How to Test Your Computer’s Microphone for Internet Chatting

By John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young

If you’re interested in using the internet to chat with friends, you may want to check your microphone first. Almost every computer comes with speakers that produce the various noises that your programs make. All Mac laptops and many Windows laptops have built-in microphones, and most desktop computers also have jacks for microphones, or a microphone built right into the monitor. (Check your computer manual or ask almost any teenager for help with this topic.)

If you don’t have a microphone, you can get one that works with almost any computer. A mike should cost less than $20 at your local computer or office supply store. While you’re there, also check the prices on computer headsets that have both headphones and a mike, because both you and the people you’re talking to will sound much better over a headset than on the computer’s built-in speakers. If you’re thinking of getting a webcam, many of them include microphones.

To test your mike and speakers on a Windows machine, run the Sound Recorder program; try recording yourself and playing it back:

  1. Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→Entertainment→Sound Recorder or Start→All Programs→Accessories→Sound Recorder.

  2. Click the red Record button to start recording, and click the square Stop button to stop.

    Talk or sing or make other noises between your Start and Stop clicks.

  3. Click the triangular Play button to hear what you just recorded.

    Click Record again to add to the end of your recording. Choose File→New to start over and throw away the sound you recorded.

  4. Choose File→Save to save it as a WAV (audio) file.

You can adjust the volume of your microphone (for the sound coming into the computer) and your speakers or headphones (for the sound coming out) by choosing Start→All Programs→Accessories→Entertainment→Volume Control or clicking the Volume Control icon on the right side of the Windows taskbar.

If a volume control for your microphone doesn’t appear, choose Options→Properties, select the Microsoft check box so that a check mark appears, and click OK. Or, the audio system on your computer may come with its own controls.

If you can record yourself and hear the recording when you play it back, you’re ready for Internet-based phone calls or chats!

If you want to test how voices from the Internet sound on your computer, go to http://net.gurus.org/ngc.wav and see what happens. You may need to click an Open or Open with Default Application button after the sound downloads.