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Hardware Problems - Default Sound Device

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 10/18/2010

Trying to figure out which default sound device you should use is tricky, especially if sound is enabled on both an onboard device and an external card. In this article, learn how to tell which is the default sound device.

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    What is a Default Sound Device?

    When someone purchases a new computer or builds one for the first time, there are many things that need to be configured to get the computer to work the way it truly should. Many motherboards on a PC come with a variety of computer components already on the board itself. These things are the video graphics card, the sound card, and a network card. These features allow for the computer to have video, sound, and a working network adapter so that a user does not need to go out a purchase external cards.

    Sometimes a user may already have an external card for one of these components and sometimes having both onboard and external cards of the same type of function can confuse the computer. In this article, learn which default sound device should be the primary one and how to set the default sound device for your computer when you have two separate sound devices.

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    Which Default Sound Device Should be the Primary?

    Say that you have an onboard sound device that came with your motherboard and then you also have an external sound card from a previous computer. By default, the computer will use the onboard sound device if none other is found. When using an external sound device, the external card should be set as the default device. sound card 

    Most plug and play operating systems will detect the use of a new component that is added. For example, in Windows XP, when the system finds a new component, it will ask if the user would like the computer to search the Internet for the sound driver or if the user knows where the file may be located on their hard drive.

    In the simplest of cases, the operating system will automatically install the required driver and, after prompting for a restart of the computer, will set that sound card as the default for sound.

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    Troubleshooting Windows Sound

    What happens when you have the sound card installed, but you're not getting any sound or if your computer doesn't show the default sound device?

    The first thing you should check is that you have plugged in your speakers in the right connection. Depending on the type of sound card, there should be an audio connection that is colored pink. This is to help when having multiple components plugged in to the sound card, such as a subwoofer or a microphone. The speakers that you connect to your computer may or may not also be color coordinated; it all depends on the speakers. Make sure that your speakers are on as well.

    If you find that your speakers are plugged in correctly, go into the computer's properties and find the device manager. Depending on the operating system, you will either be able to directly type in the term 'device manager' (in the case of Windows Vista or Windows 7) or by right clicking on My Computer, selecting properties, and going to the tab that says 'hardware'.

    The device manager will be the second option. In the device manager, first look for anything that is has a yellow exclamation point or a question mark. This is usually an indicator that there is a hardware problem with the device. In most cases, the device driver either needs to be installed or perhaps updated. Depending on the sound card, you should be able to locate drivers on the manufacturer's website. Download them and then install them; you will often be prompted to restart your computer.

    If the device manager has a listing for both sound cards, you can disable one by right clicking on the name of the card (usually the manufacturer) and selecting disable. It is recommended that you know the name of which sound card you plan on using as your default.

    For more information, check out this article on how to get rid of computer speaker static.