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What are Sound Card Drivers?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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In the realm of computers, a sound card, also called a “sound board,” refers to a card that is plugged into a computer to enable the recording and the playing back of sound. Sound cards support MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and analog audio, which is converted to digital data, and provide ports for sound sources to be plugged in for input and ports for speakers, headsets, and amplifiers to be plugged in for output. While sound circuits may be built into a computer’s motherboard, these can be disabled if the user installs a separate sound card, which may either be internal to the computer or external. Sound cards are like graphics cards, as well as peripherals, in that they need drivers to run. Sound card drivers are software applications that run sound cards.

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Each make of sound card requires the specific sound card driver appropriate to it and to the operating system on which it runs. Since operating systems are generally stocked with a group of standard sound card drivers, one may find that the drivers are already available when one installs a sound card. Alternatively, the sound card drivers may be supplied along with the sound card, on a CD or DVD for example, or downloadable from the manufacturer’s website or the operating system website. Sound card drivers, like other drivers, are updated often to adapt to updates in the operating system, as well as to supply improvements and bug fixes. Often there is a section of the operating system’s and manufacturer’s websites called something like “Support and Downloads” where one can check to see if there is a more recent version of a sound card driver than the one installed on one’s computer.

The process of updating sound card drivers differs with different operating systems. According to the Microsoft® website, for example, with Windows® Vista®, one can follow a path on one’s computer to a button ‘Update Driver Software’ that will automate the process of updating drivers. This is not true for every operating system.

With other operating systems and/or if the automated process doesn’t work, one begins by identifying the sound driver currently installed. One then goes online to the sound card manufacturer’s website, and looks for either links to the sound card among the products, or ‘Support and Drivers’ or ‘Support and Downloads.’ Following links until one comes to the proper product, one follows the instructions for downloading the latest sound card driver, making sure that it is appropriate for one’s operating system and newer than one’s existing driver. Uninstall the existing driver, and then double-click the icon for the new driver and follow the instructions for installation.

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