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Computer Sound Card Help

Sound Card Blues Many readers have asked questions about sound cards, e.g. "Why doesn't my sound card work? Why can't I record with my sound card? Why can't I use my sound card for making telephone calls?" This article addresses these and other sound card problems and applies to all versions of Windows.

First things first - Installing hardware and software. There are two main causes for sound card problems: hardware problems and software problems.

Hardware problems address the capabilities of your computer (system RAM, available ISA or PCI card slots etc.) and the physical installation of the sound card and its cables.
If you purchased your computer as a complete system, the likelihood of a hardware problem should be small (unless you have been working inside your computer, then you should check to make sure you didn't knock any cables loose). Those that have installed their own sound cards should pull out their installation manual and ensure all connections are correct.

Software problems address the Windows drivers used to communicate with the sound card, and the software programs that will use the sound card.
Software drivers are available from the computer or sound card manufacturer and are freely downloadable from their web sites. (Hint: Many sound problems can be resolved by downloading and installing newly updated sound drivers.)

How do you know if your sound card is functioning correctly? After your sound card is installed, you should test it to make sure it functions properly. Most sound cards come with a test file. You should use the manufacturer's test file to make sure your card is functioning correctly.

Microsoft Windows Sound Card Test There are also several test that can be performed from Windows. Microsoft recommends the following procedure:

"Verify that Windows can play .wav files:

  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click the Sounds icon.

  3. Under Events, click an event that has a loudspeaker icon next to it.

  4. In the Name text box, be sure that the three-letter file extension is ".wav".

  5. Under Preview, click the Play button. You should hear a sound.

If you don't hear any sounds, or if Windows is not able to play a .wav file, check to see that a sound driver is enabled:
  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click the System icon.

  3. Click the Device Manager tab.

  4. Click the plus sign next to Sound, Video And Game Controllers.

  5. If there is no Sound, Video And Game Controllers entry, or you have no sound card listed under this entry, contact the manufacturer of the computer or sound card and request help reinstalling the sound card drivers.
  6. "

<If you have entries in the Sound, Video And Game Controllers and that have yellow or red question marks, Xs, or exclamations, then you may have a hardware problem known as an IRQ conflict. An IRQ conflict means that two conflicting devices are trying to use the same hardware interrupt address. The resolution is to move one of the conflicting devices to a new address. Please see our Tech Advice issue entitled, IRQ Surgery, for details on resolving IRQ conflicts.>

Resolving sound card recording and telephone issues. One of the most common problems associated with sound card recording and telephone issues is the lack of a properly functioning full-duplex sound card. A full-duplex sound card is capable of both playing and recording sounds at the same time.
So how do you know if you have a properly functioning full-duplex sound card? If your sound card is not full-duplex your recording program will produce a "Can't open sound" error message when you try to record.

If your sound card is supposed to be full-duplex capable, has no IRQ conflicts, and you have downloaded and installed the latest sound drivers -- then its time to send an e-mail to your manufacturer's tech support and ask them for help.

Resolving sound problems with games that use DirectX. Please see our article, Help Getting that New Game Running - Instead of Crashing, for specific procedures when dealing with DirectX problems.

Resolving other sound problems with software. You have followed all the advice in this article and your software still can not play sounds or record properly, however, your sound card has passed all the other tests. What do you do now?
Well believe it or not, it is a very common thing to have sound problems with new software. It is the software manufacturer's responsibility to resolve theses conflicts. Usually the manufacturer will supply downloadable software patches to address these problems. Visit your software manufacturer's web site to find patches or to request e-mail tech support.

Useful Sound Card Links

1. Hut.fi Sound Card Tips - Good recording and microphone tips.
ComputerHope.com - Good introduction to sound cards and problem resolution.


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