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.

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