How to Install a Sound Card

While most computers have a sound card built directly into them, these are often inadequate for anything but the most basic of audio quality. In order to get the most out of the sound, music, and other audio capabilities out of your computer, a higher end sound card is necessary. A sound card can add not only significantly higher quality audio and music through surround sound and other specifications, but can also provide MIDI input lines, microphone input lines, and a variety of other types of hardware interface devices.

If you have already purchased a sound card, then you will want to follow the directions below to correctly install your new device.

  1. Turn your computer off.
  2. Unplug your computer from either its surge protector or from the wall.
  3. Disconnect all other devices from your computer, including your mouse, keyboard, monitor, and any attached USB devices.
  4. Move your computer to a non-carpeted and stable surface.
  5. After grounding yourself by touching a piece of metal not attached to your computer, or by using a grounding wristband, open the computer case.
  6. Determine whether or not a sound card is already installed in your computer. If so, unscrew the mounting screw that holds the sound card in place, and gently but firmly lift the sound card up and out of your computer.
  7. If a sound card is not already installed, locate an open PCI slot on your motherboard. Once found, remove, unscrew, or punch out the metal card covering the corresponding PCI slot.
  8. Gently but firmly insert your new sound card into the open PCI slot. If necessary, rock the card back and forth to ensure that it is fully connected, but take care not to apply too much pressure. When correctly installed, a sound card, or any other PCI device, should sit flush with your motherboard. Ensure that the sound card's panel, where the audio input ports are located, is aligned closely to the rear panel of your computer case. When you are sure the card has been placed correctly, use the provided screw to secure the sound card.
  9. Connect the included cables from your sound card to your CD or DVD-ROM drive.
  10. Replace the case of your computer, attach all peripherals (such as your monitor, keyboard, and mouse), plug the power cable back in, and put your computer where it was initially. Make sure to attach your computer speakers to the ports provided by the sound card.
  11. Power on your computer.
  12. If Windows automatically detects your new sound card, follow the onscreen prompts. If not, insert the installation disc included with your sound card and follow the onscreen instructions.
  13. Open an audio file such as an MP3, or insert an audio disc and allow it to play. If you hear sound coming from your speakers, then your sound card has been installed correctly.

Note: if your computer has a soundcard built into the motherboard, please refer to the manufacturer's webpage to determine how to disable it before installing a new sound card.