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How To Fix Sound Distortion When PC Is Active

One of our readers named Mike submitted the following problem to us:

Basically, I seem to have an issue where my sound will skip/distort any time my processor is busy. And it doesn’t have to be anything significant, this can happen just when I’m opening up Firefox. Now, I can understand something like this happening on an old PC, but I don’t see why this would be a problem given the specs of this build. It doesn’t matter what program is playing an audio file, and the skipping/distorting is more pronounced if I have multiple programs/more memory-intensive programs running. I have tried a clean install, wiping everything and starting over, to no avail. As far as I can tell all of the parts I have work fine, but I still have this sound issue.

This problem is actually somewhat common. I have experienced it in the past myself. The usual solution is anything but obvious, though.

The short answer is that the problem lies in the modes specified for your primary and secondary IDE controllers. You usually have a hard drive and an optical drive. You need to have the modes set to DMA and not PIO.

First an explanation of the two:

  • DMA (Direct memory access) mode is a high performance mode for transferring data to and from devices, in particular, to CD and DVD burner devices. DMA mode allows the processor to transfer large pieces of data with very little software overhead – therefore requiring low CPU utilization. In this mode, high speed burning can be performed in background with other programs running.
  • Short for Programmed Input/Output, a method of transferring data between two devices that uses the computer’s main processor as part of the data path.

We need to be using DMA mode so that the processor can work on things like proper sound output and less on simple data transfer.

Windows will revert to PIO mode on the drives if it has any problems using DMA. And if the problem persists, Windows will just make it permanent and will continue to use PIO mode even if you specify DMA. So, there are two ways to tackle it.

Go to your device manager in the Control Panel, find your primary IDE channel, right-click and select Properties. Go to the Advanced tab and find the device you are configuring. Make sure “DMA if available” is selected. If you have anything connected to your secondary IDE channel, do the same for that one. You will need to reboot Windows for the change to take effect.

If that doesn’t fix it, it may be because Windows is forcing PIO. In this case, you actually want to uninstall the controller from the device manager. It may seem overkill, but on reboot, Windows will simply re-detect the controller and set it up.

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30 thoughts on “How To Fix Sound Distortion When PC Is Active”

Bill Tate says:
Doesn’t anyone know how to give instructions to someone who is not a computer geek? I have a 140 IQ and cannot follow your instructions.
Bill Tate says:
Doesn’t anyone know how to give instructions to someone who is not a computer geek? I have a 140 IQ and cannot follow your instructions.
Patrick Leeman says:
Very helpful post!

Sometimes fixing sound problems on your computer may be less challenging if you follow certain guidelines. First of all look at the most likely cause of the horrible sound, then gradually move up to defining what the next most likely cause could be. Listing the simplest of the possible causes to the ones that may be more difficult to solve. This will help to save potential time in fixing sound issues.

For more cool tricks and tips visit my profile..

Patrick Leeman says:
Very helpful post!

Sometimes fixing sound problems on your computer may be less challenging if you follow certain guidelines. First of all look at the most likely cause of the horrible sound, then gradually move up to defining what the next most likely cause could be. Listing the simplest of the possible causes to the ones that may be more difficult to solve. This will help to save potential time in fixing sound issues.

For more cool tricks and tips visit my profile..

best registry cleaner says:
i think it may be it’s the hardware problem, fix it is not easy
best registry cleaner says:
i think it may be it’s the hardware problem, fix it is not easy
Dominique Laffan says:
I had the same problem and tried everything you said but it didn’t work. Now I know very little technical stuff about PCs but suddenly when I saw the “Sound, video and game controllers” link it dawned on me what I needed to do…. I disabled the Intel(R) High Definition Audio HDMI and now my laptop is working perfectly well. Hurrah for the novice, lol
Dominique Laffan says:
I had the same problem and tried everything you said but it didn’t work. Now I know very little technical stuff about PCs but suddenly when I saw the “Sound, video and game controllers” link it dawned on me what I needed to do…. I disabled the Intel(R) High Definition Audio HDMI and now my laptop is working perfectly well. Hurrah for the novice, lol
Julie Burch says:
Try a different music player….worked for me. Had horrible distortion with Windows Media Player.
Julie Burch says:
Try a different music player….worked for me. Had horrible distortion with Windows Media Player.
Ethell says:
i’m having the same problem with Sarah. there’s an IDE ATA/ATAPI controller selection in device manager, and under it Intel(R) PCHM SATA AHCI Controller 4 port. When i right click and select properities, there are 4 tabs; general, driver, details and references.

what shall i do now?

Ethell says:
i’m having the same problem with Sarah. there’s an IDE ATA/ATAPI controller selection in device manager, and under it Intel(R) PCHM SATA AHCI Controller 4 port. When i right click and select properities, there are 4 tabs; general, driver, details and references.

what shall i do now?

Sarah says:
i’m having the same problem, but i tried to do the steps but i can’t go past the IDE stage, i don’t know a lot about computers but either which doesn’t help.

I can’t find DMA avaliable on the IDE Channel.

PLEASE HELP, i gave it for repair twice and they failed to fix it.

Sarah says:
i’m having the same problem, but i tried to do the steps but i can’t go past the IDE stage, i don’t know a lot about computers but either which doesn’t help.

I can’t find DMA avaliable on the IDE Channel.

PLEASE HELP, i gave it for repair twice and they failed to fix it.

MSendim says:
I’m crossing my fingers and I won’t thank you too much :-) but this same stupid problem was also bugging me for months now !!!!!!

THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!

MSendim says:
I’m crossing my fingers and I won’t thank you too much :-) but this same stupid problem was also bugging me for months now !!!!!!

THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!

andy says:
many thanks!…completely cured the problem which has been bugging me for months!….only wish i had looked here earlier!!!
andy says:
many thanks!…completely cured the problem which has been bugging me for months!….only wish i had looked here earlier!!!
Henry says:
Thank you for your support worked really fine.
Henry says:
Thank you for your support worked really fine.
silky says:
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you – I have been having this problem for months and was ready to give up on my lap top, but then I tried this and voila! Now the computer sounds like new and goes much faster. Thanks to both David and Varsha for the step by step instructions.
silky says:
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you – I have been having this problem for months and was ready to give up on my lap top, but then I tried this and voila! Now the computer sounds like new and goes much faster. Thanks to both David and Varsha for the step by step instructions.
silky says:
Thank you thank you thank you thank you! I too have been struggling with this problem for months and just fixed it. I was ready to give up on my laptop, but now it seems almost like new!

Thank you.

Thanks also to Varsha for the step by step instructions.

Amazing.

silky says:
Thank you thank you thank you thank you! I too have been struggling with this problem for months and just fixed it. I was ready to give up on my laptop, but now it seems almost like new!

Thank you.

Thanks also to Varsha for the step by step instructions.

Amazing.

Dan says:
Have being trying to fix this problem for months, and this has finally sorted it, and it;s such an easy fix to!! Thanks very much, you are a legend, and I can now listen to my tunes uninterrupted!!
Dan says:
Have being trying to fix this problem for months, and this has finally sorted it, and it;s such an easy fix to!! Thanks very much, you are a legend, and I can now listen to my tunes uninterrupted!!
MiMi says:
OKay I am not very good at all his technical stuff . I went into device manager and I went into IDE/ATA/ATAPI controllers and I just ininstalled everything under that heading. This didnt work unfortunately. Can someone tell me if I did this wrong. There doesnt seem to be anything that says PIO in my device manager.
Thanks
judy says:
I’m in the same situation, MiMi, and have been frustrated with the problem for two months. I suspect it’s something in the drivers that got whamooed by a download or update.
MiMi says:
OKay I am not very good at all his technical stuff . I went into device manager and I went into IDE/ATA/ATAPI controllers and I just ininstalled everything under that heading. This didnt work unfortunately. Can someone tell me if I did this wrong. There doesnt seem to be anything that says PIO in my device manager.
Thanks
judy says:
I’m in the same situation, MiMi, and have been frustrated with the problem for two months. I suspect it’s something in the drivers that got whamooed by a download or update.
Jackalyn says:
I have the same problem-that voice is microsoft sam-if you go to contol panel and to speeech you will see the problem-i can’t fix it or get rid of it if you have found a slution let me know J
justintime1977 says:
Beautiful!!!! It does actually work!!!!!!! Genius!!!!

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Nik

Sep 26, 2007

643 Articles Published

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