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Previously in Ubuntu, up until version 11.04, once I set the master volume to a level, it stays that way (regardless if I turn the machine off and back on) until I manually change it. Apparently, in version 11.10, there is a default master volume setting. No matter what I set my volume to, when I reboot the system, it always returns to that default setting (which for my tastes is a trifle too loud). Is there any way to change that default setting to the setting that I wish (about 50%)?

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Have you tried using alsamixer (man page) and alsactl (man page)? They are command line tool for alsa.

I usually just type: alsamixer, and when I'm done, alsactl store.
You may need to use sudo alsamixer and sudo alsactl store. May. Not neccessarily.

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I've tried out your suggestion, and alas it didn't work, neither with nor without sudo. – N.C. Weber Oct 23 '11 at 4:49

The following solved the problem for me (Ubuntu 12.04):

rm -r ~/.pulse ~/.pulse-cookie
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I fixed this by choosing my desired volume level then typing the following:

sudo alsactl store
rm -r ~/.pulse ~/.pulse-cookie

The first line saves the desired volume (as explained at Wrong audio volume at boot), this didn't solve my issue by itself, on boot (the login scree) the volume was correct but after logging in the volume was at max again for my user. The second line then cleared any cached settings for my user so the desired volume was set on both boot and login. (found at How can I permanently set the master volume level?).

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