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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Modems | Operation and Connection Problems ]

My modem dials the number I request but cannot connect to the host I am dialing

Explanation: You are able to dial the number that you are trying to dial, meaning that the modem is functional and able to dial out. However, you are unable to establish a connection to the remote host.

Diagnosis: There are a wide variety of different reasons why you might not be able to establish a connection to the remote machine. Bear in mind that you might actually be connecting with the remote modem, but it may be disconnecting you for various reasons. It's hard to troubleshoot this situation because of the number of variables involved with the use of a remote machine.


  • Make sure that your speaker is enabled and try listening carefully to the sounds coming from the modem as you try to connect. If you hear the tell-tale signs of modems "negotiating" (various buzzes, beeps and squawks) then the modems are at least connecting to each other enough to "talk". If the modem hangs up at this point then the problem may be that you have set your modem speed or other parameters incorrectly. It could also be a problem with the machine at the other end.
  • Try dialing a different host and see if you can connect there. Try several, in fact. If none work, the problem is likely on your end. If one doesn't and the other do, well, you get the idea.
  • Many software programs have a "time-out" setting that controls how long the software will wait as the modem attempts to connect before disconnecting the call. Make sure that this is not set too low, or you may find the system cutting off the call before the connection can be properly established. I recommend a minimum of 30 seconds for the time-out parameter.
  • Make sure that you are using the correct initialization string for your modem. This is a set of modem "AT" commands that programs your modem to the correct setting; it is the modem equivalent of the drivers used for video cards and other hardware. Your modem manual will tell you what initialization string to use. Check the setup of your modem under Windows 95, or your software settings for the modem, to ensure that the string is correct.
  • If you are trying to use dial-up networking for Internet access, make sure that your password settings are correct.
  • A common problem is incorrect software or network configuration. If you are trying to dial in to your Internet service provider and suspect incorrect software or network settings (especially if this is the first time you are trying to connect) then you should probably contact the provider's technical support department for assistance.
  • Make sure that you are not trying to dial out on a digital PBX phone line. Many companies today use digital phone systems; there are a number of outside "true" phone lines that go to the phone system, but each extension is only being fed an internal digital signal. Even when you dial "9" to get an outside line, you are hearing a digital translation of what is on the actual analog phone line. Regular modems will not work over a system like this unless a converter is used that is specifically designed to allow this type of functionality.
  • There may be line noise or other temporary disruptions on your line that are preventing a clean connection. Try again at a later time. If problems persist, you may need to get your phone line looked at (although usually the problem lies somewhere else, as phone lines are pretty reliable).
  • Rarely, the modem itself might be at fault. You could try replacing it with another and see if it works better, but that's usually a bit of a hassle and may not yield any different results.

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