Whitebread on Patrol » Blog Archive » The Silence Plug

The Silence Plug

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting in class, or in church, or at a lecture, or in a library, and you decide that you want to play Nethack take some notes, so you whip out your netbook/laptop/17″ monstrocity and boot it up. It’s starting up just fine when suddenly, [Windows Startup Sound]! Oh, noes!

I got tired of this happening, and since most manufacturers stopped putting a hardware volume control on their machines a long time ago, I figured I couldn’t be alone. Here’s how I fixed my problem.

If you have a pair of old/broken/crappy headphones, then you can use them for this. If you don’t, I recommend heading to a dollar store. I stopped into the local Dollar Tree on my lunch break, and got:


If you’re into homebrew electronics and your supply of common parts is looking thin, the dollar store is a great resource. On the right is a $1 FM radio, purchased primarily for the undoubtedly craptacular headphones included therein. I also picked up the alarm hoping for a good reed switch for another project.


Get scissors or a pair of pliars with a wire-cutter. My Leatherman did the job just fine. Cut as much of the “soft” cord off as you can. There’s a hard metal/plastic housing holding the plug, so you can’t cut that, but you wouldn’t want to cut it anyway, since it gives you a handle of sorts for your Silence Plug.


You should end up with something like this. Here it is plugged into my Acer Aspire One:


This is much better than some other hacks I’ve seen involving installation of a hardware switch into the laptop. This requires no hardware modification, is readily usable on other laptops, and gives you a ready visual/tactile confirmation that you will NOT be getting any sound from the laptop.

Peace of mind and freedom from embarrassment? I’d buy that for a dollar!

Also, you get a free crappy FM radio!


Let’s see, there’s three good momentary pushbuttons, a pot, two LED’s, a headphone jack, and more! Into the parts bin it goes.

Unfortunately, the reed switch I was hoping to get from the alarm wasn’t an actual component, but rather two pieces of metal placed close to each other on a circuit board. You can see it here at the bottom of the board:


No good for a tinkerer, and not nearly reliable enough to use as part of your safety plan. Don’t rely on dollar store purchases for your personal safety!

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