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Sudden USB Modem Death


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#1 Euphemism

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 09:03 AM

My computer is a HP Pavilion dv7z (laptop) with Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1). My main internet connection is dial-up via a USB modem (I use what I can afford). The original, internal modem was taken out by a sudden electrical storm over a year ago, and this USB modem has been my tried-and-true replacement since then. It's a "Filemate USB Modem" - that's the most I really know about it. I bought it from Amazon.

Yesterday, the electrical power had a brief glitch in which it cut off then cut back on within five seconds. My computer's battery caught this as per the usual, and nothing seemed to go wrong with my system performance. However, the internet disconnected and I had to reconnect. The first two attempts did nothing, as if the phone line were dead. Afterward, however, it registered the dial tone and reconnected.

Today, the same thing happened again. (Words can not explain how angry I'm becoming with the electric company, here!) There is no bad weather, nor has there been any at all this week. There was no storm! The power, however, cut out and then came back on after a few seconds this time. Again, the dial-up disconnected itself. This time, however, it will not register the phone line's existence. It's behaving just like a fried modem, but with no logical (that I can fathom) excuse.

I have tried removing the USB modem, plugging it into another port, and trying. I have tried it on all ports except my mouse port (too awkward of placement for it to be used there, anyway). I have tried switching between ports. I've gone through device manager and told it not to wait for dial tone before dialing. I've changed that setting back. I've disabled and re-enabled it in device manager. I've shut down my computer and turned it back on after a few minutes. I've repeated the USB port game of 'musical chairs.' I've completely uninstalled the modem through device manager then re-installed it by plugging it back in. I've tried logging out of and back into my Windows account (the only account on the computer). And I've even tried just letting it sit there failed connection after failed connection in the hopes that it would suddenly start working. Nothing has fixed it. And I know the USB ports aren't fried, because I tried my mouse in each of them and it worked properly.

Can anyone help, please? Quickly? I'm up a creek without a paddle if this thing is dead. And it makes no sense that it would just suddenly drop dead in relation to a power outage. I thought the only thing that could fry a modem was lightning or other methods of electricity running through the line...? The phone lines themselves work properly when connected to a phone (including the exact cords which go to my surge suppressor and modem). There seems to be no static or interference on the phones. (And either way, the modem isn't even recognizing the line or getting dial tone.)

What can I do to see if the modem is shot? Is there some way to fix this sort of issue? How could a power blink have killed a modem when there was no storm or other noticed interference of that sort?

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#2 MrBruce1959

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 05:13 PM

I know this is not what you want to hear, but it may save you some problems in the future.

If you are having issues with brown-outs and voltage spikes you may want to get yourself a UPS device.

EDIT: Adding a link for UPS devices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uninterruptible_power_supply

Being that your system was powered by the power company and the other end is connected to a grounded telephone line, the chances are very good your system sent the spike to the next available source it had to reach Earth ground, which is the telephone line. To reach this source, it had to travel through your MODEM.

If you want to find out if this device is damaged or not, try connecting it to another computer and see if it works or not.

Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 18 February 2011 - 05:16 PM.

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#3 westom

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 08:59 PM

What can I do to see if the modem is shot? Is there some way to fix this sort of issue? How could a power blink have killed a modem when there was no storm or other noticed interference of that sort?

A long list of reasons and solutions exist. Hardly know where to begin. But this we do know. That UPS recommendation is bogus, does not address any reasons for your damage (old or new modem), and is recommended only because it is some kind of magic box.

Analysis. Is the modem even working? Hyperterminal (a program found in all Windows) is only easy way to see that. Your modems computer has conversations with the motherboard computer. You never see them. However you can if Hyperterminal is selected to access the modem port. Keystrokes are sent to the modem computer. Modem computer responses are sent to the screen. You actually see what the modem is saying.

Best done first on some other computer to first see what a good response looks like. And is what every lurker here might do to become empowered. Under Start>Programs>Accessories>Communication, select Hyperterminal. Enter Cancel for a new connection. Under Files>Properties, select a Connect Using: that would be the USB Port.

Now enter in the keyboard: AT&F then enter. The modem should reply with OK. Enter AT. It will respond with ATZ and then OK. Now you are talking to the USB modem.

Enter ATDTxxxxxx where xxxx is the phone number. It should dial. Then come back with some message. Relevant is what that message is. For example, some hardware problem will result in a NO DIALTONE DETECTED message.

Another solution. Simply connect a phone to the same phone wire. Monitor on that phone what the modem does. Or even better, use HyperTerminal to access the modem while monitoring with a phone. Posting these results means the few who better know this stuff can actually provide useful recommendations.

Now, why modem damage happens. Essential is for all phone lines and all AC power wires to be connected to the same earth ground. Either directly (one AC wire) or via a 'whole house' protector (all telephone wires and all but one AC wires). This must exist where wires enter the building. If not, a surge will use your modem (destructively) to go from one wire (ie AC electric) to the other wire (phone). And nothing adjacent to your computer will avert that damage.

What usually happens when earthing is defective? The 'off-hook' electronics in a modem is destroyed. Either the modem never hangs up - resulting in no dialtone. Or the modem never picks up (connects to phone line) - also resulting in no dialtone. Either failure is most often traceable to defective earthing where AC wires enter the building or to using a plug-in protector adjacent to the computer.

So do some testing. Learn what you really have. Never fix anything (ie buy a new modem) until you first know why or what has failed. Reporting what your tests discover may means those who better know this stuff can then translate all kinds of useful facts in those tests.

This should be obvious. That UPS recommendation does not claim to solve anything and would not avert your old modem damage. That UPS was recommended without even knowing what it does. And only because it was some kind of magic box. Use those above paragraphs to learn what you have, what is and is not damaged, and how to avoid future damage.

#4 Euphemism

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 01:31 AM

I'm afraid I can't find anything called hyperterminal (or any alternate spacing/spelling/hypenated versions thereof). There isn't even a "communications" section in my Start > All Programs > Accessories. I Googled it and found out that apparently some (or all?) versions of Vista are missing the tool. Isn't that just my luck? I'm hesitant to download it, as some tutorials I found explain, because my hard drive is currently very near to death. It hasn't handled any downloads/file saves well lately.

As for the UPS, I'm not sure that would make a difference, anyway. I'm not completely certain, but this is a notebook computer with its own battery. It immediately switches to battery power when the outlet power is interrupted. The USB modem is quite literally that: a USB stick which gets its power from my computer. So I would assume that means it does technically have an uninterrupted power supply. Correct me if I'm wrong, please!

I don't know whether the phone line is grounded/earthed, to be completely honest. I had no part in setting up the phone lines, and the phone company didn't do the pole-to-house wiring where I live. Granted, I'm fairly certain some sort of professional did it, but that was years ago and I don't know who. I do know, however, that it has occurred many times that the power would blink while I was online, and it wouldn't even so much as disconnect. This is a new development, starting the morning before the morning my modem apparently 'died.' I'll have to get someone (phone company? electrician?) to check and see if everything's properly earthed, I suppose. Because this seems to suggest that something has gone wrong recently.

This is the first time that I've experienced a power failure while connected to the dial-up after my computer's adapter started making strange noises. I didn't really think anything of the sound because it's so difficult to hear when I'm not within two feet of it with my ear, but it does squeal now. And only when the computer is turned off but plugged in. What was mentioned above seems to suggest that the power spiked through my modem's power source, and since that is my computer... Could this be a much bigger problem than just a potentially 'fried' modem?

Also, in reference to the modem never hanging up or never picking up, I do know that when I attempt to connect it makes the sound associated with picking up the line. Then it just does nothing, with no error message (other than that it could not connect) and no sound. I don't think the internal modem did that after it was taken out by lightning, but I'm not 100% sure on that. And it could, I suppose, be a simple difference between hardware/software types/settings.

Another solution. Simply connect a phone to the same phone wire. Monitor on that phone what the modem does.


About this option. Do you mean the same, physical wire? (If so, how can I do that?) Or do you mean to connect a phone to the same output that goes to my modem? That I can do, since the surge suppressor the input goes through has two output ports. I also have a splitter (or whatever it's called) which turns the single wall jack into a double so that the landline phone and the modem can both have input lines. So would just picking up the phone count in that case? And does it matter whether the phone is cordless or corded?

#5 westom

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 03:08 AM

I'm afraid I can't find anything called hyperterminal (or any alternate spacing/spelling/hypenated versions thereof). There isn't even a "communications" section in my Start > All Programs > Accessories. I Googled it and found out that apparently some (or all?) versions of Vista are missing the tool.

Hyperterminal might be loaded from Control Panel. Goto Control Panel. Add Programs. Click on Add Windows Components. Or download it (or some other Terminal Emulator program). Program is simply one window working just like any 1972 CRT terminal that DOS (pre-Windows) simple.

Questions may be further answered by Windows Help.

1) Your system is not near death. If it has problems, then start by going to the system (Event) logs to learn what is wrong. (Again see Help if you do not yet know this all important log.) Post those error numbers that only the better informed understand to get the system quickly fixed.

Download Hyperterminal without fear. It is a program so simple as to even be part of Windows when it was only DOS. Few programs on your computer are less simple. It was designed mostly for people only using modems.

2) Go to any Dollar store. Find a one to two phone line splitter. A usually ivory plastic that plugs into wall phone receptacle. And that gives you two phone line connections. One to the modem. Other to a phone.

Some modems have two phone line connections. One to connect to the phone line. Other to attach to a telephone.

Or use any other phone that also uses the same phone line. Three options listed.

3) Ignore nonsense about professionals. Some know this stuff. Others so don't as to sometimes disconnect the earthing. Find a box where incoming black telco wires meet your wires. That is where a telephone line surge protector is located. And where a ground wire must attach to that protector. Nobody but you can perform that inspection because only you hold all responsibility for what happens. A professional is useful only because he shows you an earth ground connection to that subscriber box (also called the NID) and a protector inside that box. Its your modem and computer. No matter what anyone else does, all failures remain your responsibility.

4) UPS does nothing useful. Does not even claim, in writing, to do what others claim it will do. If it did, they will post manufacturer numeric specs that make that claim.

If earthing is not done properly, then nothing will avert a resulting damage. That destructive transient typically occurs maybe once every seven years. But you know (from experience) that your area has a much higher frequency of anomalies.

5) Blinking power suggests failures exist as listed elsewhere. But no power loss must ever cause electronics damage. If earthing is proper, then you still have no damage. You have symptoms of connections made defectively - which may be what as many as 5% of professionals due for various reasons. Don't care about those reasons. You have damage typical of when earthing is defective. Fix a problem by first finding it. No way around that reality, except if other facts (ie using from Hyperterminal) report something different.

6) Those 'sound' symptoms say nothing useful. Only facts are those I was asking for. See what the modem is saying to the computer (ie Hyperterminal or other Terminal emulator). Or use another phone to actually hear what is ongoing on the phone line as the modem tries to connect or as the modem wire is connected to the phone line.

Use another phone on that line somewhere in the house. Or get a phone line splitter from the Dollar Store, Lowes, Tru Value Hardware, Sears, Kmart, supermarket, flea market, etc.

BTW, there are many actions list. Do not pick and choose what you like best. Implies you need a printed copy and a pen to check off each task. The more information you provide, then the more useful are my replies.

#6 mb9023

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 03:21 AM

It looks like you ignored what Bruce said....try it with another computer. Or if that same phone line that you currently plug into this modem works when plugged into a phone, then your modem is probably fried. They aren't that expensive either..so you could buy another and try it out.

#7 dc3

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 11:43 AM

@ Weston.

The suggestion to use a UPS is very valid, especially in a situation where the power has been intermittently being dropped, like what Euphemism is experiencing. By design a UPS also serves as a surge protector. It would appear that Mr.Bruce does in fact understand what a UPS is, and what it is used for.

Beginning with Vista Hyperterminal is no longer a part of Windows.

What usually happens when earthing is defective? The 'off-hook' electronics in a modem is destroyed. Either the modem never hangs up - resulting in no dialtone. Or the modem never picks up (connects to phone line) - also resulting in no dialtone. Either failure is most often traceable to defective earthing where AC wires enter the building or to using a plug-in protector adjacent to the computer.


The phone not being grounded will not have any affect on the modem. If Euphemism can use the same phone line to make and receive phone calls then isn't anything wrong with the line.





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#8 dc3

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:08 PM

@ Euphemism

A CD should have come with this modem for the proper drivers, you will need this to reinstall the drivers. This modem has problems when using native Windows drivers.

Go the the Device Manager and expand the Modem and double click on your modem. Click on Driver and choose to update the driver. The installation Wizard will ask it it can go online to search for your driver, choose "No, not this time". The next page that opens will ask if want to install the software automatically, if you want to install form a list or specific location, choose the latter.

Follow the prompts to use your CD and install the drivers.

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#9 Euphemism

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:44 PM

@ Arachibutyrophobia

I just tried that, and had Windows search the installation disc for the drivers. It said that Windows determined the drivers were already up to date.

#10 dc3

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:59 PM

Go to the Control Panel and open Add or Remove Programs. Find Filemate and remove it, then try the installation.

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#11 Euphemism

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 01:09 PM

I went in and uninstalled "Agere Systems USB Modem" since there was no Filemate entry. (This is my only USB modem, so I hope I did the right thing. The drivers are also listed as Agere Systems and the files in the install disc seem to have similar names that would imply Agere, at the least.) Device Manager no longer lists my internal modem and was defaulted to the wireless network adapters tab (which I didn't have open last time) when I re-opened it. I have yet to restart (it said I should to complete the uninstall).

What are the chances I just uninstalled my network drivers? I'm still connected to the internet with the wifi, as I was when I told it to uninstall the Agere Systems USB modem. My wifi card is built-in. (And I don't care if it permanently uninstalled the internal dial-up modem; it's fried beyond all repair thanks to lightning.)

Should I go ahead and reboot?

#12 dc3

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 01:37 PM

When you look in the Control Panel under Add or remove does the Agere Systems still appear?

Is the modem seen under Phones and Modems in the Control Panel?

If the Network drivers are native Windows drivers they will reinstall the next time the computer boots.

You shouldn't need to reboot for anything related to uninstall the modem drivers, are you being asked to reboot?

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#13 Euphemism

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 02:17 PM

Actually, I had to reboot anyway. My hard drive started losing data again (why I'm still fairly convinced it's near death; it also clicks and grinds). But, yes, it did inform me that I had to reboot in order to complete the uninstall of the modem.

Very shortly after uninstalling the Agere Systems USB Modem entry, my wifi dropped out and now it's acting buggy. I think that may be a coincidence, however, because there's cloud cover outside. Odd timing, though. Anyway, it prompted me to find the drivers for the internal modem, however dead it may be - before I rebooted. The drivers found were "Agere Systems" as well, which makes me wonder if that's the built-in modem drivers with my computer/the Windows drivers.

After the reboot, I plugged the USB modem back in (I had to, in order to get it to appear in device manager), but it automatically found its own drivers. Once again the Agere Systems USB Modem drivers. And, again, I can't get it to pull drivers from the installation disc because it says the current ones are more up-to-date. This modem hasn't given me problems before with the Agere Systems drivers, though, so I was curious if a driver issue can just pop up one day or if this is a sign that drivers won't help whatever happened to the modem.

The Network drivers seem to remain untouched. Everything in that section is still listed as it should be. No name changes or sudden refusal to register/work. Just the spotty wifi, which again I suspect is related to the change in weather conditions and not what I did to the modem.

#14 dc3

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 10:26 PM

Ok... this is the first time you've mentioned that your hdd is making clicking noises. This is known as the click of death. I would suggest that you back up all of your important data and be prepared to purchase another hdd.

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#15 westom

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 12:36 AM

Ok... this is the first time you've mentioned that your hdd is making clicking noises.

Actually, on the check list of things that must be done (and none were) was to report the system (event) logs. Find what failures really exist before fixing anything. Before making a simple problem more complicated with changes.

Now that changes have been made, the problem may become more complex.

Solutions mean a list exists of the items that are known - without a doubt - good. And items that are - without a doubt - bad. Both lists are empty after how much work? Empty lists mean nothing has been accomplished and nothing learned. To fix the modem (and all other problems) means not trying to fix anything. Means first identify what is wrong. Any attempt to fix it now only means days of frustration. And strange problems remains. The computer is not dying. But simple solution are not possible if even the event logs are not read and reported as requested.

First, what 'already known to be a problem by Windows' failure does the system (event) log report? Use Windows help, if necessary, to find it. Get irrefutable facts before trying to fix anything.

Second, what system is this? What manufacturer? Do you have the manufacturer comprehensive hardware diagnostics (that finds problems for you automatically)?

And finally, are you saying Windows is finding the modem and loading its drivers? (Does that modem manufacturer claim to be using an Agere chip in numeric specs?)

Either provide hard facts. Or go buy a new modem. Otherwise the 'try this' and 'do that' nonsense will continue for days. Either shotgun now (buy a new modem). Or provide hard facts so those with better knowledge can both define what has failed in the very next post. Provide what was requested (ie monitor modem with a phone) to have an immediate and complete answer in the next post (that also stops all future failures). Or go buy a new modem and be done with it.

Reloading drivers said nothing useful and will not stop future modem failures.

Edited by westom, 22 February 2011 - 12:37 AM.





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