make sure that your modem's speaker is turned up enough so that
you can hear dial tones, busy signals, and handshakes.
(Handshakes are the noises the modem usually makes as it is connecting with
another modem). This will help you determine whether or not your modem is able
to obtain a dial tone and even dial out. If it is able to get a dial tone and
dial out, but cannot connect, it may be a problem with the modem you are
trying to call. In Windows 95/98, you can change your modem speaker volume in
the Control Panel, Modems. Select your modem, and click on "Properties" to
raise or lower your modem's speaker volume. If you still cannot connect to the
number, try using a different local access number.

[email protected]

Short Cord

Try not to use a long telephone cord, as longer cables tend to have some
signal degradation, which means slower connections and file transfers.

How To Identify Your Modem

Lots of people have asked how they can tell who made their no-name modem.
Sometimes it's not important to know the exact manufacturer. The most common
commands between modems are often the same. If you are using Windows 3.x, you
probably don't need any specific modem driver. Lots of modems use a common
chipset (such as Rockwell) on a board. Most of the time, you can find the
chipset name printed on the largest chip on the modem, and sometimes you may
find it by entering some of the AT "ID" commands (ATI1, ATI2, ATI3, etc.) in
the screen of a communications program such as the Terminal and/or
HyperTerminal programs. Terminal comes standard with Windows 3.x, and
HyperTerminal is included with Win95/98.
The ATI commands usually run up through 10 or 12, and you can learn a lot from
them, such as the values in the s-registers, and sometimes even a list of
modem commands. One of the ATI commands will usualy return some modem ID or
chipset ID (Rockwell chipset ID's usually start with an "R").
If you know the chipset name, you can probably find drivers that you can
download on the manufacturer's web site.

[email protected]

HyperTerminal AT Commands

To send AT commands to your modem(s), run the HyperTerminal program
(HyperTrm.exe) which is usually found at Start, Programs, Accessories,
HyperTerminal. In the "Connection Description" dialog box, enter the name "AT
COMMANDS", choose any icon it offers, and click OK. On the "Connect Screen",
do not enter a phone number, but rather click the down arrow on the "Connect
Using" line and pick "Direct to Com#" (replace "Com#" with the communication
port your modem is on). Save this session. From now on, just double click the
"AT COMMANDS" icon to open a terminal screen within which you can communicate
directly with your modem by AT commands.

[email protected]

WinModem in DOS

If you have a WinModem and cannot get it function in DOS or DOS Mode, it is
due to the fact that WinModems will only function under Windows, and most do
not use a Rockwell chipset. These modems will only function under Windows
3.x/Win95/98, although I have recieved information that suggests they might
work under Windows NT as well, however that is currently beyond the scope of
this file. If you cannot get your WinModem to function, I suggest checking
your manufacturer's website and downloading the most current drivers for it.
You may be able to access the Internet by using a friend, family, or
co-worker's computer in order to obtain the drivers if you cannot connect to
the Internet with your WinModem. You can then copy the drivers onto a floppy
disk and use them in your own computer.

[email protected]

  woodchip 20:49 03 Oct 03


Unplugging Devices From Modem's PHONE Jack

This tip appears courtesy of [email protected] (Ray) and [email protected].

If someone's modem is not connecting at its full potential the phone they have
coming out of their machine may be effecting it. Most modems have a jack for
"LINE" and "PHONE" the one labeled "LINE" being incoming and the one labled
"PHONE" being outgoing. If there is a telephone or caller ID box connected to
the "PHONE" (outgoing) jack, it may be affecting your Internet/Fax/BBS
connections. For Ray, it would only connect at 31200 while the telephone was
plugged into the "PHONE" (outgoing) jack, but when he unplugged the telephone
from the "PHONE" (outgoing) jack he was connecting at 33600 every time.
Thank you very much Ray and George for this tip.

Ray ([email protected]) and George ([email protected])

MaxMTU Fix

Some people have found that their Internet file transfers are quite slow,
often between 900-1,800 characters per second, even on a 56k modem. It might
very possibly be a result of a Windows 95/98 Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU)
problem. Look at the "Bytes received/sec." in System Monitor (SYSMON) and
compare it to the characters per second reported by your web browser. These
two numbers should be within 10%-12%; so if your "Bytes received/sec." is
3,300, your characters per second should be around 3,000. If the characters
per second are 900-1,800, you are getting a lot of unneeded retransmissions
that are quite possibly due to the Windows 95/98 MTU problem.
Microsoft has not released a fix for this yet, but if you download and run:
"click here" (no quotes) and change your
MTU value to 576 (the default is 1500), it will correct the MTU "bug" in
Windows 95 versions 4.00.950 (retail), 4.00.950a (OSR1) and 4.00.950 B (OSR2),
however, I have been unable to get TCPIPCFG.EXE to work when Microsoft
Internet Explorer 4.0 or 4.01 for Win95, or Windows 98 (with IE 4.01 SP1)
were installed on the system.

Update: [3/20/1998] A concerned reader ([email protected]) writes:
I just read your modem tips file and you should clarify the MaxMTU fix. The
setting 576 doesn't work for all ISP's it can range anywhere from 512 all the
way to 1500.... 1500 is where my ISP's setting is set and where I get the best
performance. I also noticed that just using MTUspeed to add the 1500 setting
made a difference even though it is the Win95/98 default. I also noticed more
of an improvement by installing Microsoft's Unimodem update (a huge
difference) then rebooting, uninstalling my modem (rebooting), then
reinstalling my modem drivers I jumped from 2.1 k/sec to over 3.0 k/sec.

[email protected] and [email protected]

Max ISDN Speed

Unless you use ultra-high-speed serial boards or special buffers, an external
serially connected ISDN modem will always result in slower performance than an
internal ISDN modem. This is because the 16550 UART maximum is 115.2Kbps, not
the 128Kbps a dual-channel ISDN connection is capable of reaching. If you want
to get every drop of performance out of your ISDN modem, use an internal one.

[email protected]

  woodchip 20:53 03 Oct 03

This one for bigger buffers I use. Set to 4,096 is best on mine


Build a Bigger Buffer

Any modem user has probably received an important transmission with characters
missing. There is no way to find and retrieve the lost characters, but you can
increase your odds of receiving data intact by adding a line or two to your
SYSTEM.INI file. Before starting, it's important to understand how Windows
handles incoming data transmissions. Your modem sends the data it receives to
Windows' COMM driver. This stores the received data in a memory buffer until
your communications program retrieves it. Unfortunately displaying and storing
all the received data keeps your communications program working overtime. As a
result, it can't always retrieve data from the COMM driver as often as it
needs to.
By default, Windows sets aside just enough buffer space to store 128 incoming
characters. Unfortunately, once a modem has been connected, data flows
continuously. Your computer can temporarily stop the flow of data, but doing
that takes time. Meanwhile, data continues to arrive and must be stored in the
COMM driver buffer. If your communication link is slow, or your communication
program is fast, a 128-character buffer might suffice. But with a fast modem
or a slow program, it's possible for more than 128 characters to arrive before
your program can process them. In that case, the COMM driver has no place to
store the 129th character and those that come after it.
Luckily, you can expand Windows' COMM buffers. By adding a line to the
[386enh] section of the SYSTEM.INI file, you can create a buffer as large as
10,000 characters. Actually since the COMM driver maintains a buffer for each
of your PC's COM ports, you can add up to four lines, each controlling the
size of a particular port's buffer. Each line should resemble this:
Replace the x with a number between 1 and 4 to indicate the desired COM port,
and substitute num with a number from 128 to 10,000 to set the buffer size.
You have to exit and restart Windows for the change to take effect. Use a text
editor when editing SYSTEM.INI.
As for how big should your COMM buffer be, if characters are being dropped
from incoming data transmissions, create a new buffer of at least 2,048
(2KB) characters. If problems persist, increase the size of the buffer to
4,096 (4KB) or even 8,192 (8KB).

[email protected]

Powerful Ports

Often, Win95/98 systems arrive with the COM ports set for 9,600bps, but if
you're using a 14.4Kbps or faster modem, increase that.
Open the Control Panel's System applet and click on the Device Manager tab.
Expand the Ports entry, double-click on each serial COM port and follow these
steps. Click on the Port Settings tab. Make sure your Bits Per Second entries
read 115,200 or higher (or at least 57,600), and the Flow Control is set to
Hardware. Next, click on the Advanced button and then select the "Use FIFO
buffers [requires 16550 compatible UART]" option.

[email protected]

Buff Buffers

You can experiment with the Receive and Transmit Buffer options in modem
properties in Win95/98, but I suggest you just configure both to the highest
setting and bring them down if communication problems arise.

[email protected]

Correct Modem Setup

If Windows 95/98 didn't recognize and install your modem correctly, it may not
be using the right AT initialization string for a dial-up connection which
could hamper performance. To check this setting, open the Modems applet in the
Control Panel. The modem brand and type should match the one installed on your
system. If it doesn't match, highlight it and click on the Remove button in
the Modems Control Panel; then click on the Add button and follow the wizard
to install the correct one.

[email protected]

Faster Data Transfer and Connection Speeds

For Win95/98, in the Modems Control Panel, click on the Properties button.
Under the General tab, make sure the "Maximum Speed" is configured to 115,200
or higher (or at least 57,600). Open the Connection tab, click on the Advanced
button and check the User Error Control, Compress Data and Use Flow Control
(Hardware) options.

[email protected]

  Taran 20:55 03 Oct 03

You can sometimes get slightly better results using a hardware modem. Internal or external models are available, but make absolutely certain that you are buying a hardware modem and not an in-between software modem in a pretty box (some external modems can trick you like this).

As Simsy and GANDALF <|:-)> point out though, about the only possible increase in speed you are likely to see depends on having the most current drivers installed and the overall quality of your telephone line. Asking BT to check or increase the gain may help but if you mention it is for data transfer via modem they may not even entertain you since they are obliged to supply a working telephone line and not a clean modem line.

Also keep in mind that 56k is the maximum speed that a 56k modem can transfer data. Most 56k users find that they will connect at around 44 to 46k (ish) and if you ever start a file download it can be interesting and also very frustrating to watch the wild variations in data transfer speed.

The speed at which you connect is nothing more than that: a measurement of the data transfer at point and time of connecting. Almost the instant you have connected the actual rate of transfer starts going up and down like a YoYo.

Short of going over to broadband there is little you can do. You certainly won't ever realise a 56k connection and maintain that sort of transfer speed while surfing, downloading or whatever.

It's worth noting that many of the so-called internet speed up programs can actually slow you down. Most of them work by scanning the links on the page you are currently viewing and they try to 'best guess' which link you will click next by pre-loading that page. If your current page has many links, this means your modem is smoking along trying to cache that many pages on the off-chance you may select one of those links. It's kind of like an Internet history cache in reverse, if that makes sense. The point is though, that instead of requesting one page when you click a link then you sit and wait for it to load, lots of pages that you will never even look at are being downloaded in the background so that if you do click a link leading to one of them, it opens up quicker. Nightmare...

  Mad Boy 20:56 03 Oct 03

Ummmm, kept me reading for a while, very interesting however. Before i go on, my pc specs are:

566Mhz Intel Celeron Processor
128.0Mb Ram
Windows 98 Se
Conexant V90 56K Modem
12Gb HD
PC, custom built (about 3-4 years ago now), with latest format around 2 months.

Bearing in mind what you said above, i think i should look for driver upgrades right away, especially if mine is so old. Upgrading a driver wont effect, or stop my modem from running will it?


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