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Dial-up connections can drop because of noise on the line. There are several sources to look for and only one remedy.

I have Microsoft ISP and I occasionally lose phone connection while I'm working on the Internet Explorer. Is there something that I'm doing wrong? Are there settings that need to be addressed or what? A few days ago I had a problem with a machine and I had to go to system restore. Could this have anything to do with it? I'd really appreciate your suggestions.

In this excerpt from Answercast #85, I look at some possible reasons why an internet connection on a phone line might be regularly dropping.

Dial-up connections drops

Well, I'm actually surprised that anybody is still using Microsoft as an ISP. I thought they stopped being an ISP many years ago.

You used to be able to purchase MSN connectivity, but it was almost always in conjunction with a different ISP. Locally here, it was actually a function (I believe) of either Quest or Comcast at the time. And they were the ones who were actually providing your internet service. They may have been branded as Microsoft or MSN but in reality it was the local phone company.

Noisy phone line

In any case, this brings us back to our phone.

In reality, the thing that is most likely to cause a dial-up connection to drop is a noisy phone line. So the thing to do is to listen to your phone line. When you should expect silence, if you hear static or other kinds of noises, that kind of stuff can interfere.

In fact, it's probably at least slowing down your internet connection and it can, in fact, cause things to drop.

Phone extensions

The other thing that comes to mind, of course, is if you've got extensions on that phone - and somebody happens to pick it up while you are connected then that shows up as noise.

Sometimes, it may not really be enough noise. Usually, the person will hear the sound of the modems talking to each other and immediately hang up the phone. But if they are experiencing a lot of background noise in the room when they pick up their extension or they're talking or whatever, things just get noisy as a part of this process. Then again, that can cause the connection to drop.

Contact the phone company

So, those are the things that I would look at. I would certainly pursue the noisy phone line scenario.

That to me is the most likely scenario. If that's it, you'll actually end up talking to your phone company to see what they can do about quieting your phone line.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6214 - January 5, 2013 « »

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?

January 8, 2013 8:51 AM

Another more common reason is call waiting. Make sure to disable call waiting.

Terry Hollett
January 8, 2013 10:05 AM

I can remember having a dial-up modem that would disconnect every half an hour on Que. Even when I was using it. Still don't know why.

January 8, 2013 10:07 AM

Tom: believe it or not, there are areas that don't have reasonably priced high speed internet available. Especially if the user is just looking for a little bit of mail and not a lot of browsing.

Ron N.
January 9, 2013 6:35 AM

Dial-up used to have a time out component. If the internet was not used for 10 minutes or so, the ISP would quit the connection so that it would free up their modems. We used to use a program called Ping to tickle the internet randomly and fool the ISP computers. Otherwise every time you walked away from the machine, you would be disconnected.

My sister used to use Keep Alive to do the same thing. This was up until a couple of years ago.

January 10, 2013 9:05 AM

There is also a setting in Windows to disconnect after being idle for X minutes. You'll find it in the Dial-Up connection settings. It may be set too low and causes it to disconnect before you finish reading the page and click on another link.

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