Microphone recording levels

I have transferred from XP to Vista and am having difficulty with microphone settings.
Realtek Sound card driver is OK and Vista recognises my microphone but I have been forced to set recording levels and mic gain to maximum to get any recording values on Audacity and this creates a lot of distortion.
My camcorder mic picks up very well when I switch to this and recoding levels are as good as when I used XP.
I have tried both rear and front mic sockets in case one might have been faulty but the levels are the same in both cases.
Any ideas?

Same computer or new computer?
Some built-in sound cards are rubbish for microphone recording - the one in my laptop is.

Another computer, and yes it has a built in sound card. However the webcam microphone picks up OK

If the webcam is USB then it does not use the on-board sound card.
USB microphones are quite popular for the same reason (though their suitability depends on what you want to do).

Mic-In on sound cards has some interesting marketing problems. Microphone levels are terrifically small compared to sound coming out of your iPod or headphone or other entertainment connections, but Everybody On Earth wants them to be the same so they don’t have to put an expensive microphone amplifier inside a sound card. So they compromise and microphones come out low. Some sound cards have a Microphone Boost (20dB) setting somewhere in sound control panels and that helps a lot.


Thanks both Steve and Koz. That makes a lot of sense.
If I can borrow a USB mic from someone I’ll try it and see if it works

Tried USB Mic and couldn’t control sound input so was getting a lot of clipping. I like to sing to a backing track and record my voice alongside and then finally mix and render.
I have spent a lot of time on the net looking for solutions and it would seem that the Vista operating system has been changed by Microsoft regarding MME and DirectSound. I don’t pretend to understand the implications of these changes but feel sure they are responsible for the very low response to my Dynamic Mic.
If I put a PCI sound card in my PC would this give the necessary microphone amplification that I am looking for?

Not if the mic ports themselves are the problem, unless the PCI card has an effective microphone boost that the onboard sound card does not. It is very unusual for the onboard sound not to have a mic boost. Did you look for it here:
http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Mixer_Toolbar_Issues#vistacp ?