How to Connect a Microphone to a Computer

Capture better sound with an external mic attached to your PC

Many computers, especially laptops, come equipped with internal microphones. All you do is open some recording software and start speaking. However, it doesn't take long to figure out the limitations of these internal microphones. If you're ready to move to something better, you may want to know how to connect a microphone to a computer for better customization and recording quality.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.

Why Would I Need an External Microphone?

Beyond the basic functions, your computer's included internal microphone, if it has one, may not be what you need. Most desktop computers don't have mics. You might want an external microphone if you frequently do any of the following:

  • Record audio for podcasts or YouTube videos.
  • Utilize streaming services, like Twitch or Mixer.
  • Use internet calling, especially in a professional setting.
  • Use voice chat for various activities, such as online gaming.

In general, an external microphone for any of these activities provides improved audio fidelity and customization options.

What Are the Different Types of External Microphones?

Unless you're setting up a home studio with specialized equipment, consider connecting a USB microphone to your computer. However, there are some things you should know about the different types of microphones you can purchase.

Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbon

In simplest terms, these are ways microphones convert sound waves into electrical energy. There are positives and negatives to all three:

  • Dynamic: These are going to be your best bet for most purposes. Dynamic microphones use a diaphragm and magnets to convert sound waves to electrical impulses. Dynamic mics are durable, affordable, and high quality.
  • Condenser: Condenser mics are typically used on movies or television shows. These mics are highly sensitive and pick up every little noise, but not very durable. Unless you need to record extremely sensitive audio, condenser mics are probably not what you need.
  • Ribbon: These are vintage microphones. Ribbon mics still work and can add a bit of style to your setup. Not necessary, but certainly an option.

Polar Patterns

Another detail to look for in a microphone is the polar pattern. The polar pattern tells you what directions your microphone will pick up audio from. Many external mics—such as the Blue Yeti, a highly-rated entry-level option—can adjust the polar pattern depending on what you need. Others designed for specific use have a set polar pattern.

Some common polar patterns are:

  • Cardioid: Only picks up sound from one particular angle, usually directly in front of the microphone. Excellent for recording voiceovers, podcasting, or music.
  • Omnidirectional: Captures audio from every direction around the microphone. Great for experience recording, like a musical set.
  • Figure of Eight: Captures directly from the front and back of the microphone. Perfect for duet singing or an interview.
  • Stereo: Captures from in front and both sides, but not from the back.

Many microphones are versatile and can switch to different modes. Think about what you are recording and research to find the best fit.

How to Connect Your External Microphone and Adjust Settings

Most microphones connect to a USB port, although some connect through a specific microphone port.

The microphone port looks almost identical to a headphone jack. It usually has a picture of a microphone or says something like Line In above it. Check the front, back, or inside cover of your PC to find it.

Regardless of whether your microphone uses a special port or a USB port, plug it in, and it should be usable. See your microphone instruction manual for any included software, such as an installation disc or a support website.

How to Connect a Bluetooth Microphone to Your PC

If you have a wireless Bluetooth microphone, connecting it is just a few more steps. Turn on the microphone, and, if it doesn't do it automatically, set it to Pair Mode or Discoverable Mode before continuing.

Consult the manual to see how to start Pair Mode or Discoverable Mode manually.

  1. Open Windows Settings. Type Settings in the search bar on the Windows toolbar or press Windows Key+I.

  2. Select Devices.

    The Devices item in Windows Settings
  3. Go to the left menu pane and select Bluetooth & other devices.

    The Bluetooth & Other Devices heading
  4. Select Add Bluetooth or other device.

    The Add Bluetooth or Other Device command
  5. Enter the microphone's PIN to connect it to the PC. The PIN is usually something simple, like 0000 or 1234. The instruction manual should list it.

    If you plugged in multiple microphones and need to change the one you use by default, go to Settings > System > Sound to choose the microphone you want to use.

If you can't get your microphone to work, try a different USB or Microphone port and make sure the microphone is turned on. If that fails, restart the computer with the microphone plugged in. It may need to run an installation program to get everything working.