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We’ve talked about fixing sound issues in Windows before, but those guides focus almost exclusively on the sound coming from your speakers. What if you’re having problems with your microphone?
Whether you’re using a headset microphone to chat in games or recording with a USB mic, we’ll share some advice to fix a lack of input or unreliable mic issues. This list was inspired by issues I had with my mic cutting out while playing Overwatch, but it should prove helpful for all kinds of input problems.
No Mic Sound at All?
First: restart your computer! You might have a temporary issue that a simple reboot will fix.
Most of the tips here will focus on intermittent issues (where your mic cuts out). But if you can’t get any input from your microphone at all, your first troubleshooting step should be to try another USB port on your PC—if you’re using a USB mic. For analog mics, make sure you have the cable plugged into the pink line-in port on your PC.
Don’t use a USB hub—plug your mic directly into your PC. If the mic works in another USB port, the first one is likely dead. Should you still have no input using other ports, try plugging your mic into another computer. If it doesn’t work on the other PC, your microphone may be faulty.
Finally, don’t forget to check for drivers for your microphone. Most will work out of the box in Windows, but some may require specific drivers. Search Google for your device’s name and look for a Downloads section on the manufacturer’s website to find the driver. Updating your existing sound card drivers is important too.
Check Basic Input Settings
When having mic issues, your first major stop should be the sound settings in Windows. Access these by right-clicking the Sound icon in your system tray and choosing Open Sound settings, or navigate to Settings > System > Sound.
Here, you’ll see a list of microphones connected to your system under Input. Make sure you have the right microphone selected in the Choose your input device dropdown. Other inputs like your laptop or webcam’s built-in mic may show here.
Once you’ve picked the right mic, speak into it (or clap) and you should see the Test your microphone bar light up. If it doesn’t, click Troubleshoot below and Windows will attempt to find and fix problems with your mic.
Also on this page, you’ll find the App volume and device preferences menu. This allows you to choose a different output and input device for each open app. Have a look here and make sure you don’t have the wrong mic selected for the app you’re using.
Review Your List of Recording Devices
If your mic is still cutting out, you should next review your list of available input devices. To do this, you’ll need to head to the Control Panel.
Enter control panel in the Start menu to open it, and change Category in the upper-right to Small icons. Choose Sound on the next menu.
Here, switch to the Recording tab, which shows all the microphones connected to your PC. Right-click anywhere and confirm both Show disabled devices and Show disconnected devices are checked.
Look through the list and make sure that your primary mic isn’t disabled (right-click and choose Enable if so). When you speak into a mic, you’ll also see its bar light up to confirm it’s working.
Levels and Exclusive Mode
Double-click on your mic and you can edit a few options. For clarity, you can change the name from the generic Microphone on the General tab. On the Levels tab, you can adjust the input volume. Try raising this if it seems too low, or lowering it if your mic clips.
Finally, on the Advanced tab, uncheck both boxes under Exclusive Mode. This has solved mic problems for many people as it prevents one app from locking your mic. You can also adjust the Default Format above to select the input quality.
Once you’re done making changes, head back to the Recording tab. Right-click any inputs you don’t use and Disable them to keep your list tidy. Then right-click your main mic and choose Set as Default Device so new apps use it by default.
Record Yourself to Troubleshoot
At this point, if your mic is still cutting out in a specific game or app, you should determine whether it’s an issue with your device or the app. To do this, you’ll need to record a short clip of audio.
Simply open either app and record yourself—speak the alphabet a few times, count to 50, or similar. Then play it back and see if it cuts out or otherwise sounds unclear at any point.
If it sounds clear in Audacity, continue with troubleshooting. But if the recording cuts out here, try another USB port if you haven’t already. You should also check for loose/fraying cables, as your issue likely lies with hardware.
Disable Xbox Game Bar and DVR
Windows 10’s Xbox integration brings a lot of features. One of them, the Game bar, can record clips and screenshots of your game. While having a built-in solution for these features is neat, turning it off also largely solved my mic issues in Overwatch.
Head to Settings > Gaming > Game bar and disable Record game clips, screenshots, and broadcast using Game bar. You should also swap to the Game DVR tab and disable Record in the background while I’m playing a game and Record audio when I record a game.
These features are handy if you use them, but they apparently can cause issues with your mic. Check out other ways to stream and record gameplay in Windows to replace this.
Adjust In-Game Settings
At this point, you’ve essentially ruled out a hardware issue with your microphone, and are pretty sure the problems are tied to one app. Thus, you should dig around in the settings of your game (or other software) to see if you can tweak the mic options there.
Make sure the game is using your primary microphone. Most video games have an option to reduce your mic input volume. Try dropping this a bit, as your input may be clipping and causing it to cut out. Increase it if others say your input is too quiet.
Finally, if the game has a microphone test option, see how your voice sounds. If it’s clear in the test but cuts out in-game, the cause could be a network issue. Perhaps the game’s voice chat uses a port that your router has blocked (check our home networking guide for more).
Mic Problems Solved!
Hopefully, one of these tips solved your problem. These issues are difficult to nail down, since microphones, games, apps, and settings vary so much in each use case.
Still having mic issues? You may look at using a third-party program like Discord for voice chat instead of relying on the game.
And if you (or a friend) have one, try another headset/mic on your system. If it works fine, you may need to upgrade to a new headset to solve your issues.