Sound Card Not Working

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Sound Card Not Working

If you’re facing the problem of an on-board sound card not working, the best troubleshooting step is to reinstall the drivers…

A sound card, also known as an audio card, is a device that produces sound, for gaming and entertainment purposes, in a computer system. A sound card can be an on-board card, in the form of a codec chip; or enabled using a plug-and-play external card. However, plug-and-play external cards are not common, and most systems these days come with sound chips embedded on the motherboard.

If your sound card is not working, figuring out what went wrong with it can be cumbersome. The problems can range from something as simple as the speakers not being connected, to something which might need the card or the chip to be replaced. However, before getting yourself a new card or motherboard, a step-by-step approach which iterates the many possibilities behind sound card failure is recommended.

Basic Troubleshooting

Sometimes the most fundamental problems tend to get neglected. In a state of panic, we start deliberating about major glitches, totally ignoring the basics. So, always start there – at the basics. Before concluding that your sound card is not working, try one of these quick-fix stabs:

  • Try restarting your computer. Believe it or not, most electronic devices require just a restart or two to mend back to normal.
  • Check if your computer hasn’t been put on mute accidentally.
  • Check if the speakers are plugged in properly.
  • Disconnect and reconnect your speakers to the system.
  • Connect your speakers to another system and check if they are working on it.

If none of the above steps have resolved the sound issue, then the problem is with your sound card.

Reinstalling Drivers

The most likely reason for sound card trouble is a driver problem. Out-of-date drivers, or faulty driver configurations, may be the cause of the sound card not working. If you have been using your computer for a while and the sound has suddenly stopped working, an uninstall-reinstall routine can fix the problem in most cases. Here’s how you go about doing an uninstall-install routine.

Windows XP

1.Right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop and click on Properties. This will open the System Properties window.

Opening My Computer

In the System Properties window, click on the Hardware  tab.

System Properties

2.In the Hardware  tab, click on Device Manager.

Device Manager

You should see the following screen.

Device Manager

3.Search for the Sound, Video and Game Controllers  entry. Your sound card drivers will be listed under this category. If there is a driver issue that Windows has recognized, the driver icon will be accompanied by a yellow exclamation mark next to it.


4.Right-click on the sound card and select Properties.

Update Driver

Under Device Status, the working status of your sound card’s device drivers will be listed. If there is a problem with the sound card driver, the device status will give you the error: ‘This device cannot start. (Code 10)’. If not, you should see the following screen.

Audio CODEC Properties

5.A ‘Code 10’ error is usually generated due to corrupt or faulty device drivers. To fix this problem you can try restarting your computer. A temporary failure in loading the sound card drivers during start-up may have caused this problem. A restart will fix this.

6.If restarting doesn’t work, go to Device Manager and right click on the sound card driver. You’ll see the option to Uninstall  in the pop-up menu. Click on uninstall and follow the instructions to uninstall the drivers from your system.

Update Driver

7. Now reinstall the drivers for the device using the driver disc you got with your computer system. Alternatively, you can search the Internet for the drivers. Once you are done reinstalling the drivers, your sound card should work properly.

Windows Vista/ Windows 7

1. Open the Start Menu, type Device Manager  and hit Enter. This will open the Device Manager.

Device manager

2. Your sound card drivers will be listed under the Sound, Video and Game Controllers category.

Device Manager Drivers

3. Right-click on your sound card and select Properties from the pop-up menu. This will open a window that shows you the device status.

Update sound driver

4. The device status notifies the working status of your sound card’s drivers. If there is a problem with the sound card driver, the device status will give you an error: ‘This device cannot start. (Code 10)’. This is usually accompanied by a yellow exclamation mark.

Updating Driver

5. If the device is not working properly, uninstall and reinstall your sound card’s drivers using the process mentioned above.

Update Driver Window

Note: Windows 7 comes bundled with almost all requisite (generic) device drivers. Therefore, having a driver disc or downloading drivers from the Internet is required only if Windows 7 fails to find the drivers for your device.

Updating Drivers

If not a faulty driver configuration, your sound card may encounter problems due to outdated drivers. The ‘This device cannot start. (Code 10)’ error rears its ugly head up for outdated drivers; yes, even if the ones you have currently installed have been working fine and you have made no new changes. Here’s how you update the sound card drivers.
Note: The update process requires an Internet connection (preferably high speed).

Windows XP

1. Go to Device Manager  and under the Sound, Video and Game Controllers  listing, find your sound card and right click on it.
2. From the pop-up menu, click on Update Driver.
3. Follow the instructions to successfully update the drivers for your sound card.

Wondows XP Device Drivers

Windows Vista/ Windows 7

1. Go to Device Manager and under Sound, Video and Game Controllerslook for your sound card and right click on it.
2. Select Update Driver from the menu and follow the instructions to update the sound card drivers.

If Windows Update has been turned on, Windows Vista/ Windows 7 automatically upgrades all existing device drivers present in its driver store.

Windows 7 Device Drivers

Windows also updates its own registry and system from time to time. If your Windows OS has had a recent update or you manually installed a system/system-related update on the computer, that may be conflicting with the setting of your sound card. An update should work in such cases; if not, restore your system to a previous working condition using System Restore.

If the above mentioned software problems are not hindering the working of the sound card, then a hardware issue may be affecting it. If your computer has an on-board sound chip and the above troubleshooting methods haven’t solved it, contact a technician who will check your motherboard and if required, replace it.

Physically Resetting the Sound Card

Although separate plug and play sound cards are rarely bundled with machines these days, if your system still has it, physically resetting the card is another troubleshooting option you can try. Here’s how you go about resetting the sound card.

  1. Uninstall the drivers for your sound card.
  2. Once uninstalled, shut down your computer.
  3. Now open the case on your CPU and locate your sound card.
  4. Slowly pry the sound card out of the slot, taking care to check that it does not get stuck anywhere. You may need to unscrew the card from the slot for this.
  5. Once removed, check the card for any physical damage or burn marks. Long-term use or excessive use tends to burn out internal devices and hence they need periodic refurbishment or replacement. To be on the safer side, clean the card of any dust.
  6. Now re-seat the card back in its place.
  7. Close the case of your CPU and start your computer.
  8. As soon as Windows starts, it should show you a message Found New Hardware. This indicates you have successfully re-plugged your sound card to your system.
  9. You will have to then provide Windows with your device driver disc or download the required drivers using the Internet to successfully reset the sound card. Once installation of the drivers is complete, you may have to restart the computer once again to use your sound card.

If all the tips mentioned in the article do not solve your sound card problem, you will need to call a professional technician who can figure out what is plaguing the sound card. As a last resort, you will have to replace your sound card, or your motherboard.

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