Troubleshooting a PC Sound Card

For most computer users, sound is a vital part of the computing experience. Whether watching a movie or playing a game, without sound the experience would be quite boring. The hardware that drives sound in PCs is called a sound card, which is either a separate piece of hardware, or a chip that is built into the motherboard. As with most computer repairs, troubleshooting sound in a PC starts with the basics.

 Plug in the Speakers
Seems obvious, right? This happens more often than you might think. For example, the simple act of moving a monitor from one side of the desk to another can cause tangled cables and power supplies to become unplugged. Make sure your speakers are plugged into the appropriate color-coded jacks on the back of the computer, and the power supply is plugged into a power source. Is the power light on? If not, check the cables again to make sure they are plugged into the right ports. Non-amplified speakers do not have a power cord, and some older types of PC speakers run on batteries. If they do, replace the batteries with new ones, or better yet, buy a newer, more powerful set of speakers.

 Enable System Sound
Once the speakers have power and are turned on, turn the volume knob up to about 60 percent. If you have headphones plugged in, disconnect them. In most cases, when headphones are plugged in, sound will be muted through the speakers. Is sound enabled in your operating system? Is the volume turned up? Most operating systems have a small "speaker" or other audio type icon located on the main task bar. If the icon has a red "X" on it, the sound card is muted. Double-click on the icon to open the sound control panel, then make adjustments to the volume as necessary. If audio support is built into your motherboard, make sure it's enabled in the BIOS. If you have built-in audio plus an additional sound card, disable the device you are not using to avoid conflicts. Most computer manuals detail how to enter, configure and save BIOS settings for each particular model.

 Reinstall or Update Drivers
Sound card drivers sometimes become corrupt or have conflicts after an operating system update, or if additional hardware is installed. If you have a new sound card, reinstall the driver that came with the device. If audio support is built into your motherboard, or the sound card is not a newer model, download and install the latest drivers from the manufacturer's website. If system conflicts occur after installing additional hardware, try uninstalling the sound card drivers, reboot the computer a few times, then install the drivers again. If your operating system has a system restore feature, try restoring the computer to one of the restore points when the sound card worked.  

Open the Computer
PC components sometimes work loose if the computer has been moved frequently. As a final resort, open your computer case and make sure the sound card is seated properly on the motherboard. It's a bit scary to open a computer for the first time, but if you follow the directions in your computer manual, it's actually an easy process. Put in a CD, or play one of your favorite MP3s to test your sound card. If there is still no sound, you may need to purchase new speakers or buy a new sound card.

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