Can I fax using Windows Vista?

I’d been using my PC to fax with Microsoft operating systems for years when I decided to upgrade to Vista. Now, I can’t fax at all. What am I doing wrong?

There’s nothing that can rile up PC-users like a rousing debate about the merits of Vista, Microsoft’s love-it-or-hate-it operating system released in 2007. It’s almost as intense as the PC vs. Mac battle, or Coke vs. Pepsi.

In your case, it sounds like you’ve purchased Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium. These are the same programs that now come preloaded on many new PCs and notebook computers. Neither versions contain the Windows Fax and Scan application that is present in the more-costly versions of Vista: Business, Ultimate and Enterprise. Not only that, switching to Vista will eliminate the fax capabilities you had thanks to the fax console included in Windows XP and Windows 2000. Many people who were faxing over a Vonage voice-over IP (VoIP) fax line also found themselves suddenly unable to fax.

So, what are your options? Well, you could upgrade to Vista Ultimate to the tune of about $220, or buy Vista Business outright for about $300 (Microsoft won’t let Vista Home users upgrade to Vista Business). You could certainly buy a fax machine for less than that. Interestingly, even though the computers that come preloaded with Vista Basic or Home Premium lack fax software, they usually do have a modem installed. So, you could purchase a stand-alone, third-party fax software program such as Snappy Fax ($29.99). (Snappy Fax will work with Vista, but may have a hard time with VoIP services such as Vonage.) Or, try out a Shareware application, such as RKS Fax ($19.95). Another alternative would be to embrace the advances in Internet-based faxing and sign up with an Internet fax service.

Be aware that some third-party providers of fax services had also been gearing their software and support to the applications of the pre-Vista days (for example, Symantec’s WinFax), so make sure that whatever company you go with is itself Vista-compatible.

Message boards have been blazing with complaints about the home versions of Vista’s lack of a fax app, and Vista fans are firing back with “you should have read the specs before you bought it,” and “modem faxing is dead.” In any case, Microsoft has not expressed any intent to make a printer driver update part of its entry-level OS in the future.

If you do have a Vista version with Windows Fax and Scan, you will be able to send and receive faxes as well as scan documents and images. Find the program on the “All Programs” menu. (If you have Vista Enterprise, you’ll need to install it separately.) Select “New” from the file menu to bring up a fax template. Fill in the fields (it’s compatible with Outlook and Windows Address Book). Find and attach the document you want to send by using the Browse button. Follow the prompts to send the fax.

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