Sound Cards and CD-ROM Drives
It used to be that the only reason you would want a sound card was for
playing games. That's no longer true; Windows itself uses sound to get
your attention and convey information when it's important, and many multimedia
programs require sound in the same way television does.
Just about any sound card is compatible with any computer, but software
compatibility is very finicky. Most sound-enabled software uses Sound Blaster
drivers, so if the sound card you want is Sound Blaster compatible, you're
in good shape. If you are also installing a CD-ROM at the same time, you
will need to make sure that the sound card has an interface that matches
the CD-ROM, or that there is a separate interface available. For example,
if the sound card has a Panasonic and a Sony interface, but the drive
is IDE, they won't work together. In that case, however, you may be able
to plug the CD drive into your existing IDE hard drive controller.
Once you have your sound card, there are several settings on it that
you need to check to make sure nothing on the computer is already using
them. The I/O address, a number somewhere in the hundreds, is usually not
a problem because there are so many settings available. An available DMA
channel, a small number ranging from 0-3 or 0-7, may seems hard to find,
but there really aren't many devices at all that use them. The number one
item to watch is the IRQ. Computers only have 15 IRQ's total, and just
about everything needs one, including the video display, keyboard, modem,
mouse, hard drive, floppy drive, printer, etc. Sound cards generally use
IRQ 7 or 5. The problem is that printers use these same numbers. Check
your computer's and your sound card's documentation to find out what is
One very important caveat to watch out for when installing a CD-ROM
drive is that if you have a '386 computer, don't get a 4X speed or faster
drive. The computer won't be able to keep up, and you will have problems.
One final note: if you have problems playing audio CD's after installing
a new sound card and/or CD drive, make sure you have the audio
cable plugged in properly.