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Jewish World Review May 1, 2001 / 8 Iyar, 5761

The Computer Maven by James Derk

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Consumer Reports

Putting in a higher powered modem -- I GET many letters each week dealing with the merits of upgrading a slow modem. The quest for ever-faster Internet connections continues.

Of course, if you have potential access to faster service, you have to think twice about upgrading a modem at all. If you have, say, an America Online account (at $24 a month) and a second phone line for $22, you could nuke both and get a cable-modem for the same sum. Do that and you'll enjoy speeds of up to 50 times as fast as your puny modem.

That said, if you are stuck with a modem slower than 56K you should consider an upgrade, especially because modems are so cheap now. (I've seen some for 20 bucks.)

The first step is to determine what kind of modem you have, internal or external (otherwise known as inside the case or outside your case.) Most PCs out there have internal modems; you have an external modem if you see a box with little flashing lights near your PC.

Pick up a replacement 56K modem, one that speaks the "v.90" protocol. (Look on the box.)

Before you swap, boot your computer up. Open the Control Panel (Hit START, then SETTINGS, then MODEMS.) Select your current modem and hit REMOVE. Then shut off your computer.

If you have an internal modem, we need to figure out how to open your computer case. My experiences with same have been varied; from a Dell mini-tower case that could be opened with nothing short of a fire-axe to my current case, where you slide the top back and both sides fall open like school doors in September.

Check your manual, consult a nerd, look at the computer maker's Web site or take screws out of the rear of the case and take your chances. Make sure you turn off the PC and unplug it from the wall.

Once you have it open, blow the crud out with a can of compressed air from a computer or photo store. Then, find your modem. (Follow the telephone cord if you have to.) Take a Phillips screwdriver and remove the screw that holds the modem to the case. Don't drop the screw.

Grab the modem at either side and rock it out of the slot, gently but firmly.

Blow some air in the now vacant slot and grasp the new modem at either end. Insert in the slot and line it up with the hole into which you will replace the Phillips screw. Rock back and forth and push firmly into the slot. When the screw hole is lined up you know you have it right. Replace the phone line in the correct slot, too.

Replace the cover and power on the beast. At start-up, Windows will recognize the new modem. It may ask you for a disk with drivers on it; if so, insert it when you are asked.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Check out the new house George W. built at

James Derk is computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. Comment by clicking here.


04/25/01:Disk defragmenter...firewall...ppt
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04/11/01: How private is your e-mail; recovering deleted e-messages
04/03/01: Internet Explorer 6.0...get rid of temporary Internet files
03/28/01: Tips on traveling with a laptop
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03/16/01: Personal choices for the computer
03/06/01: Apollo printers...CD problems...more
02/27/01: Good firewalls to keep your computer safe
02/12/01: How to set up a LAN party
01/30/01: Used computers... picture.exe...other problems
01/23/00: Cool computer tricks

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