The sound in Windows Vista and 7 is a little more complex than it should be, so troubleshooting sound problems is a real chore. The best way to fix a computer that is not playing sound is a systematic approach. Also be sure to read my previous post on how to repair the missing volume icon in the taskbar.
Start with the obvious. If you are using external speakers, make sure they are plugged in, turned on, and turned on. Try connecting your speakers to an iPod, home stereo, or other audio source to make sure they actually work. Using a laptop with built-in speakers?
Most laptops have their own independent volume controls, and some are not lucky enough to have two or three. The first type is an old-school-style disc, usually found next to the headphone / speaker jack (sometimes these discs only control external audio, but not always).
The second type is usually found on a keyboard that is accessed by holding down the Fn key while pressing another key decorated with a speaker icon. The third type is found on newer laptops, in the group of quick access media buttons. Do your best to use all of these controls.
If the hardware volume controls are deadlocked, open Vista Volume Mixer (sndvol.exe) and then open the Device menu. If there are multiple devices listed, make sure there is a check mark next to the one you want to use. Increase the volume of your device to the maximum. Also check the slave volume controls on the right, one for each open application with sound enabled and one for Windows itself, and make sure they are all enabled.
Also check under the control panel if the correct hardware is selected or installed:
Make sure this is the default device on the Playback tab. If you don’t see the name of your hardware, you need to install a compatible sound card driver. Visit your sound card manufacturer’s website to download updated drivers – be sure to download and install a compatible driver as there are separate installers for XP, Vista and Windows 7.
You can also use the Sounds tab to test and play various sounds used by Windows.
The above steps were pretty much about how to get the audio device to work on Windows. I have seen older devices that are not Vista compatible because the manufacturers did not write updated drivers for them, so don’t be surprised by this sad reality. In this case, you may need to install a newer sound card.
Ben Karigtan shows you how!