For narration, dictation and VoIP, most laptops come with built-in microphones that let you record audio. But in some cases, such as screencasting or video capture, you may want to record the sounds that your system makes. Most soundcards are capable of recording system audio (aka direct sound). With Windows 7 and Windows Vista systems, you can set your recording device to “Stereo Mix” so that you can record what you hear through the speakers. The instructions below should help you get started.
Update Your Drivers
The default Windows 7 soundcard drivers may not allow direct sound recording. Check for the latest sound drivers for your soundcard by visiting http://update.microsoft.com. You may also want to try downloading audio drivers from Realtek, which provides more robust sound drivers for many sound cards.
If you are unsure of what kind of sound card you have, click Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Device Manager. Expand “Sound, video and game controllers” and look for your audio device. Right-click it and choose “Update driver software” and choose “Search automatically for updated driver software.”
Download and Install a Sound Recorder
Windows 7 comes bundled with Sound Recorder, a basic audio recording application which you can find by clicking Start > All Programs > Accessories > Sound Recorder. However, Sound Recorder is fairly limited, especially in terms of how long recorded clips can be. For longer recordings, you might to try Audacity, a free open source audio recording and editing program.
Change Your Recording Device
Click Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound. Next, click the Recording tab. You’ll see a list of devices that can capture audio. By default, the microphone will be selected (a checkmark will appear next to the default recording device). Look for an option such as “Stereo Mix.” If you do not see it, right-click and ensure that “Show Disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” are checked. Once “Stereo Mix” is revealed, right-click it and click “Set as Default Device.” To ensure that it is picking up audio correctly, try playing an
MP3 or video with the Recording Devices window open. You should be able to see the levels monitor moving along with the audio that’s being played back.
Now, you should be able to record audio directly from the system. You may also have to choose Stereo Mix as the input device in your recording software as well.
Depending on your sound card, this method may or may not work for you. If your sound card does not support Stereo Mix recording, you can either run a 3.5mm patch cable from your headphone jack into you microphone jack (however, you will not be able to hear the audio as it records), record from the speakers using a microphone about 12 inches away or purchase a new sound card or mixer, such as the Sound Blaster Audigy from Creative or the Alesis MultiMix 8 USB 2.0.