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How to Install a Sound Card

Adding a dedicated sound card to your computer is a great way to improve the sound of music, movies and video games. While integrated audio systems are more than adequate for everyday use, they do not compare in terms of quality and features to a dedicated sound card. Various different types of sound cards are available, some of which are suited to music enthusiasts, gamers or audio professionals. Prices range from around $40 right up to $200. The most advanced sound cards usually come with an I/O drive which you can mount into one of the 5.25" bays in the front of the computer. Installing a sound card is typically an easy job that can be completed in a matter of minutes.

1 - Disable the Integrated Audio
Virtually all computers already provide integrated audio. You can use both the integrated audio and the dedicated sound card at the same time, but there is no reason to. Disabling the integrated sound will free up system resources as well. To do this, uninstall the drivers by going to the Device Manager, locating the audio device under 'sound, video and game controllers' and removing the drivers from the properties page. You can also use a special driver cleaning program for getting rid of all of the associated files and settings.
Once you have uninstalled the drivers, reboot your computer and enter the BIOS when the computer starts up. You should find a setting where you can enable or disable the integrated sound chip. This can normally be found under 'Integrated Peripherals'.

2 - Install the New Sound Card
Turn off and unplug your computer. Remove the case cover and locate a free slot for your new sound card. Most new sound cards use the PCI-Express interface. This is a narrow slot which is provided on all newer motherboards. Older sound card designs use the standard PCI interface.
To install the new sound card, remove the L-bracket behind the free slot and simply insert the card. Make sure that the sound card is properly seated in the slot and then attach the screw to the L-bracket at the back of the sound card. Replace the case cover and plug your speakers and microphone into the back of the new card.
If your new sound card has an I/O drive, install this into a free 5.25" bay in the front of the computer and connect the cable from it to the sound card.

3 - Install the Drivers
Rather than installing the drivers from the CD which comes with your new sound card, it is normally better to download the latest version from the manufacturer's website. In some cases, especially with Creative Labs sound cards, you will also need the CD in addition to the downloaded updates. Install the drivers as you would install any other software, following the on-screen prompts until the process is complete. You may need to restart your computer. Finally, test your audio system to check that everything is working as intended. If there is any problem, it is most likely related to bad drivers. Creative Labs, a popular manufacturer of sound cards, is infamous for supplying outdated and incompatible drivers. Fortunately, there are also third-party driver packs available which can extend functionality and compatibility.


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