Choosing a Modem

The other major type of connecting device you are likely to use is a modem. Modems come in several flavors, depending on the type of connection through which the modem works. The major modem types are the following:

  • Phone line or dial-up? All modern Macs include a built-in 56K modem as standard equipment. The only significant benefit of dial-up modems is that they work over any standard phone line, which makes them the only practical option for many people. However, dial-up modems are slow and are not as reliable as other modem types.

  • Cable? Cable modem connections to the Internet are among the fastest and most reliable. Cable Internet service availability can be limited, but if it is an option for you, you should definitely consider it.

  • DSL? Digital subscriber line modems offer benefits similar to those of a cable modem. However, in many areas, DSL connections are even less available than are cable modems.

  • ISDN? At one point, it seemed as if integrated services digital network (ISDN) modems were going to be the best way to connect to the Net. However, with the rise of cable and DSL modems, ISDN modems are usually preferable only when those two options are not available. ISDN modems are faster than dial-up modems, but they aren't nearly as fast as cable or DSL. An ISDN account also tends to be more expensive than other options.

Choosing the kind of modem you will use depends on the type of Internet connection you will be using. Most cable, DSL, and ISDN providers offer modems with their service (although you usually have the option to provide your own modem as well).

Installing and configuring these modems is also dependent on the type of connection you are using.

To learn more about installing and configuring a modem, see Chapter 10, "Connecting Your Mac to the Internet," p. 263.


There are other ways to connect to the Internet, such as with a fractional T-1 line. However, if you are going to connect your system with technology like this, your provider usually handles the configuration and installation of the hub equipment you need.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life