I have three phone numbers: two on my smartphone and one on my desktop — all of which I operate with no carriers. That’s right, no monthly cellphone or landline bills. It’s not a system for the faint of heart as this recently-solved problem illustrates.
My system relies on Wi-Fi which means I’m making VOIP calls. VOIP is the acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol which simply means you’re making calls using an Internet connection rather than regular phone lines or cellular. If you have a Gmail account, you already have VOIP capability. Look for the “make a call” icon to the left of your inbox.
I was happy with my system until I got a new laptop and my favourite dialer would only deliver one-way audio. Whether inbound or outbound, the other party could hear me but on my end there was total silence. For two solid weeks I verified drivers, played with settings and ports on the firewall, changed ports on the router, checked speaker connections … You name it, I tried it. The oddest thing of all is my Google dialer still functioned normally.
I should point out that I’m talking about my setup on Freephoneline.ca which provides free calling across Canada and a dedicated phone number. It’s the one I’ve given to business contacts, our banks, friends, and family.
The solution was to create a local profile in Windows 10, thereby cutting Microsoft out of the equation. Why does this make a difference? I have to start by telling you that Windows 10 seeks to use your machine as a server. Unless you edit your settings, Microsoft is using some of your bandwidth to send out Windows 10 updates to strangers’ computers. And some of the updates that you receive are coming to you from places other than Microsoft. (Side note: If that creeps you out as much as it did me, here’s how to undo that little bit of evil.)
Last night it struck me: If the soft phone worked perfectly in Windows 10 on my old laptop but not on the new one, I could be causing the problem by doing something differently. The only difference is that I had relented and was signing in every day using my Microsoft ID. As soon as I cut the mother ship tether by creating a local account on the laptop, my soft phone returned to its former usable state. Instantly.
I can’t tell you exactly why the Microsoft connection affected one VOIP line and not the other. I also can’t tell you exactly why my firewall is no longer going gaga (running and updating incessantly) but that seems to have been corrected as well. If your Windows 10 machine is exhibiting odd behaviour, try working from a local account. How-To Geek (my people!) posted excellent instructions here.