In today's age of digital music and computer gaming, a sound card is quite an important element in your PC. A sound card is designed to handle all audio processing for the system, bringing your favorite Youtube video or iTunes playlist to life through your computer speakers.
You don't think very much about the sound card and what it means for sound quality until the day your favorite song is distorted during playback, or doesn't play at all. Panic ensues, and you turn to the internet to hunt down a new sound card. However, do you really need to replace the sound card at all? Here's what you can do to find out if it is unnecessary or not.
Bust Out the Screwdriver
The best place to start is inside your machine. Unplug the speaker cables and get to work opening up your case. This may mean using a screwdriver to loosen screws, undoing clamps, or turning thumbscrews. Open up the case as soon as you've done this and start searching for the sound card. The easiest way to find it is by locating the audio ports on the back of the machine. The sound card will be in this slot.
Once you've located the proper card, pull out the screwdriver again and remove the screws that hold it in place. Pull the card out of its slot and perform a cleaning of the connectors under the card using a paper towel. When it appears clean and free of dust, place the card back in its slot, screw it back into place, close the case, and reboot the machine. Sometimes, the dust that builds up inside the case can cause a faulty connection which leads to audio problems. If this is the problem, you are spared the expense of any new hardware. If this doesn't work, however, you must move on to the next step.
Head to the internet and do a quick search of the problem you are having. For instance, you love playing a certain online game but the sound isn't quite right. Conduct a search for the name of your sound card and the name of the game as there may be a known compatibility issue, such as the driver is incompatible. No big deal, just contact the cards manufacturer to push them to update the software. Again, no new card necessary.
There are a host of online tech forums that can help you, offering a wealth of knowledgeable geeks to help you solve your problem. Be prepared in advance of posting with your system info (processor, card, memory, etc.) as they will often request it to figure out if there's something else causing your problem.
Bust Out the Screwdriver (Again)
A great way to narrow the problem down to your sound card: pop in a sound card you know to be in full working order. If you can show that this card works in the same location as the old card, you'll know it's time to replace it. If the functional card doesn't work, it could be the port on the motherboard itself causing the problem. If this is the case, try putting the sound card in another PCI slot. Still doesn't work? You know it's your sound card. Purchase a new one, and resume your game playing or music filled lifestyle.