How to Troubleshoot Audio Issues in Windows 7 and Vista

Sound in Windows Vista and 7 is quite a bit more complicated than it needs to be, so troubleshooting sound problems is a real chore. The best way to fix a PC that won’t play sound is with a systematic approach. Also, make sure to read my previous post on recovering a missing volume icon in the system tray.

Start with the obvious. If you’re using external speakers, make sure they’re plugged in, turned on, and turned up. Try plugging the speakers into an iPod, home stereo, or other audio source to make sure they’re actually working. Using a laptop with integrated speakers?

Most laptops have their own independent volume controls, and some are unlucky enough to have two or three. The first type is the old-school walkman-esque dial, usually found right next to the headphone/speaker jack (sometimes these dials only control external audio, but not always).

The second type is usually found on the keyboard, accessed by holding the Fn key while pressing another key decorated with a speaker icon. The third type is found on newer laptops, in the group of media quick-access buttons. Make your best effort to turn all these controls up.

If hardware volume controls are a dead end, open the Vista’s Volume Mixer (sndvol.exe), and then open the Device menu. If there’s more than one device listed, make sure the one you want to use has a checkmark next to it. Turn up the Device volume control as high as it will go. Also check the subordinate volume controls to the right, one for each open sound-enabled application and one for Windows itself, and make sure they’re all turned up.

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Also check under the control panel if the right hardware is selected or installed in your setup:

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Make sure it is the default device in the Playback tab.  If you do not see the device name of your hardware then you will need to install the compatible driver of your sound card.  Visit the soundcard’s manufacturer website to download the updated drivers – make sure to download and install the compatible driver as there are separate installers for XP, Vista and Windows 7.

You can also use the Sounds tab to test and play the different sounds used by Windows.

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The steps above pretty much covered on how to make an audio device work in Windows.  I have encountered old devices that are not compatible with Vista because the manufacturers did not write updated drivers for them so do not be surprised by this sad reality. You might need to upgrade to a newer soundcard if this is the case.

Ben Carigtan shows you how it’s done!

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Comments [6]

  1. losthorizon says:

    With Windows XP, I had no problems. Since installing Windows 7, I have no sound.

    My problem is that the speaker icon has an "x" over it and says "No audio output device is installed". Playback shows "no audio devices are installed".

    The speakers work. They're plugged in properly.

    Spent two hours with microsoft support and they couldn't figure it out. I've downloaded driver updates for two days.

    Lenovo won't talk to me because my computer is no longer under warranty. All they say is to download their drivers, which I've already done.

    There are many others out there with the same problem. Microsoft appears to be clueless on this one.

  2. webfellows says:

    If you have a Lenovo T61 or similiar model, after loading Windows 7, using the icon on the taskbar, the control panel, or the device manager does not resolve this issue. Although Device Manager showed no issue with audio, the speakers did not play any sounds, but headphones did work.

    Using the keys on your keyboard at the upper left section of keys, enable the audio, reboot and you will have sound from speakers and headphones.

    I'd put a graphic of the keyboard if I could, but this worked for a few people.

  3. devils says:

    Windows 7 has been nothing but pure problems on all 3 of my desktops. Today, I am trying to resolve the issue that my Realtek audio configuration and everything stays the same except Windows will screw up the channels and then sometime may unscrew them up.

    I just put a new Creative card in and updated the drivers and the same screwed up channels persists.

    Yeah, try going to the Windows site for the most useless help of all time.

  4. denys_6_bv says:

    help..!!!!!!!!

    i hav a fujitsu siemens esprimo mobile v5515 and after i installed windows 7 the sound is very bad…..i tried to manually install the realtek driver but stil i have the same problem…..could someone help my please!!!!!!

  5. Manuel Kings says:

    My problem is that the speaker icon has an “x” over it and says “No audio output device is installed”. Playback shows “no audio devices are installed”.

    The speakers work. They’re plugged in properly.

    Spent two hours with microsoft support and they couldn’t figure it out. I’ve downloaded driver updates for two days.

    Lenovo won’t talk to me because my computer is no longer under warranty. All they say is to download their drivers, which I’ve already done.

    There are many others out there with the same problem. Microsoft appears to be clueless on this one.

  6. RICK says:

    My audio just stopped for no reason. Tried Microsoft, no help, Have gone through all the troubleshooting, shows everything working. Any ideas? Its an HP PAVILION g7-2111 nr Notebook

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