The most significant difference between modems for Linux isn't whether they're internal or external. They are whether they are a softmodem or a hardware modem (intermediate "controllerless" modems also exist). A Softmodem, or software modem, is a modem with minimal hardware capacities, designed to use a host computer's resources (mostly CPU power and RAM but sometimes even audio hardware) to perform most of the tasks performed by dedicated hardware in a traditional modem. All external serial modems are hardware modems. Some external USB modems may work in Linux.


Software Modems

They are also referred to as a Winmodem because the first commercially available softmodems mostly targeted the Microsoft Windows operating system running on IBM-PC compatibles. Although their usage has become more widespread over other operating systems and machines e.g. embedded systems and Linux, they are still difficult to use on operating systems besides Windows due to lack of vendor support and lack of a standard device interface.

If the box says the modem is "host-based", "HCF", "HSP", "HSF", "controllerless", "host-controlled", "soft modem" or "designed for Microsoft Windows" then it is a Softmodem.

Hardware Modems

A hardware (controller-based) modem will have three components: The Microcontroller Unit (MCU), the Data Pump Unit (DPU), and the Data Access Arrangement (DAA).


  • Rockwell RCV336ACF/SVD
  • Conexant SmartSCM
  • Intel MD565X/MD566X
  • US Robotics 5610b
  • Texas Instruments 405/504
  • Texas Instruments 415/514
  • Texas Instruments D1164X
  • Texas Instruments 700



Gkdial or wvdial.

External links


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