Avoid Fax Tone

My phone and fax machine share one line. I’m so sick of rushing to pick up a ringing phone only to hear that annoying tone that means it’s really a fax coming in. What can I do?

The service you need is called “distinct ring” or “distinctive ring.” It is among the premium services (such as call waiting and call forwarding) offered by most phone companies and typically costs from $3 to $5 per month. You get a second number from your phone company, which you give out as your fax number. Now, when a fax comes in, it will sound different from a regular phone ring (it might be a series of two short rings in a row, for example.)

If “distinct ring” doesn’t ring a bell when you ask your phone company about it, that’s because some of them have different names for the service, such as: Multi Ring (SBC), RingMaster (Bell South), RingMate (NYNEX), SmartRing (GTE), Personalized Ringing (Southwestern Bell), Custom Ringing (Qwest) or IdentaRing (Verizon). Please note, this is different from the “personalized ring” service you might secure to identify which of a handful of numbers are calling you.

Also be aware that not all fax machines and fax software (Windows 2000 Fax is one example) can distinguish distinctive rings from regular rings, so they will attempt to deliver a fax in all instances unless you install special hardware (often called a “ring router”) or a third-party fax software package such as FaxTalk Messenger Pro. It might be best to make sure that your fax machine or PC fax software is compatible with distinctive rings before signing up for that service.

Distinct ring may sound like a luxury, but the fax tone “sounds” pretty annoying if you’re hearing it many times a day. It may be a time- and sanity-saving investment to consider for your home office. Then again, if you get that many faxes, it may be time to add a dedicated fax line so you can keep your office line free.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.