Slow Fax Machine

My fax machine seems to take forever to transmit a simple one or two-page document. Is something wrong with it? Am I doing something wrong?

The amount of time it takes to send a fax can depend on a number of settings in your fax machine. It pays to take a few minutes to look through your fax machine’s user manual or configuration functions to find out which settings can speed up transmission. For instance, most fax machines have a “fine” or “ultra fine” modes as well as a “normal” transmission mode. Faxes sent with the fine modes will look better, but will take longer to transmit. In addition, some fax machines can be set to send faxes in color, a setting that is often unnecessary but increases transmission time.

The more detailed a page is — the more information that’s on it — the longer it will take to transmit as a fax. A nearly blank sheet, for instance, might be faxed in just two or three seconds; while a sheet filled with tiny type can take a minute or more.

In addition, the quality of your phone line (and the recipient’s) will affect the speed of transmission. A “dirty” phone line increases the amount of time that it takes to send a fax, because the fax machine needs to resend information to make sure that it was received properly.

It’s interesting to note the the first page of a fax is the one that takes the longest, due to the fax machines’ initial “handshaking”. When they first connect, your fax machine and the recipient’s machine need to agree on which protocol to use, which adds time to the start of the conversation. So the first page of a fax might take 60 seconds, while subsequent pages might take only 30 to 40 seconds.

Finally, if your fax machine is old — and I mean really old, a holdover from the 1970’s — that probably accounts for its slowness. More modern fax machines can use faster communication protocols. In this case, it’s time to upgrade.

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