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which modem should i buy?

Posted on 2000-02-23
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Last Modified: 2013-12-27
i don't know much about modems.  i know i want a PCI 56k modem,  but when i do a search using PriceWatch, they have some that cost $7 and others that cost over $50.  Why are some so cheap and others so expensive?  What features should i look for to get maximum speed and performance?  I notice that in some descriptions the word "fax" is included.  Is this implying that i can't send faxes using any old modem (ie with fax machine from win95)??  
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Question by:tetsuo
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by:Otta
ID: 2551268
Buy quality, e.g., Diamond Supra 56i or US Robotics Sportster.

Avoid the USR "winmodem" model, or any modem which is advertised as "optimized for Windows" or "requires Win 95/98".
If it says "works with OS/2 Warp" or "works with Windows NT" or "works with Linux", then it will be OK.

If it says "HSP" (Host Signal Processing), avoid it.
If it says "DSP" (Digital Signal Processing), select it.
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by:hpost
ID: 2551583
Software-based modems use fewer chips than hardware controlled modems, so are cheaper to manufacture, (explains the $7 pricetag). The work normally done by the missing chips is transferred to software running on the host computer's main processor (the Pentium, PowerPC, etc.).

Modems consist of two major components:

A datampump performs the basic modulation/demodulation tasks for which modems are named
A controller provides the modem's identity: this is where the protocols for hardware error correction, hardware data compression, and basic modulation protocols (such as V.34, x2 or K56flex) exist. The controller is also what interprets AT commands.

A controllerless modem, such as the U.S. Robotics (now 3Com) Winmodem, still has a hardware datapump, but implements the controller function as software.

An HSP modem dispenses with both the controller and the datapump, and uses software to provide both functions. Short for host signal processor, HSP modems transfer the work normally done by the missing chips to software running on the host computer's main processor.

 Controllerless modems and HSP's rely heavily on your computer's processor, and are not reliable if your CPU is slower than 166mhz, and you have less than 64 megs of ram. Even if your machine meets those requirements, you may still experience dropped connects and difficulty logging on to your ISP.
I reccomend going with a name brand, hardware controlled modem. They are more reliable, can be used with many OS's and also offer better performance with online gaming that requires using DOS.
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by:Otta
ID: 2553015
HPOST, why did you paraphase OTTA's comment, and then claim it as an "answer"?  Trying to "steal" the answer-points?
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2553150
otta:  

    hpost's answer was more indepth.  i did mention that i had little knowledge on the subject; hpost provided more details.  the answer that is most helpful or informative will be awarded the points.  however i want others to voice their opinions.  it's too early for an answer - i think i can learn more.  
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by:rayt333
ID: 2553159
OK I like opinion questions:
I would (and I always do) buy a 3Com (US Robotics) external modem, voice or just fax your choice, I have both but I don't use the voice features.

That is in my opinion the best modem for the money if you are limited to analog phone use.



Name:                  First Login:
hpost                   1/20/99
Not a newbie but only answered one question in a year???
then use copied comments (very simiular at least) in the posted answer, most of us only post comments unless it is cut and dried.

PS I am thinking about moving to Montana in a few years, Is that a nice open state? as in very rural areas?
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2554894
Well I hear that you can drive as fast as you want in Montana.  That would imply large open rural areas.  

So you like the external US robotics? How does the external modem connect to your computer, serial port?  If so, which is faster, PCI bus or serial?

I always thought that internal modems were faster.  Any thoughts?
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by:Otta
ID: 2555366
> internal modems were faster ...

True, years and years ago, when motherboards had _slow_ onboard COM ports.
Using an internal modem would bypass that slow port.

However, any 486/586 motherboard has a "fast" onboard COM port, so you can connect an external modem to that port.
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by:alchemy
ID: 2555949
You just forgot to mention Otta ,than external modem always more expensive. And ,of course, I totally agree ,that 3com (USR) Modem are The Best.
Btw: I didn't took the chance on  PCI Modem - any could be Win modem
so i you want to be totally sure - USRoborics 56K Voice Int PNP [ISA]

If you still want a cheap one :
OK : ESS Based - [if you have strong pc] i heard that new ones are ok

DONT BUY: PCTEL,ZOLTRIX,ROCKWELL,LUCENT,MOTOROLLA (External are Hell expensive - but ok),Best data,.....
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by:rayt333
ID: 2555982
I think USR quit making the ISA modem, you may be able to find some on dealers shelves yet but they are no longer listed in the catalog, only PCI, I assume this is because many MB makers are getting away from the ISA slots, I read somewhere that before long there won't be any ISA slots on the new MB's. Several are like that already and several more only has 1 slot
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by:hpost
ID: 2556522
The pts are not a major concern to me. Can't promise I'll answer any other questions this year, sorry. Just trying to help, not trying to steal pts or bruise feelings. Montana now has speed limit but is very rural, by the way. Less than 1,000,000 people in state. What this has to do with modems..I just don't know..
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by:rayt333
ID: 2556542
hpost
"Less than 1,000,000 people in state. What this has to do with modems..I just don't know.."

This has nothing to do with Modems, I am wanting to move out to Montana sometime in the next few years if possible, maybe this was bad place to state that since it is off subject. I work in a goverment job and I was hoping I could tranfer to a more rural area later.

Sorry for going off subject.
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2557702
Yes, I thought that ISA was "outdated" technology, and there would be no need for it.  Is the speed of the serial port directly related to the FSB speed?    Just wondering.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2558240
The "old style" USRobotocs 56k internal ISA modems are no longer being made, but 3com now is making their own 56k internal ISA modem (which works pretty good. Ive got 2 here) that loooks totally different then the sportsters did (but i think its still called a sporster)... its not a winmodem, but its definately different looking.  My personal preference on modems is the USRobotics Courier v.Everything modems, but for more budget-minded people, the sportster is a good choice.  I would NEVER EVER EVER buy a modem that wasn't a 3com/USR modem - Ive seen too much junk out there.  Y'all are talkin about internal / external / which is faster.. Think about this.. you modem is sending stuff at like what 5k ??  Those serial ports work WAY faster than that, so does it really matter if its internal or external?  I like internal because they take up less desk space, which is precious to me, but I also like external because of the pretty blinky lights, plus you can reset it if you have to w/o powering down the PC.

Just my opinions. Hope it helps.
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2558286
ah, a new perspective.  keep em comin!
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by:Otta
ID: 2558809
> Is the speed of the serial port directly related to the FSB speed?

Not related at all.
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by:rayt333
ID: 2559220
My reasons for an external over an internal:

1. Much easier to move between different computers if needed. Also in a matter of seconds I can switch modems to see if there is problem with modem or software.
2. Have you ever had your modem "hang" and wouldn't disconnect? And the only way to disconnect was to shut your computer down? The external has a nice power button!
3.Them pretty blinking lights also are very useful to trouble shoot a modem problem.
4.External modem does not use an IRQ, only the Com port uses an IRQ meaning you are freeing one up.

Internal is fine for the average user and in my opinion probably better, out of sight, out of mind, but I still prefer the external for the reasons above
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by:hpost
ID: 2559287
I must admit that the best modems that I have seen are USR's, particularly the Courier v.Everything. Unfortunately, this is one of the most expensive modems you can buy. If price is an issue, that modem may not be an option. I think that the internal/external modem thing really isn't based much on performance, just personal preference. If you are in a situation where you would like to use a modem with more than one machine, an external is an excellent choice. I broke my last external by dropping it off my desk, (external modem pitfall).
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by:Alisher_N
ID: 2559298
one more VERY important thing (I think nobody havn't mentioned it yet)

Internal modem behaviour depends on your PC power supply unit also!
All electric noises, extra pulses, all load to power and data buses influences to modems (sound cards also)... try to put your sound card to max. volume, then move your mouse, open/close programs, find files on disk - you will hear all that 'interpreted' by sound card as clicks & pops. This happens due to not perfect power supply rectifing (how do I say it in English ? ;-)), sorry, my native is Russian)
All external modems have their own power supply, this means they are much more steady by definition (or by class).
Buying an external modem you invest more money, but you will be protected from bad phone lines problems and other negative factors. Don't save on your future reliable work on-line!

ps. I have an external USR Courier V.ALL ;-)

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by:hpost
ID: 2559380
I must admit that the best modems that I have seen are USR's, particularly the Courier v.Everything. Unfortunately, this is one of the most expensive modems you can buy. If price is an issue, that modem may not be an option. I think that the internal/external modem thing really isn't based much on performance, just personal preference. If you are in a situation where you would like to use a modem with more than one machine, an external is an excellent choice. I broke my last external by dropping it off my desk, (external modem pitfall).
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by:hpost
ID: 2559693
I must admit that the best modems that I have seen are USR's, particularly the Courier v.Everything. Unfortunately, this is one of the most expensive modems you can buy. If price is an issue, that modem may not be an option. I think that the internal/external modem thing really isn't based much on performance, just personal preference. If you are in a situation where you would like to use a modem with more than one machine, an external is an excellent choice. I broke my last external by dropping it off my desk, (external modem pitfall).
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by:CoryG
ID: 2559715
I have a USRobotics 56k Winmodem internal at home and I have never had any problems in 2 years, nor have I ever connected to the internet lower than 50k. I constantly play multi-player games online and have been dropped very few times. Its a great modem.If I were you I would go with a winmodem. Be warned, NT doesn't work well with winmodems, so if you ever plan on switching this will be something to think about. However, NT sucks at playing games too, so if you play games you wont be switching.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2559736
a DOS machine (or dos games ... like quake etc) will NOT work with a winmodem (I'm no quake expert maybe theres a windows version??).... A Winmodem uses the CPU's horsepower instead of the horespower that most modems have built on board.... Essentially slowing the whole computer down.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2559784
And you know this from where? Experience or someone told you this?
Not trying to be smart, just trying to figure out where you got this info. True, a winmodem does access more more of the CPU than a normal modem, but their are advantages to this such as stability and integration with the CPU.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2562546
I am the prior owner of 2 modems, plus a hardware technician by trade.  A winmodem will not work with dos apps by nature.  It "pretends" to be a com port, it actually is not a com port - dos does not know how to access these virtual ports.  
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2562993
Yes, I do plan to use this modem with multiple operating systems (most definitely Linux), so compatibility is an issue.  Price, although it is an issue, it's not a very important one.  It would be nice to be able to pay only 7 dollars, but if it's worthwhile to save 200 bucks for something worth the price, i'll just wait.  
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by:Alisher_N
ID: 2563058
in this case DO NOT buy a soft modem - you'll be in trouble sooner or later... (by the way the is no support for soft modems under Linux! )
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by:kittlej
ID: 2563231
and in correction to my last comment - I have owned dozens of modems.... I am the prior owner of 2 WINmodems
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by:Otta
ID: 2563244
> BTW: there is no support for soft modems under Linux ...

Huh?  See: http://www.linmodems.org/
for "Linux Winmodem Support".
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by:kittlej
ID: 2563339
One thing - just because the open source community is developing drivers for these software modems in linux, they still suck cpu resources that could be better put to use... a software modem will slow your PC down.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2563552
One thing - just because the open source community is developing drivers for these software modems in linux, they still suck cpu resources that could be better put to use... a software modem will slow your PC down.
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by:Otta
ID: 2565659
> they still suck CPU resources that could be better put to use...

This is true, but how often does one "miss" 20Mhz to 40Mhz (consumed by the modem) from a CPU running at 200Mhz to 800Mhz?  

Probably never.
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by:tetsuo
ID: 2565853
What is the difference between V.90 and V.everything, besides about 100 bucks?
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by:kittlej
ID: 2565986
v.90 is the latest standard. v.everything is not really a standard, but is what usrobotics called their courier modems when they claimed it to be the "last modem you will ever have to buy".  a v.everything modem can be (theoretically) flashed over and over forever (yeah right) to support new speeds and new technology

On the mhz note - a winmodem does not necessarily suck 20 mhz or 40 mhz.. it reduces your overall capability to work by depleating valuable system resources including memory, cpu, and reduces your overall throughput of data processing
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by:Otta
ID: 2566558
> a winmodem does not necessarily suck 20 mhz or 40 mhz..

Yes, it does, at a minimum.

> it reduces your overall capability to work

Using a modem _enhances_ your overall capability to be productive.

> by depleating [sic] valuable system resources including memory,

Please quantify.  Does it take 64Kbytes? 512Kbytes? 1Mb?
How large a percentage of your total RAM does it use? 0.5% of 32MB ? 1% of 64MB?

> CPU,

Yes, it uses CPU, but it saves $$$ in your pocket; it's your money -- spend it wisely.

> reduces your overall throughput of data processing

False.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2566770
not false. if you take away system resources, your overall performance will go down. I was just using big words to make me sound smart :)

I just try and tell people.. buy quality hardware.. You will fight it less in the long run, and you will be overall happier.  Is skimping $100 really worth all the headaches you might get from some incompatibility or a system slowdown in the future.  
and here's an experiment... try dialing the net w/ a winmodem, start some heavy number crunching program (like the distributed.net rc5 client) and try and access the floppy drive... youre internet will suck, and might even hang up (I was able to duplicate such a problem with my first winmodem.  If I tried to access the floppy drive while online, it would hang up, every time.)

Just a thought.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2568296
I happen to use a Winmodem(I said that earlier) and I have a 32mb, 200 mhz system(yuck!). I am constantly online. Playing games over TCP/IP and such. Never had a problem. And I don't have many resources to waste. I dowload things from other sites at the same time I am playing full graphics games, ex. Total Anhilation. I haven't noticed any slowdown in performance or otherwise.
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by:rayt333
ID: 2570370
CoryG
"I haven't noticed any slowdown in performance or otherwise."
So have you tried replacing the winmodem with a "good" modem to see if there was any improvement? If not then what are you comparing it to?
If you have never experienced higher performace then you don't miss it.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2570678
Higher performance? I work off a T3 at work and believe me, I miss it as soon as I get home. I ve had other modems besides this one. Im not a newbie. This is the first winmodem I have ever used at home. The other ones have be other US Robotics modems(not winmodems) and to be honest I haven't noticed any decrease in system activity on any level.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2570693
Im not necessarily saying you should by a winmodem. Im not saying they are the best on the market, but I am defending them to point of saying there are good quality winmodem's out there that do hold up to standard modems and in some case may be more "efficient" than standard modems. As with anything else in the world, the amount of available capital means everything. If I had the money, I would go out and by a cellular modem. Why not?
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by:CoryG
ID: 2570700
Especially if your using a laptop. Definitely a cellular modem would be the way to go.
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by:hpost
ID: 2570841
The back and forth banter is great here : ) I only have one more comment to add. Soft modems,HCF, HSP, etc, (especially generics), are an ISP's nightmare. Almost all disconnects and login problems we have as a business are related to those types of modems. There is the constant headache of trying to get the latest drivers for them, and sometimes there are phone line conditions where they just WON'T work. I think that there may be some slight compatibility problems between some modems and our routers, but for the most part, my company does not hear the same type of problems/complaints from customers with controller based modems.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2573142
To be honest, I miss my old Hayes 300 baud modem. Things have come a long ways since then. There was nothing to compare ore discuss back at that time.
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by:sinclairj
ID: 2595189
I suggest US Robotics Courier if you going external.  It works better than the Sportster.

If you are using Win98 don't get a Hayes modem.  The auto detect hardware feature of Win98 may detect it incorrectly. I have had this happen before.

The Diamond Supra is a good internal modem and should have no detection problems under Windows 2000.


Actually, from what I've seen, Win98 doesn't detect modems well at all.
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by:kittlej
ID: 2595671
"Works Better" is a relevant term. Better than what?  I've used both the courier's and sporsters heavily for many years, and I have seen no real difference on the consumer end.  I do however like the courier because it is just engineered better and designed for the business environment and non-stop 24/7 use. It is designed to "just work".  A sporster, while seemingly just as reliable, isn't the modem that youd stick in a tiny room on the side of the mountain where only a team of hikers can get to 1 week a year.  That's where the courier would go.  But I have no real complaints about either one. Both good modems.  Just stick with USR.
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reskew earned 50 total points
ID: 2598020
I have been working in 3Com's technical support department for 3 years.  I have used and abused the every Winmodem model and they are great modems if you maintain your system professionally. (scandisk, defrag, regclean, antivirus...) Fine for the casual user with a well built machine under warranty or for the technician, but subject to the same problems as software applications and not my first choice for the non-tech power user or power sufer.  Many models come with DOS support and will work with DOS games run underneath Windows, but none are provided with Linux support so you shouldn't purchase a 3Com Winmodem. 3Com's controller based internal modems are available in both ISA and PCI versions.  Some ISA models (568702) are PNP only and I am not familiar with PNP devices under Linux, but most have jumpers and can be installed in Dos or Linux and they would work for you. Some PCI models come with Dos support similar to the Winmodem's and Linux drivers may be available later this year.  One of these modems would be a better choice if you don't need Linux support right away.  The external sportster models are all very reliable and would also be good choices for you. (although the 568603, 568903, and 83909 may be more easily affected by environmental issues and I don't recommend them) The real answer to your original question (once you said money isn't an issue) is the 3Com Courier V.everything.  The modem is very reliable under even the harshest conditions with a variety of business features and toll free support.
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by:jjcontact
ID: 2643196
3com jumped out of the business of analog modems - see ZDNET of today. I still haven't gotten drivers for my USB modem and Windows98 SE after 1 1/2 years, so I wouldn't buy a 3Com/USR. The problem isn't hardware -it is drivers that you wait for and wait for! I didn't consider buying a USB modem that came without USB drivers (which I later beta tested) as good tech support.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2645310
3com is the only way to go when it comes to communication devices. Wouldn't choose anyone else.
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by:Otta
ID: 2645355
> 3com jumped out of the business of analog modems

Just the labelling on the retail box will change -- 3COM just sold their technology, but you still will be able to purchase the same hardware.

See: http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,2471552,00.html

which states:

For its PC card modem and analog desktop line, 3Com intends to form a new company with Taiwan's Accton Technology and Singapore's NatSteel Electronics, which will buy those products and market Internet access products, including 3Com's US Robotics-branded analog modems.

ZDNET also reported that "Windows 2001" has been leaked to the Internet.  
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by:jjcontact
ID: 2645789
So how do you cope with the lack of drivers? It isn't like my model is alone here.  There are posts in newsgroups like 3comtotalsupport all the time to this effect -people warning others not to purchase 3Com. For my own part, I would be delighted to say that I had had a good experience. However......

What I am saying is in my case it was bad business to market a product as USB without including the drivers in the package. Futhermore, the final release drivers never did work right (I have to Close Rnaapp and it is not hotswappable and I interfers with power management which I had to disable). It seems that they are not rushing to make this better when a year and a half have gone by. Sure I can use the thing or I wouldn't be here. But 3 conflicts is a bit much. If the drivers had been available when I got it, and it hadn't worked, I could have returned it. By the time the final release drivers were out, I was almost a year into using it and it wasn't returnable. I got trapped into keeping it because the beta drivers didn't have these problems.  Email after email after phone call and no help from 3com.

This reminds me of Compaq. There was a reason why their stock was falling (as has 3coms) while everyone elses was rising. Compaq makes a good server. Computer types recommended them. But Compaq turned around and earned a bad reputation for tech support on the home models. Sooner or later, a company will pay for that inattention.
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by:reskew
ID: 2649490
I am not able to speak for 3Com officially on this site, but I know when the 5605 was released there was no Windows98SE and the released drivers work in Windows98. This is the only situation I am aware of in which drivers are not readily available for a product in an OS that appears to be supported. (the box indicates Windows98 and SE is assumed.)  As for 3Com dropping out of the modem business, they bought U.S.Robotics and now they are selling it.  USR made the best modems when they were purchased and I hope the new company will follow that path.

I stand behind my original statement.
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by:jjcontact
ID: 2649672
Clearly since you work there, you were unlikely to have made the mistake I did. My original mistake was to get a computer without open slots forcing me to the outside ( as a total computer illiterate, I have paid for my ignorance). When the 5605 was released, it was sold as a USB modem. I purchased it because of that feature (after all how many things can you plant on one serial port). Out of the box and for months, no USB drivers were available. I sat on hold on a tech support line (toll call to me) many times. Finally I get beta drivers that work great! When the final release drivers are out, nothing is great, but now months have gone by and I am stuck with this unit. This was not good support. What really can't understand is why I can't have the beta drivers back in a non expired form. I stand my my original statement.
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by:CoryG
ID: 2650274
Does the guy who even asked the origional question still read all the comments? I have a feeling this discussion is gonna go on and on forever.
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by:rayt333
ID: 2650494
Elivis has left the building!!
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