I had forgotten just how bad Windows XP used to be, until a colleague started struggling yesterday with a modem that had mysteriously stopped working.  The transcript below covers about 2 hours of “online chat” with Zoom, who in fairness I think ought to be given a medal for trying so hard as they did.  As of right now, the modem is sitting in a drawer waiting to be put to emergency deployment on someone’s Mac when an ADSL or WiFi connection goes down.

Eddie L.: Hi, my name is Eddie L.. How may I help you?
Chris Ferguson: Hi there.  Windows XP (bless it) has decided it can’t find our modem.  We’ve tried restarting the machine without the modem, then restarted it again, then plugged the modem back in and Windows now sees the device.  But, two things now happen:
Chris Ferguson: 1)  The phone/modem devices control panel tells me the modem is on COM4.  We try to dial with it, only to be told that Windows cannot communicate with the modem on COM4.  This port does not appear in Device Manager/Hardware.
Chris Ferguson: 2)  Windows occasionally prompts that the USB device we’ve plugged in is not recognised.  It helpfully says to click on the notice for help, where it then merrily tells me which devices are unrecognised (by listing them as unrecognised, duh) but then makes no further attempt to “help”.
Chris Ferguson: the modem itself is fine, as is the phone line we connected it to.  I know this because I tried the modem on my Mac and dialled out to an ISP with no issues.
Chris Ferguson: Thoughts?
Eddie L.: click on Start > Control Panel > System > Hardware tab > Device Manager. click on the + next to modems and do you see USB Modem? If so does it have a yellow question mark or exclamation point?
Chris Ferguson: Nothing found there, last I looked.  Will check again now…
Eddie L.: ok. how about “other devices” do you see that listed?
Chris Ferguson: …trying to find it now, but System Properties has crashed, so I can’t get to the Device Manager to check.  Tried to query the modem from its diagnostics page (via Control Panel) but windows said it couldn’t connect to the modem.
Chris Ferguson: let’s see if I can get to the Device Manager any other way…
Chris Ferguson: Nope.  System Properties window has crashed and I can’t see which process to kill to get control back again.  A system restart will take a few minutes.
Chris Ferguson: Okay – managed to get control of the window again.  The modem is detected as “USB Modem”.
Chris Ferguson: That helps?
Chris Ferguson: Anything else you’d like to know?
Eddie L.: is there any exclamation point or question mark next to it?
Chris Ferguson: No
Eddie L.: double click on it and go into the Diagnostic and try querying the modem
Chris Ferguson: okay – will do that and be right back..
Chris Ferguson: Right.  “The modem failed to respond.  Make sure it is properly connected and turned on.  If it is an internal modem or is connected, verify that the interrupt for the port is properly set.”
Chris Ferguson: Next?
Eddie L.: ok. Have you tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers?
Chris Ferguson: No – happy to do that now though if you think that’ll fix it?
Eddie L.: yea lets try that. Since it is having problems being recognized maybe the drivers are corrupted.
Chris Ferguson: Another reason I want nothing to do with Windows…
Chris Ferguson: Okay, will go do that and report back.
Eddie L.: okay
Chris Ferguson: machine locked up hard. restarted, will try again.
Eddie L.: ok
Chris Ferguson: Right.  Uninstalled the driver.  Plugged modem in, device was recognised but software could not be found.  So I started up the Setup.exe with the drivers downloaded from your website this morning.  It found the modem, installed drivers.  Then came up with a screen saying “USB MODEM”  and “FAILED”, saying to press OK to install Netwaiting or some such.  The window closed on clicking “OK”, and the machine now refuses to see the modem anywhere in device manager.
Chris Ferguson: While I typed that message, the machine spotted the USB device and couldn’t find drivers.  And so the loop continues.
Eddie L.: So you do not see Modems or Other devices in the device manager list?
Chris Ferguson: Nope.
Eddie L.: Reboot the PC one more time
Chris Ferguson: Rebooting now.  Then what?
Eddie L.: then go into the device manager and see if the modem is listed
Chris Ferguson: Listed, with exclamation mark.  Windows came up with the Found New Hardware Wizard as soon as I was able to see the desktop.
Chris Ferguson: Next?
Eddie L.: is it now listed in the device manager?
Chris Ferguson: Yes, it’s listed with an exclamation mark.
Eddie L.: double click on it and select drivers then update driver
Eddie L.: select No not at this time and click on next. The select the automatically and click on next
Chris Ferguson: “No not at this time” is not an option.  I can either install automatically or from a specific location.
Eddie L.: automatically
Chris Ferguson: “Cannot install this hardware”.
Chris Ferguson: Should I “finish” or try installing from a specific location? (I have the downloaded drivers unpacked on the desktop, so could try pointing Windows at that, given that the included Setup.exe fails)
Chris Ferguson: Uh… you still there?  What do I do now?
Chris Ferguson: Hello?
Eddie L.: please hold for a moment
Eddie L.: ok. Lets do the update driver again and manually point it to the INF file
Chris Ferguson: Right.  I’m on it.
Eddie L.: but point it to the drivers that you have downloaded
Chris Ferguson: I can’t get the update wizard to look at the specific folder.  It threw up an error saying it couldn’t find a better driver, then when I cleared the error it went ahead and installed the driver from C:\Windows\System.  And then threw up an “Error 10 – device cannot start”.
Chris Ferguson: Now what?
Eddie L.: hold for a moment
Eddie L.: To be honest I don’t know what is going on. Were there any new updates, or installation done before the modem stopped responding
Chris Ferguson: None that we know of.
Eddie L.: okay.
Eddie L.: how long has this unit worked for?
Chris Ferguson: About two years
Eddie L.: Have you tried connecting it to another USB port on the computer?
Chris Ferguson: Yes.  Same results.  Same madness
Eddie L.: can I have the serial number of the modem please
Chris Ferguson: Didn’t that come with the chat login details?
Eddie L.: no. All we are able to see is first, last name, and email
Chris Ferguson: So what was the point of submitting the other “compulsory information”?  Anyways – serial is 2947-56540F-0423
Eddie L.: we are limited on our PCs. I think the other information are only viewable by supervisors or the admin.
Eddie L.: To be honest I don’t know what is going on.

That last line pretty much says it all.  This kind of thing was happening to me on a pretty-much monthly basis back in the days when I ran two Windows machines networked together at home.  I used to keep three PCI modems and three Ethernet cards, and I’d rotate them around the machines every time one of them mysteriously stopped working.

Ah, the memories…

 

Meanwhile Eddie L, whoever you are, if we ever meet in person I’ll buy you a beer.  You were awesome.