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How and When to Upgrade Your Sound Card

Have you seen or even heard of a new computer without a sound card today? Yet many PC users, even owners of new systems upgrade their sound card. Why you ask? Many new computers come with an integrated sound card. This means that the sound card is really a chip mounted right onto the motherboard. This type of sound card is of poor quality and sound.

Installing a new dedicated sound card in an empty expansion bay will greatly improve the quality and sound of anything you listen to on your computer, especially those awesome in depth games you play.

Before deciding to upgrade your sound card, you should know the type of sound card you have and its capability. You should know if your current sound card is integrated or if it's inserted into an adapter slot in the system unit.

It's rather easy to find this information from your PC by clicking on Start, Control Panel, click on Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices. Now Click on Sounds and Audio Devices and click on the Hardware Tab. Whew, that's a lot of clicking isn't it.

But you can find this information without going through the hassle of opening your computer or its owner's manual. If you see a device with the phrase "Integrated Digital Audio" then you have an integrated sound chip on your motherboard.

Games are no doubt the first reason for sound card upgrades. Nearly all games support 3D audio APIs or Application Program Interface. This technology use surround sound through your sound card.

Two of the most popular APIs are Microsoft's DirectX and Creative Lab's EAX. When upgrading don't overlook the type of speakers you have. You will cripple that awesome new sound card if your speakers are the pits.

The Second thing you need to do in upgrading is to remove any and all software concerning your current card. And you need to disable your old card if it is integrated onto the motherboard. To perform this task, boot up your computer and as it goes through the POST or Power On Self Test, press the key combination that will allow you to access your BIOS.

Your BIOS is your Basic Input Output System which tells the computer to check itself for operation. There are various key combinations and sometimes just one key such as F1 to access the BIOS. Check your owner's manual to be sure of the right key.

Once inside the BIOS, look for references such as "Onboard" or "Integrated" devices. Click this reference and find the "Sound Device. Next change the settings to off or disabled. The Integrated sound chip is now off.

To remove any software and device drivers related to the old card, Click on Start, Control Panel, and click the System Icon. Then click the Hardware tab of the System properties windows.

Now click on the Device Manager button and click the plus sign next to Sound, Video, and Game Controllers. Now you will need to Right-click on the entry for your sound card or chip. Choose Uninstall from the drop-down menu to complete the software removal task.

This procedure must not be overlooked since the computer uses device drivers to talk to the components inside the PC. Now you are ready to remove the old card if it is in an expansion slot and install the new card. Turn off the PC and unplug it. Remove static charge from yourself by touching a doorknob or using a wrist strap.

Open the case and locate the sound card in one of the adapter slots. Remove the retaining screw and carefully pull the old card out. Take note of the cable coming from the CDROM and DVD drive. Disconnect this cable, remove the old card, and push the new card in its place. Re-connect the DVD drive cable and secure the card to the system unit using the old retaining screw.

Now you can replace the system unit cover, plug all the peripherals into the computer and plug the PC back into its power source. Plug the speakers into the line level output of the sound card. Start the computer and when Windows detect the new card, follow the instructions to install the manufacturer supplied software with the device drivers.

Even though the sound card is new, visit the card's support web site and check to be certain you have the most recent device drivers. If not, you can easily download and install them from the support site.

And there you have it. It's that simple to upgrade your crappy old sound card to a powerful high quality sound card capable of producing bone shattering noises in conjunction with the awesome graphics in your favorite game.

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