What's wrong with my computer sound and how do I fix it?

I have a weird issue with the sound on my computer. It’s been going on for a while, and it’s one of those things that’s annoying but not a dealbreaker, so I’ve just been living with it.

Computer has a sound card, a Creative SB X-fi. Drivers are up to date.

When I first turn the computer on, everything works great. Sound is fine. But every day or so, my sound starts to get static-y. VERY static-y, to the point that I can’t really do anything that involves sound. A lot of the time, it’s just a browser issue - videos and such have so much static that I can’t bear to listen to them. Sometimes (but not all the time) other sound-enabled things like games are static-y as well.

At that point, this fixes it:

  • close all browsers, make sure any Chrome or Firefox processes are gone via the Task Manager.

  • Kill the CTxfispi.exe (SPI (Creative X-Fi Module) via the task manager. I typically have to do this several times; I’m not sure why, but when I kill that process, it doesn’t delete it from the task manager, it sits there. I kill it a few times.

Voila, sound works again, no static.

WTF? It’s obviously a software problem, but why does it keep happening? It started doing this maybe 6 months ago. I did install two internal hard drives around the time it started happening, but I can’t really pinpoint that to the exact day it started.

More importantly, how do I fix it?

I do not have the answer, but I have one more thing that you can explore.

An excessive amount of interrupts from the hard disk can cause distortion with sound cards. If your computer is low on memory and is paging stuff out, or if your hard drive is thrashing, it may starve the sound card for real-time access to the CPU causing problems.

By closing out your browser, you may be reducing the memory footprint, thereby eliminating the problem. I do not know why it would be required to restart CTxfispi.exe, unless it somehow gets into a bad state that requires a reset.

Nope, definitely not a hard drive and/or memory issue. I could hear if that was going on.

I am not sure what you mean by that as there would nothing to hear but the distorted sound from the sound card. Your hard drive would just be making normal hard drive noises.

I meant I can hear if/when the hard drive is working harder than it should be, swapping out the pagefile or whatever. It would definitely be something that caught my eye (ear?) and I’d be investigating. Especially since I have some 16GB of memory in this machine and rarely do anything more than surf the web now that I have a different machine I have to use for work.