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Issue #836: Jul 30 – Aug 5, 2023

Q: I have a two-year-old HP Laptop 15-dw3xxx with Windows-10.  For several months now, when I restart my computer each day (I shut down at night), my audio is muted upon startup (I finally noticed the little “x” on the volume icon in the tray). I have an external speaker plugged into the laptop for better sound. It worked fine the first year and a half. I’ve been researching but no luck. What say ye?  Appreciate all your efforts.

– Curtis R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  What an incredible coincidence!  Two columns in a row with questions about audio problems.  Nothing more than a notable curiosity, I’m sure. 

As I said to reader Joe B. last week, there are many things that go into what seems like a relatively simple process of making sound come out of a computer’s speaker.  That means there are many opportunities for something to be set wrong, or otherwise go awry.  I’ll cover a few of the most likely culprits for you.

First, I’d recommend double checking to make sure you have all the latest audio drivers installed.  Run Windows Update, and look for any “Optional quality” updates as well as device updates.  Once everything is done, restart your computer.

If that doesn’t work, give the Windows automated troubleshooters an opportunity at finding a problem.  In addition to the one mentioned in last week’s column, try pressing [WinKey]+I to open Settings, then go to System -> Troubleshoot -> Other troubleshooters.  Find the one labeled Playing Audio, click “Run” and follow the prompts.

During my researching of this issue, one unlikely-sounding thing kept popping up, and that’s the use of the Windows Fast Startup feature.  Is it possible that “several months” ago, you made a change to your system configuration and that’s when the problem started?  If so, you might want to take a closer look at this one.

This is one of those “Thanks, Bill!” moments for me, because Fast Startup is supposed to be a desirable feature that allows a computer to boot up much more quickly and get you to the desktop faster than it would otherwise.  It accomplishes this by not performing a complete shutdown when you shut your system down.  Instead, it puts your system into a kind of hibernation, and restores from that point when you boot.  This can cause a plethora of different issues, including your system’s audio being muted when this pseudo-boot completes.  

To check your system’s Fast Boot setting, open the Control Panel and make sure “View by:” is set to “Category”.  Then click Hardware and Sound and then Power Options.  On the left-side, click What the power buttons do.  As if this isn’t already butied deeply enough, on some PCs you might have to click Change settings that are currently unavailable.  Eventually you’ll see Turn on fast startup (recommended).  Despite Microsoft’s recommendation, uncheck this, and see if it helps. I hope it does.

• • •

 From the Geek House: This morning, as I was about to depart for my regular day job, I was angrily confronted by Spouse Peripheral, who matter-of-factly stated “I hate it when my computer changes the screen size like this!”  It took a little Q&A between us for me to discover that the “screen” in question was a window, and the changing of sizes was the window being maximized. “This happens all the time when I move something,” she continued. “That’s because you dragged it to the edge of the screen,” I told her.  “It’s supposed to do that.”  Her reply: “Well, I need that feature turned off.”

So be it. I use this feature all the time, and I like it and find it convenient.  Admittedly, there are times when I trigger Windows to auto-arrange something accidentally, but for the most part, I would rather that it do the auto-arranging than not.  Spouse Peripheral, not-so-much.  So, if you are like S.P. and want this feature off, here’s how you do it.

Go to Control Panel, and ensure “View by:” is set to “Category”.  Then click Ease of Access and then Change how your mouse works.  Under the category of Make it easier to manage windows you’ll find a checkbox labeled “Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen”.  Note that this is backwards from what you might think.  Unchecked means Windows is free to auto-arrange, and checked suppresses the feature.

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