Sound Card

Definition of a sound card & how to fix a computer with no sound

Photo of a Creative Sound Blaster Z SBX PCIe Gaming Sound Card
Creative Sound Blaster Z SBX PCIe Gaming Sound Card. © Creative Technology Ltd.

The sound card is an expansion card that allows the computer to send audio information to an audio device, like speakers, a pair of headphones, etc.

Unlike the CPU and RAM, the sound card is not a necessary piece of hardware required to make a computer work.

Creative (Sound Blaster)Turtle Beach, and Diamond Multimedia are popular sound card makers, but there are many others.

The terms audio card, audio adapter, and sound adapter are sometimes used in place of sound card.

Sound Card Description

A sound card is rectangular piece of hardware with numerous contacts on the bottom of the card and multiple ports on the side for connection to audio devices such as speakers.

The sound card installs in a PCI or PCIe slot on the motherboard.

Since the motherboard, case and peripheral cards are designed with compatibility in mind, the side of the sound card fits just outside the back of the case when installed, making its ports available for use.

There are also USB sound cards that let you plug headphones, microphones, and maybe other audio devices into your computer through a small adapter that can plug directly into a USB port.

Sound Cards and Audio Quality

Many modern computers do not have sound expansion cards but instead have the same technology integrated directly onto the motherboard.

This configuration allows for a less expensive computer and only a slightly less powerful audio system.

This option is wise for nearly every computer user, even the music fan.

Dedicated sound cards, like the one shown here on this page, are usually only necessary for the serious audio professional.

Since most desktop cases are setup for the front-facing USB ports and headphone jacks to share a common ground wire, you may hear static in your headphones if you also have USB devices plugged in.

You should be able to mitigate this interference by either refraining from using those USB ports at the same time that you use headphones, or by running a male to female extension cable from the sound card at the back of the computer to your headphones.

"My Computer Has No Sound"

Although it's possible that the sound card or speakers/headphones have disconnected from their ports/power and are no longer communicating with each other, it's usually something software related that's preventing the sound from playing.

The first thing you should do is the obvious: make sure the volume of the video, song, movie, or whatever you're trying to listen to, isn't muted. Also check that the system sound isn't muted (check the sound icon on the taskbar down by the clock).

Something else that could be disabling the sound is if the sound card itself is disabled in Device Manager. See How Do I Enable a Device in Device Manager in Windows? if you're not sure how to enable the sound card.

Another reason for a sound card not delivering sound could be from a missing or corrupt device driver. The best way to resolve this is to install the sound card driver using one of these free driver updater tools. If you already have the necessary driver downloaded but don't know how to install it, follow my guide here for how to update drivers in Windows.

If after checking all of the above, your computer still won't play sound, you may just not have the proper software installed for media playback. See these Free Audio Converter Software Programs to convert the audio file to another format that your media player can recognize.

More Information About Sound Cards

Most computer users know that they must plug in their speakers to the back of the PC in order to hear and control sound played from the computer. Although you may not use all of them, other ports often exist on a sound card for other reasons.

For example, there may be ports for a joystick, microphone, and an auxiliary device.

Still other cards may have inputs and outputs designed for more advanced tasks such as audio editing and professional audio output.

These ports are sometimes labeled to easily identify which port belongs to each device.

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