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I have Windows XP. Would I be able to send and receive faxes, and if so how do I do it? Would I need new hardware?

I find myself dealing with this on a semi-regular basis. There are some industries that are still using FAXes as a primary means of doing business. Seems like "old technology" to me, but I'm apparently not about to change my bank's mind.

The good news is that there are several approaches, many of which don't require any additional hardware - depending, of course, on your needs and what hardware you already have.

Input and Output

First, we need to "input" whatever it is you want to FAX. If you mean to FAX existing paper documents, much like a real FAX machine, you're probably going to need a scanner. I'm partial to the HP multi-function devices that are printer and scanner combined. Using your scanner you can capture images of the pages of the documents you want to send. Typically you'd save them as ".jpg", ".png", or ".tif" graphics images - they are, after all, just a "picture" of the document page - or perhaps you'd use a utility to assemble them into a document such as a ".pdf" file.

Now, if you don't need to actually scan existing documents, say you're planning on FAXing documents that you're creating on your computer, you may not need a scanner at all. It may be quite enough to be able to save your document from your word processor for use by the FAX software we'll talk about in a moment.

There's one "gotcha" to going scannerless: signatures. Quite often the whole point of a FAXed document is to sign it. While there are (questionable) workarounds, it typically means signing a physical piece of paper and then scanning that signed document in order to FAX it back.

It kind of goes without saying, but you probably also want a printer. Unless you plan on simply keeping all your FAXes on your PC only, or you never plan to print anything in order to sign it and FAX it back, you'll want some kind of output device. That's one of the reasons I like the HP multi-function devices - a printer and scanner combined gets you both parts of the equation. But in many cases you'll already have a printer, and there's no reason not to use it.

"The cost of the FAX service is significantly less than the cost of the dedicated FAX line I used to have."

"Assembling" your FAX

A FAX is nothing more than a document. So if you're creating your document from scratch, entirely in a Word processor, for example, then you're done. Save the document, and you're ready to FAX it.

On the other hand, if you're scanning pages into your computer, you've got a collection of images that you somehow need to "assemble" into a single document to be FAXed. I typically do one of two things:

  • Scan the pages individually, and then create a document in my Word Processor in which I place them. The first page of my document might be a FAX cover sheet, and then I place the images, one per page, as large as the margins allow, in the rest of the document. I then save that as a single document, and I'm good to go. I'll frequently use this approach if I want to use my letterhead, for example.

  • Scan the pages using a utility such as "Scan2PDF". Utilities such as this drive your scanning software, collect the images that you scan, and then allow you to save the collected images as a single ".pdf" file. I use this approach both to save documents in general, but when I'm about to FAX a paper document without any on-computer modification.

Sending a FAX

There are two, basic, approaches to the final step of sending your fax.

Using your Fax Modem - If your computer has a dial-up modem, then it's very likely that it is FAX compatible. With FAX software, including the FAX software that comes with Windows, you can typically just print "to" the FAX device, and the software will then pop up and ask you what number or address book entry to send it to. You'll need to be plugged into a working phone line, and understand how to dial the number (local or long-distance, any prefixes required and the like). But it typically "just works".

Unfortunately the FAX software that is included with Windows is less than ideal. If you're going to do this with any regularity, I'd recommend investing in a full blown FAX package such as WinFAX Pro, which I used myself for many years.

Using an on-line service - I've switched away from using my own FAX modem, and am now using an on-line service from MaxEmail. To send a FAX, I log into my account, upload the document I want to FAX, tell it where to go, and push a button. The service does the rest. Naturally it's not free, but as we'll see in a moment it's significantly less expensive than my prior alternative.

Receiving a FAX

Once again there are two fundamental approaches that mirror the sending options.

Using your Fax Modem - Using a package such as package such as WinFAX Pro, you can receive FAXes on your PC. The "trick" is simply that it has to know when to answer the phone. If you're sharing your regular voice phone line, you'll have to manually tell the program "receive now" when you get a FAX call. If you're running a business, and you want a dedicated FAX number, you'll need to get that extra line from your phone company, and route it to the PC you have set up to send and receive FAXes. This is exactly what I did for many years.

Using an on-line service - As I mentioned, I now use a service, in my case MaxEmail. For a small monthly fee I have a dedicated FAX number, and when a FAX is received it is emailed to me as a ".pdf" file. I don't have to worry about FAX modems, additional phone lines - or even being at home to receive a FAX.

The cost of the FAX service is significantly less than the cost of the dedicated FAX line I used to have. Ultimately it's more flexible and reliable than my prior solution, and if you do moderate amounts of FAXing, a service is my bottom line recommendation.

Article C2640 - May 1, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

28 Comments
Jed
May 2, 2006 6:07 AM

Dear Leo:

Browsing your page for some time. Picked up a lot. Out of it to long. Just signed up. Appreciate your style. Easy on the cranium; but 'sub-net' still fuzzy. Block diagram might help.

1) Re article, faxing via comp should be simpler nowadays (men on moon 35 yrs ago already) and, logically, at no added cost (above current). Already paying for ADSL - which handles fax/phone + Internet, simultaneously.

Temp helping friend in Thailand. Two comps & Samsung Multi-Function on LAN & on-line. Fax OUT part only won't work. Wonder if to do w/ ISP - but makes little sense. Can't get thru to Samsung on Net. Now want try 3rd party software to fax direct from comp over ADSL.

Article mentions 'dial-up' - no ADSL. Dial-up here is, well, shall we say, no comment - and more costly, to boot. ADSL here, in comparison, is CHEAP (low, fixed monthly rate),no time limit, SUPER FAST - and one effectively gets 2 lines for less than the price of one.

Therefore - is there a software solution possible via one of those, for the moment, basic, free, no-frill packages that we could try out first on our ADSL?

Bill Russell
May 6, 2006 1:02 PM

I use MightyFAX($20) to send from my computer. No
way to send a signature, unless I figure out a way
to save mine as a .jpg I do NOT have a FAX modem,
and maybe I was stupid to pay $20 for the software when you can buy FAX machines on sale for $30. I use
CALLWAVE for incoming faxes.I get very few anyway.

jack
October 17, 2006 6:11 PM

I am able to send faxes using two PC software programs. However, neither of the two programs can receive a fax. Why? Where should I look to fix the problem? I hear the incoming call get answered, but it doesn't negotiate or hold the connection.
Thanks,

Dominic D'Souza
December 16, 2006 10:37 AM

I do have a query,i want to send&receive fax,but i've got a ADSL line,whats the software required?and do i need a modem for that?I hope you could solve my problem.
thanx.

Leo Notenboom
December 16, 2006 10:43 AM

Please read the article.

No Name
December 27, 2006 2:29 PM

get with it Leo - who's still on dial-up?

Leo Notenboom
December 27, 2006 3:09 PM

More people than you think.

Bob
March 18, 2007 12:57 PM

I've been using Winfax for years, but there's no password protection with the program. Is there anything that can be done to make those files more secure?

Leo A. Notenboom
March 19, 2007 10:14 AM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

I'm not sure what it is you're attempting to password protect?

Leo
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFF/sT2CMEe9B/8oqERArnNAJ9knIeVe7lp3mbKzWiV0+Ts2JAJPACfQIo4
/KTcR7rTr5BQ14hrNJYQwuc=
=P+OF
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Brenda Hobbs
March 26, 2007 1:08 AM

thank you for your help, I don't send a lot of faxes but it would be nice to have the facility

Patrick
June 19, 2007 2:00 PM

I use a service called faxcomanywhere - its sends faxes right from desktop. So I don't have to buy a fax machine.

peter
July 12, 2007 12:18 PM

Hi,
I have word document, and I want to fax it directly from my PC. However every time I try to fax it it just starts printing on my printer.
I have tried fax wixard to fax just one line note by printing it to printer and it is doing the same thing.
I have hp 2210 all in one printer. I have no modem. Using Internet cable connection. Printer in connected to phone line on wall and USB from computer. Please help.

Caroline Varendorff
December 2, 2007 2:49 PM

I configured my Windows Fax Program to send and receive but the receive option is problematic. It went well for a while, but has been refusing to receive now for the last 3 weeks. It seems the Winfax program is no longer available for purchase.
C. Varendorff

Steve
January 18, 2008 8:15 AM

I used WinFax Pro in the nineties, then BitFax for a few years, but now I use a virtual service from aql.com
Its UK based so great if you want a UK fax number
https://www.aql.com/telecoms/site/email2fax.php

What drew me to virtual fax services was the person at the other end gets a good quality print out if you use fine mode, so its great for technical stuff, drawings etc.
So even if you have a fax machine its still worth using a virtual service as well. Try it.

HTH

Lloyd
February 5, 2008 2:19 PM

Leo can I receive a fax on my fax machine and have it sent in a soft format from my fax machine to my PC. At the moment I'm using a Canon MF5770 "all in one" and I'm networked to the machine and using it for scanning from this all in one. Likewise I'm wondering if I can photo copy to soft from this unit to my computer. Trying to move away from print outs from this machine and have the scan, copy and faxes route directly to adobe or some sort of soft file on my PC for back up etc..

Thanks,

lk

Rajinder Dham
April 1, 2008 3:16 PM

Is there an existing software you can us to enable fax in my pc? i'm using vistabasic

Nicolas
April 27, 2008 2:07 PM

Hi,
here is a free site that allows you to send faxes for free :
http://www.freepopfax.com
(no inscription needed)

And to receive faxes on my mailbox, I use:
http://www.popfax.com

Regards,

Nick

Richard
July 16, 2008 12:06 PM

I am hoping for a little more specific help relative to my particular setup. I do not fax much but would like to be able.
I have a canon 830 all purpose scanner/printer/fax machine & Comcast cable internet. I no longer have landline phone so I cannot simply plug the fax machine into the phone jack anymore. I have HotSpot@Home by T Mobile instead.
I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

joe
August 19, 2008 10:31 AM

how would i recieve faxes thru my pc from a hp 4345m mfp?

George
October 23, 2008 4:40 PM

A friend gets a lot of faxes that consist of three or more sheets of paper. He has a dedicated fax phone line and a separate fax machine. He wants to be able to receive the faxes in his email or on his PC before they are printed, so he can discard cover sheets and other wasted pages. How can he route his phone "received" faxes thru his PC? Thanks

Gen
November 11, 2008 10:06 AM

I have not tried your service i hope it works
Thanks

Samir
December 18, 2008 2:14 AM

Hi
I got Win Xp Pro, and an ADSL line, and would like send & received faxes directly on my PC,

A also have WINFAX Pro installed, I'm not sure how to configure the system to send and receive faxes.
P.S. I don't have a Fax modem on the PC,
Thank you

As I understand it, WinFax Pro's purpose in life is to manage a FaxModem, so I'm thinking that's not going to work for you.
- Leo
18-Dec-2008
Rich Johnson
October 13, 2010 2:01 PM

FAXAGE. Tried others, this works great for me.
I'm an Over-the-Road Truck Driver. I "Live" in my truck and conduct almost all my business from the parking lot. As my personal & business faxing needs vary greatly (from just 2 up to 30 pages per month!)...and I must remain mobile, a laptop with internet hook-up, a cheapie $40 scanner-printer combo & an internet fax service called FAXAGE and I am all set! FAXAGE is dependable. I have NEVER had one fail. They have a low monthly price & then small "per Page" charge for when I go over the alloted number of pages.
No bull, simple to use and using them cut my fax bill by...(drum roll)...80%. and that's the really KEWL part!! :)

Anthony Rivituso
November 19, 2010 1:56 PM

Sending fax thru email or fax from cell phone is easy. This is a thing of the past. There are many free fax providers online. I think E-fax is the best to be honest with you but if you think maxemail is better than I dont know. I have not tried them yet.

Anthony Rivituso

kannagi
April 27, 2011 12:11 AM

I am using fax D-link modem to send and receive fax for my office. It receives fax in .tif format. But often i am getting distorted fax image or some junk lines. What should i do to get clear fax?

Mark J
April 27, 2011 2:14 AM

The problem with distorted images and lines comes from the transmission of the fax, not in the receiving. And it is usually a problem with the phone lines. It seem like you are having a problem with the faxes you are receiving. Sometimes the problem can be helped by sending the faxes at a lower speed. Perhaps you can contact the sender and ask them to slow down the transmission speed when sending you a fax.

Bill
September 26, 2011 2:42 PM

Hi. I have an wireless adsl modem with which i connect to internet. I have a second landline and a USB External V.90/ V.92 56K Fax Modem. Can i connect it as well so that i have both adsl internet and fax services?

Yes, you should be able to.
Leo
30-Sep-2011

Gamini
August 14, 2012 11:46 AM

i learn something for your advice
how can i send fax no my friend in America he wants to sen me Fax how can i send fax no

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