Magic Jack Technical Bulletin
NOTE: Our company
supplies telephone equipment to phone companies.
sell or support the
Magic Jack, we don't know anything about the Magic Jack other
what's in this bulletin, we don't recommend the Magic Jack
for anything other than a cute toy, and...
WE DO NOT SUGGEST YOU
USE IT TO MAKE BUSINESS PHONE CALLS
The regular Magic Jack
is a cute little dongle that plugs into a USB port on a PC with
an operating system that it supports (Windows XP, Vista, Windows
The Magic Jack
is also a cute little dongle that plugs into a USB port on a PC with
an operating system that it supports (Windows XP, Vista, Windows
Intel MACs), or you can plug it directly into an Ethernet port
on your network switch or router (after setting it up via USB on
It gives you a jack to plug a regular single
line analog phone into, to make unlimited US and Canadian calls for
$20 to $30 a year after the first year ($40 for the regular gizmo and the first
year of service, and about $85 for the PLUS gizmo and the first
year of service).
Well, it's not
really unlimited. You can make all the "free" US calls you want
according to Magic Jack, but it is limited. Limited
to 2 hours a call (after which they just cut you off). If
you make too many calls, they just turn off your service (you
apparently have to abuse it a lot).
There are many
reports that the sales tactics of the company behind Magic Jack
are less than honest, but I think a lot of us have come to
expect that of almost anything sold on TV and on the web. If you
decided to buy from them, I'm sure you expected to lose all or
some of the money you spent. There are many stories out there of
fraudulent billing where they charge you for five years of
service when you only wanted one, or didn't honor their money
back guarantee. If you don't expect that dealing with any
company that advertises on the TV or radio, or many web sites,
you are way too trusting!
Here are a few of
examples of billing problems (on YouTube) with the Magic Jack:
They charge you for 5 years of service even though you only
wanted 1 year.
Can't stop the order once you fill in your info, and no
moneyback guarantee if you use a debit card (they call it fraud
if you tell them your debit card is a credit card?!?)
You CAN'T renew Magic Jack for the second year (because
of the demand?), they make you buy a whole new Magic Jack
So if you're a
gambler this is a really
cute and amazing toy, and could save you a lot of money in phone
To save the money
you have to be a calm and accepting person, willing to put up
with things that don't always work right (like Windows?), and
calls that aren't always terribly clear (often much worse than a cell
have a broadband connection to the Internet. Figure
on one Magic Jack conversation taking up 128K of bandwidth
in each direction (you can have more than one Magic Jack,
each using its own computer). Almost anybody would have that
much bandwidth, but not necessarily while you're using the
computer for anything else on the Internet. It would be
better not to use the computer or network the Magic Jack is
connected to while you're talking on the Magic Jack. You'll
notice that when you stop downloading porn while you're
talking, the Magic Jack will sound much better.
two buttons to click on the top of the Magic Jack window,
which select between normal and 3G use. If your call quality
is bad, you could click the 3G button, which will use
less bandwidth (the call might not be as clear, but it might
not stutter and have dropouts). During my testing, it didn't
work well with the 3G button pushed (it cut in and out) on Verizon's EVDO (data card), and when on Verizon's slower
data service (National Access) it was totally unusable.
You must have a
"real" USB port on your computer to plug the Magic Jack
directly into (even for the Plus model, which needs
to be setup on a computer). It won't work right with non-powered USB hubs
(it gets its power from the USB jack, and it's pretty
amazing how it uses that limited amount of power to let you
dial, talk, and ring a phone or two). It will probably work
on a powered USB hub (which comes with an AC power cube).
Your PC must be
running 24/7, and not in sleep mode, in order to be able to
make or receive calls on the Magic Jack. You can turn the
monitor off. You need XP, Vista, Windows 7 or a newer MAC.
The Plus model can be plugged into an Ethernet jack
on your Internet router, and doesn't need to be plugged into
a computer all the time.
router must have the standard ports open for VoIP.
Very few humans have the ability to muck around with their
DSL or cable routers which act as a firewall to protect
them from bad stuff on the Internet. Luckily, most routers
will work without changes. Unless you really know what
you're doing, don't let the nice people at Magic Jack
support tell you to start programming your router or
changing your Windows registry. You'll be really really
support, there is none. Well, actually there's something
Magic Jack calls "support." No phone number to call, no email
address, just a button to push on their web site that will
let you "chat" very slowly with someone who will
appear to be a moron, but they're actually in a foreign
country and have no idea what you're talking about - or what
they're talking about.
If your Magic Jack doesn't work, try a different computer,
return it for a refund, or use it for a paper weight (it
is really cute). Unless you have a prescription for
Valium and take several beforehand, don't try to chat with Magic Jack
With the Magic
Jack plugged into your computer's USB port you can make
calls from a computer headset attached to your computer, or
preferably on an ordinary single line home type phone
plugged into the modular jack on the side of the Magic Jack.
That's one phone. Not two, not three, not ten
throughout your house. One phone.
The reason I'm writing this bulletin is that
we can't talk to end-users who want to connect the Magic
Jack to a wall jack in their house and use it like they'd
use a phone line from the real phone company. Is it
possible? For the most part, yes. But it may require a
couple of hundred dollars worth of gizmos to make it work.
Magic Jack never says you can feed all the phones in your
house. The fact that it will work with one or two phones
out of the box is really quite amazing. Electronically, it
does a better job than analog ports on some expensive
phone systems. Whoever designed the electronics did a great
This is critical...
If you want to try to use the Magic Jack like a real phone
line (it's always fun to beat the system), the most
important thing to remember is to disconnect the Phone
Company's line from inside the Network Interface (Phone
Company's box) so you don't have miles of Phone Company
cable connected to your Magic Jack and possibly damaging
voltage coming from the Phone Company's Central Office into
your Magic Jack (but the Magic Jack is made well and is very
tough, and is unlikely to be damaged by foreign voltage - I
The best way to use the Magic Jack throughout a home is with
one of the "cordless phone systems" with several handsets
they sell at the Office Biggie store (for a
lot of money!). The Magic Jack will think it's just
connected to one phone, and will probably work as good as
it's going to. It will not work with every phone ever made,
it won't work with three or more phones, and even if it
works - some of the calls will sound like garbage (even if
you're not downloading movies while talking on the Magic
People keep telling me that if
they hook up too many phones a call won't ring-in, and won't
go to their voice mail...
web page FAQ Magic Jack says you may need a powered USB hub
if you use multiple phones (available at computer stores),
or to use a cordless phone system so that there's only one
base plugged into the Magic Jack. That probably doesn't
apply to the Plus which comes with its own power cube if
you're using it on Ethernet?
Magic Jack PLUS comes with its own power cube so you can
plug it into an Etherenet port on your home network.
sells USB hubs. You should read the reviews and make sure a
powered USB hub actually comes with a power cube (or it's
When the Valium wears off and you decide to rip the Magic
Jack out of your computer and put it in the garbage disposal
(makes a very satisfying noise after an hour of
"chatting" with Magic Jack support), you'll still be able to
use that "cordless phone system" on the real line you have
reinstalled (or sell the cordless system on ebay).
By the way, I bought some used Magic Jacks for testing on
ebay only to find that they won't let you use it to sign up
for service after the year has run out unless you know the
email address and password that was originally used - so
buying a used one is a waste. The nice people at Magic Jack
support, who I thought were morons because they told me to
"Return the Magic Jack to ebay," actually didn't know what
ebay is because they're in a third world country.
From the Magic Jack Terms of Service that's pretty much
impossible to read (like most Terms of Service):
7. No Resale
Unless expressly authorized in writing by magicJack, you
agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade, resell
or exploit for any purposes any portion of the magicJack
device or the Software.
Read the entire Terms of
Service from 6/09 by Clicking Here
Read the entire
PLUS Terms of
Service from 11/11 by Clicking Here
thing I found in the Terms of Service (that you pre-paid
for)? You could just lose the phone number if you don't make a call!
"We reserve the right to reclaim any telephone
number that does not make a call for a consecutive 90 days."
Some of you will
find that your Magic Jack stops working and the program
closes by itself. There are many reasons for this to happen
(especially if you're using a Windows PC), but the most
likely cause is a defective short USB extension cord that
they ship with the Magic Jack.
They are really junky, especially the earlier ones. If you
move the cord or Magic Jack a little and the program closes,
the cord is probably your culprit. Try plugging the Magic
Jack directly into a real USB port (might be hard because of
Once you get
your Magic Jack working, you'll notice that the Magic Jack
program keeps popping up in-front of you no matter what
you're doing when you make or receive a call (the same thing
happens with any "Screen Phone," which is not appropriate
for most business use). If you have
the Magic Jack connected to a number of phones around your
house, that can really get old fast. Combined with the
constantly rotating ads for signing up for more decades of
Magic Jack at a reduced price or cheap International calls, it's extremely annoying.
Luckily, a Magic Jack user has come up with a free fix if
you're on Windows (not the Mac). MagicBlock is a
small program you run that keeps the Magic Jack window from
popping up, and also keeps Window's focus on the program you
are working in, so you don't have to click back to go back
to that program. Go to:
I never tried it, so I'm not sure how well it works. The
guy's website is gone, but the program is still on CNET and
still might work (it's from 2008)?
Here's another program that looks like it does the same
thing (I've never used it):
And another site that seems to
sell software utilities for the Magic Jack (again, I've
never used it):
These types of programs will probably violate the terms of service that you
agreed to when you signed up for the service. If that
bothers you, don't use a MagicBlock type program. Or don't use Magic Jack.
Robert Reite sent an email that he
successfully used his Magic Jack to feed all of the phones
in his house for about a year, after setting QOS (Quality Of
Service) in his router to give VoIP calls priority.
He said it suddenly stopped working every couple of hours,
after which he had to unplug it for 10 seconds to get it
He got rid of the questionable USB extension cable, and that
His search for a cure found that after a software update
from Magic Jack, if he left the Magic Jack program
minimized, the Magic Jack would go dead after about 2 hours.
If he left the Magic Jack window on the screen (not
minimized), it didn't go dead.
In some cases
the Magic Jack won't play nice with your sound card, so you
may have to go into the Windows Control Panel to make
adjustments. The most annoying thing I noticed with their
first version is the advertisement that changes every few
moments in their window.
On one Windows system, I had to go into "Sounds and Audio
Devices" in the control panel to adjust the sound card
device that was being used by the system, because I was
getting a click through the PC speakers every time the ad
changed in their window (like you do when you click
something in a browser if you have sounds turned on). That
was a few years ago when they did have telephone or
email support, who told me what to do to fix it.
Yes, you need
electricity to make the Magic Jack work. Your DSL or cable
router needs electricity, your PC needs electricity, your
powered USB hub needs electricity - and for the Magic Jack
to work you need all of that working. Desktop PCs don't run
very long on a battery backup, mainly because of the fans,
the spinning hard drive, and the monitor (you can turn that
Your cell phone is your friend if you decide to use the
Magic Jack (especially when the power is out, especially if you don't
know how to send smoke signals). Even though most cell
phones have some crummy sounding calls and cut you off from
time to time, it will look like a very dependable device
after using the Magic Jack for a short time. The horrible
support you get from a real phone company or cell phone
company looks good compared to the Magic Jack support
The Magic Jack
doesn't work with a rotary phone. It only works with touch
tone (DTMF) phones. We're working on a Pulse to Tone
Converter that will work with the Magic Jack, but there's
not much current coming out of the Magic Jack for us to play
with to run a line powered device (power cubes are
expensive, and a pain to keep plugged in).
Robert Reite also mentioned that Caller ID
didn't work on all of the phones in his house when he got
Jack. To get Caller ID to
work on the phones, he put a 100K Ohm Resistor across
the line (from tip to ring).
If you have an
alarm system in your house, don't get rid of your real phone
line. The alarm system won't be able to communicate with the
alarm company on a Magic Jack.
If you have a
door box or gate entry system that calls your house phones
when someone is at the door, you must run the Magic
Jack to where the real phone line connected to the entry
system. If you just disconnect the phone line at the Network
Interface, and plug the Magic Jack into the nearest jack in
your house, the electricity from the Magic Jack will be
connected to the electricity from your entry system, and
something is going to burn out. The door entry system will
have a place to put a phone line (where you'd put the Magic
Jack), and a place for all the phones in the house. If you
see a puff of smoke, you'll know you didn't connect it to
the right place.
I bought a lot
of Magic Jacks to write this bulletin. It's very interesting
that I've gotten the exact same recorded message as a voice
mail on a number of the Magic Jack numbers, in different
area codes, from a collection agency in Chicago.
From what I read on the Internet, this is a very dishonest
collection agency that's apparently fishing for money by
calling numbers and asking anybody who answers for personal
information, to see if they can match them up with a debt
they can try to collect.
Never give anybody any kind of
information if they call you... Not your
name, address, credit card number, social security number,
children's names, relative's names -
Just hang up on them. It doesn't matter
what they say, how nice they sound, what they say they are
selling, or what charity they say they're from.
So you really want
to make your Magic Jack work on phones all around your house?
There are some solutions, but they range from fairly cheap to
very expensive (to make a $40 gizmo work).
A phone man in Ft. Worth,
TX, Weldon Swink, has this inexpensive suggestion:
The Magic Jack has a loop current of around 16 ma. As you
probably know, the
"Ringing Current" is not sufficient to "ring" a stand 2500 type
phone with the
traditional "electro-mechanical" bell ringer.
Recently, I purchased a GE Wireless Telephone Jack on e-Bay for
$1 (they sell them at Radio Shack for much more).
Plug the master and remote modules into the same power
strip by the Magic Jack, then
run a modular cord from the Magic Jack to the Master GE Unit, then
a line cord from the 2500-type phone to the Remote GE Unit. It works.
The loop current is approximately 25-26 ma, The phone rings
I realize this is an "el-cheapo" form of "Southern Engineering",
but it works!
If your old style phone
with a real bell doesn't ring with a Magic Jack, this is
a really cheap and easy fix if you're brave enough to open your
The old 2500 sets with
double gong ringers, and 2554 sets (mini-wall phones) with single gong
ringers, have a small bias spring to adjust the clapper on
the bell. The bias spring was normally shipped in the high
position so the bell wouldn't tap when a rotary phone was dialed, or
another phone went on and off-hook - which can put out a spike
that's enough to move the clapper a little.
You could try setting the bias spring to the low
position to see if your old phone will ring with the Magic Jack
(you've got a pretty good chance of making one 2500
AT&T 2500 set from 1973
ITT, or Stromberg Carlson, or Comdial) 2500 Set
(Usually no REN value listed)
The 5/73 in Orange is the date it was refurbished by
Bias Spring in Low Position
Spring in High Position
As a phone man, the
fact that the Magic Jack will ring a real 2500 set with just the
voltage and current available from a USB port is totally
If your new phone
(corded or cordless) doesn't ring with a Magic Jack, try this...
Some phones say 0.0 REN on the bottom of them, which essentially
means they don't take any current from the phone line when
ringing. If your phone says 0.0 or maybe 0.2 REN, try plugging a
modular Y adapter into the Magic Jack, and plug a second phone
that says 1.0 or so REN into the second jack on the Y Adapter.
Some fake phone
lines won't put out any ringing if they don't see any current
being drawn. I haven't tested this on the Magic Jack, but it
does work on other types of VoIP ATAs (Analog Telephone
Converters) and phone systems.
professional solutions for technical geeks:
Our company sells a
Loop Current Booster™ that will boost
the loop current coming out of the Magic Jack to 27ma (from 12
to 16ma depending on Magic Jack version, which isn't enough to
run some phones). It will let you make calls from any kind of
phone anywhere in a house when put in-series with the modular
jack on the Magic Jack. $100 plus shipping.
During testing, I
found that the Loop Current Booster™ also boosted the
ringing current enough to ring two phones with bells, as opposed
to one phone with a bell without the Loop Current
Booster™. The Magic Jack ringing waveform is a square wave
(not a sine wave like from the phone company), which looks like
pulsating DC to the Loop Current Booster™. The Loop
Current Booster™ boosts one side of that AC square wave
(which is actually a pulse of DC), so you get a little more
ringing current when it's on the line (nothing like our Ring
Voltage Booster II™).
Booster II™ gives you 90V AC sine wave ringing at 7.5 REN
(the phone company only gives you 5 REN, which will ring 5 of
the old style phones with real bells.). $125 plus shipping.
We'll sell these to
you if you really want. We can't
support end users. We normally sell these to phone men who don't
We can't make money talking to
end-users about trying to make a cheap piece of junk work (even
if it is a cute piece of junk)... But
we do have an incredible amount of technical information in our
Tech Bulletins if you have several hours to read them and know a
little about electricity (understand what current and voltage
is). Or hire a local phone man to help you.
There are 5 Versions of
the Magic Jack that I've found (as of January 2012):
Version 1 - the
original Magic Jack. It has the correct polarity
coming out of it (see the green LED in the jack). The blue LED is on the bottom right. The easiest way to tell the
difference between the three versions is by looking just above
the J in magicJack. This version doesn't have much there.
There is a vertically mounted chip (U1) a little to the right of
the J, extending up (hard to see in this photo).
Here are the numbers
for Version 1:
Version 2. It
has the correct polarity coming out of it (see the green LED in
the jack). The blue LED is on the bottom left. The
easiest way to tell the difference between the three versions is
by looking just above the J in magicJack. This version has a big
white box with a solder blob.
Here are the numbers
for Version 2:
Version 3. It
has the wrong polarity coming out of it (see the red LED in the
jack). The blue LED is on the bottom left. The easiest way
to tell the difference between the three versions is by looking
just above the J in magicJack. This version has two horizontally
placed surface mount components there (you can only see one in
Here are the numbers
for Version 3:
Version 4. There
is one out there, but I haven't found one to buy, yet. When I
find one I might plunk down my $40 and test it, and put the results
Magic Jack PLUS
(Version 1). It
has the correct polarity coming out of it (see the green LED in the
jack). The blue LED is on the bottom right (under a clear
+ sign), and it no longer has a clear front.
You no longer have
to leave a computer turned on to use it! You plug it into your
computer via USB to set it up with your account, then you are
given the option to remove it and connect it to your network
(with no PC associated with it) or keep using it on your USB
port. You can switch back and forth whenever you want (you may
have to start the Magic Jack program manually when you plug it
back into your PC).
This is a slightly
bigger dongle, with two ways to connect it.
1. USB into a
PC to keep it running - just like the old ones.
plugged into the included AC power cube, and an included network
patch cord into an open port on your network (Ethernet) switch.
There is no connection to a computer when used this way.
Here are the numbers
for Magic Jack PLUS (Version 1)... (same pitiful numbers
as the regular Magic Jack):
readings on the regular (not PLUS) Magic Jacks were taken with the Magic Jack connected directly to a
USB port on a PC. On the first version, when I tested it with an unpowered USB hub, there was about 1.5ma less loop current, and
3 volts less ring voltage. If you must use a USB hub, use a
powered USB hub (with a power cube)!
I tested the Magic
Jack PLUS connected to the included AC power cube (the USB plugs
right into the power cube), with the included network patch cord
plugged into an Ethernet switch in our lab (pretty much just
like the one you have at home). The readings from it were just
as crappy as the regular Magic Jacks. It's not going to work any
better if the old Magic Jack didn't work for you.
Most phones are
designed to work with a minimum of 23ma of loop current,
although they will usually work at 20ma. Below that, things get
pretty iffy. You might see strange and/or intermittent problems
(you're a test pilot, because the engineers who designed the
phone never tested it to work below 20ma of loop current).
Don't use the
Magic Jack in a business,
unless phone calls aren't important!
Ordering lunch or
talking to your girlfriend? Use the Magic Jack attached to your
PC if the IT guy has allowed stuff like that on the network.
Working on a million dollar deal? Use a real phone.
If you're thinking
about using VoIP in your business, take a look at these Tech
Bulletins that could save you lots of headaches:
the VoIP Research Tech Bulletin
for things to
think about before deploying VoIP at a business.
for a quick list of things to
check before jumping into VoIP at a business.