How to Install a Sound Card

sound cardYou can’t call yourself a Pc gamer unless you know how to install a sound card. Gaming often takes a back seat to movies and television when it comes to high-fidelity sound which is too bad. So many games out there benefit from a 5.1 speaker setup. Most gamers overlook the advantage directional or positional audio gives you in games like Modern Warfare 2 or Left 4 Dead.

Luckily, the PC sound card is not yet extinct and gamers looking to maximize their sound experiences can affordable pick up a Turtle Beach or Creative Labs sound card to augment their existing on-board solutions.

Difficulty: Basic
Tools:

  • PCI Sound Card
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Sound Card driver
  • Speakers and associated audio cables

Time to Install: 15-30 minutes

Table of Contents

Official Disclaimer:

Never make a change to your system without first doing a complete system backup.

Windows often acts funny if you change hardware and can even stop running altogether if you don’t take some precautions. If things go wrong you can always reinstall/enable your old sound card and restore the operating system from backup
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Step 1: Preparations
Installing a sound card often means installing or disabling an existing on-board system driver. Most modern motherboards include a basic sound card and these drivers and hardware are inferior to any discreet soundcard you buy from Creative. Be sure that you disable the on-board sound in the motherboard bios and inside Windows to minimize any conflicts with your new hardware.

  1. Create a system restore point prior to uninstalling any hardware. (Microsoft’s System Restore help article)
  2. Power down your computer and unplug your power cord.
  3. Disconnect your monitor from the video card.
  4. Take the PC to your workspace or table and open the case.
  5. The following steps are required if you are replacing an existing sound card:

  6. Remove the securing screw or open the latch to release the card from the case. Opening the case may not require a screwdriver. Many “gamer-friendly” cases have thumbscrews for side panels or lever/latches for removal of the side panel.
  7. Once open the PC you should see the component cards. They are usually secured by a Phillips head screw or latch.
  8. Push on the card retainer on the motherboard to release the bottom of the card from the slot.
  9. Pull gently up on the card from the bottom and back ( The back is the side without the video connectors).
  10. Slide the card out of the socket and set it aside on your work bench, preferably in the anti-static bag your new card arrived in.

antistaticbagNote: Static electricity can harm sensitive electronics like sound cards very easily. It’s important to protect components as you remove and install them.

  • Avoid wearing clothes like sweaters or working on shaggy rugs when handling computer components.
  • Keep components in anti-static bags when storing them.

Step 2: Installing the New Sound Card

  1. Take the NEW sound card and place it in the motherboard’s open card slot.
  2. Push down on the card until it is firmly seated. This is how you install a sound card. You should not be able to pull the sound card out easily and the audio connections on the front of the card are centered and accessible from outside the case.
  3. Screw or latch the sound card into place.
  4. Connect the DVD/Blu-Ray audio cable to the sound card’s internal spdif/optical connection
  5. Connect the power cable from the power supply (if the sound card requires power).
  6. Optional Step: Tie up power cables with a plastic zip tie and tidy up your connections to the hard drives or other internal components away from the video card fan or heat sink. This helps keep your system running cooler and allows air to flow out of the PC. Overheating causes bad video card and/or PC performance.
  7. Replace and secure the side panel of the case.
  8. Move the PC back to its original spot and connect your monitor.
  9. Plug in the computer’s power cord.
  10. Connect your speakers to the sound card’s external ports and these are usually color cooordinated. 5.1 and 7.1 setups also include multiple audio plugs for discreet audio channels like rear, center and sub.
  11. Start up the PC and wait for Windows to start up.

Step 3: Post Installation Tasks

If everything went correctly with the installation, your system should boot into Windows normally. Windows will now prompt you to install a new driver for your sound card. It is advisable to install the manufacturer provided audio driver and utilities. Follow the instructions provided by your sound card manufacturer to install the driver from the included CD or digital download.

If you do not see Windows start up be sure to check all connections and try again. If this fails, you should ensure the video card is completely installed in the video card slot. Repeat the removal instructions, attempt to re-seat the video card and close up the PC. If the video card is firmly installed and you still do not see Windows start up you may have a bad video card or another component problem that this how to can’t anticipate. Seek help from a computer technician or skilled friend.

Closing

Make sure you update your sound card drivers frequently once you install a sound card to ensure good performance. Sound card drivers often are typically updated to optimize new hardware and fix specific problems with popular games and applications. Unlike video cards however they are not regularly scheduled. If you experience sound oddity in games it might mean its time for a driver update.

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