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Issue #674: June 21-27, 2020

Q: About every two weeks, the volume on my PC running Windows 10 will become greatly diminished so that I have to turn the volume up to maximum to hear videos, music, etc. The only solution that I discovered to correct this is to revert to a restore point that had good volume. I suspect something updating is causing this but I do not know what it is. I haven’t found anything on your IGTM columns that addresses this. Have you seen this problem before? Thank you for the great columns (and Christmas lights!).

 – Ronald C.
Destin, Florida

A: I have to tell you Ronald, that I’ve never encountered a situation where a user had to resort to the rather severe action of reverting to a previously saved restore point to fix a volume issue.  But as usual, I’m not going to make any assumptions about what you do or don’t know, so please forgive me if I insult your intelligence along the way.  I assure you, it’s not intentional.

I take it that this issue goes beyond the volume simply being turned down, which could happen from your spouse, or kids using the computer, or even a cat walking or sleeping on the keyboard in the dead of night.  Your description makes it sound like the volume is diminished, and either you don’t know how to turn it back up, or you turn it up all the way and still don’t get adequate volume from your speakers.

So, the first order of business is to make sure you know multiple ways in Windows where the volume can be adjusted, and that you need to hit all of them if you’re having problems.  The most obvious one is the master volume control that resides in the notification area near the clock in the main Windows taskbar.  You might need to click on the carat button to display it, along with any other controls that Windows has hidden to keep clutter to a minimum.  The button will appear as a little speaker with sound waves radiating from it.  Left-click it, and you’ll get a small pop-up box with a single slider.  This is the master volume level.  Slide right to make it louder.  If you have multiple sound devices on your machine (and don’t simply assume that you don’t) there will be a drop-down in the top of this box that allows you to select the active device.  Make sure the one you want is selected.

Allow that box to close, and this time right-click on the speaker icon.  In the context menu, find “Open Volume mixer” and click it.  You will be rewarded with a miniature mixing board containing a separate volume slider for each running application that’s capable of making sound through your speakers.  I suspect this may be where your problem actually lies, so make sure your application volumes are set to reasonable levels.

Of course, it’s possible that there is actually something wrong with the complex combination of hardware and software that allows your computer to produce sound.  It seems that Microsoft has anticipated that users might experience audio issues.  They have built a troubleshooting facility right-in to Windows that will perform audio diagnostics for you.  To run it, head back to that speaker icon in the notification area and right-click it again.  This time, select “Open Sound settings.”  Here you will find a handy button labeled “Troubleshoot.”  Click it, and it run a small wizard that will put your computer’s audio system through its paces, looking for problems along the way.  When it’s complete, it will give you a report of anything that it found amiss. It may even have fixed some problems.

If none of this works for you, and you’re absolutely convinced that Windows Update is the cause, don’t simply restore to an earlier point.  Look carefully to see what has installed since the last time the system was working properly.  That should help you discover the underlying cause of your problem, and hopefully lead you to a fix that doesn’t involve undoing Windows Update’s maintenance to your PC.

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