Sound cards are usually internal devices that plug into peripheral component interconnect, or PCI, slots. Computers have limited internal space and a predetermined amount of PCI slots. A user can still upgrade a sound card even if there is no space left inside the computer case by using an external sound card. External sound cards may operate slower than internal cards because they are physically located further from the CPU, but this change in speed may not be noticed by average users. Also, audio outputs on external cards are not limited by the space on the in the back of the computer, where audio outputs from the sound card are typically located. So external video cards may utilise more varied output options than their internal counterparts.
Read your computer's documentation to find out if the computer's current sound card must be disabled before installing a new one. If you must disable the sound card, do so according to the computer documentation. If not, skip to Step 2.
Consult the sound card documentation. The sound card may have a disk to install drivers. The documentation will explain if the drivers should be installed before or after the card is installed. Many external hard drives are plug and play USB devices, meaning your computer will automatically recognise the device as soon as it is connected and powered and may not require any separate drivers to be installed.
Plug the sound card in. External sound cards are typically not externally powered. USB devices that do require external power, should be powered before connecting to the computer via the USB port.
Install applications for the device. You may not need to install drivers because the computer's operating system should automatically install drivers unless they were installed in a previous step; however, sound cards are often bundled with software pages including programs such as sound editors, media players or audio optimisation software.