Computer modem buying tips

Updated: 11/12/2023 by Computer Hope

Today, with the set standards of V.90, purchasing a modem is a much less confusing task and sometimes considered easy.

Before purchasing a modem, take the below into consideration. Today, with the popularity of the Internet and multimedia over the Internet, broadband is becoming widely available. If available in your area, you may want to consider purchasing a broadband solution, such as DSL available through a phone or third-party company, cable available through your local cable provider, Satellite available through a third-party, or through a large ISP such as MSN or AOL.

If a broadband connection is not available in your area, below are some recommendations to consider when purchasing a computer modem.


Originally, when the 56k connection was introduced, there was not a set standard between two major modem manufacturers, causing there to be two different technologies: X2 and KFlex. Each of these technologies allowed for a modem to connect at higher speeds, but only if the Internet Provider supported the technology. Because of the difficulties and issues with these two different technologies, one technology emerged out of the two, called V.90. This technology allows users of any brand of modem to connect at higher speeds.

Today, all modems (purchased new) are V.90 and this is no longer a concern.


Interface can be an important when considering purchasing a modem. It is important that your computer has the available connections and resources when purchasing a modem.

PCI/ISA (internal) PCI/ISA modems are modems found in most computers today. These modems are installed internally in the computer with an available connection on the back of the modem for the phone line. Before purchasing an internal modem, make sure the computer has the required slot. In addition, verify your computer has the available resources. There may be some difficulties with installing a modem if a serial device, such as a serial mouse or serial PDA, is connected to the computer.

Serial (external) - A serial modem connects to the serial port located on the back of the computer. These modems are easy to install; however, they can cost more than an internal modem as you pay additional money for the plastic cover. Before purchasing a serial modem verify your computer has an available serial connection on the back of the computer; devices such as a serial mouse may already be utilizing your serial port. Some computers may have two serial ports; if this is the case and only one serial port is currently being utilized, verify that the second port can be enabled or is already enabled in CMOS.

PC card (PCMCIA) - Solution used with portable computers, PC Card modems are fairly cheap and relatively easy to install in the computer.

USB - A new solution, USB allows a user to install up to 127 devices on the computer and is available for PC and Mac. Before purchasing this solution, verify that your computer has a USB connection. If no USB connection is available, an additional card needs to be installed in the computer.


Internal, external, or USB modem - Today, all modems have a RJ-11 connection, which is a standard phone connection, on the modem. If important to you, verify that the modem has two available RJ-11 connections. One of these connections will connect the modem to the phone and the other can be used for an office phone. This can be very useful for a home or office computer that may need a phone next to it.

PC Card Modem - PC Card Modems used with laptop and other computers have different methods of connecting to a phone line. X-Jack and a dongle are two of the more popular connection types used for PC Card Modems. If you are purchasing a new PC Card Modem make sure the connection works for you.

Internet availability

Unfortunately, not every location in the world has the availability to connect to the Internet. If you live in a rural area, make sure connectivity to an Internet service is available locally without incurring any long distance charges.

Price range

The price range of a modem is ranged by the speed of the modem, if it is external or internal, and the brand of the modem.

Internal modem: $80 and below
External modem: $100 to $150
USB modem: $140 to $200
PC card modem: $50 to $200

Ready to buy

Once you have reviewed the appropriate information and believe that you are ready to make a purchase of a computer modem, ensure that the source that you plan on purchasing the modem from is a reputable source and you have reviewed our section on what to look out for when purchasing over the Internet.

Computer Hope is available to help with issues you may encounter during the purchase and installation of your modem, regardless if you purchase through us or another vendor.

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