Sunday, 28 December 2014

Fixing sound problems in Windows 7

One of the most common problems I've had to deal with, on Windows PCs, are issues with device drivers.

I'm going to concentrate on sound issues here, because it is a problem I have come across a number of times, and removing sound drivers is relatively safe.  If you happen to lose any work by removing sound drivers, I take no responsibility for that, nor can I see any reason why it might happen.  Make sure that your computer is connected to the internet throughout this procedure.

We'll go through the process first, and then I'll explain why drivers might fail.

1.  First of all, we have to open the management console by clicking the "Computer" button from our Start menu with the right mouse/trackpad button and selecting "Manage" from the menu that appears.

2.  When the management console appears, we want to select "Device Manager" from the pane on the left.  In the central pane, you will see the hardware that Windows recognises in your PC.  Your sound controller will be under "Sound, video and game controllers".

3.  Click on your sound controller with the right mouse/trackpad button.  From the menu which appears, select "Properties".

4.  Along the top of the properties window, you will see tabs.  Select the one which says "Driver" and then press the button which says "Uninstall".

5.  You will receive a warning that you are about to remove the device from your system.  In this case, we also want to remove the driver software.  In some cases, just removing the device and restarting the computer will work but, in this case, we're going to remove the driver software as well.

6.  When you click the OK button, the process of removing the driver will start.  Windows will then ask if you want to restart the computer.  When restarted, Windows will search for device drivers for your sound controller.  The process may take a long time.

7.  Windows is likely to have installed a standard driver for your sound controller at this point.  You have sound, but the driver may not be making full use of your sound controller's capabilities.  So how do we get the latest driver for our sound controller?  Well, the easiest way is probably by using Driver Booster (available free from  If we start this program, it will check that all the drivers on our system are up to date, so it will potentially improve much more than our sound performance.

When you select "Update All", the program will download updated drivers from the internet, create a restore point and install the drivers.  All of this might take some time.  If you are happy with the way your computer is performing, you may say this is an unnecessary waste of time.  If, however, you want to get the most from your hardware, having the latest drivers installed is highly recommended.

Why is all of this necessary?

I may need to get technical here.  Most PCs, and the hardware in them, ship with vendor-specific device drivers.  These drivers will be updated as long as the manufacturer can make a business case for the updates.  In short, you're covered until the manufacturer wants to sell new hardware.

Now, a number of vendors will ship hardware which is based on roughly the same internal components, and the manufacturer of those components will provide reference drivers for those components.  Those reference drivers are usually updated for longer than vendor-specific drivers.  Windows, with vendor-specific drivers installed, will only look for updates to the vendor-specific drivers.

Why do drivers need to be updated?  Well, to be honest, problems may be found with older versions of these drivers, or manufacturers may find new ways of getting more performance from their hardware.  Sometimes, the problems only become apparent when updates to Windows replace system files which are being used by device drivers.  The upshot is that keeping device drivers up to date may improve the performance and stability of Windows.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Thought for Christmas Day: finding a way through the darkness

It's Christmas, and the day started with me waking from a nightmare.  I'm not going to share the nightmare in such a public sphere, but the meaning of it is important.  We are all subject to negative influences, demons, an inner darkness, or whatever you want to call it.  It can come from within, or it can be external.

The new year will soon be here so, here in the UK at least, we're thinking about new year's resolutions: promises we make in the belief that keeping those promises will lead to a better year.  For me, it's the banishing of the aforementioned inner/outer darkness which is important.  First of all, we must locate the sources of the negative things in our life, whether we have created them ourselves, or had them created for us.  We may notice a pattern of self-sabotage, where our own beliefs and values are holding us back, or we may see that our situation, or the company we keep, is less than ideal.  Letting go of these things may not be easy, but it is essential for our happiness.

Often, it is only when we suffer that we see how things should be different.  Over the last week, I've suffered with back pain, and it has forced me to evaluate my lifestyle.  Knowing what changes should be made is just a start, however: making the changes is potentially more difficult, at least in our minds.

In his book, Instant Calm, Paul Wilson states that we are easily able to walk a plank that is placed on the ground, and will do so repeatedly with equal success.  If we suspend the plank between two tall buildings, however, he suggests that the task suddenly becomes impossible, and the source of this is our imagination.  So it is with making the necessary changes to our lives.  We may make negative predictions about things which could go wrong, and maybe talk ourselves out of making any changes.  Well, maybe the tendency to make negative predictions is the first thing we should tackle.

One of my favourite phrases, as I'm sure I must have said before, is "I'll deal with it."  It's a powerful tool.  The reason it is so powerful is that it calls on past evidence of our ability to deal with things.  It is likely that we have suffered many calamities in our lives, and all the evidence points to us having dealt with the aftermath of what appeared to be a great catastrophe at the time.

Ultimately, we can choose to have this dark cloud hanging over us, or we can take action to remove the cloud.  Staying where we are may be the easy option, but is it the right one?  If you could see what is wrong, it would be foolhardy not to put things right, wouldn't it?

If you're reading this, I hope you're having a good Christmas, if you celebrate the occasion.  If you have plans for the new year which scare you, I salute your plans, because they are likely to bring great changes to your life.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Thought for the day: modern music is terrible

I always thought that, as I aged, I'd hear current music and react by complaining how extreme it is or that it lacks any kind of melody.  The reality is that modern music, with few exceptions, bores me.  The contestants on X Factor, technically competent, though not exciting or especially talented performers, are guilty of this.  Actually, some of them enter with a spark of individuality, which is then extinguished by the production team.  I see the music industry collapsing into a mass of mediocrity and banality.

I grew up in a time when, every so often, the major record labels would get a wake up call, because some musical genre emerged right under their noses and shook everything up.  Now, the majors have bought most of the small independent labels, so what we have is music that is safe, commercial, sanitised.

I don't expect everyone to share my musical taste, but it amazes me that I can download sample tracks from 3hive or Fingertips for free, and they blow away what I hear on the radio.  Thankfully, I also know artists like Jennie Vee, Catherine AD and Paul Draper who are still producing music that is anything but boring.

Paul Draper illustrates the point perfectly.  In the late 1990's and into the new millennium, he fronted a band called Mansun.  As is always the case with great bands, it didn't last.  I can still listen to them today, though, and I love their music just as much now as I did when it was first released, if not more.  It doesn't bore me.  Rather tellingly, the Mansun album which most successfully splits opinion amongst fans, Little Kix, is largely the result of unwanted interference from the record label.

The industry needs to be shaken up again; it needs another seismic shift; it needs to stop playing it safe.