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How to Record Sound on Your Computer Without Special Software

by Robert Seth on June 27, 2011

Voice recording on your PC or Mac can be done easily and without any additional software.  Both platforms come with built in applications that you can use for this purpose.

Of course, as with any software (especially on the Windows side), if you want lots of features and functionality you have to buy something made specifically for the purpose.  If you’re just looking for a quick recording though, these programs should do the job nicely.

These programs are also not limited to just recording your voice.  They can record any sound.  You don’t even need a separate microphone as most computers have one built in.  However, if your computer has a microphone jack (which most do) you can plug in an external microphone.  This will generally give you much better sound than the built in mic.

 

Recording Sound In Windows.

The Windows sound recorder is about as basic as it gets.  You get sound recording and that’s it.  There are no adjustments for anything.  You may even have a limit on how long you can record depending on which version of Windows you have.  This limit can range from 60 seconds with Windows XP to hours with Windows 7.

To record sound in Windows just click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, and Sound Recorder. A small, rectangular box will pop up with minimal controls.  Simply click on Start Recording and recording begins.  To stop, click on Stop Recording.

When you click on stop recording a dialogue box will pop up so you can save your file.  Select a name for the file and where you want to save it, then click Save.  Be sure to make a note of where you saved it so you can find it again.

You can now go to where you saved it and double click on it to listen.  A small player box will pop up which allows you to listen, control the volume, pause, or stop.

This file can now be used as you would any other file except it is a Windows audio file which has certain limitations which will be discussed in a moment.  It can be added to a web page, emailed,  or even burned to a disc. It can also be played on an mp3 player if the player supports Windows audio files.  If not, it will have to be converted to an mp3 format first, using a separate converter program. 

As I said before, the windows sound recorder is very basic.  There is no way to adjust anything while recording.  As I look at the Windows 7 version, there isn’t even a way to pause while recording.  You either keep going until you’re done, or make several small files and edit them together when finished.

Windows does not come with a sound editor built in. So whether you are editing out sound or stringing files together, you will need separate software to do this.

 

 

Recording Sound On Mac.

Macs come with much better built in software for recording sound than Windows.  Their application is called Garage Band.  It will either be in your Dock at the bottom of the screen, or in your Application Folder, or both.

This program includes a surprisingly extensive studio of sound recording and editing features.  This is especially true considering it’s a free program.

Extolling the virtues of Garage Band is not the point of this article.  However, it is very tempting to go into rants and raves about it.  It’s just one example of the value that is built into Macs that you have to buy separately, or download, with Windows.

So, with my Windows vs Mac blinders on and just staying focused on voice recording, here is how you do it.

After clicking on the Garage Band icon you will see a dialogue box where you can either open a recent project or start a new one.  Select New Project.

The next screen will ask you what kind of project you want.  Select Voice and then click Choose at the bottom right corner of the screen.

The next screen will ask you for a name for the project and where you want to save it.  If the folder you want to save it in does not exist, you can create a new one by clicking New Folder at the bottom left of this screen.

Give the project a name and make a note of where you save it so you can find it later.  When finished click Create at the bottom right corner of the screen.

The next screen that comes up will be the actual Garage Band program.  Again, I will resist the temptation to tell you all about how wonderful this is.

Select Male or Female Voice, depending on which you are recording.  This setting does not make the voice sound like one or the other.  It just changes the settings to sound best with each type.  When I set it on Female Voice and recorded my guy voice, it still sounded like a male voice but just added some echo as if I was in a cave.

Now just click the red button at the bottom of the screen and recording will begin.  In Garage Band, unlike in Windows Sound Recorder, you can pause and start up again without having to make a new recording.  You can also replay right in the program instead of having to first save the file and then go find it to play it.

When you’re satisfied with your recording you have several options.  You can click File and Save to just save the project.  This will just save the Garage Band file but it will not be playable in any other program besides Garage Band.

To save and play in a format that can be used elsewhere click on Share.  There are several options under share but to just get a regular file to use anywhere, click on Export Song to Disk.

Pardon me while I digress a bit again.  Here is another area where Mac beats out Windows.

As I said before, the Windows Sound Recorder will only save a file in the Windows audio format.  That means it will only play on a device that supports that format. To make these files playable by a device that does not support Windows audio files, they will need to be converted using some other program.

Garage band will save your sound file in either the mp3 or AAC formats which are playable on just about any device or computer in the world.  Of the two sound recorders, this alone makes Garage Band much more useful than Windows Sound Recorder.

After clicking on Export Song to Disk, the next screen lets you choose which format you’d like to save it in.  Select mp3 for a general use file and then click Export.

On next screen select a name for your file and where you want to save it.  There is an option there for making a new folder if the one you want does not exist.  Make a note of where you save it so you can find it again later.  Click Save to save the file.

This file is now completely independent of Garage band and can be sent by email, included in a web page, burned to a disk, uploaded to an mp3 player, or just about anything else you can do with a sound file.


Conclusion.

So there you have it!  Voice recording without needing to purchase any additional software.  This feature is so handy for all kinds of things.  You can record bird calls, your child’s first words, strange sounds one of your appliances is making, or anything else you desire.

Then you can send it to your friends, or the repair man, and they can hear exactly what you were hearing when the recording was made.

With a little imagination, this can save you a lot of money.  One time one of my large, floor model power tools was making a strange noise.  I recorded it and sent it to the repair facility in the next state.  They were able to diagnose it for free without ever setting foot on my place.  Since I live in the middle of nowhere, this saved a significant amount of money.

If you decide that these built in tools are not adequate for your needs, you may want to go the route of buying additional software or trying something you can download for free.  There are many options available.  This may be especially attractive if you have a Windows computer as the Windows Sound Recorder is pretty limited.

I use Adobe Soundbooth for all my sound editing.  It is available in both PC and Mac.  I’m not making a specific recommendation here.  But in case you don’t want to go to all the trouble of searching, you can know that Adobe Soundbooth is a good product.

So now it’s your turn!  Did you enjoy this article?  Is there something else about this topic you would like to see discussed?  Is there some other topic you would like me to write about?  If so, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you!

You can also join me on Facebook by clicking the “Like” button in the “Find us on Facebook” box in the left sidebar.

Have a fantastic day and thanks for visiting!

 


Robert Seth is a CPA in the Clark County, Washington area who has been serving individual and small business clients for the last 25 years. His business includes a growing number of remotely serviced customers throughout the United States. He’s also a writer and technology expert. He has a passion for improving the lives of others by helping them simplify the complicated stuff in their lives.


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

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wendy February 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Yea, great. I know how to record sounds outside of my computer. But how do I record stuff INSIDE, like webinars? Short of plugging the headphone jack into the microphone jack.

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Robert Seth February 13, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Hi Wendy! Thanks for your questions! To record the sounds inside your computer you would need one of three things. The easiest would be something with an external microphone like an mp3 player or your phone if it can record sounds. With this, you would simply record the sounds coming from your computer. The second would be something with an external microphone jack. This could also be an mp3 player, capture box, phone, etc. With this, you would run a sound cable from the headphone jack of your computer to the microphone jack of your device. The last solution is the best (in my opinion) but can be a little more expensive. You can get a screen capture program like Camtasia (Windows or Mac) or ScreenFlow (Mac). This would allow you to record the screen as well as the sound. This is really the best solution if you want to record a webinar. Thanks for visiting Wendy, and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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Daliah August 26, 2013 at 5:13 am

Are these files large? If I want to leave it on all day at work to record what’s going on, can I? I can edit it later to removed large sections of dead air. I live in TX, so apparently this is legal.

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Robert Seth September 1, 2013 at 9:25 am

Hi Dalliah,
That depends on what file format your computer is using. Some computers also have limits on the time. If you do record all day, the file size could get quite large, but if you’re editing later, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Thanks for Visiting!

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Ermelinda July 6, 2013 at 11:29 am

I relish, cause I found exactly what I was taking a look for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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ken March 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

thanks so much, forgot how easy it was until i read.

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Robert Seth April 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

Glad it was helpful Ken! Thanks for visiting!

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Saghar March 12, 2013 at 4:41 am

Hello.How are you?I want to thank you for all your helps,but I have a question about flash video player.How can I watch a video easily?Just by donlowding a flash video player.Would you help me ?Thanks alot

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Robert Seth March 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

Hi Saghar, If the video you’re trying to watch is a Flash video then downloading that player will allow you to watch it. It depends on what kind of video it is though. Usually when you try to watch, your computer will tell you which player is needed and most of the time will give you a link to the site where the download can be found. I hope this help. Thanks for you question and for visiting!

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Ilya February 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hi,
thank you for the information.
May be you know how to transfer text (written into Microsoft Word file) into narration (into MP3 file) with the possibility to choose a voice (man or woman)?
I am going to use such narration records for creation a movie with the aid of Microsoft Movie Maker.
Optimal situation would be the possibility to teach the Movie Maker to read pieces of text, not only sound as it is right know.
Thank you,
Ilya Polyak

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Robert Seth March 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hi Ilya, What you are trying to do is pretty difficult to do. You can use Windows Narrator in Windows 7 to read text that’s on the screen. I haven’t checked, but I don’t think Windows has a way to record this. You would probably have to use a screen capture program like Camtasia to record the audio. Unfortunately, the Narrator doesn’t sound very good and I think you’d end up finding the quality pretty unsatisfactory. The Narrator is intended only for accessibility and not for great sound quality. Thanks for your comment and for visiting!

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Sasha November 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

How long will mac allow you to record audio in garage band? For instance, if we wanted to record board meetings instead of taking notes would it make us keep restarting the recording and have a ton of files or would it keep recording until all the memory on your computer is used up?

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Rema October 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

If I am recording sound in my windows XP and send to my friend’s mac computer , so is it workout in his computer.similarly ,he sends recording sound from his mac computer to me, so is it workout in my windows xp .Or have I to convert into other format? Could you help me my doubts .thanks.

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Robert Seth October 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm

As long as you record in a format that both Apple and Windows can read you will be fine. Even if you don’t record in the same format, as long as you can each convert to a format that is readable by both you will still be okay.

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Jim Delvecchio September 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

Here’s one example of where Apple overdoes it. I’m sure GarageBand is a wonderful piece of software for recording music and making records, but it is FAR TOO COMPLICATED for a basic recording app where you want to just dictate a basic audio recording. No novice who simply opens that software could figure out how to do it. Having “projects” and “tracks” makes your brain hurt, when all you want to do is hit record and then save. There should be a separate program for this.

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Robert Seth October 18, 2012 at 7:47 am

Good point Jim! It would be nice to have a simple program as well as Garage band that Mac comes with. Although I can’t fault Apple for ‘overdoing” it. I sure wish Microsoft would overdo it sometimes. All to often then underdo it and then charge an overdo price. :-)

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Carole September 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

Thanks Robert! So glad I found you…will enjoy your blog. Your instructions are simple and complete!

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Robert Seth September 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Glad you’re enjoying it Carole! Please let me know what else I can do for you. Take care!

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Katelyn October 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Hello i have a question when i recorde on my computer i did not here what i said do i need to use a micrphone in order to record or is my computer just not working right. I really need to know because i have a project coming up and i really need it

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Katelyn October 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Do i need a micrphon to record on my computer

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Robert Seth October 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

Katelyn, yes you will need a microphone in order to record on your computer. If you’re using a laptop, the microphone is usually built in. With desktops, most need an external microphone.

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Gian August 15, 2012 at 12:50 am

For the love of God, keep wirntig these articles.

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Colette Sweet September 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Finally, someone I can understand ! A friend sent your site to me. I do have windows though and am hoping to find a way to put what I record onto either a CD or tape. My son travels a bit and enjoys using his time listening to recorded books. I have time to spare and would like to surprise him with a couple that I know he’d enjoy.

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Vicky June 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Ha, I had not used “garage band” on my Mac…but now I will! Thanks!

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Robert Seth June 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Glad to help you use your computer better Vicky

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Bill Fleischhauer June 28, 2011 at 3:25 am

Great article Robert** Thanks for the Tools you Share and the easy to follow manner in the way you share!

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Robert Seth June 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Glad you enjoyed it Bill.

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Pat June 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Once again you gave me info that I did not know. thankyou

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Robert Seth June 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

You’re welcome Pat.

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Paul Crowson June 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Thanks again Robert, you have taught me so much, and saved me a ton of time and money!!!!

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Robert Seth June 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

You’re welcome Paul.

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