A Tale of PC Problems; Strange Microphone Noise

By Xah Lee. Date:

Some Strange Microphone Noise Problems

There's this strange audio problem. When i voice chat on Skype or in Second Life, there's this strange noise heard by those i'm chatting to. The noise gets worse whenever i move the mouse to drag a window or scroll page.

After few days of frustration and random guessing, i found these page on the web of similar problem:

Their problem is worse, because the noise came out from their speakers, even if they are not using the microphone. In my case, i'm using microphone to voice chat using Skype or Second Life to other people, and the noise is heard from their end.

Some suggest updating the sound card driver or mouse driver, some say use a USB mouse instead, most are random uninformed guesses.

Interference with Graphics Card

The problem really has nothing to do with the mouse. If you move windows with keyboard. For example, 【Alt+Space m】, then hold down arrow keys to move the window, you still hear the noise.

It appears, that it is some sort of interference with the graphics card. No satisfactory solution i found. The most common work around is simply to mute the audio line-in (the microphone), which would not be useful for me. Other helpful work around is to turn the microphone boost off. For me, turning Noise Suppression on in the driver controller also helped. However, the problem is simply still there.

The problem with PC is that, you have all these random problems. They drain your time and energy.

The solution i found is that to plug my microphone in the rear port, instead of front. Once i did that, the problem went away. The cause of the problem is possibly incorrect pin connection of the front mic port. (a experienced PC-builder friend told me.)

PC Graphics Card Problem

After i bought the PC for about 5 days, i was playing Second Life, all of a sudden, the system froze. Ctrl+Alt+Del has no effect. So, i hold down the Power key on the PC to force shut it down. Then, after 10 seconds, pressed the power key to start up again. I heard the Windows start up sound, but nothing on my screen. Apparently, the screen is not receiving any signal. I unplugged my DVI to the other port, no help. I plugged in the DVI into the motherboard, no help either. I shut down and start the machine several times. Each time with the DVI plugged into either the motherboard or one of the 2 female DVI ports on the graphics card, and still nothing shows on the screen.

I was quite frustrated. I thought something is broken, but didn't know what. Online friends suggest to return the machine. if i have to return the PC, that means one week of lost work. After about a hour of frustration and panic, i retried of plugging in the DVI to the motherboard, and started the machine. Lucky me, the screen showed up, using Windows's built-in graphics driver. For some unknown reason, my previous try of this didn't work.

So, finally at least i was able to access the system. I went to Device Manager, trying to find out what's going on, thinking that it is some kind of driver problem. After some more uninformed probe, i opened my PC, disconnected my graphics card, rebooted the PC, then, shut it down again, plug in the graphics card, connected the DVI to the card, and powered up the PC. Miraculously, it worked. I do not know what the fcking problem it was. At this point, i went and downloaded the latest Nvidia driver for my card, installed it, and rebooted ok.

(Note: The PC has the on-board graphics chip “AMD 780G Chipset with ATI Radeon™ HD 3200 Graphics”, bundled with ATI Catalyst Drivers. My graphics card is “NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT”, bought separately. The driver i was using for my graphics card was dated Jan 2009, which came on a CD bundled with the card. The latest driver is dated 2009-04-30, version )

I don't know what is the exact cause of this problem. If it is a software problem of perhaps faulty Second Life software plus older version of graphics card driver, they shouldn't cause the graphics card to be disabled or seemingly disabled.

This caused me 1 whole day of panic with non-production (actual time spent dealing with this problem is probably 3 hours). PC is full of these kind of problems in comparison to Apple. With Apple products, it works out of the box. You don't have to worry about some fcking “device drivers” or strange beeps. Part of the PC problem is of course due to less quality design, software or hardware, but part of it is due to its mass market with diverse components made by diverse companies. That is the reason, after all, it is much cheaper.

The lesson learned here is that on PC, drivers are all important. Always update your driver. (on the Mac, the concept of “drivers” or “bios” don't even exist. Mac always just works.)