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

The modem responds with "NO DIALTONE" when I try to dial out

Explanation: When you try to dial the phone number for the remote host, the system responds saying that there is no dial tone.

Diagnosis: This generally means that the connection of the modem to the phone system in the building has been compromised, or there is a problem with the way the modem is configured. It is usually something simple like an incorrectly connected phone cord or something of that nature.


  • Try a regular phone plugged into a different phone extension. If you don't hear a dial tone, you have a problem with your phone line. Call your local phone company's repair service.
  • Check the phone cord where it goes into the modem's phone jack and make sure it is plugged into the correct one. Most modems have two jacks, right next to each other. One is for connecting the modem to the phone system, and the other is a pass-through for connecting a regular voice phone to the modem, for convenience (you can use the phone through the jack to the modem, which lets you use either the modem or the phone handset without requiring two wall jacks or a line splitter). The jack for connecting the input phone signals to the modem is usually labeled on the modem as "Line" or "Wall". If you plug the cord into the other jack by mistake (usually labeled "Phone" or "Handset") then the modem will not be able to find a dial tone to dial out.
  • Make sure that the cord is not disconnected. Make sure the other end of the cord goes into the wall jack properly. A simple test is to disconnect the phone cord from the modem and plug it into a regular phone and see if you can hear the dial tone. If you cannot hear it, but another phone jack in another room has a dial tone, there may be a wiring problem with this particular jack.
  • Make sure the speaker for the modem is turned on and listen carefully for any sign of problems that you might be able to hear coming from the modem.
  • Ensure that nobody else is using the line. If the modem goes off-hook to use the phone and somebody else is already on it, it will report "NO DIALTONE".
  • Some modems will report "NO DIALTONE" when they encounter a phone system problem. For example, if you try to dial out and get a recording such as "All circuits are busy now" then the modem may become confused. Usually this happens after it succeeds in dialing out and it will return with "NO CARRIER" after a few seconds of getting this message, but it may say "NO DIALTONE" as well. You can usually hear when this is happening by listening to the modem speaker.
  • 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.

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