If unable to get a microphone to record any sounds, there are a few settings to check in Windows XP:
MASTER VOLUME SETTINGS:
1. First try adjusting the Microphone Volume settings by double-clicking on the Speaker Icon in the taskbar tray, near the clock. The Master Volume window should now be open.
2. If not, Right Click on the speaker icon and choose Open Volume Control from the context menu. The Master Volume window has volume sliders for different sound sources of the computer.
3. If an entry for Microphone is present, ensure the Mute box is unchecked and the slider is at the top. Close the Master Volume window by clicking on the X in the upper right corner.
4. If there is no Microphone entry in the Master Volume window, click on the Options menu (located in the upper left of the window) and choose Properties. A properties window will appear. Place a check next to the entry for Microphone (scroll down the list if not seen immediately) and click OK.
5. Now adjust the volume for the Microphone; ensure the Mute box is unchecked and the slider is at the top. Close the Master Volume window.
6. Once this step is completed, open the Sound Recorder (Start>All Programs>Accessories>Entertainment) and see if the steps above have resolved the issue.
7. If not, try adjusting the recording source. Right-click on the Speaker Icon again, but this time choose Adjust Audio Properties from the context menu. Click on the Voice tab in the window that appears.
8. Within the Voice Recording area, click on the Volume button. This will bring up a window allowing for the selection of a recording source. Make sure that the Mic Volume column is selected by checking the Select box beneath it and ensure the volume slider is at the top.
9.To save the changes, click on the X in the top right corner of the window. Now try using Sound Recorder again.
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The following information is from Microsoft's Knowledge Base Just as ...