Here’s how to troubleshoot your PC if you aren’t getting any sound. While many of these suggestions reference Windows 10, similar processes work no matter your operating system.
Check Your Volume
This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally muted my volume in Windows only to slap my forehead in exasperation later. Click the speaker icon in the bottom-right corner of the Windows taskbar, and make sure your volume is unmuted and turned up. (If you have external speakers plugged in, make sure they’re turned on and turned up, too.)
When you drag the Windows volume slider and let go, you should hear a “ding.” If not, the problem lies elsewhere. If you do hear a ding, there’s a chance the app you’re trying to use is muted instead. Make sure the music player, video player, or any other app you’re using is unmuted and turned up.
The same goes for YouTube and other in-browser players—it’s easy to mute them accidentally, which can be frustrating to diagnose later. Chrome users, for instance, can click the music note icon in the browser’s menu to control audio playing from any tab.
Try Some Headphones
(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)
If you’re having trouble with your laptop’s built-in speakers, try plugging in a set of headphones or speakers. If the sound works through them, you might have a hardware problem with the laptop’s built-in speakers.
If you have a pair of USB headphones handy (like a USB gaming headset), try plugging those in too, since they can bypass the default audio driver and indicate where the problem might lie.
Change Your Audio Device
It’s possible your speakers are working just fine, but Windows is directing sound to the wrong output device—this is especially common if you’ve plugged in a USB audio device, or are plugged in to an external HDMI monitor that doesn’t have speakers.
To fix this, right-click the speaker icon in the Windows taskbar and choose Sounds to enter the audio preferences. Select the Playback tab, then find the device you want to use. If you don’t see it, try right-clicking and checking Show Disabled Devices.
Select the output device you want and click the Set Default button. If you aren’t sure which one you want to use, try each of the devices in the list until you hear audio.
Disable Audio Enhancements
If you’re having audio troubles, Microsoft recommends disabling any audio enhancements that might be turned on. From that same Sound menu, select the audio device you’re trying to use, click Properties, and poke around the options that appear.
Make sure the right supported formats are checked, any enhancements are disabled, and that Exclusive Mode is unchecked in the Advanced tab. You might even try turning off any Spatial Sound enhancements as well. Try playing audio again, and see if any of those options were the cause of your troubles.
Install or Update Your Drivers
When in doubt, if a piece of PC hardware isn’t working, check the drivers. Click the Start Menu, type “device manager,” and press Enter to open the Control Panel. Scroll down to Sound, Video and Game Controllers and expand the menu to show all the possible audio output devices in your PC. If there’s a yellow exclamation mark next to any of these, that’s a sign you may need to find and install its driver from the manufacturer’s website. If not, installing the driver is worth a shot anyway.
RECOMMENDED BY OUR EDITORS
You can also try uninstalling the driver: right-click the one you’re trying to use—in my case, my laptop uses Realtek Audio—and choose Uninstall Device. Reboot Windows and it will attempt to re-install its generic drivers, which may bring the speakers back to life.
Update Your BIOS
In rare instances, a hardware incompatibility, software update, or Windows reinstallation can cause your sound to stop working, and you may need to tweak something in the BIOS. Reboot your computer and enter the BIOS/UEFI setup menu, usually by pressing Delete, F2, or some other key at startup.
First, make sure your sound card is enabled in the BIOS, as it could have gotten disabled at some point. If that doesn’t help, check what BIOS or UEFI version you’re using, and compare it to the latest version on your laptop manufacturer’s website.
If your manufacturer has released a new version recently, it might be worth updating. Just be sure to read the instructions and proceed carefully, as a BIOS update can also break things if done improperly.
Repair the Speakers
(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)
If you can’t seem to fix the problem in software, there’s a chance the speakers themselves are broken, or a cable has come loose inside your PC. If you can find a repair manual for your PC, don’t be afraid to crack it open and see what’s what.