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Windows 7 has some extra volume controls that are sort of "hidden." Adjusting those may help.

My desktop has recently decided to downgrade my max volume. I don't know why. I haven't changed a thing that I know of, but the end result is that while the AC is on, I can't watch movies or YouTube clips. I run Windows 7 Ultimate. All software settings have been maxed out; I have external speakers with dedicated power supply also maxed out; connecting the speakers to an iPod gives me ear splitting volume. I've also tried headphones, but with the exact same issue. Noise cancelling headphones help but only because they cancel the background noise; the overall volume is still very low. Any idea what I'm missing? Are there any third-party software that I can install to increase the volume output?

In this excerpt from Answercast #16, I show the location of Windows 7 advanced volume controls to adjust the sound through your speakers.

Windows 7 volume control

I don't know of any third-party software that's gonna solve this. And I'm a little concerned about your having mentioned the AC. I actually don't know if you mean AC as in connected to AC power, or AC as in the air conditioning being too loud.

Regardless, there is a catch. There is something that happened in Windows 7 (it may actually have been in Windows Vista) where there are more volume controls than you might be aware of.

The thing to do is to go ahead and click on the Speaker icon to get the volume control for the system. That will give you the normal slider, that I'm sure you have moved all the way to the top. Below that should be an item that says Mixer.

Click on that and you will get an interface that shows you not only the system's sound (or the device speakers, the device volume), but you will see that several of the applications currently running have their own volume slider. That also impacts the volume being output by that application or by those individual applications.


Device volume

For example, as I'm looking here:

  • I have my speakers set to their maximum volume.
  • I have the system sounds set to their maximum volume.
  • I have sound that may be produced by mail programs set to its maximum volume.
  • But, I see that Audacity (my audio recording program with which I'm currently recording this podcast) has its volume set to around 20%. So when it plays back, it's going to play back very quietly compared to other applications.

And that's the point... that's the point of this interface. Rather than have a global volume control for the system, you can actually control the volume that's being output by individual applications.

Hidden volume settings

The trick is that this clearly was "kinda sorta" hidden.

So the very first thing I would suggest you do is to click on that Mixer button. Make sure that all of the applications that show up there (when you're trying to play back a video or do whatever else you're currently having trouble with) have their volumes to their maximum in this interface.

Some applications will actually use this as their volume control. If you have an application that has its own volume control, changing that may reflect here. On the other hand, some applications will not.

So in reality, what you have are three separate volume controls to go through before the sound actually makes its way out to your speakers, possibly even four:

  1. You have the volume control from the application itself.
  2. You have the Windows provided volume control for the application.
  3. You have the system volume control.
  4. And then, you may of course have an additional volume control on your speakers or stereo system.

So there are lots of opportunities to turn things down. You need to check all four of those locations and make sure everything is turned up as high as possible before you start worrying too much about something physically not working.

Article C5317 - May 9, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Michael Roberts
May 13, 2012 4:09 PM

Some devices can be configured for louder volume by another mechanism.

Say that you have installed a microphone, but you notice that the sound isn't quite what you wanted. You can check that the device is configured for best recording like this:

Open the Control Panel, then select "Hardware and Sound".
Select "Sound". A multitabbed user form will appear.
Select the "Recording" tab, and select the device, such as the microphone, in this example.
Then, click on the "Properties" button. Another multitabbed user form will appear.
Click on the "Custom" tab.

On some devices, you will see a check box labeled "Microphone + 20 dB Boost". Check this box, then click "OK".

Maybe this will solve your volume issues.

All the best...

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