3 USB Modem Problems


USB modems are devices that connect to a USB port on a computer and allow you to access dial-up Internet through the USB port. USB modems are especially useful for computers that lack a built-in dial-up modem, such as notebook and laptop computers. There are a few common problems that can occur when using a USB modem.

Bad USB Port

  • If your modem is not working at all, including not showing a solid status light (if available), the USB port on the computer could be bad. One way to test this is to remove the USB modem and connect it to another USB port on the computer. If the USB modem functions after switching to a new USB port, the USB port was the issue.

    Sometimes older USB 1.1 ports are not capable of powering USB modems, which are powered by the computer through the port. You should check with the USB modem manual to see if the modem requires USB 2.0.

Phone Line Connection Issues

  • If your dial-up Internet service cannot connect to the Internet, there may be a problem with the phone line itself. The first thing to check is the connection status of the building's phone line. If you have access to a phone connected to the dial-up line, pick up the receiver and listen for a dial tone. If you hear crackling or no dial tone, contact your phone company.

    If you do hear a dial tone, the problem may lie in the phone line running from the USB modem to the wall jack. Check the connection. If you still cannot connect, replace the phone line.


  • Some USB devices require software drivers to allow for use with the computer. If the USB modem is not lighting up or working at all, you may need to remove the drivers and reinstall them.

    Go to "Control Panel" under the Start menu in Windows and click on "Add/Remove Programs." Locate any programs associated with your modem and remove them. You may also need to go into "Modems" under "Control Panel," select any available "modem" listed and click "Remove." Restart the computer and insert any CD that came with the USB modem. If there is no disc, visit the manufacturer's website and download the latest drivers. Once the drivers are installed, restart the computer and reconnect the modem.


  • You should ensure that you have installed the latest version of your Internet service provider's software. Examples of dial-up Internet service providers include AOL, Juno and Netzero. Also ensure that your user name and password are up-to-date and entered correctly.


  • Connecting a USB modem to your computer does not automatically mean that you will have Internet access. You need to connect the modem to a working phone line and have an active Internet access account.

    Also, the USB modem, unless specified in the manual, is generally for use only with a dial-up Internet connection. USB wireless adapters are technically not modems; rather, they are devices that connect to a wireless signal from a router.

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