No sound? Here’s how to get it working again

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At some point, you will probably be using your computer and suddenly realize that there are no sounds coming from the speakers.  What could have happened?  It was working fine earlier, but now you don’t hear a thing.

no sound


Frustrating?  Yes.  But usually fixable by following a few steps.

How to fix the “no sound” problem

First, you want to make sure that when you do find the solution it is immediately obvious.  What I usually do is get a music CD and start it playing.  Make sure you see on the screen that Windows Media Player (or the preferable VLC Player) is actually playing the music and that the volume on the media player is turned up.  Of course you won’t be able to hear it at the moment, but when you do come across the solution you will immediately hear the music and know that you have succeeded.

Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest ones to overlook, so you should check all of these potential sound issues:

– Are the speakers plugged into an electrical outlet? Does that outlet definitely have juice (sometimes an outlet is turned off by a wall switch)?

– Are the speakers turned on?  Usually there is a green light somewhere on the front of one of the speakers to indicate power is on.

– Have you verified that the speakers are actually working?  Don’t assume this, especially if you haven’t heard any sound from them recently.  You can check this by plugging them into some other sound-producing device that you know works (such as a radio or MP3 player).

– Are the speakers plugged into the proper port in the back of the computer?  In most cases, the speaker cable gets plugged into the green port.

Now we’ll check the volume controls.

– If you have a program playing a music CD right now, there is a volume control on that program itself.  Look for some type of “slider” switch that you would control with the mouse, and make sure it is up all the way.

– There should also be a volume control icon in the System Tray (the lower right corner of your screen).  Click once on it so that the vertical volume control appears, and make sure the slider button is at the top.  Also important – check that the volume is not muted.  When muted, there will be a red circle with a red diagonal line through it, next to the picture of the speaker at the bottom of the vertical volume control.

– One more volume control (potentially) – if this computer is a laptop, check around the sides and front edge.  Some laptops have a physical volume control installed.  The volume could be at full power elsewhere, but if that volume knob is turned down you still won’t hear anything.

Still no sound?  Time to check the audio drivers.  An audio “driver” is just a little piece of software that tells the computer how to communicate with the sound card and the speakers.

To check the audio drivers, we need to get to a window called Device Manager:

  • In Windows XP, click Start – Control Panel.  Over on the left side of the Control Panel window, click on Classic View.  Double click the System icon.  Click the Hardware tab, then click on the button that says “Device Manager”.
  • In Windows Vista, get to Control Panel and switch to Classic View (if it’s not already set up that way).  Then double click the Device Manager icon.
  • In Windows 7, go to Control Panel.  In the top right, next to “View By”, choose Small Icons.  Double click the icon named Device Manager.

When you have the Device Manager window open, you will see a list of items.  Those are basically all of the hardware items connected to, and part of, your computer.  Some might not make any sense, but others like Keyboards, or Monitors, are obvious.

Near the bottom of the list is one called “Sound, video and game controllers”.  If you click the little triangle to the left of the name, it will expand down and you should see the name of the sound card or audio driver.  When everything is the way it should be, you will just see that name.  If there is a problem with the sound card or audio driver, you could see a little yellow triangle with an exclamation point in the middle of it.  That indicates a problem, and you have probably just located the reason you have no sound.

If that is where the problem lies, it could be a few different issues.  The audio driver may be outdated.  It could also have gotten corrupted somehow.  Another possibility is that the sound card in the computer is failing.

Honestly, this is the point where most of my clients would just call me to fix it.  If you are comfortable with getting updated drivers from the sound card manufacturer, or replacing the sound card in your computer, you are more than welcome to do so of course.  If not, give me a call.

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