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Troubleshooting Sound Cards

Most sound cards perform two separate functions. The first is to play sound files; the second is to record them. You might need to troubleshoot problems for either function.

Sound Card Configuration Checks

In the past, sound cards have been notorious for interrupt conflict problems with other devices. Because these conflicts typically exist between peripheral devices, they might not appear during bootup. If the sound card operates correctly except when a printing operation is in progress, for example, an IRQ conflict probably exists between the sound card and the printer port. Similar symptoms would be produced for tape backup operations if the tape drive and the sound card were configured to use the same IRQ channel. Use a software diagnostic program to check the system for interrupt conflicts.

Checking the system for resource conflicts in Windows is relatively easy. Access Control Panel and double-click the System icon. From this point, click Device Manager and select the Sound, Video, and Game Controller option. If the system detects any conflicts, it places an exclamation point within a circle on the selected option.

From Device Manager, choose the proper sound card driver from the list and move into its Resource window. The page's main window displays all the resources the driver is using for the card. The Conflicting Device List window provides information about any conflicting resource that the system has detected in conjunction with the sound card.

If the Windows PnP function is operating properly, you should be able to remove the driver from the system, reboot the computer, and allow the operating system to redetect the sound card and assign new resources to it.

Check to verify that the Multimedia icon is installed in Control Panel and available through the Start, Programs, Accessories path (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Entertainment in Windows XP). Also, check Device Manager to see that the correct audio driver is installed and that its settings match those called for by the sound card manufacturer. If the drivers are missing, or wrong, add them to the system through the Add/Remove Hardware Wizard found in Control Panel.

If the driver is not installed, or is incorrect, add the correct driver from the Available Drivers list. If the correct driver is not available, reinstall it from the card's OEM disk or obtain it from the card's manufacturer.

Sound Card Hardware Checks

These checks include determining that the speakers are plugged into the speaker port. It is not uncommon for the speakers to be mistakenly plugged into the card's MIC (microphone) port. Likewise, if the sound card does not record sound, verify that the microphone is installed in the proper jack (not the speaker jack) and that it is turned on. Check the amount of disk space on the drive to ensure that there is enough to hold the file being produced.

In the case of stereo speaker systems, it is possible to place the speakers on the wrong sides. This produces a problem when you try to adjust the balance between them. Increasing the volume on the right speaker increases the output of the left speaker. The obvious cure for this problem is to physically switch the positions of the speakers.

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