Headphones Not Working on Windows 10? Here's How to Fix It

Get Windows 10 and your headphones working together again

In Windows 10, there have been issues with sound, specifically with headphones. If you’re experiencing no sound through your headphones, or your headphones are not detected by Windows 10, check out the troubleshooting tips below.

Windows 10 computer monitor with keyboard, mouse, headphones, and small dragon action figure on a desk.
 Jay Kunwar/Pexels

Causes for Headphone Issues in Windows 10

Most sound issues with Windows 10 and headphones are commonly caused by the physical connections of your headphones or software and/or driver issues.

  1. Check your audio jack. On the back of your laptop or desktop, look for your audio output port, often labeled with headphones or speaker icon, and make sure your headphones are plugged in. You might also want to unplug and plug them back in since it's possible the plug wasn't pushed in all the way. You'll feel it click when they're fully inserted.

    Most modern computers label the audio output in green.

  2. Check your external speakers. Some external speakers will have a headphones jack built-in. The main difference to pay attention to is if your external speakers require a separate power source. Make sure it's plugged in, as your speakers may not provide enough power for your headphones.

  3. Check your headphones. Some headphones may come with an inline audio control which works independently of the Windows 10 sound controls. Make sure the volume is loud enough for you to hear it.

  4. Check volume controls. On the bottom right-hand side of the screen, right-click the speaker icon and select Open Volume Mixer. Adjust the slider for your headphones up to hear sound better.

  5. Muted headphones. In Windows' volume controls, a red circle with a slash through it indicates something is muted. Select the speaker below the mixer volume to unmute your headphones.

  6. Check sound settings. Right-click the speaker icon at the bottom right-hand side of your desktop, then select Open Sound Settings. Select the Choose your output device dropdown menu and choose your headphones, if it’s not already selected.

    If you have sound playing for a test, you'll see the volume levels move.

  7. In Windows' Sound settings, scroll down and select app volume and device preferences. Here you can re-confirm what your output is set to and the volume.

    You can also control individual sound volumes for various apps that are running.

  8. Check Sound playback devices. Right-click the speaker/sound icon in the lower right-hand side of your desktop and select Sounds > Playback to see if your headphones are listed. If it doesn’t have a green checkmark next to it, Windows 10 may not detect it and you may need to install new drivers.

  9. Check Sounds device usage. In Sounds, right-click your headphones, select Properties, and set Device usage to Use this device (enable).

  10. Adjust sound balance levels. In Sounds, select the Levels tab to verify the volume setting for your headphones. Select Balance to even adjust the Balance levels.

  11. Check sound enhancements. Some sound cards will not function if any of the enhancements are enabled. In Sounds, select the Enhancements tab, select Disable all enhancements, then select Preview to test your headphones.

  12. Try Windows 10 Troubleshooter.

    1. From your desktop, right-click the speaker/sound mixer icon and select Troubleshoot sound problems.
    2. If you have to select which device you want to troubleshoot, select your headphones, then select Next.
    3. If asked, select No, Do not open Audio Enhancements.
  13. Check your sound drivers. In Device Manager, scroll down and either double-click Sound, video and game controllers or select the arrow to the left of it. From there, you'll want to see if there is an updated sound card driver.

  14. Download drivers from the manufacturer. To install drivers from your sound card developer, you’ll first need to go to their website and download the latest driver for Windows 10. Make sure you remember where you downloaded them as this will be important for installing them later.

    If you select Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer, Windows will try to reinstall the current driver, which rarely fixes sound issues.

  15. Good luck.