I have a Dimension 8300 with a factory-installed Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card with DVD audio (Dell part no. 5U255) and Altec Lansing 745 speakers. It is running Windows XP Pro with SP3 and all the Microsoft updates. The system was purchased in Aug, 2003.
Everything was operating fine for several years but then I began noticing a few pops and clicks coming from the right channel. They were emitted continuously, even when no sound was being played. During boot up they began as soon as the sound drivers were loaded. These pops and clicks do not stop when I mute the sound or turn down the volume control (either via software or the knob on the keyboard).
Gradually, the pops and clicks got louder and began interfering with my ability to hear any actual sound I might choose to play and also spread to the left channel. Sometimes, rebooting the system would reduce the level of pops and clicks for awhile but they were always still there. The hardware manager shows all devices operating correctly, and all the diagnostics in the Creative Labs app pass.
The pops and clicks were bad enough but then I began having problems playing any sort of streaming audio or video material (YouTube clips, Flash clips, streaming MP3 clips, etc.) It would play for a short time (anywhere from 10-15 seconds up to a few minutes) and then the sound would abruptly cut out leaving just a hissing noise. At that point, no sound would play from anything, including Windows system sounds, until I did something to "reset" the sound driver. If I was using a web browser this usually meant navigating off the page with the the video or audio clip. If I was using another application, it generally meant exiting out of that application. Following that, the pops and clicks would resume and system sounds would play.
All along I have been able to play audio and video from local sources (CDs, DVDs, local MP3 files, local QuickTime files, etc.), but always with the pops and clicks. I have noticed that movies on DVD suffer greater amounts of unwanted noise when they use the more advanced sound technologies. DVDs of old movies or older TV shows with mono sound play back with the least noise.
I get the same results whether I plug in headphones or use the speakers. It is the same if I turn off the Altec Lansing power and just use headphones. I have reseated the card and all cables, I have tried cleaning the card's contacts, I have tried different PCI slots. None of those has had any effect on the problem.
If I boot a live Linux system from CD or DVD, the pops and clicks begin as soon as it loads sound drivers.
Everything points to a hardware problem with the sound card. However, Dell no longer appears to offer this part, Creative Labs no longer makes the SB0350 part (even assuming that it could be a drop-in replacement for what I gather is a Dell OEM version of the card) and in the murky world of third party Dell parts (new or refurbished) it is often difficult to tell if any given offering is the correct version.
So, have I overlooked any additional diagnostic steps that might help restore functionality?
If you agree that the card has gone bad, can anybody comment on the OEM/non-OEM compatibility issue? Would an SB0350 work while retaining all original functionality? Would I need different drivers?
Or, can I get a newer model card that will work with my system, play CD audio, DVD audio, and be able to use the Altec Lansing speaker system?
Thanks for any and all information and suggestions.
It sounds like your sound card is on its last legs. A sound card is a sound card just buy a new model and it will work, of course you will need to uninstall your old drivers and download new ones for your new card. It is best to download and install drivers right from the manufacturer, creative. Hope this helps
Well, it's always reassuring to see that somebody else arrives at the same conclusion that my problem is a failing sound card. Can anybody offer an estimate of the expected useful life of a sound card? The system will be 8 years old at the end of this month, but everything else still works well.
Also, there seems to be a wide range of opinion about the quality control of Creative Labs products, at least as reflected in posted comments at numerous web sites. I can say that their software and drivers are not especially robust. A few months after I purchased the system I was listening to an MP3 file over headphones and decided I wanted the full effect through the speakers. So, I pulled the headphone jack out of the front panel socket and the system promptly BSODed. Lesson learned! It turns out that if I pause the playback first, and then remove the headphones, the system operates normally. It's also possible to crash the Surround Mixer application or the EAX console just by changing the settings too quickly.
Thanks for your observation and suggestions. I guess it's time to do a bit of research and choose a new card.