Updated by Tina Sieber on 22 August 2017.
Looking for Windows 10 sound troubleshooting tips? Check out our dedicated article.
Using your computer seems like a purely visual experience, but the aural experience is surprisingly important as well. You may not notice how important it is until the sounds disappear suddenly. Then, there’s a sudden recognition that something is not quite right, or if you’re playing a game, that something is terribly wrong. Half of your computing experience just vanished!
There’s no sound coming from your speakers. What happened? Where’d it go? Don’t panic. The chances are that it can be fixed and usually fixed for free, if not for a low cost.
Don’t Ignore the Obvious
Check for Mute
Check to make sure you haven’t just muted the sound. Seriously. With many laptop and touch screen devices it is amazingly easy to make the wrong touch or keystroke and the system sound gets muted. Or just turned down really low.
While we’re at it, did you try to reboot?
Check the Plug
It’s not muted? OK, are you using external speakers or headphones?
If you are, you’ll want to make sure that the plug is fully seated into the port, and that it is the correct port. Often the microphone port is right beside the speaker port, so check that clearly.
If the plug is seated nice and firmly, then you’ll want to check your headphones or speakers to see if they have their own volume control. It might have got turned way down accidentally while dusting or shooting Nerf guns. Who knows?
If it’s the device’s own speakers that appear not to be working, then external speakers can still be a problem. Most devices will shut off their internal speakers when an external speaker is plugged in. Maybe you plugged your earbuds into the back of your computer and forgot they were there. Take a look. If you find them there, unplug them and try the speakers again.
Desktop computers can also have multiple plugs to put your speakers into. I’ve had a few where there were ports on the front and back but only one set of them worked. Maybe that’s the issue. Try plugging your speakers into the different speaker ports to see if that resolves anything. Usually, the speaker port has a green grommet around it. They didn’t always have that, so it was nice when that came along.
Check the Power
Nothing is muted and the speakers are plugged into the computer properly. Good, the next thing to check is if there is a separate power supply for your computer speakers. Many speakers today have such high output that they need their own power supply. Check to make sure that the power supply is properly connected to the wall and to the speakers and that there is power. Usually, there will be an indicator light when the speakers are turned on.
Check the Speakers
The chances are that you have access to another device that will drive sound to your speakers or headphones. Try the new device with a pair of speakers or headphones that you know work. They work? Good, now try the speakers that aren’t working on that device. If they don’t work, then yes, chances are the problem is your speakers or headphones.
If they do work, then you need to look deeper into your original device and see if the problem lies there.
My Problem Is the Speakers. What Now?
Get New Speakers
If your speakers truly are blown, I’d recommend replacing them.
Unless you are really handy with a soldering iron and want to give repairing them a try, I don’t see how it would be worth it to try to fix them. Honestly, I’m pretty handy with electronics and I’ve tried speaker repair. They just never sound the same, there always seems to be the slightest little buzz or distortion to the sound – just enough to annoy me but most people might not notice it. Which is weird, because my hearing isn’t that great.
Or Get Your Speakers Repaired
This advice is easy to give if you’re just using some retail store headphones or gaming speakers, but if you’ve got a nice set of Bose speakers or something high end, contact the place you bought them. Chances are they can repair them properly, or at least point you to someone who can.
My Problem Isn’t the Speakers. What Now?
The answer to this isn’t always the same answer. It depends on the device that you have or even the operating system of the device. It also depends on the cost of the device too. Let’s break this down by device, shall we?
What kind of MP3 player is it? How old is it? Has it taken a beating? How much would it cost to replace it? In many cases, you may be dealing with a $50 device that’s a few years old. If you suspect that it’s simply a firmware issue, go online to the manufacturer’s website and see if there are instructions to do a system restore. They may even have new firmware you can put on the device.
Hopefully that’s all it takes, but if not then you have to look at either repairing it or replacing it. I think my dollar cut-off would be around $100. Anything over that and I consider getting it repaired, anything under that and I consider getting a new one. I say that because repair costs usually seem to cost around $50 or more just to have someone look at the device.
Start getting familiar with sound card drivers and system sound settings. If you’re using a Windows system, doing a simple Windows Update may do the trick. Often, Windows Update will detect if there are new drivers needed for your sound card, and will install them for you. Or you can navigate to the sound card through Device Manager and check there to see if the sound card is enabled and the driver is good.
If they are USB speakers, check your USB drivers while you’re in there.
That didn’t work? Maybe you still have the CD that came with your sound card. That will have the drivers on there. Or you can go to the sound card manufacturer’s website and look for new drivers for your device. Once you find a driver that works, you may want to back up that driver, so you have it in the future.
If you’re handy inside a computer case, you may want to take a look at the sound card and make sure that it is properly seated into the slot on the motherboard. Many sound cards are simply soldered to the motherboard, but the higher end cards tend to plug in.
If you’re on a Mac, you can run Software Update. That will identify your sounds devices and download and install the appropriate drivers. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to call the Geniuses.
If you’re on a Linux or other operating system, chances are that you know more about the sound card drivers than I do. If not, each major distribution seems to have pretty good community support online where I’m sure you’ll find friendly assistance.
Stereo or Sound System
The repair or replace method is pretty much the same here as with the MP3 players. Is it an off-brand Wal-Mart $150 special or is it an earth shattering Onkyo sound system that’s worth more than my car? The former I’d just replace, the latter I would take to a specialist to be repaired.
Got Your Sound Back?
Is your sound back yet? Bass pumping and people jumping? Can you hear every skull-shattering headshot? Hopefully, this article helped you in getting things going again. If it did, share it with a friend and let us know in the comments. If it didn’t help, let us know why, so we can pass that information along to others in need as well.