Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet

Find and Fix Sound Problems in Windows Operating Systems.

Turning on your computer to find that you have no sound is very frustrating, especially when the problem seems to come out of the blue. If your kids (or parents) have been playing around on the computer, the following tutorial will help you find and solve sound problems.The System Restore feature in Windows is the easiest way to rollback a change. If that doesn't work:

First, go to Start> Programs and then to the Control Panel. Depending on how you have your software set up, you will see either the category view, or the classic view. See pic below.

This is the category view of the control panel. If that is not what you see, look to the upper left of your screen and select category view. If things look slightly different in color and so forth, it is probably just a difference in Windows version of or display themes.

Click on Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices, and on the next page you will see "Pick a task" and under that, "or pick an icon." Under pick an icon, click on the icon that looks like a round speaker and says sounds and audio devices.

Take a look around, and you will see tabs across the top and information on the type of speakers and sound card you have. The red marks are added to help you find your way. The large red dot is the name of your sound card, something very important that we will go over later.
First, make sure that your sound is not muted. If you click the advanced button (below the mute/red dot on the right) it will open the volume settings. Make sure none of the settings are muted for any of the separate sliders that control CD players and such.

Next go to the speakers at the bottom, you will see the following screens:
The drop down text box under the screen/speakers lets you know what is currently selected to play the sounds from your computer. If headphones are listed, click the arrow and select the speakers you prefer.

If your desktop speakers are not listed, one way of dealing with it is to go to the performance tab and click the restore default (if the speakers came with your system). If you still don't see your speakers, check all of the wire connections to make sure everything is securely plugged in. If that turns up nothing, you may have to disconnect the speakers, turn the computer off, and then restart the computer so that the hardware manager finds and installs them.

Even though the Sounds tab doesn't have much to do with our core subject, we will briefly cover all of the tabs before we get to the critical stuff. The sounds tab controls which sounds are played from various programs you use. If you scroll down using the arrows, you can highlight programs and the sounds they play. It is a very good way to get rid of the more annoying sounds meant to get your attention or notify you of completed tasks. You can also add sounds if you wish.
The audio tab lists the speakers again, but adds the microphone and most importantly, the music playback function.

If the Microsoft default is changed, it can make playing music impossible. Unless you want to use an external synthesizer, click the arrow next to where the playback function is listed and make sure that an external synthesizer or MPU 401 is not selected.

The voice tab covers voice recording and play back. Unless you have some type of high end recording equipment, most of these settings are pretty standard.
As you have probably noticed, most of these components have one thing in common, and that is the sound card and driver that regulates them. In this case, the sound card is called "SoundMax Integrated digital Audio Device" and is listed under voice, recording, and audio, etc. Seems important, right? It is. Now we will get to the stuff that really can be confusing for computer novices.

The sound card is plugged into the inside of your computer, and rarely malfunctions since it is in a protected area. But, for the sound card to function correctly, it needs software called a "driver."

The software is specific to the sound card, and it is one of the most common causes of sound malfunctions. The driver can become corrupted or mistakenly changed during an automatic update. Normally, drivers are in protected folders that you can't see unless you set the folders to show them by checking "show system files."

Click the hardware tab and you will see a text box that lists of all of the devices/drivers that are responsible for the sound and video you play on your computer.

We are concentrating on no sound problems, so we will skip right to the sound card and talk about how to fix sound card driver problems. Even though the others have something to do with sound, this one is the most critical.

Look down the list for the name pointed out in the beginning of the tutorial when you opened the first tab. When you highlight the sound card, the information below changes (Device Properties are enlarged so that you can see better.) Info includes which slot the card is plugged into inside your computer, as well as who the manufacturer is, and whether the device is working properly.
As you can see, there is a troubleshooter to help you through testing possible causes of problems with sound. Most of the options in the troubleshooter involve bad or intermittent sound, but there is also one included for no sound. Microsoft troubleshooters can be very helpful and simple to use, so take a look.

Now, go to the properties tab. You will see the first tab containing general info previously noted on other tabs. The next tab is properties, which lists all of the multimedia components we have previously touched upon. If you are having problems that are related to certain types of sound playback, you should click through these options.
As you can see at the bottom of the general tab, you can disable the device from here. Disabling or uninstalling is a last resort measure that you can take when all else fails, but it is an action that deserves a tutorial of its own due to the issues that can arise. See tips on uninstalling and reinstalling devices.

Now click on the drivers tab and take a look at the information that is available on drivers.
First, take note of the driver date listed for the current driver. If it was changed around the time the sound went on the blink, try rolling the driver back. The "driver details" button will open a list of all the related drivers. If you highlight individual drivers, the maker, driver location and other useful information is given.

An important detail that can be found there is whether the driver is "digitally signed." This gives some assurance that the driver will work with windows and that it is not from a source that has not been tested.

Next, try to replace the driver by clicking the "update driver" button. The critical things here are to use the hardware update wizard and to use the automatic search. Allow the search to go to internet. Often, the result will be that a better driver can't be found. This can occur even when the driver is corrupt and you will get a message saying a better driver can't be found.

To replace the driver yourself, some caution is in order. First, you need to collect all that information about the driver name, version, and maker. You can go to Microsoft's update page and select the custom option rather than the express option. The software you are looking for will be on the left of the page under hardware and it will list as optional.

You can also search the internet using the card name and manufacturer. Most often, these drivers are provided free of charge. Make sure you know what your operating system and allow support to help you choose and install automatically if that is available. If no guidance is provided, you may have to install the new driver yourself, so make sure you remember where you download the driver to.

After download, you need to open the hardware update wizard again and then choose to search for the driver yourself. Browse to where you saved the driver and double click. If the driver manufacturer gave instructions that were different from these, make sure you go by the manufacturer.

If none of the above is fruitful, that is when uninstalling the driver and/or the device may be required. This operation is more advanced, so if you are a beginner, you should do a bit more research before you proceed. If you would like to read more about different troubleshooting methods, you can go to this tutorial about the device manager in the control panel.

Thanks for using Fixya as your troubleshooting guide.

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