- Verify that your audio isn’t muted in Windows, that any physical mute switches aren’t enabled, and check app settings for audio issues.
- Make sure the correct audio device is selected as the output device, either through the taskbar or Control Panel.
- Try running the Windows Audio Troubleshooter, rebooting audio services, disabling audio enhancements, and changing the audio format. If all else fails, update or reinstall your audio driver, or perform a system restore.
You launch a PC game or stream a movie, but you don’t hear any sound. On the surface, there’s no apparent reason for the lack of audio. Unfortunately, sound issues can be tricky. Here are some things you can try to fix your issue.
Make Sure Your Audio Isn’t Muted
There’s nothing more embarrassing than yelling at the PC over sound issues stemming from an unintentional press of the microphone’s mute button.
First, verify that the sound isn’t muted on the PC end. If your keyboard has volume controls, press a key or turn a slider to see if the on-screen volume bar raises and lowers. You can also bring up the taskbar to examine the “speaker” icon parked next to the system clock.
As shown below, an “X” next to the virtual speaker icon means your audio is muted. Simply click the speaker button to expand the volume panel.
Next, click the speaker icon to the left of the slider to unmute.
You should also verify that the sound isn’t muted or turned down on the hardware end. For instance, your speakers may have volume buttons, or they may be accidentally unplugged from the PC or power outlet.
Likewise, your headset or microphone may include in-line volume dials that are turned down, or they may just be unplugged from the PC.
The example below shows the kind of toggle you might find on your headphones. This one is specifically for the mic on some headphones, but they’re basically all the same. Some units will have a volume control as well.
Another simple fix is to verify that the problem isn’t related to a specific app or program installed on your computer. There may be something wrong with the app or program itself that needs patching or audio is turned down or muted from within.
This example shows muted audio on YouTube.
Other fixes you can try include installing all Windows 10 updates or restarting your PC.
Verify the Default Audio Device If You Can’t Hear Sound
Generally, you should only have one installed audio device. However, the list stacks up once you begin piling on external devices like the HTC Vive, a wireless Xbox controller, a headset, and so on.
There may be situations where you switch from a headset to a laptop’s built-in speakers, but Windows 10 still outputs audio through your disconnected headset.
You can verify the default audio device in one of two ways: from the taskbar or through the Control Panel.
The Taskbar Route
Click on the “speaker” icon next to the system clock. You’ll see a name listed above the volume pop-up panel. Click the name to reveal a pop-up list labeled “Select Playback Device” and choose a different audio device until you hear a sound.
If none of those work, move on to the “Run the Troubleshooter” step.
The Control Panel Route
Hit the Windows key, type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field, and select the Control Panel desktop app in the results. Next, select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.
The Sound pop-up window appears on the screen. Make sure your audio device is set as default. If not, single-click on the device listing to select and then click the “Set Default” button. Next, click the “OK” button to finish.
Run the Windows Audio Troubleshooter
Windows 10 offers a built-in troubleshooter that scans the system and offers potential fixes for audio issues.
Press the Windows key, type “Find and Fix Problems with Playing Sound”” in the Start Menu’s search field, and select “Find and Fix Problems with Playing Sound” in the results. This opens a troubleshooter in the Control Panel.
You can also access this troubleshooter by going to Start > Settings > System > Sound > Troubleshoot.
After the troubleshooter scans for audio devices, select the device you want to troubleshoot and click the “Next” button.
Windows 10 scans for issues. Follow any available directions to resolve your audio problems.
Reboot the Audio Services to Fix Audio Problems
Tap the Windows key, type “Services” in the taskbar’s search field, and select the Services desktop app in the results.
In the Services window, you’ll need to restart three services:
- Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
- Windows Audio
- Windows Audio Endpoint Builder
For each service, single-click to select, right-click to open the service’s menu, and then select the “Restart” option. If “Restart” is greyed out, try the “Refresh” option instead.
Turn Off Audio Enhancements
These “enhancements” provided by audio hardware vendors and Microsoft aim to deliver the best experience possible. However, they could be the underlying issue.
Type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field and select the resulting Control Panel desktop app.
Select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.
Select your audio device listed under the “Playback” tab and right-click to open a menu. Select the “Properties” option at the bottom.
Once the Speakers / Headphones Properties window appears, click on the “Enhancements” tab. Check the box next to “Disable All Sound Effects” (or “Disable All Enhancements”). Confirm the change by clicking the “OK” button.
If this doesn’t work, you may not have the right audio device set as the default. Follow the Control Panel route instructions to set your default audio device. If that still doesn’t work, move on to the next step.
Change Audio Format To Fix Audio Problems
The current audio format may not work correctly with your PC’s hardware. To see if this is the case, type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field and select the resulting Control Panel desktop app.
Select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.
Select your audio device listed under the Playback tab and right-click to open a menu. Select the “Properties” option at the bottom.
Once the Speakers / Headphones Properties window appears, click on the “Advanced” tab. A drop-down menu appears in the “Default Format” section. Select a different format and click the “Test” button to see if a different format works. If it does, click the “Apply” button, followed by the “OK” button.
If changing the audio format doesn’t work, move on to updating your audio driver.
Update Your Audio Driver
There are two ways to update your audio driver. Many pre-built PCs from Dell, HP, and more install a “command center” application that scans your device and installs updated drivers.
For instance, Alienware PCs ship with SupportAssist that scans for outdated drivers, hardware issues, and so on. Run these applications to check for driver updates.
The second approach is to update the driver through Device Manager manually. To begin, right-click on the Start button and select “Device Manager” on the pop-up menu.
Select and expand the “Sound, video, and game controllers” entry to list all available audio devices. Click once on your primary device — this example uses Realtek Audio — then right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the “Update Driver” option.
Select “Search Automatically for Updated Driver Software” in the following window.
Alternatively, you could search the sound card manufacturer’s website for new drivers and download them to your PC. If you take that route, choose the “Browse My Computer for Driver Software” option instead. Simply direct Windows 10 to the download location.
Another “Browse My Computer for Driver Software” option is to install compatible drivers from a list. Thus, instead of entering a download location, click the “Let Me Pick from a List of Available Drivers on My Computer” option.
Make sure the “Show compatible hardware” box is checked and select one of the listed drivers in the following window. Click the “Next” button to finish.
Uninstall and Reinstall Your Audio Device
Remove your audio device altogether and let Windows 10 detect and reinstall the appropriate driver.
Right-click on the Start button and then select “Device Manager” on the context menu.
Once Device Manager appears on your screen, select and expand the “Sound, Video, and Game Controllers” entry. Click once on your primary device — this example uses Realtek Audio — then right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the “Uninstall Device” option and reboot your PC.
Windows 10 should reinstall the appropriate audio driver after the reboot. To check, return to the Device Manager and see if your audio device appears under “Sound, Video, and Game Controllers.”
If it’s not there, single-click to select the category followed by a right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the menu’s “Scan for Hardware Changes” option.
If your audio device still doesn’t appear, you likely have hardware issues a driver update/refresh can’t address.
Disable Your Onboard Audio Card
If you have a dedicated sound card attached to your PC, either via USB or PCIe, you may be able to fix some audio issues by disabling the onboard audio card in the BIOS (UEFI). The way you do this varies significantly between manufacturers, so we can’t provide specific instructions, but the manual for your motherboard will be able to point you in the right direction.
If it doesn’t, you can probably find specific instructions for your motherboard posted on the Internet by someone else with the same problem.
Test Your Headphones, Earbuds, or Speakers in Another Device
If your audio isn’t working, it is probably a problem with the software on your PC. However, it is always possible that there is a physical problem with your headphones, earbuds, or speakers. If you’re using wired headphones or speakers, try plugging them into another device and check if they work. If you don’t have another device with an aux port, try wiggling your wires — if they’re damaged, you’ll probably hear an unpleasant crackling or popping noise.
Wireless audio devices, like wireless earbuds, a bluetooth speaker, or wireless earbuds are a bit harder to troubleshoot. Just try connecting them to another device and see what happens. If they don’t work there either, you should check and see if they have some sort of factory reset function.
If you do have a problem with your output device, you could attempt a repair. Some headphones make it easy to replace a broken cable, and even ones that aren’t explicitly designed to be replaced are fairly easy to replace if you’re comfortable soldering. Wireless audio devices are much more difficult to manually repair, and you’re probably better off just buying new ones.
Perform a System Restore
Lastly, if all else fails, hope that Windows 10 created a restore point before your sound issues began.
Type “Restore” in the taskbar’s search field and select “Create a Restore Point” in the results.
Click the “System Restore” button on the following System Properties window to launch the service.
A System Restore window appears on the screen. Click the “Next” button to continue. In subsequent step, click the box next to “Show More Restore Points.”
Select a restore point dated before you began experiencing audio issues. Click the “Next” button to continue, then click the “Finish” button, and Windows 10 will proceed to restore your PC.