56k baud modem with dongleTurning Your PC into a Fax Machine

What is a fax modem?

Fax modem cards let your computer act as an impromptu fax machine, letting it send and receive fax documents with ease. This was a perfect solution for small offices that wanted to save space.

Some fax modems double up as dial-up modems, allowing for a dial-up connection at the same time. Fax modems which work only as fax modems are also called fax boards. Like most PC peripherals, fax modems can be internal and external.

Fax modems convert digital information to an audio signal that fax machines can understand. If you've ever dialed a fax line, the series of screeches and beeps you hear is fax modem trying to establish a connection to another fax modem in preparation for data transfer.

What do I need to use a fax modem?

To install a fax modem, you will need a PC running a Windows or Linux OS, a free PCI slot in case of internal modems or a USB slot in case of an external modem (very useful if you want to send and receive faxes from your laptop). A fax landline is also necessary, as there is no WiFi equivalent of fax modems – they require a land connection to operate, and VoIP lines are not compatible with faxing.

Installing and setting up a fax modem on it's own is not enough to give you the ability to send and receive faxes immediately, you also need to run some faxing software. There are plenty of options for both Windows and Linux platforms. Unfortunately, modern versions of OS X don't support fax modems.

Where can I get one?

Online faxing services are slowly but inevitably replacing the need for fax modems, but you can still find fax modems with most online retailers, and they will not set you back too much – depending on the model, the price tag should be between $15 and $50 the most. Before purchase, make sure your version of OS is compatible with fax modems (they should be, unless you are running some modified OS or if you're buying a timeworn fax modem with no drivers for modern PCs).

Also, modern machines don't usually come with preinstalled fax modems, but if you're using an older office PC, you just might have a fax modem installed already. Check the user manual for your PC, or check the device manager.

What is the difference between using fax modems and fax machines?

Fax machines usually come in the form of multi-purpose device which can pull double duty as a scanner and a printer. Fax modems don't have those benefits. On the other hand, fax modems are much more affordable, and they don't take up any additional space – even external fax modems are very small, making them perfect for smaller office space.

Also, you can operate a fax modem, sending and receiving fax messages, without having to move from your office chair, while you'd have to get physically to a fax machine to operate it, and if it's a shared office fax machine, you may have to wait for your turn.

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