Robert, Its going to be impossible to be absolutely certain what is going on without either hearing this or seeing the PC, but we can make some well educated guesses as to what is happening.
There are two ways to play a music CD on a PC, analog and digital.
In analog playback, the optical (CD-ROM) drive itself decodes the CD into analog audio and the audio is fed over a cable from the drive to the sound card as an analog audio signal (the analog signal is the same signal that you hear using the drives front panel headphone jack if your drive has such a jack, and indeed such a jack (if present) would allow you to test the CD drives analog audio channel quickly and easily).
In digital playback, the audio files on the CD are read as digital computer DATA files over the IDE port (just like any other computer file), and the sound card and playback software convert those files into a Wave signal for playing through [by] the sound card.
We also need to consider a third possibility that you didnt mention, namely that this has nothing to do with CD playback and that in fact all sounds played on your computer have the artifacts that you mention. This can be ruled out by getting an MP3 file that you know to be clean and seeing that it plays properly on your computer. The normal Windows sounds are too short and the clicks and pops, even if they are occurring, might not happen while playing a short ding or beep. You want a sound file several minutes long to test this. If you hear the clicks and pops while playing such a file, then the problem is a more general unrelated to CD playback. Sound cards use both interrupts and DMA. Consequently, computer configuration issues unrelated to the audio system can cause problems in sound reproduction, but trying to troubleshoot this, if it is your problem, would be beyond the scope of this response. Also, see the comments in the next-to-last paragraph of this response, the problem might simply be coming from an unused but unmated channel of the sound mixer.
If you are using analog playback, it is possible for the analog audio cable from the optical drive to the sound card (or motherboard) to pick up electrical noise from inside the PC. This could cause what you are experiencing. While you could replace the cable (use a shielded cable if you are not doing so already) or experiment with rerouting it, the inside of a PC is an electrically noisy environment, and a better solution would be to switch to digital playback. Digital playback will generally provide a cleaner sound than audio playback (and, also, for ripping it can be faster, a LOT faster, 16 to 52 times faster).
Exactly how you select digital vs. analog playback varies by media player ... for example, its slightly different in Windows Media Player, Winamp and Music Match (and even in different versions of each). Also, it depends to some degree on your operating system (Windows 98, 2000 and XP are all slightly different). So lets take Windows XP and Windows Media player as an example.
First, you must enable digital audio playback from the drive. This is prerequisite, it doesnt select digital playback, but if you dont do it, you CANT select digital playback. This is a per-drive setting in Control panel. To make this setting in Windows XP, go to Control Panel / System / Hardware / Device Manager, expand CD/DVD-ROM drives (click the small + sign), select the drive in question, right click, properties, then select the Properties tab, and be certain that the box that says Enable digital CD audio for this CD-ROM drive is checked. Do this for each optical drive that you plan to use for CD playback OR RIPPING. The exact location of the setting for other versions of Windows is similar but will be slightly different.
Second, to select digital audio in Windows Media Player (WMP) (These exact instructions are for WMP 10): Open Windows media player (you will have to fully expand media player so that you have the menu bar visible). Select Tools / Options, then the Devices tab. From the list of drives, select the drive(s) in question, then click Properties. You will see two choices of either digital or analog playback, one for playing the CD, one for ripping (extracting) the CD (as you might do to convert the CDs music tracks into MP3s for an MP3 player). Also, you will see a checkbox to use or not use error correction. The exact procedure here will be different if you are using a different player (Winamp, Music Match, etc.) or even if you are using a different version of Windows Media Player, but in general there is an options or preferences or settings menu somewhere, and somewhere within that (deeply buried, in some cases) there is a checkbox to select digital or audio playback.
An additional possibility that we need to consider is this: When you listen to sounds (audio) on your computer, you are not hearing a single device, you are hearing whatever mix of devices you have selected in the system mixer. Double-Click the volume [speaker] icon in the system tray (lower right by the clock), and you will see the playback mixer [if there is no speaker icon, go to Control Panel / Sounds and Audio Devices, and check the box that says Place Volume Icon in the task bar]. On my computer, I have Wave, Midi Synth, Line In, Auxiliary, CD-Audio; yours may be different (and if you click Options / Properties, you will be able to control which mixers are present). [By the way, analog playback comes through the CD-Audio slider control, digital playback comes through the Wave slider control.]
The clicks and pops that you are hearing may not be coming from the optical drive at all (regardless of whether you are using digital or audio playback), but might be coming from an entirely different channel. For example, if the clicks and pops are coming from an otherwise unused Line In source that is not muted, you will hear them. Consequently, you may be able to resolve your issue by either muting or turning down some of the other channels besides the Wave or CD-ROM channel that the CD playback is coming through. [Note that if you mute or turn down the Wave channel, you wont hear normal system sounds.] One thing to try would be muting all channels other than Wave and CD-Audio and seeing if the problem goes away (and if you are using digital playback, also mute the CD-Audio channel (which is only for analog CD playback) as well).
Hopefully, these suggestions will allow you to resolve this matter.
Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, Ohio
Hi Robert. Unfortunately, the problem that you're inquiring about could be caused by any number of issues. First and foremost, if you have an older computer, your computer could be overwhelmed by having to process the audio in addition to whatever else you are running. You might want to check your CPU usage and memory usage while trying to play a CD. In Windows XP, you can do this by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and then, depending on your version and/or your settings, clicking on the "Task Manager" button of the window that appears. When Task Manager appears, click on the "Performance" tab. Look at the CPU Usage and PF (PageFile/Memory) Usage. If either of these seems really high, you might have a problem. You can check which applications/processes are using the most memory/pagefile and/or CPU by clicking on the "Processes" tab and clicking on the column that you want the processes to be sorted by.
If this does not indicate any issues, you might next want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date media player software and the newest stable driver for your sound card. You can do this by going to the manufacturer's website and downloading the newest stuff for each thing.
If you don't know what kind of sound card you have, you can click on Start --> Control Panel --> System. For Windows XP, you then have to click on the "Hardware" tab and then click on Device Manager. For older versions of Windows, you can just click on the "Device Manager" tab. Next, click on the "+" symbol next to "Sound, video and game controllers" and then look for something that indicates the brand and/or model of your sound card. For example, the onboard sound module on my machine is shown as "Realtek AC'97 Audio". Once you find this, find the manufacturer's website or a driver supplying website and download the newest driver. Sometimes, if you can't find the driver elsewhere, you can disable the item in the Device Manager by right-clicking on it and clicking "Disable" and then confirming "Yes" and then going to the Windows Update page (Go to Internet Explorer, click on "Tools", then "Windows Update".
Often when a device is disabled, Windows Update will try to find the newest driver for the device and ask you if you want to install the new driver to fix any problems that you may have been experiencing that caused you to disable the device. But like I said, try to find the driver elsewhere first, as Windows does not ALWAYS have the newest drivers. If installing new software updates to your media player and installing new drivers for your hardware still does not solve the problem, there are still other issues that you can investigate.
A friend of mine does a lot of sound recording and was having a similar problem of clicking noises when playing back some of his recorded stuff. He figured out that it was his wireless network card interrupting the audio signal by taking attention from the processor occasionally. Although this may seem strange, if you have a wireless network card on your machine, you may want to try disabling it and then playing a CD.
If this solution still does not solve your issue, you probably should simply open up your machine and make sure that all of the cables from the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM or whatever you are using to play the CDs are securely connected to the appropriate places. If you are unsure of where the disc player is supposed to be plugged into, you can probably visit the hardware manufacturer's website and find directions for installing it. Again, find the hardware manufacturer of the disc player just as you did for the sound card (Device Manager) except click on the "+" symbol for "DVD/CD-ROM Drives".
Also check for any damage to the cables and replace any damaged cables (the cables shouldn't be more than a few dollars to replace). One more thing to check is that the cables are a good distance away from other parts, especially the hard drive, as the magnetic interference of the hard drive can cause a lot of audio issues (mostly sound warping, but other issues have occurred). Once you're sure that all of the cables are connected correctly and securely and that none are damaged, the next solution that I have to offer is to upgrade the firmware of your CD/DVD drive. This procedure is not exactly for the faint of heart, so if you're uncomfortable with doing it, then you might want to just take your computer to a shop.
However, if you are willing to work a little, you can find directions for updating the firmware of the drive either at the manufacturer's website or search on Google for something to extent of "update cd-rom firmware". Finally, if none of these procedures seem to solve the problem, you might just have a faulty CD/DVD drive. Try multiple CDs in the drive and see if the problem is the same with all of them.
If this is the case, I would suggest you simply go buy a new CD-ROM from a local computer store for a small amount (usually around $10-20). If you use, or want to use, the drive for other purposes (such as DVD playback or CD/DVD backup) and are experiencing problems in these areas as well, then make sure you buy a drive that is capable of performing these tasks as well.
If you need something more than a standard CD-ROM, you can check out websites such as http://www.tigerdirect.com or http://www.newegg.com for good deals on CD/DVD burners and such, as retail stores tend to make them up quite a bit more than those sites do. As for brands, Plextor is supposed to be one of the best drive makers, so try to get one of theirs if you can (a lot of brand name drives such as Sony are actually Plextor drives with a Sony cover on them, but you can usually find this out by searching on Google for the model number of the drive). I hope this helps!!!
Submitted by: Kyle S.
First, Robert, you don't state what hardware or software you are using to play your CDs through. But here are some basics that may get you started in finding and/or fixing your problem. Do each step separately and in the sequence I have outlined for you.
First, make sure that all the cable connections IN your computer are CLEAN and SECURE.
Second, get a GOOD quality CD/DVD cleaner and follow its directions completely.
Third, IF you have a sound card you need to turn off the sound in your BIOS. The vagueness of your post shows that you will probably have to have this done by a professional. OR if you have the instruction book for your motherboard you can extremely meticulously and CAREFULLY start at the beginning of that book and go through it one step at a time until you find the setting governing your sound and turn it off.
Fourth, IF you do have that sound card and have the BIOS set correctly you need to install the drivers and software for the sound card. If you don't have a CD that came with your sound card you can download from this site a program called "Belarc Advisor". This program will tell you all the hardware and software you have installed in your computer. You can then go the site of the manufacturer of that sound card and download it's drivers and whatever software you want for it. You can then set your sound card's software the way you like.
I hope it doesn't come to what comes next in this list of things to do and it's probably unlikely, HOWEVER:
Fifth, IF you are running Windows and IF you have played any of the Sony BMG CDs with that rootkit on them last year on your computer, that may have opened up a whole other can of worms....LITERALLY! You can download from this site a program called "Rootkit Revealer" and then use it to see if you have been affected. If you find you have Sony's rootkit on your Windows computer, you can go to their website and download a tool to remove it.
Sixth, IF you do find and have to remove Sony's rootkit, THEN you need to clean up your computer from any malware that may have penetrated the holes that the rootkit had in it. UPDATE and run your antivirus. Then UPDATE and run your anti-spyware programs. If you don't have any of those I can suggest some.
"Avast Anti-virus" is a very powerful FREE anti-virus program. "Spybot Search & Destroy" with it's 'Tea Timer' found in the Advanced Mode coupled with "AdAware SE" are extremely thorough when used consecutively. Both are FREE. You can download all three of these programs from this site. I have experience with all three programs and like them all. But remember, NO anti-malware program is going to do you any good at all if not UPDATED constantly and USED frequently. I update and use mine DAILY. Can't be too careful.
Seventh, no matter what the outcome of steps Three through Six, and whether you have to use them or not, supposing you are running Windows, it would be a good idea to run ScanDisc and Defrag just for insurance. Just be sure to shut off all running programs while Defragging. Since this will include your anti-malware programs, it's a good idea to disconnect altogether from the internet while your programs are not running.
I hope this helps you solve your problems or, at least, gives you some ideas of your own to use.
Submitted by: Julie A.
When asking if it could be software or hardware the answer is yes, it could be one or the other or both. The way to start is, work on the easiest solution and move towards the hardest solution. The simple start is checking the cables. If the jack for your speakers is not plugged in all the way, it could cause sound distortion. The next easiest thing would be speakers. If you have extra speakers or speakers you know work, try them instead of the ones currently hooked up to your computer.
The next simple solution is updating the drivers for your sound card. If it fixes the problem all it costs was a download. The quickest way to check for an updated driver is to run the windows updater. It should be in your start menu, or if you cant find it there, click start, choose run, and in the run window type wupdmgr.exe then click the OK button. If there is an updated driver, it should be in the optional updates.
Personally I have had mixed results letting windows updated my drivers. I prefer to update them myself, its all according to your comfort level. I would suggest only updating the sound driver if available. If you want to update the sound card yourself go to the device manager, for XP, click start, right click on My Computer, and left click on properties, then choose the hardware tab, and finally click the Device Manager button.
Once you are in the device manager, click the little box with a plus sign in it by the device called Sound, Video, and Game Controllers. There might be a number of thing listed, usually youre looking for the audio controller. Once you know the type of audio controller you have, you could Google the audio controller name. Personally, I try to find the manufacturer of the sound card, then go to their site and almost everyone has a support link that includes drivers. Once you get the drivers, any more there is usually a setup you can run that will take care of updating the drivers for you. If none of the above works, its probably time to consider hardware. The hardware fix would involve cracking open your computer. You should be able to get a sound card for around $30 all the way to $100 plus. If you have never installed anything, you might want to consider getting a friend who has to help you. Its not really that hard, but the first time for anything is a little confusing. Hope this helps.
Submitted by: Jeff B.
There's a couple of possible issues that can cause this. The exact cause could come from a couple of sources.
1.) It could be an audio driver issue.
2.) It could be a conflicting bit of software
3.) It could be your Antvirus software.
1.) IF your computer has always done the skipping and pops and whistles bit it could be a driver issue. Check the manufacturer's web site for and update.
2.) It could be you've got a number of audio apps loading their stubs (i.e. Quicktime, Real Player, etc.. loading those nifty little tray icon gizmos). These stubs are supposed to make things faster but in reality they only suck up free memory and drain your computer of performance. Turn them off! Unfortunately, you can't remove them from Windows startup permanently without removing the entire application. Quicktime's little icon applet is notorious for it's almost viral behavior.
3.) Certain antvirus software packages tend to be notorious for slowing things down to a crawl and causing issues. Norton AV most certainly has a bad reputation for this. Consider that whenever you insert any kind of CD or DVD into your computer, the AV software jumps to attention and starts scanning the thing for viruses. This is normally a good thing. The hitch is when you start playing a track - or ripping to your MP3 player for that matter - your media player and your antivirus software is trying to both read the music/video files AND trying to scan for viruses at the same time. This can result in the pops and cracks you're experiencing.
So what to do about your antivirus making your life miserable? You can set your antivirus to NOT scan audio CDs. Of course, given the Sony rootkit fiasco of a few months back, that may NOT be a good idea.
You can try another antivirus app. Some behave less intrusively than others and require less overhead.
Or, the issue can be a combination of any or all of the above.
Submitted by: Pete Z.
The "popping" sounds many people get on computer drive usually come from the settings on their media players. Much of the time this distortion noise comes from "overdriving" the song. (Think of the sound a boom box makes when it is turned up too loud).
There are quite a few settings you can look at:
First be sure you have not blown the speakers attached to your computer. The quickest way to check this is to switch from speakers to headphones. If the distortion is present in the headphones the problem isn't with the speakers.
Next check the volume control settings on the computer screen. The volume and the wave should be somewhere around the midpoint. Any higher and the signal may distort a bit depending upon your speakers' power capacity.
Next check the settings on your media player. If you have your Equalizer set too high or set with too much bass you signal can distort. Windows media player comes with an surround sound add-on called "SRS-WOW" that, when combined with the graphic equalized nearly always distorts the signal and gives you a popping sound.
One last thing to consider is your sound card - the better the card the better the sound.
I hope it helps!
Submitted by: Steven N. of Memphis, Tennessee
Do you hear the snaps and crackles while listening to other sounds on your computer, such as ones from videos or games? If so, the most likely cause of these problems is your sound card. Sometimes sound cards can break for various reasons, and from then on any sound coming out of them can be filled with extra noise. A slightly less likely cause for this problem could be your sound card driver, which may need to be updated at the manufacturer's site. However, if you hear the snaps and crackles only on CD's, it could indicate other problems. One could be that your CD drive is defective, or its connection is loose inside the computer. Also, it could be a problem involving the software you use to play CD's. Here is what I recommend doing to troubleshoot:
1. Play a full-screen game or play a video, and see if the problem occurs there, as if it does, you may need to replace your soundcard or update the drivers.
2. If your sound is fine in the other applications, try opening the CD in another program, and seeing if it plays well. If it does, the problem lies with your default CD-playing application.
3. If the sound has the same problem in these other CD-playing programs, but not in games/videos and such, then the problem most likely is your CD drive or its connection.
Hope this helps!
Submitted by: William J. of Concord, Massachusetts
There are a number of possible causes for this problem, one place to look is what sound card you have? Is it an integrated sound card (that is, is it part of the actual mother board), or is it an added sound card that plugs in to a PCI slot on the mother board.
Are you running other Apps at the same time, if so which ones as some to use a lot more resources than others. How much memory do you have, 256 mb or higher is more acceptable, 512mb is a lot better. What CPU are you running.
The pops an cracks etc can be caused by other aps taking more resources than normal and thus basically starting and stopping the Disk / sound suddenly.
Try running a cleaning disk in the ROM but for my money check your resources first. Id even have a look inside the case and make sure that the leads into the ROM are intact at both the ROM and the motherboard. Then try extra memory, or if you have the $$$ and have a spare PCI slot try adding a sound card with its own dedicated memory.
I have until recently had 512mb ram and have an integrated motherboard but haven't had that problem arise, so possibly start with memory bring it up to 512, if you already have that see if you can borrow another CD ROM before buying one if that sounds better then you have found the cause.
Do these in any order you choose.
Hope this info is useful, Regards Keith
Submitted by: Keith A.