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I want to unmute line-in/microphone sound on a laptop. On my desktop PC, it's disabled by default, so you don't hear sound coming from it at all times, but it can be unmuted via Control Panel > Sound > Speaker properties > Levels. This allows me to hear the output from whatever device is connected, be it a microphone, nintendo DS, FM radio etc.

The problem is, that on all 3 of my laptops, the Levels tab has no option to mute anything other than the speakers themselves, so I can't hear anything without first recording it. What's going on?

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I think the capability to monitor line-in (i.e. play to a speaker what is coming in to line-in) depends on the specific audio card/chipset and associated drivers.

On my Vista PC, with Realtek sound, I would have to run a recording program such as Audacity and set it's preferences to "play-through" then Audacity appears in my sound-mixer and can be muted or unmuted there.

sound mixer etc

The Windows sound-recorder doesn't support play-through, you need a third-party application.

As I say, I believe this depends on your Sound Mixer, whose capabilities seem to depend on your specific sound-card drivers.

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