If your computer speakers, sound card (or headphones) are not working in Windows, it can only be one of three things:
- Corrupt, missing or outdated audio or USB device drivers.
- Bad mini-jacks, USB motherboard port or third-party connector.
- Broken hardware – speakers, headphones or sound card.
When troubleshooting PC audio problems, it’s best to use a “process or elimination” starting with the simple stuff first. Let’s go through the list in order so we can find out what the source of your sound problem is.
Fixing Windows Speaker Problems:
Ok, first things first. Let’s check to see if it’s your actual speakers or headphones that are the problem:
This might sound stupid, but make sure your volume is actually turned up on your device and that you don’t have your Windows audio settings muted. You can check the bottom right corner of your computer screen next to your date/time settings and click on the speaker icon. Make sure the volume is turned up
Don’t worry if you don’t see a speaker icon. This is an optional setting to display, and not every Windows computer will have it in the system tray. You can still check it under your Windows control panel.
- Unplug your speakers or headphones.
- Check and make sure the connectors are in good shape (not frayed or loose).
- Plug them into another PC and check if you can hear sound.
If your speakers or headphones work on another computer, then we know that it is not a problem with your actual hardware (speakers/headphones). Let’s move on to the next step.
Installing or Re-installing your audio drivers. Most of the time, this is the root of the problem. Sometimes, device drivers can become corrupted or outdated due to software upgrades and Windows updates or service packs.
Locate the most recent version of your audio device driver from your PC manufacturer. If you want to make it easy to update and match the correct audio driver you need, then I recommend you download DriverFinder. It’s a great tool, and I personally run it on a monthly basis to ensure all my PC drivers are up-to-date.
If you feel comfortable updating your audio drivers manually, then first uninstall your current audio driver:
- Go to Start > Control Panel > hardware and Sound > Device Manager.
- Expand the device tree under Sound, video and game controllers.
- Make sure there isn’t a yellow warning icon on any of your audio devices under the tree.
- Right click on the problem device and select Uninstall.
- Reboot your PC. If you have the option to stop Windows from installing the audio driver again on reboot, stop it.
- Install the latest audio driver for your hardware you downloaded from the manufacturer’s site.
Reboot your computer again and check to see if your speakers or headphones are now working. If not, then move to the next step…
SPECIAL NOTE: If you are trying to fix a USB connected sound device (such as USB headphones) and have updated your audio driver and your sound still doesn’t work, then make sure your have updated your USB device drivers as well and that there is no yellow warning icon in the device manager under your USB device tree.
If you have standard mini-jack connectors on your speakers or headphones, then you might have bad jacks on your sound card (either external card or on-board) or like stated above, bad physical USB port(s).
If this is the case, you will need to either swap out your motherboard or external sound card to replace the actual hardware itself. This can be expensive depending on your PC, so if you find that your audio hardware has actually failed, make sure you check to see if it is still under warranty so you can replace it for free.