Here are answers to some common questions about sound cards.

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What is a sound card?

A sound card is a device installed in your computer that processes information from a computer program, such as a media player, and then sends a signal to your computer's speakers that you can hear. Some motherboards have sound capabilities built into them, but computers often have a dedicated sound card, which usually improves the quality of the sound the computer can produce.

How can I tell if my computer has a sound card?

Almost every computer is capable of playing sounds. Check the back or front of your computer for jacks to plug in a microphone, headphones, or external speakers. You can also use Device Manager to check for a sound card.

You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Expand the Sound, video, and game controllers section to see the sound card that you have installed. If that section isn't displayed or no sound card is listed, either your computer doesn't have a sound card, or the driver for the sound card hasn't been properly installed.

How do I turn a sound card on or off?

You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Expand the Sound, video, and game controllers section.

  3. Right-click the sound card you want to turn on or off, and then click Enable or Disable.

How do I test my sound card?

Many sound cards come with software that allows you to configure and test sound card settings. Check the information that came with your sound card. You can also check and test your speaker configuration using Sound.

  1. Open Audio Devices and Sound Themes by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Hardware and Sound, and then clicking Sound.

  2. On the Playback tab, select the device that you want to test, and then click Configure.

  3. Select your speaker configuration, and then click Test.

What should I do if I can't hear any sound coming from my computer?

If you aren't getting any sound at all, your computer may not recognize your sound card or there may be a problem with the driver for your sound card. Check to make sure your sound card is properly installed and that Windows recognizes your sound card. For more information, see Tips for fixing common sound problems.

What is a duplex sound card?

A duplex sound card is a sound card capable of both playing and recording sounds at the same time. Most current sound cards are duplex sound cards.