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I have a really weird one tonight. Today we had a LAN party and all of a sudden the sound on a couple PC's stopped working for programs like the games, windows media player, etc. However, when errors would popup (like trying to change the volume settings) you would here the default error chime. Restarting the computers you would here the logoff-login sounds and after a restart the sound would work for a bit in both games and apps and then suddenly stop. Restarting also didn't always fix the problem.

I can't figure this out. If the sound card/driver didn't work then how could we hear sounds from the windows sound scheme? No sound with VLC, windows media player, youtube, games, nothing.

The only thing I can figure out is that this is a bad game crashing the primary driver or some kind of weird virus these PC's might have picked up. AVG doesn't report anything strange though.

Update

Ok, I did the wise thing and gave the problem a day. Since it's windows it can't be expected to be a logical system. Anyway, I reinstalled the latest drivers and restarted the PC's and the sound came back on both machines. However, after using this PC for a couple hours today the sound has suddenly gone out again. I watched a couple youtube videos in chrome, ran WAMP, and used Eclipse almost all day. As soon as I started assaultcube there is now silence once again.

UPDATE 2 Ok, so it's been a couple months and the problem still occurs on the PC's. I have updated the drivers, checked for IRQ collisions and other fun stuff. Nothing is overclocked. The chipsets are Realtech Audio.

As I type I'm currently listening to klove radio over the internet - but now nothing else has sound. Even other windows in the browser such as youtube videos. Clicking on the sound icon causes windows to make the "error ping" noise and then tell me that I "have no active mixer devices installed".

One other thing, about the time the sound dies the windows start taskbar reverts to the old windows gray bar like it was windows 98/2000 or something.

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How do you know for sure it's the sound cards that all died together? –  zneak May 9 '10 at 3:17
    
I don't - but they all stopped working at the same time (or we noticed it at the same time) after we finished playing a couple games. –  Xeoncross May 9 '10 at 4:42
    
Do I understand correctly that when you update the audio drivers the problem goes away, until the next time that you play assaultcube ? –  harrymc Jul 19 '10 at 10:19
    
No, the problem only goes away when I restart my PC. –  Xeoncross Jul 21 '10 at 17:00
    
So the problem is caused by assaultcube and "repaired" via a reboot? –  harrymc Jul 21 '10 at 17:11
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2 Answers

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Look for a management program included with your soundcard driver. It may be muting one app but not the others.

It sounds like your card may also have a problem (potential hardware issue) related to hardware acceleration. That would at least explain why the problem appears when running games.

Finally, if you're running Vista or 7 this could just be a poorly written audio driver, even if it is the latest available. Windows Vista forced a re-write of many old sound card drivers, and many vendors went to the bare minimum effort to get something that seemed workable on older cards, with no plans ever to do any improvements. I myself suffer from that problem on an older sound card.

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I'm running XP Pro SP3. The realtek app is included with the driver so I disabled it at startup (msconfig) and so far I haven't had any trouble. I'm going to give it a little more time and report back. I hate included wifi/sound/internet helper apps. –  Xeoncross Jul 21 '10 at 17:02
    
Bingo, I think it was the realtek sound manager software. Ever since I disabled all that junk I haven't had a problem. Apparently Realtek isn't used to whatever it is I'm doing to it because I've never heard of this before. –  Xeoncross Jul 23 '10 at 0:43
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You might have more than one sound card in the computer: A simple one on the motherboard, and a more sophisticated one connected to the speaker. The programs you cited may be trying to use the better sound card, while Windows uses the in-built one.

Try to open up the computer and see what you have inside.
Replacing the sound-card will tell you if it's really broke.

You must have had one hell of a LAN party if you managed to break a couple of sound cards. Or maybe you had a power glitch.

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Only one of the machines has a secondary PCI sound card. The Core2Quad machine only has on built-into the gigabyte mobo. –  Xeoncross May 9 '10 at 21:58
    
@Xeoncross: It still seems too much of a coincidence for the sound to be gone on two different machines. I would also check very hard for viruses, using several products, in case one of the machines infected you all. –  harrymc May 10 '10 at 6:46
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