There was a day in the history of computers where sound from a computer was more of a luxury than the staple it now is. It’s true that very early computers could produce a beep or a boop from a tinny internal speaker, but I remember having to go out and buy a sound card and add it to my computer so that I could take advantage of the audio capabilities of a particular game I wanted to play.
Nowadays we expect a computer will come with great audio capabilities the same way we expect a car to come with tires. In spite of “audio” being a typical part of a computer it is probably that at least once in your life you will find yourself in the position of having no sound come out of your speakers.
This problem can range from “extremely easy to fix” to the “want to throw your computer out the window” type of fix. On most computers today the sound is generated onboard the motherboard in the audio circuitry and delivered to a port (usually color coded olive green) in the back of the computer or to a headphone jack found in the front of the computer.
Unlike the early computers, today’s computers rarely have a built in speaker, so if you don’t have speakers plugged into your desktop computer you will hear no audio. Laptops have speakers built into them.
No Sound Checklist
If you find that you are hearing no sound coming from your computer speakers here is a checklist of things to check beginning at the easiest and most common:
Are the speakers plugged into a live power source and are they turned on? Perhaps a child or a roommate unplugged them to make room to plug something else in or just turned them off to get rid of the annoying power indicator light.
Yes, this something so simple that you think it a waste of time to check, but it happens. I have made a fool of myself sweating over the more complicated possibilities only to sheepishly say, “Oh,” and turn the speakers on.
Are the speakers connected and, if they are, are they connected to the right port? If you have a surround sound system this gets a little more complicated, but still the most common speaker system has just one connection to the computer.
To make it even simpler anymore this connection is color coded. The speaker plug, normally colored olive green, goes into the olive green jack in the back of the computer. If it is in any other jack you will hear no audio. See Figure 1.
Is the volume turned up? This is not as simple as it sounds. The volume can be controlled from at least three different places, any of which can keep you from hearing sound from your computer speakers.
The most obvious place is the volume control on the speakers themselves.
The second most obvious place to check is the little speaker icon in the system tray found in the bottom right of your computer screen. Just click on it to adjust the output volume. When you click on this you may see at the bottom of the volume window a speaker icon circled in red with a line through it. This means that sound has been muted. Just click on this to unmute the sound. See Figure 2.
The third place to control volume is in the application window related to whatever sound you are watching. For example, your iTunes window has a volume adjust as does the YouTube video window and any other program you are using that comes with sound.
No Audio Device Found? If the first three items in the checklist are accounted for and you still have no sound you will need to check if your computer has an audio device installed or recognized.
To do this click on the following (Windows 7): Windows logo pearl (in the bottom left corner of your screen) > Control Panel (in right column) > Sound. In the window that pops up you will see audio output options that indicate the audio device being used.
My computer tells me I am using a SigmaTel High Definition Audio Codec. However, you may see the dreaded “No Audio Device Found.” This typically means that you do not have the correct audio driver installed or you have no audio driver installed at all.
Without this driver the computer does not know how to communicate with the audio hardware the speakers attach to. To get the needed driver you will need to a CD with the audio driver on it (usually a “drivers” disk that came with the computer) or go to the “support” section of your computer manufacturer’s website, find your computer model, and download the driver.
On a good day you will not have too much difficulty doing this and your sound will start working after you reboot your computer. See Figure 3.
If you have done all the previous steps and you know you have installed the correct audio driver and still have no sound it is possible that the audio hardware portion of your motherboard has failed. If you suspect this is the case you do not need to buy a new computer (desktop owners), instead you can purchase an audio card that will come with its own driver disk.
Before you do this you will want to make sure you have an available PCI expansion port on the motherboard. There are USB sound cards available that you just plug into a USB port and then plug the speakers into them. If you are not comfortable doing this your local computer shop can do the install for you at a very reasonable labor cost.
We take our computer sound for granted and then, suddenly, it’s not there anymore. I hope this checklist will help resolve the sound issue you