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I reinstalled Windows and now my sound doesn't work – how do I fix it?

Recently I purchased an HP laptop loaded with Vista Home Premium. Since I’m more comfortable with Windows XP I did a clean
install with windows XP, but now the sound system in the laptop does not work. It says no audio device, but it use to work with
Vista.

I get variations on this question a lot. I suspect I get it so often these days because of people who’re doing exactly what you
describe: reinstalling Windows XP from scratch on a machine that came with Windows Vista.

It’s a fairly simple issue that most people overlook that boils down to this: not all Windows installation CDs are created
equal.

The good news is that there’s probably a simple solution out on the internet.

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It’s all about the drivers.

Drivers are the software that “know” how particular hardware operates, and interfaces between Windows and that hardware. Drivers translate the generic instructions that Windows gives it (turn up the volume) into instructions that are specific to that hardware (“send value 234 to I/O port 78, now send value 235, now send value 236, …”).

“If you don’t have the software driver that goes along with a particular piece of hardware then that hardware might as well not exist.”

And I do mean “specific to that hardware” quite literally. One sound card’s hardware might be controlled in a completely different way than another’s. Rather than have Windows have to know about every possible sound card ever made and could possibly be made, drivers are provided for each that perform that translation.

If you don’t have the software driver that goes along with a particular piece of hardware then that hardware might as well not exist. In fact, that’s exactly what Windows deals with it: without the drivers Windows has no way to control the hardware so it treats it as if it’s not there.

Drivers come from two places: your Windows installation, and your hardware manufacturer.

The reason I said that not all Windows installation CDs are the same is that not all have the same mix of drivers. The Vista installation that you began with clearly had the drivers for your sound card. While they may, or may not, have also been included on the Vista installation media you hopefully got when you purchased the machine, the fact is that they were pre-installed, as we might expect on a new machine.

I have no idea where you got your Windows XP installation media, but it’s fairly clear that it doesn’t have the drivers you need. This is one of the very common differences between installation media provided by different OEMs like HP, Dell or others, and one way that they differ from the retail versions of Windows you might buy in the store. The HP disks may well include additional drivers for HP supported hardware that the Windows disks from other vendors would not include.

I’m guessing that’s the issue you’re running into here: wherever it came from your Windows XP installation media simply doesn’t have the drivers necessary for whatever sound hardware is present on your laptop.

The good news here is that it’s typically an easy fix – at least for recent versions of Windows like XP.

In your case, having an HP laptop, I would visit the HP support site. They should have drivers that you can download and install. You’ll need to know your laptop’s model number, and perhaps some of the options chosen when it was purchased, and the site should guide you to the specific download for the specific audio hardware in your machine.

Download and install that, and your laptops audio should return.

This is true for most major computer vendors like HP, Dell and others. They all take advantage of the internet to have support sites that provide the latest software drivers and updates for the machines that they sell. And most also have fairly active support forums these days where you can get specific help for your computer and hardware from other users and occasionally the vendor’s staff as well.

In the case where they don’t provide that level of support or you have a custom or “beige-box” machine you might need to actually determine what specific audio hardware is in the computer, and then visit that hardware manufacturer’s site for updated drivers. That’s not as likely in this case as you’re dealing with a laptop, but is very common for custom built machines, or machines from smaller vendors.

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12 comments on “I reinstalled Windows and now my sound doesn't work – how do I fix it?”

  1. That’s why its always a good idea to keep your original driver disks in a safe place. Saves you a lot of time when you are reinstalling so you don’t have to go crazy looking for the necessary drivers.

    [link removed]

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  2. Ah, the joys of upgrading or as is in this case, downgrading. Having done a lot of upgrading on my family, friends and my own computers, I quickly learned to get the driver software for the components in each computer, before I upgraded.

    Laptops are quite different, though. You can’t just open the side of the computer case, to look at the components. Another thing, I really would hate to void the warranty on a new laptop, just because they hated Vista, yet, I really do understand.

    My son-in-law got a laptop for free, but, it didn’t have a hard drive. It was an older laptop that the county school teachers had used, before they got new ones. It was a Dell and I knew by having another friend who owned a Dell that there was a Service Tag number on the machine. Must admit, that is really a very nice feature on Dell machines.

    I looked up his Service Tag at Dell support site and it gave me all the information I needed, plus, the driver software. Another thing, I have learned to do, is always download the manual, whether it is for a laptop or desktop computer or motherboard. You need this information, to correctly upgrade any computer.

    HP has a good support site, just for things like drivers, information and etc. I have found information on HP machines made back in the 1990’s. For those of us who do repairs, that is wonderful. Just because it is an older computer doesn’t mean, it can’t be a good, working, useful machine. The older machines are great for young kids, who need to learn the computer basics, for future school work. They don’t need the latest, fastest and high tech machine, just one that works and works well, for basic computering.

    Reply
  3. The(almost)same happens to me! Rarely my sound disappears and the culprit is simple!…some glitch forces one the Volume controls (Tray icon) to drop to zero!! A mystery but simple to fix.

    Reply
  4. I was asked by a client to completely remove all traces of Vista on his new SONY notebook PC & install Windows XP Home from his genuine disk. The installation went OK but many drivers were missing including both sound & NIC. So like Leo has suggested I visited SONY’s web site only to find that they didn’t nor wouldn’t provide any Win XP drivers for that model laptop. This they didn’t tell me straight away & promised to contact me in 2/3 weeks. Of course they didn’t so I contacted them again. No drivers would be made available so the client then asked me to “just put Vista back on”. I couldn’t as I’d done exactly as told (written instructions) by the client. Morel is to check if XP drivers are available before “downgrading”.

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  5. This identical thing happened to me with an almost new HP laptop on which I dumped Vista for XP. The solution was to look on HP web site as you suggest for the dozen or so XP drivers which got everything working again. No big surprise here except for one thing. HP never sold my laptop with XP, so I had to find the drivers for the laptop family, i.e., 1400 instead of 1419us, or whatever (can’t remember model). The family drivers worked fine and now both I and the laptop are happy. BTW, using the family drivers was suggested by someone at HP in response to a Google search for downgrading to XP on the particular laptop model number….mike

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  6. Well I followed all advise given by HP but the sound still does not work as there is no XP driver for HP pavillion DV9830.Please prove me wrong.

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  7. Leo — I could not believe my eyes when I opened Leo’s Answers #190 today and found this as your lead article. I have been trying to solve a similar problem on a desktop machine with someone who upgraded from XP SP2 to SP3 and lost his sound, and I’ve spent hours with Google after a download and installation of an updated driver did NOT work. If any of what I write below to Antonius is invalid, please jump in and correct me / it.

    Antonius — There are ten different DV9830 models / links to downloads listed at
    http://h20180.www2.hp.com/apps/Lookup?h_lang=en&h_cc=us&cc=us&h_page=hpcom&lang=en&h_client=S-A-R163-1&h_pagetype=s-002&h_query=pavillion+DV9830&submit.x=4&submit.y=6 . I have checked three of them, and all list XP as one of the operating systems for the models. I checked the XP link on one of the three and did not find any audio/sound driver. Not knowing which model is yours, I did not bother to check the others as you can easily do that.

    These links from the HP site might be helpful to you:

    (A) Resolving No Audio after Upgrading from XP to Vista or Downgrading from Vista to XP —
    http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01765953&cc=us&lc=en&dlc=en&product=3689909

    (B) High Definition Audio Driver will not Install until the Microsoft UAA Bus Driver is Installed
    http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01456295&cc=us&lc=en&dlc=en&product=3689909

    You might have to go to your motherboard or sound card manufacturer’s website to get what you need. As mentioned above, last week I downloaded and installed on a friend’s machine an updated Realtek driver. (It was dated five days before I downloaded it and had been put on their website just three days earlier — couldn’t be much more up-to-date than that!) As I also mentioned, this did NOT do the trick. I have spent hours Googling since then for possible causes and remedies as I don’t want to make multiple trips to his house trying one thing each time. From many of the forums and other sites I’ve checked it seems that the problem might well be SP3 (although I’m not ruling out other possibilities until I try some of the suggestions I’ve found).

    If it is SP3, interestingly, some of the information I’ve found suggests that the MS UAA Bus Driver has to be uninstalled in order to allow the installation of the Realtek driver — the exact opposite of (B) above. Perhaps this is true for Realtek (and other?) drivers but not for all. (See http://forums.majorgeeks.com/printthread.php?t=146855 for one discussion, including posts about having to disable the UAA device before uninstalling it.)

    I hope we both solve our problems (and that you don’t have to spend as much time as I already have on my friend’s).

    Merna B.

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  8. Hi fellow e-mailers
    Just a small comment as to the reason why people downgrade their operating systems. Our company purchased new computers with Vista, unfortunately our main software systems could not operate on Vista ie. AutoCad and Caddie 9. We only realised this after our purchase, considering the licence fees involved in upgrading our sofware, we opted on downgrading the operating system, hence now we have no sound.
    Downgrading is not first option for most people but necessity does play a role.
    Many thanks

    Reply
  9. I know I had troubles similar to this in Upgrading to XP ^^(from Vista) and I know that if you can’t find the driver(before I found mine), a USB-Sound device works great. It was plug and play and came with the drivers CD.

    This is interesting discussion. I wonder if there are general rules or specific ones that dictate which drivers should be installed when…
    When you install a new hard drive and then proceed to install an operating system, which drivers must be made available? Would your operating system disc(presumably — although it could have been loaded onto a hard drive you are installing to or a flash drive…???) need to have compatible motherboard and CPU …and power supply unit drivers? Are there other basics (non-optional) that would be needed? I am curious if device operability includes basic keyboard, mouse, monitor, power and motherboard and CPU IO instructions(or device drivers), even if not specific to that model but only from a family of models or brand…

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  10. windows have or have not the driver package patched with the installation media cd that’s came up with it.So, in that case u have to find out the model number of your computer and some info and go the vendors site and just download the driver and install..

    Reply
  11. Hello.

    I have an Dell Studio XPS 1640 and I reinstalled Windows and now my sound doesnt work at all. In the icon at the clock when a play a song i can see that the song is playing and than i have driver installed. But it doesnt come any sound from my computer.

    Reply

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