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Muted sound in XP

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I installed Windows XP Home over WinMe on my Dell Dimension 8100 computer a few weeks ago and also downloaded and installed the Santa Cruz XP compatible sound drivers from Dell's site. All was well, including the sound, until recently. All of a sudden when any sound plays (including with Media Player and CD drive), I can barely hear them. All volume controls are up all the way, nothing is muted, and Device Manager shows no problems whatsoever. I've uninstalled the sound drivers, defragged, and reinstalled them twice to no avail. I've been to every forum I can find, have found others with the same problem and read all replies...even followed all steps advised by Dell's support site for no (or distorted) sound in XP Home Edition...but after following all the steps that were advised, the sound is still messed up.
I would SO appreciate any help or ideas on this, as I'm at my wit's end and out of options. :tazz:
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Retired Tech

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Click start then control panel, sounds speech and audio, sounds and audio, look at audio and voice tabs to check the default playback device

On the volume tab, click advanced for speakers to check they are set to the type you have, click apply on each tab if you change anything
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