There are two ways to email to a fax machine: through an online fax service or an enterprise level fax server.
There are other ways to fax from a computer that uses a connected fax machine or fax software (a direct replacement for a fax machine) however; these approaches do not have the benefit of being able to be managed through email and also require a land-line phone line.
- There is no “out of the box” way an email program can send a fax. An online fax service, fax server, or connected fax machine is required to enable email to fax and fax to email.
- You can send and receive a fax with email by using an online fax service, including email services such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Outlook.
- You can send and receive a fax using a connected fax machine or multifunction printer as a relay. Most only have the ability to receive a fax and forward it to email, while sending is done through the print driver.
- Enterprise & corporate level fax servers can add “email to fax” and “fax to email” capability to an organization.
- Alternatives include fax software and finding a local establishment to send and receive faxes
On this page
- How fax to email (and email to fax) works
- How to send and receive a fax to email (or email to fax) with an online fax service
- Use a connected fax machine to send and receive a fax with email
- Sources and more resources
There are two ways for connecting fax and email. The first is with a fax server (an online fax service is a type of fax server), the second is with a connected fax machine with email capability.
An online fax service is a type of fax server. The main difference between the two is that fax servers are managed directly (typically found in enterprise and corporate environments) while online fax is available as a service.
A connected fax machine is a fax machine that is controlled by a computer or smartphone. Many connected fax machines can send a fax from the print driver, and some can relay the fax to an email whenever a fax is received.
Email to fax (and fax to email) is a standard function with most online fax services.
Sending an email to fax
Steps vary by service provider. A typical approach to sending an email to fax with an online fax service is:
Step 1 – Prepare a new email. Open a new email as you normally would.
Step 2 – Put the “to” fax number into an email address. To send the email to a fax send to an email address that is the fax number @ theFaxProviderDomain.com. For example, if the fax number to send to is +1 (212) 555-5555, and the online fax service is Nextiva, the email to send to is [email protected]
Step 3 – Enter subject line and body of the email. The subject line and body of the email will be converted over to the relevant parts of the fax’s cover page. The subject line will be the email’s subject line, the body of the email will be the body of the cover page. Information about the sender automatically inserts into the cover page from the service’s configuration.
Step 4 – attach the documents to fax. More than one document can be attached, and file formats such as Word and PDF are universally compatible.
Step 5 – send the email. The email travels to the fax service. The fax service will then convert the email information over to a fax and call the fax number.
Step 6 – wait for confirmation (or message failure). The fax service sends a confirmation page email showing the fax was successfully sent or not.
Receiving a fax to email
Steps vary with each provider. Here is a typical approach to receiving a fax to an email address:
Step 1 – the fax service waits for the fax line to ring. The fax service is always on regardless of whether your computer, smartphone, or email client is active.
Step 2 – the fax service answers the ringing fax line. The sending fax machine transmits the fax information to the fax service.
Step 3 – the fax service stores the fax. A web browser, software program, or app can access the faxes.
Step 4 – the fax service emails a copy of the fax to the designated email address(es) (some fax services allow for more than one recipient email address). The email arrives with a copy of the fax in PDF format.
The system can work all types of devices, including Computers (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and Smartphones/Tablets (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone). It can work anywhere that email can be accessed and a PDF document can be displayed.
All types of email addresses are compatible. An online email to fax service can work with:
- Webmail email addresses such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook 365 webmail.
- Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, CenturyLink, and any internet service provider’s email.
- Any email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird, and Mac Mail.
The limitations of fax to email with an online fax service or fax server come mostly from the storage size the email provider allows. Most email providers allow more than enough room; however fax documents take up much more computer storage space than an equivalent document typed directly into an email.
With a fax server, there may be limitation set by the administrators as to what type of email can send and receive a fax. However, these limitations are specific to the organization and not the server software.
Most connected fax machines have the ability to “print” to fax through the print driver. Some connected fax machines (or multifunction printers with fax capability) can forward a fax to email.
A connected fax machine will still require a landline phone line, just like a regular fax machine.
“Printing” to the fax driver
Connected fax machines can send a fax by “printing” the fax.
The specifics vary by fax machine. It is typical to have the ability to load the print driver (go to print the file, select more options). Within the print driver is an option to send the document to a fax number.
Other fax machines have software that runs the functions for sending the fax. Within the software, there is an option to build a simple fax and send it as a fax.
Forward fax to email
Some connected fax machines can forward (or relay) a received fax to an email address. When a fax is received, an email sends to a designated email address with a PDF copy of the fax attached.
Alternatives – fax with a computer or use a local store
The simplest alternative to an online fax service with email fax or a connected fax machine is fax software or finding a local place to send a fax.
Most versions of Windows include “Window fax and scan,” a program that acts as a direct replacement for a fax machine. A fax modem on the computer and a landline phone line are required. This program acts very much like an email client, however, is for sending and receiving faxes.
- Fax Authority – Email Fax (glossary) – our glossary entry defining what an email fax is and how it works.
- Fax Authority – Guide to Online Fax – our guide to online fax systems. Email to fax and fax to email is only a small part of online fax.
- Fax Authority – Online fax services – our comparison of online fax services. The page includes a side by side comparison.
- Wikipedia – Internet Fax – Wikipedia’s entry on Internet fax, an overall term for sending and receiving faxes over the Internet.
- Wikihow – How to email to Fax: 6 Steps – a basic explanation of how to send an email to a fax machine.
- Mozilla Thunderbird Support Forum – Can I send an email to a fax number? – A forum discussion in Mozilla’s support forum about the use of an email to fax system.
- Brother – How do I configure fax forward to email? – Brother’s support forum answer on how to set up fax forwarding on an MFC -8220.
- Google Patents – Patent # US 6424426 B1 Fax-to-email and email-to-fax communication system and method – A patent that shows the workings of a fax-to-email and email-to-fax system from the year 2000. Awarded to Matthew K. Henry of Mongonet.
- Google Patents – Patent # US US 6614551 B1 Email capable fax machine and methods for using the same – A patent that shows the workings of an email capable fax machine. Awarded to Gregory A. Peek of Intel Corporation.