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Reasons can be:
1. you have a corrupt driver.in that case uninstall and reinstall the drivers.
2.the device or the driver is not supported by the OS.
3.check whether the speakers are working properly , hold speakers one by one close to your ear while it is on you should hear a hissing sound confirming that they are alright.
4. change the port of the sound card see if that works
5. and if none of the above works it has to be the sound card itself.
think servicing before buying another sound card.
if it is built into the motherboard you cannot change it wthout changing the motherboard.
I assume you are using Windows (prob Vista on machine age)
go to the control panel - sounds and run the test - sometimes that fixes sound issues
if not uninstall the driver and let windows find the hardware and re-install it.
Let me know if you are still having problems.
Normally you click start then right click My Computer or Computer in Win7, click properties, on the next screen click device manager top left, then you should see an exclamation mark next to the sound sound icon, open this with the + sign, right click the sound card and click update driver, this should then search online, if it doesnt then right click the the sound card again and click uninstall. After youve done this then at the top click ACTION and the SCAN FOR HARDWARE CHANGES, it will then search online for the latest driver, this one will work.
I will recommend that you uninstall the sound card drivers and re-install them back. To uninstall
Right Click "My Computer" icon, click to "Manage" and then clcik on "Device Manager" in left pane. In Right pane, look for "Sound, Video, Game Controller" option, Expand it. NOTE the name of the sound card device. It could be Sigma Tel or A97 etc....RIGHT Click on it and click Uninstall. Restart your computer. If your OS is XP it should re-install sound card driver itself otherwise download it from Internet and re-install it.
If it is an integrated sound card you might
have to try installing a pci sound card if built in sound is bad. But you can always try uninstalling the driver and make sure you have the most appropriate driver for your OS. Also make sure your speakers our not faulty as well by putting them on a known good system :)
suuport.dell.com for info on drivers :)
Check whether the sound card drivers compatible with your present operating system. if your Pc built with Vista OS. then Get a vista driver from its official website.Some times When you install any devices or driver that might change the system files. even it may corrupt the files due to its incompatibility. Some mother board and Bios does not support some type of Sound cards . if your Motherboard has onboard audio .then disable it through Bios utility. uninstall the sound card,drivers. Remove the Sound card. REplug it. Restart the Pc. this time you can get add new hardware window. install the drivers. if problem still persists contact service centre.