How to Use an External Microphone to Amplify Sound on a Laptop

Written by usha dadighat
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How to Use an External Microphone to Amplify Sound on a Laptop
An external microphone picks up more noise than built-in versions. (microphone image by Salem Alforaih from

Although laptops often come with a built-in microphone, the sound quality of the resulting recordings leaves much to be desired. Laptop microphones pick up too much background noise and make the recording fuzzy or have static. Built-in microphones do not pick up enough sound even with the system volume set to maximum levels. External microphones come in a variety of styles to meet your needs and pick up more sound at a higher quality while reducing unwanted background noise.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Buy an external microphone. Options include microphones with a 3.5mm jack, USB connector or three-pin XLR connector. Get an adaptor if the connection jack on the microphone does not match the Audio In port on your laptop. Most Windows laptops have a 3.5mm microphone port. Mac laptops only have a jack for headphones, so use a USB microphone or get an adaptor for the headphone jack. Plug in the microphone.

  2. 2

    Visit the microphone manufacturer's website to download and install the drivers compatible with your operating system.

  3. 3

    Click "Start," "Control Panel." Click the "Sound" option and click the

    "Recording" tab. Click on the name of the external microphone you installed and click "Set Default" at the bottom of the dialogue box. This ensures that Windows automatically uses the external microphone when recording.

  4. 4

    Click "Properties" while still in the Control Panel. Click the "Levels" tab. Set "Microphone" to the maximum level to start. Windows occasionally sets the volume level to zero for a default, causing the microphone to appear to not work. Set "Microphone Boost" to at least +15 decibels; the maximum level is +30 decibels. Click "Apply."

    On a Mac, open "System Preferences" and click "Sound." Click the "Input" tab and click the name of the external microphone. Drag the slider for the input volume to a level where it picks up enough sound. Use the bar below the slider that shows how much sound the microphone picks up at the current level to determine if the input volume is high enough.

  5. 5

    Verify that the microphone works correctly by testing it with an application like voice chat or by using the input level bars found in the microphone's options in the Control Panel in Windows or System Preferences on a Mac.

Tips and warnings

  • If you cannot hear any sound, make sure that your system volume is not muted or turned down too low.

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