Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

This could be anything from out-of-date drivers to an overloaded computer. We'll look at both.

I have Windows XP, SP3. Recently, voice audio (not music) comes out garbled i.e. "You've Got Mail" and YouTube vocals. There's no driver update. I guess there is no sound card and instead, it uses Realtek High Definition Audio. In troubleshooting this, I've wanted to uninstall the program and reinstall, but I decided not to until I seek your advice. I've run my anti-virus program, thinking it might be a virus. Nothing shows up. Even disabled it to test to see if it was interfering but still the same. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

In this excerpt from Answercast #50, I look at a computer that is struggling as it plays audio. It could be a driver or simply overloaded.

You have a sound card!

Well, first of all, I do want to be very clear. You do have a sound card because you have sound. A sound card (even though it may not necessarily be a separate card) refers to the hardware in your computer - that is what gets connected to your speaker. It's the interface between your computer and whatever it is that lets you hear sound.

So, you definitely have one:

  • And Realtek High Definition Audio is not a program - that is the sound card.

  • That's actually the chipset that is used to generate the audio from your computer.

Driver updates

Now, when you say there's no driver update? I mean... the drivers would be for this "Realtek audio" hardware. There may very well be drivers for it.

What I would suggest you do to begin with is to:

  • Go to the manufacturer's website of whatever computer manufacturer you've got this from;

  • And double-check them specifically for up-to-date drivers for this computer.

Computer overload

Now, the other thing that can often interfere with sound and the ability to produce it properly is in fact the other software running on your machine:

  • Some computers simply are overloaded enough;

  • They're trying to do so much at the same time;

  • That the sound card simply can't keep up;

  • And very often, that manifests as a kind-of choppy sound.

So what I'm going to recommend you do also is run Process Explorer. I have a link about Process Explorer - but better, there's a article about How to determine who's hogging your CPU.

That article will show you how to run Process Explorer and see if there's a program running at the time you are trying to play your audio that is interfering.

The computer itself

Now, if the audio program itself is using up all your CPU, then you may have a problem where your computer just isn't powerful enough anymore to do some of the things that you're trying to do.

You haven't indicated exactly how old this machine is. Given that it's running Windows XP, it may be fairly old. New software, new drivers, new versions of the operating system (including SP3) all have very slowly increased in their requirements on hardware.

A machine that five years ago was running Windows XP just fine, may be struggling right now, if the machine was marginal to begin with.

Steps to take

So, those are the things I would look at:

  • Go to the manufacturer's website. Look for updated drivers there.

  • Check to see what other software is running on your machine at the time you're having this problem.

  • Use Process Explorer to see if one of those pieces of software may be hogging the CPU and preventing the audio from playing smoothly.

Article C5778 - September 6, 2012 « »

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.

Not what you needed?

September 6, 2012 7:34 AM

Also you can go directly to Realtek's website and download the newest driver.

September 6, 2012 7:45 AM

I have had a case where Windows Update under XP misidentified the on-board sound hardware and "updated" the drivers to ones that did not work. Reverting to the previous driver via the Device Manager rectified that. The person in this case may investigate whether there is an option to revert to a previous audio driver. If so that would indicate that an update had taken place and taking the reversion option *may* be of benefit.

September 7, 2012 8:45 AM

I know it seems odd, but sometimes (in my experience anyway) a bad video driver can cause stuttering audio. A recent change of a video card or video card driver could also be a contributing factor.

bob price
September 7, 2012 11:37 AM

One more possible issue, and that is the radio station. I dislike iheart radio with a passion! [and the only way I can get Leo.] I can listen to "non" iheart stations all day long without a single problem, but unfortunately I can only find Leo and other favs on iheart. But those stations will hang with a message, "streaming problem" and never start again. I have to refresh the page probably two, three, sometimes ten times an hour. I have a driver software program that updates drivers every week, and no hogs on the laptop.

I'm not on the radio. You're thinking of Leo Laporte. I'm Leo Notenboom. (It even says so in my logo on every page. Smile)

chris faulkner
September 7, 2012 9:01 PM

I had exactly this problem on a laptop last week. Itunes was the problem plus the realtek audio driver update.
I went to Device Manager, found the sound card, hit properties and navigated to Roll Back Driver, it rolled back to the default Microsoft driver, now works ok. I also went into default programs and selected media player to play all .wav and .mp3 files.
Hope this helps.

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