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it sounds like a fault in the speakers themselves. It's most likely a physical fault as the computer seems to think that everything is working okay. do you have a different set of speakers to try and see if the same thing occurs?
what happens when you plug the speakers in the green port? You might want to try the other audio ports because on a few new computers i have seen the speakers have to be plugged in a different hole. also make sure the speakers are plugged up to the electric plug.
Nothing wrong with your USB ports. MagicJack has changed your audio and driver settings so it can use the sound system for phone calls. The changes exist whether the Jack device in plugged in or not. You can confirm the problem by uninstalling MagicJack and reinstalling your sound drivers. Should fix the problem. You'll probably need to contact the maker of the MagicJack device for a workaround. Might be something specific to your laptop/operating system.
To find out if it's the windows update that did it, you could to a system restore. Press the start menu -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Restore. Then you choose Restore computer to an earlier time. This will give you a small calendar, which have some numbers in bold font. Choose the latest restore point.
Your speakers are frying, hence the crackling sound, as this is a frequent problem owing to the location of the speaker assemblies and the sound output in an area of the system where the ambient heat exhaust vents are located.
I am a bit confused, though, as to why you get no better sound through headphones or external speakers, since this is not usually the case in this frequently cited problem.
One possibility is that not only are the speakers, but the entire sound output assembly.
Warrantee work if available, if not try a shop where they also sell used Dell computers as they will have pulls that could cut your losses.
If the sound is working through another device then it seems that the internal speakers are bad. Because if the sound card was bad you wouldn't have any sound whatsoever, same goes for drivers. Probably just some bad speakers. If you have some other external speakers try plugging them into the headphone port and see if that helps.