Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why doesn't music play smoothly on my machine?

When I play a music CD or try to listen to a wave file off the Internet
the music “breaks up” and does not play smoothly. … Do you have any
ideas?

Several ideas, actually, depending on the situation.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

If “playing a music CD” quite literally means inserting a physical CD into
your drive and listening to it directly, then I’ll immediately suspect your
sound card. Either it’s broken or extremely cheap. Most reasonable sound cards
take the audio directly from the CD drive and route it to the speakers without
your processor getting involved. I’d swap it for another and see if that
doesn’t resolve the issue. (If this is sound support on your motherboard, then
this gets a little tricky, as you can imagine. You can try installing an
additional sound card.)

If you’re attempting to play an MP3 file across a network, or “live” as it’s
being downloaded from the internet, don’t. Try downloading the file locally
first and then playing it directly from your hard drive. If this works, then
it may simply be a case of your internet connection not being fast enough to
keep up with the data stream required to play the audio you’ve selected. If
you’re listening to streaming audio stations on the internet then try choosing one
with a lower bandwidth requirement.

If neither of those applies, then things get interesting.

Chances are it’s an interrupt or device driver problem. It’s even possible
that it’s not even the sound card’s, though it still might be. What could be
happening is that a device is hogging the processor long enough to cause your
sound card not to be able to push data to the speakers fast enough. Normally
that shouldn’t happen for two different reasons: a) other devices shouldn’t be
hogging the processor for that long, and b) your sound card probably shouldn’t
care if it had a big enough buffer.

Certainly I’d make sure that your system and device drivers were as
up-to-date as possible. What means visiting both Windows Update as well as
your hardware manufacturer’s website to look for updated drivers.

It’s possible, believe it or not, that you might be able to at
least affect this problem by rearranging the cards plugged into the slots in
your computer. Naturally this isn’t something to be done lightly, but what can
happen is that the devices can be assigned new priorities and the sound card
might come out on top.

All that being said, I had exactly this type of problem some time ago, and
walked away in frustration. The bottom line is that my machine had come with an
incredibly cheap sound card that was in conflict with an equally cheap hard
disk controller and there was nothing I could do with it.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

16 comments on “Why doesn't music play smoothly on my machine?”

  1. I would appreciate it if you could please tell me how to convert (audio) songs that I have downloaded onto my computer into midi. I’m running windows xp and can’t seem to find the correct application to do this.

    Reply
  2. The short answer is that you cannot. A midi file is a series of instructions for music, where as an audio file like an mp3 is an actual recording. It’s kind of like asking how to create sheet music from a Music CD.

    Reply
  3. I’ve had this problem with a range of CD drives, drivers, hardware and software. It is so frustrating to have your latest Tangerine Dream or whatever interrupted in this way. I must have re-installed my audio drivers 15 times and was ready to chuck the PC out of the window.
    But I finally discovered a simple fix: make sure your CD-ROM is playing directly in analogue mode rather than trying to do fancy digital processing (using the CPU). By default the modern set-ups usually go to digital. Switch to analogue by going to Device Manager (in System under control panel under start menu), select the CD-ROM device that’s causing problems, left click to open the menu and select Properties, then Properties again. Then clear the box which says “Enable digital CD-audio on this CD-ROM device”.
    The only caveat is that I think you need to have the analogue connection lead between CD-ROM device and sound card (or on-board sound chip connector). These leads usually come with the CD-Drive. They are about 40 cm long and have 3 or 4 pins in a spade connector at each end. I think you don’t need this lead to play CD digitally.

    Hope this works for you as well as it did for me!

    Reply
  4. I would appreciate if you would just tell me how to save internet music URL into my PC, like how you would right click and properties the song.

    Reply
  5. I have been fixing my cousin’s computer, which has got me a little perplexed. It keeps on kicking the sound driver off the computer, it ruins the emulation that I install on their computer to make Sims2 run faster on their computer, and then it goes through and ruins other programs. I don’t understand. All the programs run fine on my 3 computers at home. Her computer is set up just like my own.

    Reply
  6. hi leo, ive recently changed my motherboard to a Gigabyte K8 Triton GA-K8VT800(Pro). I have a problem with the sound and with the video.
    Im trying to use the onboard sound but windows says it cant detect any audio hardware.
    With the video im using an Asus Radeon 9600 Series Card. First there was a lag like when scrolling pages in Internet Explorer, and i was unable to get into games. Now the lag seems to have seems to have fixed itself! And i can get into the game now, but the graphics are terrible.
    Please help.

    Reply
  7. please i have a new benq dvd-rw i just intalled into my win xp machine. when i play a cd or a dvd on the dvd rom, the sound goes faster and also the vedio movest very fast, what could be the problem?

    Reply
  8. Hi well my situation is kinda different. I am trying to play streaming radio stations off the net. It used to play but now it doesn’t. I know it’s not my sound card because of 2 reasons. the 1st is that other music play through it, and 2nd is that when the page loads it used to say where is was streaming from but now it doesn’t show that, all it shows is that the window opens and the play button are all there but it’s like it’s not automatically connecting to the streaming site. Please help it used to work and now it doesn’t. I tried the site on other computers and it works. Please help

    Reply
  9. I have been having problems playing certain cds on my computer why is this. It is the soundcard or are some cds protected in some way,any help would you great so I know what to do next bought any MP3 and only some of my albums with play so I can rip them
    thanks wendy

    Reply
  10. I don;t think this is apure hardware problem. I can hear breakups whenever my browser is doing something meaningful, even as I scroll the content up and down. I think Windows is simply not good at multiprocessing which requires real-time capabilities, even something as simple as a WAV file palyback.

    Reply
  11. Hello,

    I formated my computer packard bell NEC
    spirit 550, and lost my audio video drivers, Used the everest software to find what was missing and where to find it, and yet can not find the exact drivers for it, can you help??

    cheers!

    Reply
  12. I am having a hard time finding a driver for a Dell Inspirion 6000. I visited the website and saved it, and ran it… the driver said it installed but there still isn’t sound. When I go to the Start/Control Panel/Sounds and Audio devices it says there isnt a device for this in playback, record, basically every tab and its greyed out. I’ve tried everything. In device Manager i’ve uninstalled it, rebooted, it found it but still no volume and greyed out areas. Please help me figure this out! Thank you Leo!

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.