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Troubleshooting Sound Problems

  updated 31-Oct-2007

arrrggggg... computers are so nice when they work, and so frustrating when they don't.......

This is a very basic troubleshooting guide for those encountering problems listening to wma or mp3 sound files on this web site.


Overview of what's available on this page:

First, we'll start off with two common issues:

1.) - Can't play wma audio files on my Mac
2.) - Outdated or corrupted software

And then we'll move on to these specific issues:

3.) - No sound at all
4.) - Storing sound files on your own computer
5.) - Sound starts and stops repeatedly
6.) - Windows Media Players ... for playing wma and mp3
7.) - Windows audio works from some sources but not from other sources

 

Common Complaints:

1) - Mac computer won't play Windows wma audio:

Microsoft and Apple each have their own proprietary versions of sound file formats, often making it difficult for Mac and PC users to exchange sound files. Fortunately, Microsoft offers a free version of their Media Player components which allows Mac QuickTime to play Windows wma media files:

    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-media-components-quicktime

   
 

2) - Up-to-Date Software:

Many of the most common Windows sound problems are resolved simply by downloading the latest version of the Windows Media Player and/or Internet Explorer directly from Microsoft to use as a baseline test.

If you are using Microsoft Media Player, it may be useful to check for any recent updates. To do that, just start the Media Player (click the Windows Start button, click All Programs, and then click Windows Media Player), click on "Help", then click on "Check for Player Updates..", and your media player will automatically download any updates.

Or, you can simply download the latest Microsoft Windows Media Player for PC for free from:

     http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-media-player
 

Also, since old versions of web browsers may have limitations or problems, check for any web browser updates, and upgrade to the latest version of your web browser. For Microsoft products, the current status of your software can be verified by the Windows Update web site at:

     http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

 

Detailed Troubleshooting Tips:

3.) No sound at all:

If you've never heard any sort of sound other than a beep from your computer, perhaps you need a computer service person to take a look and see what you need in order to play sound files.

If you have previously heard music played on your computer, then please carefully check the simple things first:

Are your speakers plugged in and turned on? 
Is the speaker volume control turned up?

As another simple check, click the following link to play the a test wav file, and then go to the appropriate paragraphs depending on whether you do or do not hear the test wav file:

 Click here to try playing a test wav file.

If you were not able to hear the test wav file:

Wav files are the simplest, most basic, type of audio files, so if you don't hear that wav file being played saying "test, hello", then it is very unlikely that you will be able to play mp3 or wma audio either.

All too frequently, different versions of audio software can create system conflicts that result in no audio whatsoever. Therefore, it's often useful to simply download the latest version of Windows Media Player as described in section 6 below, and see if that solves the problems.

If downloading the most recent Media Player doesn't solve the problem, then please check your computer's audio settings as described in section 7 below.

Or, if you did hear the test wav file:

If you do hear the words "test, hello" from the previous wav file test, that is very encouraging. So, lets try two more test files to see how they work on your system.

Let's try a test mp3 file and then a test wma file:

         Click here to try playing a test mp3 file

         Click here to try playing a test wma file

If you did hear the test wav file, but are unable to hear either the mp3 or the wma file, then either the mime types are not properly set in the browser, the file types are not properly associated with the player, or the audio player cannot properly play the files.

In either case, such issues are often resolved by downloading and installing the latest version of a reliable audio player as described in section 6 below.

 

4.) Saving the Audio Files on your hard drive:

If you want to play the sound files instantly, or if you want to play them frequently, it may be best to save the files on your computer hard drive rather than repeatedly downloading them via the internet.

When the audio files are stored on your hard drive, you can play them instantly, without any download, and without even being on-line.

One way to save the audio files to your hard drive, is before downloading the file, you can point your mouse at the desired sound file on a web page, right click the mouse, and select  "Save Target As...". In this manner, you can make your own collection of sound files that are stored on your own computer.

If you have already downloaded the audio file to your player, and want to save the file to your hard drive, many players offer a menu choice for saving the file.  For example, in Windows Media Player, just click on File, then Save Media As.

 

5.) Sound starts and stops repeatedly:

Many of the older audio players have the annoying characteristic that they will often try to play the sound while it is still in the process of being downloaded. So, the sound plays for just a moment and then it stops for a moment while it downloads more of the sound file and then plays another tiny bit and stops again. This makes a very choppy, interrupted sound during the download. Very annoying.

After the first bit of audio starts you can hit the stop button (the square symbol) on the player to tell it to shut up until the file is completely downloaded.   When the download is finally completed, you can hit the play button (the triangle symbol) and it should then play the complete file without any hesitations.

This annoyance has generally been solved with current versions of media players such as Winamp and Windows Media Player version 11.

 

6.) Windows Media Player (wma and mp3):

You can get mp3 and wma  players for free from many sources. Many of them are fine products, but some may cause problems.

If you are having any sort of sound problems in Windows, I recommend downloading the latest version of the Windows Media Player, directly from Microsoft to use as a baseline test. After you get everything working with Windows Media Player, then you can move on to testing other mp3 players.

If you are using Microsoft Windows and have sound player problems, you should download and install the latest version of the Windows Media Player. That is often the simplest way to resolve sound problems.

You can get the latest Microsoft Windows Media Player for PC for free from:

      http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-media-player
 

The Media Player  has fully adjustable surround sound enhancements as well as a graphic equalizer, so you can easily customize the sound to suit you.

The most recent versions of the Windows Media Player has some really great features, such as:

  •  "playlists" that allow you to create list of songs that you want to play
  •  graphic equalizer to adjust the sound to suit your speakers 
  •  the ability to burn a CD directly from a playlist
  •  the ability to rip a CD directly to wma

For troubleshooting on Windows computers, using Microsoft's own Windows Media Player is the safest place to start. But, once you are successfully playing audio with Windows Media Player, you may also enjoy some specific features of other popular media players such as:

        VLC

       

7.) Windows audio works from some sources but not from other sources:

Windows has a number of audio-related controls and options that are all available by selecting "Sounds and Audio Devices" from the Windows Control Panel. (To open the audio controls, simply left click on Windows Start button, then choose Settings, next click Control Panel, and finally click on Sounds and Audio Devices.)

A new window should pop open.

Audio:

There are five tabs available, and first we should check that there is a valid audio playback device selected.

Click on the Audio tab, and you should see something like this:

     audio tab

 
In the Sound Playback portion of this window, make certain that the Default device is something that is currently installed in your computer.

If you do not know for certain what sound devices are available on your computer, click the Default device pulldown arrow (which looks like pulldown arrow ) and see what devices you have available.

Checking Audio Device status:

To check the operational status of any of your sound devices, click on the Hardware tab, and another window will pop open, looking something like:

     hardware tab

Select the device that you want to know about (in the image above I've selected SB Audigy), and click the Properties button. Another window will pop open:

     hardware properties

This popup window says that the SB Audigy device is working properly (so I'll leave it selected as my Default device... but if your Device status indicates any sort of problems, the problems must be fixed before that sound device will work properly.)

Click OK for each of the two Hardware popup windows, and return to the Default device selection window.

When you have selected the appropriate sound playback Default device, then click OK to save your choice  

Volume:

Now, click on the first tab, which is called "Volume". At this point, you should see something like this:

(if you get an error message about missing sndvol32.exe, see Microsoft's solution on their web site at:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/319095   in order to fix that problem before proceeding any further.)

     sounds and audio devices image 

There are two major sections to this window: Device Volume and Speaker Settings.

Device Volume:

In the Device Volume section, make certain that the Mute box is not checked.

Then click on the Advanced... button. Another window should now pop open, looking something like this. (Your popup window may be somewhat different, depending upon the specific features of your computer's sound card. For example, some sound cards do not have balance controls on all the channels.)

    playback control window 

First, make certain that this new window is called Playback Control and also make certain that you see a button labeled Advanced under the Playback heading, as shown above.

1) If your pop up window says Record Control, then click on Options, Properties, Playback, OK. Then you should see the Playback Control window similar to that shown above.

2) If your pop up window does not show the Advanced button(s), click on Options, Advanced Controls.

In order to see all of your sound card's available audio channels, click on Options, Properties, and then put check marks in all of the available Volume Controls, otherwise you may miss some important options.

Now, make certain that in the Playback Control window the slider volume controls for at least Playback and Wave are at least half way up. Then, make certain that the Mute All is not checked, and that the Mute under the Wave heading is not checked either. (Any control sliders that are all the way at the bottom will cut off the audio sound, and any Mute boxes that  are checked will also cut off the audio.)

Similarly, make certain that the sliders are at least half way up, and not muted, for any other audio features that you want to be able to use.

With the sliders at least half way up, and the audio not muted, you can exit that window (either click on the X in the upper right corner, or choose Options, Exit).

Speaker Settings:

In the Speaker Settings portion of the Sounds and Audio Devices window, click on Speaker Volume, and make certain that both channels are at least half-way. I like to set mine at full volume, as shown below:

     speaker volume

 

Then click OK to close that window.

Advanced:

Then, in the Speaker Settings portion of the Sounds and Audio Devices window, click on the Advanced... button. A new window should pop open that looks something like this:

         speakers tab

Note that there are two tabs, Speakers and Performance. First click on the Speakers tab, and make certain the choice of speakers matches the type of speakers you are using (in my case, I'm using desktop stereo speakers).

Then click on the Performance tab, and you should see something like this:

     audio performance

Click on Reset Defaults, and then click on OK.

That should return you to the Sounds and Audio Devices window. Click OK to save your changes (which will also close the Sounds and Audio Devices window).

In some cases it may be necessary to reboot the computer before your configuration changes will take effect. So, just to make certain that your computer is properly updated, go ahead and reboot your computer, then return to this page to test your results using the following audio links:

         Click here to try playing a test wav file

         Click here to try playing a test mp3 file

         Click here to try playing a test wma file