How to set up a fax machine with distinctive ring

Last Update: August 9th, 2021

Distinctive ring is a feature that allows a fax machine to answer a phone line only when it makes a specific ring. This feature is often used when one phone line has two (or more) phone numbers assigned to it.

This is a popular feature with people who want to use a fax machine (or computer with fax software) but do not want to purchase an entirely new phone line. With distinctive ring set up, services such as voicemail and a fax machine can exist in harmony on the same line, and you’ll know before answering the phone whether the call is a voice or fax call.

What you’ll need

To set up a fax machine to recognize a distinctive ring you will need:

  • A fax machine with DRPD (distinctive ring pattern detection).
  • A landline phone line with two or more phone numbers assigned to it. The two phone numbers must make a different ring when each of them is dialed. Many landline phone providers have this feature.
  • A document to fax.

Step 1 – test both phone numbers to ensure a different ring

After you have set up the extra phone number to the landline, test the feature out.

Call both phone numbers to make sure they make a different ring when they are dialed. If it is working, each phone number will make a different ring sound.

Step 2 – set up the fax machine

Set up the fax machine to work normally. We have a page dedicated to fax machine setup and use.

To make sure the fax is working, test it on the regular phone line without distinctive ring enabled.

Step 3 – follow distinctive ring instructions

Each fax machine will be different. A “Typical” setup process will follow the following steps:

  1. Enter the fax machine’s “setup” menu
  2. Select “enable distinctive ring” (usually under a sub menu called “phone options” or “receive options”)
  3. The fax machine will have you call the line with distinctive ring so that it can record the ring.
  4. Press “done” (or similar) to stop recording the ring
  5. The fax machine will now be set up to answer the line only when the secondary line rings.

Alternatively, instead of recording the ring the fax machine may have a list of present rings it can wait to detect (such as a double ring, short-short-long, short-long-short, etc.

Step 4 – test the fax

Call the primary (non-fax) phone number. The phone should ring with the regular ring and the fax should not pick up.

Next, call the secondary (fax enabled) phone number. The phone should ring with the secondary ring and the fax machine should pick up.

If the fax is properly answering on the secondary line and not the primary line, then DRPD is enabled.

Things to be aware of

  • When you dial out from a phone line with distinctive ring, the receiving caller id will show the main phone number, not the secondary phone number. Some phone lines have the ability to dial a prefix before the call to have caller id show the secondary phone number. Contact your phone company to figure out how to have caller id show the secondary line.
  • Distinctive ring is not available on all fax machines or fax software.
  • Two phone numbers assigned to the same landline phone line is not available with all phone providers.